Last week’s three-game series with the Braves was yet another one in which the Mets’ long-time nemesis got the better of them.
After splitting the first two games, the Mets trailed Atlanta by four runs going into the ninth inning. The Amazin’s, however, began to rally as David Wright’s two-run home run brought New York within a single run. Carlos Delgado followed with a long drive that appeared to be going over the left field wall. Braves’ left fielder Willie Harris, who had robbed Moises Alou of at least a two-run double in the first inning with a sensational catch, leaped high to grab Delgado’s blast as it was going over the fence.
The Braves held on to win the rubber game, 7-6, making the Mets’ ninth inning rally little more than a cruel tease for their fans.
The way Harris’ catch was being replayed, coupled with the calls of frustration to WFAN, made one think that this would be a moment of infamy that Mets fans would recall a generation later akin to Terry Pendleton’s two-run homer off Roger McDowell in September 1987 that pretty much ended the Mets’ chances of winning the NL East title, and Mike Scioscia’s two run blast off Dwight Gooden in the 1988 NL playoffs that inexorably propelled the Dodgers to both the NL pennant and a World Series championship.
The Mets themselves did little to make fans shake off Harris’ heroics for Atlanta by sleepwalking through last weekend’s series with the lowly Florida Marlins in which they dropped two out of three and looked very much as if they would be swept judging by how awfully they played through most of last Sunday’s matinee.
Every team is going to lose their share of heartbreakers and lose to teams that they should easily defeat. What is very troubling however is that both starting pitchers, John Maine and Oliver Perez, have struggled since the All-Star break. The Mets historically have been a team that lives and dies with starting pitching. Since Pedro Martinez is still an unknown quantity at this point, the Mets are going to need both Maine and Perez to end their slumps if they expect to win the NL East.
Equally problematic has been the performance of the bullpen, which was a major strength of the team last season.
Aaron Heilman, Guillermo Mota and Scott Schoenewei have been inconsistent at best and dreadful at worst for much of the season. Only Pedro Feliciano is having a similar season as he did a year ago, and the loss of dependable sidearmer Chad Bradford to free agency is being felt as the Mets inch closer to September.
To be fair, not all of the news out of Flushing has been negative.
Outfielder Moises Alou, who had spent most of 2007 on the disabled list, has been hitting the cover off the ball. First baseman Carlos Delgado has been hitting the ball with authority to the opposite field, as exemplified by Thursday’s ill-fated long fly ball.
Newly acquired second baseman Luis Castillo has vastly improved the Mets’ infield defense, has a knack for getting on base and knows how to advance a baserunner with productive outs; something that has become a lost art in baseball.