Thursday, August 30, 2007

State of the Mets: Swept by the Phils, Falling Fast [J. Mark English]

"Met Fans Your Season has Come"...

Thats what the public relations office of the New York Mets keeps reminding us. If this is the season that was meant to be, then what was meant to be is turning into a nightmare.

Last Saturday the Mets, despite their problems at home, held a comfortable seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. A mere five days later, that lead has been cut to two, and the red hot Phillies have found their swagger going into the final month of the season.

As summer gives way to fall, the Mets are playing the part of a dying leaf, violently falling back towards earth.

The Mets lost in four disturbing games to the Phillies. They were blown out 9-2 in game one. Their pitching staff could barely contain the potent Phillies offense as the Mets gave up 18 hits in eight innings.

On Tuesday the Mets showed a little more moxy with Tom Glavine on the mound, but as soon as he left the game with a 2-0 nothing lead, fortune favored the Phillies. They tied the game 2-2 on a rolling bunt, in which the ball remained on the fair side of the foul line. The Mets just stood and stared at the ball as the Phillies erased the magnificent work of Glavine's pitching. Then the Phillies notched the win in the bottom of the 10th with a walk homer off the crushing bat of Ryan Howard. At least it wasn't Pat Burrell, who still continues to kill the Mets as if they were his own pinata. (He hit two homer today.)

Last nigth, it was the Mets who had to mount a come back in the late innings. Conspiracy enthusiasts would have had a field day with yesterday's loss. Ben Shpigel of the New York Times explains:

The first loss here this week did not disturb the Mets too much because their healthy lead remained intact. The second one stung a little bit more, but they figured there were still two games left to salvage a split and leave in good shape. But the third one, a controversial 3-2 defeat to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night, left them outraged, confused and one game away from being swept.

Their anger was directed at the second-base umpire, CB Bucknor, who wiped out the tying run by calling out Marlon Anderson on a runner’s interference call that resulted in a game-ending double play. Anderson tore off his helmet and screamed for an explanation from Bucknor. Manager Willie Randolph sprinted out of the dugout demanding one, too, as the Phillies, flabbergasted, started celebrating on the infield grass.

Heading into this afternoons fourth game of the series, the Mets were losers of four in a row, three in a row to the Phillies, and their lead in the NL East trimmed to just three games.

Matt Cerrone of Mets Blog sums up the frustrations of today's loss:

…this is a devastating loss, if for no other reason then because it appeared Charlie Manuel was doing everything within his power to give the Mets a win, and they still lost…not too mention the Phillies are now two games back…two…i mean, screw Pittsburgh, this game, this one right here was the most painful loss of the season, despite the team ‘still’ being in first…

…given how sad the Mets bullpen has been of late, willie chose to use Billy Wagner for a six-out save in what he clearly felt was a very, very important game…wagner allowed a home run to, yep, you guessed it, Pat Burrell, another run in the ninth, and then for whatever reason he ignored Jayson Werth, who stole second and then stole third without so much as a look over…i can only think wagner and Paul Lo Duca determined that the game was to be won at the plate…the only problem is that while they were trying to win at the plate, the Phillies were winning it by running around the bases…at any rate, Chase Utley ripped a bullet below the glove of Carlos Delgado and the throw to the plate was not in time, Tad Iguchi slide home safely and the game was over…the Phillies completed the sweep…

…man, i’m exhausted from this game…i can only imagine how the players feel…frankly, this game felt like a microcosm of this entire hi-wire, roller-coaster of a season…good play, bad play, down, out, dejected, hopeless, up, winning, hopeful, then, bam, the carpet is yanked out and i’m sitting here confused, looking at the scoreboard wishing it would change…

…well, enjoy the drama, guys, it’s only just begun, because the Mets have a pennant race on their hands with just 29 games left in the year…

There you have it folks. The Mets head to Atlanta with their backs against the wall, with much to prove, and a lot to lose. Their mettle will be tested. I'd suggest they play the song "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty on the flight down to Atlanta, and start tuning out "I'm Free Falling."They need to really pull it together over these last 29 games if they really want to prove to us Met fans that our "season has come."

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