Byrd is the Word For The Mets

New York – Jose Fernandez the 20-year old pitching prospect for the Miami Marlins made his Major League debut at Citi Field Sunday afternoon and the right hander from Cuba was everything that was expected. A good fastball and curve ball from Hernandez limited the New York Mets to one run and three hits in three innings.

“That guy is everything they talked about, outstanding stuff,” commented Mets manager Terry Collins about Fernandez. “Strike one on almost everybody. “ He comprised strike after strike, impressive.”

Fernandez would leave and the Mets would capitalize, but not until the ninth inning. Marlon Byrd hit a two run single that was inside third base and New York would come from behind and get their first walk-0ff win of the young season, 4-3.

The Mets finished their opening home stand of the season 4-2 and embarked on their first road trip, ten games to Philadelphia, Minnesota and Colorado.

Daniel Murphy concluded the first stint at home with success, a solo home run off A.J. Ramos in the sixth inning to center, his second, and drove in his fifth run in the last three games. His production is what the Mets have been looking for and an extra base hit in three straight games is a positive sign.

“That guy’s got good stuff,” said Murphy about Fernandez. “I thought we stayed patient. We were able to kind of get that pitch count up just a bit to get into their bullpen in the sixth. You get in the sixth it gives you four shots at the bullpen and that’s kind of what we’re looking for.”

Fernandez, the youngest pitcher in Marlins franchise history has a good story. The Cuban refugee came to the United States in 2008 and was a 14th round pick out of a Tampa Florida High School in the 2011 amateur draft.  He was 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in the minors last season.

The Marlins have said they intend to keep Fernandez in their rotation, and after his debut there is every reason to do that with a limited pitch count. Fernandez struck out eight, the first victim of his career was Ike Davis in the first.

“I was more nervous watching five through nine than I was pitching,’ he said. It didn’t feel any different. It was more like a spring training game.” But it was a regular season game, one the Marlins were hoping to win, that is until their bullpen gave it up and the fastball at times was clocked at 95.

New York is depending on a revamped pitching staff with the absence of Johan Santana, out for the season with surgery again to his shoulder. And right hander Shaun Marcum has been sidelined with stiffness, so left hander Aaron Laffey  was recalled from AAA Las Vegas after limited appearances with Toronto last season.

Laffey gave up 10-hits and three runs in 4/1-3 innings, but the Mets bullpen was able to keep the game close. Collins used five arms out of the bullpen that threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

“We hung in there and didn’t let the game get away which I thought was the biggest factor,” added Collins who saw his team get their second comeback win of the season.

In the end it was Byrd who got his fifth career walk off hit and Scott Rice out of the, pen getting his first Major League win. Byrd was inserted in the fifth when Collins made a double switch also scored some points from Collins. The veteran in an outfield rotation may see more playing time. He kept sharp playing in the Mexican league this winter.

“It’s huge to show we can win close games,” said Byrd who struck out twice before the game winning hit.” More so, a win that was huge early in the season.

“Two games over .500 instead of one,” said Ike Davis.  Because winning series are important and the Mets have come out of the gate and won their first two.

Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Bullpen, Cuban Refugee, Curve Ball, Daniel Murphy, Fastball, Florida High School, League Debut, Mets New York, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Right Hander, Sixth Inning, Straight Games, Three Games, Top Story

Collins says it’s inexcusable about miscues that cost Mets another game

One word from New York Mets manager Terry Collins explained their latest loss to the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night at Citi Field. “Inexcusable,” he said after his team dropped their second consecutive game to the Rockies, 6-2. Like the night before, when it looked like R.A. Dickey would get his 16th win, Chris young pitched perfect baseball for five innings before things imploded on the field.

Young retired the first 15 batters he faced before D.J. LeMahieu singled to start the sixth inning. And then the implosion of mistakes that caused Collins to meet with his team after the game, in what he described in a “professional tone.”

Young cased a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by Rockies’ starter Jhoulys Chacin that led to a four-run sixth inning. New York could not surmount any type of threat against Chacin, (1-3) who made his first start since May 1st after going on the disabled list with inflammation to his right shoulder.

And to young, (3-7) who struck out his first four batters, the loss was just as frustrating to him.

“That bunt cost us the game,” he said. “It’s frustrating. “We’re here to win.  “I’m certainly frustrated because I helped contribute to a loss.” It was the Mets third straight loss, losers in 13 of their last 16.

Collins’ team has the second worst record in baseball since the All-star break, and it is almost assured this will be the fourth consecutive year of a second half collapse for New York.

Before the Mets try to take one of four games in this series with the Rockies, they also await word Wednesday morning as to the result of an MRI that Johan Santana had Tuesday on his lower back. As of late Tuesday night, Santana was still scheduled to make his start in the series finale Thursday afternoon.

“He has an appointment in the morning, we will have an answer in the morning,” commented Collins.”

However there seems to be no answer as to what Collins is describing as inexcusable play.  In the ninth the Rockies got another run on a ball that first baseman Ike Davis threw home. Andrew Brown retreated back to third and was chased by David Wright. But the run scored on a high toss, another botched play that Collins saw from his office after being tossed from the game on a disputed play in the fifth.

“When you talk about effort, I’m not sure it’s lack of effort. Its lack of execution, it’s lack of preparation, it’s lack of thought,” said Collins. “I saw some things tonight where pitchers were standing in the middle of the infield with the ball being thrown around. That’s inexcusable.”

He mentioned how pitchers are taught to make proper plays during rundowns in the infield. Collins says he will take the blame for the lack of preparation, as he did last season when the Mets had their second half adventures.

“We have not packed it,” said Collins when asked if his team has quit on him. “But, as I told the guys perception is a reality.  And when you sit on the outside and watch a game like tonight perception is they packed it in and I won’t stand for it.”

“I believe in accountability. I believe in playing the game right. I’m the manager here and when you have a game like that it looks like they’re not prepared, that’s my fault. And that’s where I come in.”

He told his team the right pieces will be found. Collins said again, “My teams play the right way.”

“I don’t think we’re a bad team we just need to execute better,” claimed David Wright who has become the spokesperson for the coaching staff. He says they prepare the team well.

The Mets certainly played the right way for Collins in the first half. It is the dog days of August, and more so appearing more like players that need to be accountable for their miscues on the field.  Playing for their jobs next season seems to be the case, with payroll tied up only with Santana and Jason Bay, who has become a platoon outfielder.

But accountability is one thing and inexcusable play is another. Two more games with the Rockies and Collins may have to start thinking about who returns next season.

Email Rich Mancuso; Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Chacin, Collapse, Colorado Rockies, Four Games, Fourth Consecutive Year, Game One, Implosion, Johan Santana, Miscues, New York Mets, Professional Tone, Rich Mancuso, Sixth Inning, Top Story

Not everything was great out of the pen for Francisco in a close call as Mets beat Braves

Jonathon Niese was cruising along at Citi Field Sunday night. The New York Mets starter pitched eight effective innings, allowed one run and struck out six Atlanta Braves. And then the call to the bullpen and everything went wrong, but, according to closer Frank Francisco, everything went right.

Francisco, who has had his problems closing games, making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list Friday, was ineffective. He walked two with the bases loaded in the ninth, and gave up a two-run double to Martin Prado.

He squandered a 6-1 lead, could not find the strike zone and gave the ball to Jon Rauch with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Afterwards, as the Mets dressed and left town with a 6-5 win, losing two of three to Atlanta, Francisco could not be serious.

“They wore me out a little bit, and I’m a little bit out of shape,” said Francisco. That was the serious part. After that, you wonder how much Francisco is serious about being an effective closer.

A major part of the Mets second half collapse has been their inability to drive in runs with two outs, and ineffective starting pitching. Sunday night, Niese (9-6) bounced back from a bad outing against the Marlins on Tuesday.

As the Mets did so effectively in the first half, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis drove in a run apiece with two outs. Thursday, in their only win against the Marlins, R.A. Dickey got the complete game win, his 15th, and New York drove in five of their six runs with two out hits.

Jordany Valdespin continued to make an impression with manager Terry Collins. Inserted in left field, Valdespin hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, his eighth off losing pitcher Ben Sheets (4-2) that built a 5-1  lead. Collins intends to give him more playing time.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be given the chance and show why I can play here,” said Valdespin about a role in the outfield and also being used in the infield.

However, a constant for the Mets woes is having the most ineffective pen in the game. Before Francisco got the ball, rookie Josh Edgin got the call. He walked two and hit a batter. Francisco could not get the third out and Rauch put out the fire when Jason Heyward swung and missed a slider in the dirt.

But, according to Francisco, the Mets got a win and everything is alright.

The closer, after his comments Sunday night may be the laughing stock of New York baseball. He could not provide the proper answer as to his inability to throw strikes, and make it easy for his manager Terry Collins and those left in the crowd of 24, 891.

“We got a win, that’s the important thing, “commented Francisco about his shaky outing. And then, he ridiculed media by his locker when he said, “It was easy. I’m a bit out of shape. I just got tired. I feel great. You know why, I feel good. That’s it, no more questions?”

Of course, no more questions because Francisco can’t give the answers. Niese watched from the dugout hoping it was not another collapse.

“That was tough,” he said. “I can’t sugarcoat that by any means. But they got the job done,” commenting about the pen, “and that’s all that matters.”

And Collins, looking forward to a day off in Cincinnati Monday, before New York begins a three-game series with the NL Central leading Reds, needed the win. Then it is three more at NL east leading Washington.

It was the Mets ninth win in their last 30 games that has put them out of contention.

“We needed this, we have not played well,” said Collins. “I am not making any excuses. We have not played well on any side of the ball. So this win helped. I don’t care how It came about. I’m glad to get it.”

And for Francisco, apparently he does not care how the win came. The Mets won, however, their closer, ineffective as he was, said he feels good. Though Mets fans, and Collins can’t continue to have that good feeling about his inability to close games.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com and at facebook.com/Keep It in the Ring.

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Collapse, Complete Game, Jonathon Niese, Marlins, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Strike Zone, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 13, 2012

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Santana Chalks Up First N*-Hitter in Met History

With some help, star pitcher Johan Santana finally ended a half-century-long wait by delivering the New York Mets’ first official no-hitter.

As for the franchise’s first legitimate no-hitter, the wait remains at 8,020 games – 8,094 including postseason contests – and counting.

That is, unless you believe the third base foul line at Citi Field might have been painted wrong, thereby finding at least one feeble way to justify a magical moment that nonetheless will forever live in Met lore – but one that in reality, never should have happened.

It certainly didn’t appear that line was anything but perfectly straight on Friday night, especially not when a screaming liner off the bat of Santana’s ex-Met teammate Carlos Beltran over the third base bag in the top of the sixth inning landed with half of the ball on the white chalk and the other half on the brown dirt just outside of the foul line.

Yet, what clearly should have been at least a hit, and a likely double for Beltran, was ruled a foul ball by third base umpire Adrian Johnson, who with a single blown call, instantly became a huge part of Met history during New York’s 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Beltran grounded out to third baseman David Wright on the next pitch to keep the no-hit bid intact and everyone from wondering how much longer it otherwise might have taken to ultimately see an end to the Mets’ no-hit futility for an often pitching-rich franchise in its 51st season.

In fairness, Johnson could hardly be blamed for his incorrect judgment on a ball that from his vantage point behind third base, was very difficult to catch with the naked eyes – even for a well-trained and experienced major league baseball umpire – as the ball rocketed down the foul line.

“I saw the ball hitting outside the line, just foul,” Johnson said to a reporter after the game. However, when asked what he later saw on a slowed-down replay, Johnson simply had, “No comment.”

None was needed, as Johnson knew he had missed the call and thus extended Santana’s chance at becoming an all-time Met folk hero.

Before that could happen, Santana needed a little more assistance of a much more authentic variety one inning after Johnson’s controversial call, when leftfielder Mike Baxter, who grew up as a Met fan in Queens, sacrificed his body to help save what would become the first no-hitter for the team based in the same borough in which Baxter was born and learned the game.

Chasing down a long fly ball hit by catcher Yadier Molina, Baxter made a brilliant running catch on the left field warning track just before crashing into the wall and leaving the game with a left shoulder contusion.

Sounding more like the Met fan of his earlier days rather than the player who just aided the pitcher he was very proud of, Baxter said, “What a night for the Mets. As a Mets fan, as a kid, it’s a huge night for the Mets. We’ve been waiting a long time for a no-hitter. Nobody better than Johan.”

The confluence of events that ended what had been the longest a major league team had ever waited for its initial no-hitter was ironic, given some of the parties involved.

Santana improved to 3-2 with an impressive 2.38 ERA and a sparkling 1.03 WHIP this season by beating pitcher Adam Wainwright, who fell to 4-6 with 4.98 ERA.

Wainwright, along with Molina, are best remembered by Met fans for ending New York’ season – and for doing so against Beltran – the last time New York made the playoffs, six years ago.

Beltran, now in his fifteenth year and with his different fifth team, followed an underachieving first season with New York in 2005 with three good seasons that including two all-star game appearances and the only three gold gloves that the centerfielder has ever won. But, injuries then prevented Beltran from living up to final three years of a very lucrative contract with the Mets.

And, to this day, whether fair or not, Beltran’s seven years in New York are underscored most by a single moment in which he was caught looking on a nasty breaking ball by the then-rookie Wainwright to end Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series, with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Mets trailing by two runs – as New York was seeking its third World Series title, its first since 1986, and its first World Series appearance since 2000.

The deficit in that haunting game to Met fans everywhere was provided by a tie-breaking and game-winning two run home run in the top of the ninth inning by none other than Molina, who if not for Baxter, would have once again caused Met fans to add an unbecoming middle name for the Cardinals’ catcher, by saying as they did half a dozen years ago, “Yadier Freakin’ Molina!”

Before Santana’s no-hitter stole the show, the main story of this weekend’s four-game set between the Cardinals (27-25) and Mets (29-23) was supposed to be Beltran’s New York homecoming after the cash-strapped Mets were forced to trade their former star centerfielder to San Francisco late last season.

This wouldn’t be Beltran’s night though, as it was in the cards for the Mets’ no-hit streak to end against the Cards.

With Santana beating Wainwright, and Beltran and Molina being the ones to nearly but not quite spoil the memorable evening, things came full circle in some ways for the Mets to become just the fourth major league team with one franchise no-hitter (along with the Brewers, Blue Jays, Rays and Rockies), leaving the San Diego Padres to take over the unwanted mantle as the team with the longest no-hitter drought – one that has reached 6,895 games.

Thankfully for Met fans, New York ended its streak 926 short of the all-time longest no-hit drought, which still belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies, who went 8,945 games without a no-hitter between 1906 and 1964, when pitcher Jim Bunning ended that dubious stretch with a perfect game on Father’s Day, against the Mets, during the inaugural season of New York’s previous home, Shea Stadium.

Although Johnson and Baxter bailed him out, the 33-year-old Santana, whose fourth season in New York (after eight largely stellar years in Minnesota) was delayed when he sat out all of last year with major shoulder surgery, struggled a bit with his command early in the game.

He walked five batters overall, three in the first four innings, while issuing consecutive bases on balls to last year’s World Series MVP, third baseman David Freese, and Molina with one out in the top of the second inning.

But, Santana also struck out eight hitters in a mostly masterful and gutty effort against the defending World Series champions who boast a lineup that leads entered the game with a National League-leading .281 average and 270 runs scored (second in the majors in each of those categories to only the American League’s Texas Rangers).

Meanwhile, the Mets, who are known for their usual lack of offensive support for their ace pitcher, did a lot more than helping Santana in the field for a second consecutive time, scoring two runs in the fourth inning, three in the sixth (on right fielder Lucas Duda’s team-leading eighth home run), and three more in the eighth.

Given that type of cushion, Santana was able to focus on finishing off his second straight gem.

His previous start, was a 96-pitch, four-hit masterpiece in a 9-0 home victory over San Diego, six days earlier. That effort combined with the no-hitter made Santana the first Met in two decades (since David Cone in 1992) to throw a pair of complete-game shutouts in succession.  He also became the first pitcher in nearly three decades (since Dave Righetti in 1983) to toss a no-hitter in the nest start following a shutout.

Shortly after making Met history, the well-known website NoNo-Hitters.com – which had been tracking the team’s inability to record a no-hitter on a game-by-game basis –crashed by midnight, presumably from an overload of Met fan traffic, with a message that read, “The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.” The site was back up later into the night for the Met faithful who were still giddy with celebration.

As noted on the site, the Mets had remarkably thrown 35 one-hitters, but never a no-hitter; had six no-hitters thrown against them; and 14 had seen no-hitters pitched by former Mets after they left the team – including Cone, Phillip Humber (whom the Mets traded to Minnesota to acquire Santana, and who threw the majors’ 21st and most recent perfect game for the Chicago White Sox on April 21st), and Met legend Tom Seaver.

Santana was only four years old when Seaver took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in 1975, the last Met to do so until Santana did so with a pitch count of 122, just three shy of his previous career-high.

Twelve pitches later, his 134th and 77th for a strike, Santana got Freese to swing and miss at a great changeup to record his first career no-hitter while ending a no-hit curse that had dogged the Mets for far too long.

Three-and-a-half months after 1986 World Series hero, ex-Met catcher Gary Carter tragically died from cancer, a Met fan wearing a Carter jersey was wrestled to the ground by security to the right of a bunch of Mets who were mobbing Santana carefully (because of his reworked shoulder) on the mound after the final out.

Despite earning one of the richest pitching contracts in the majors, the class act thanked his teammates in the locker room and made the special evening more about the team effort than about himself. “Tonight, we all made history,” he told them. “You guys [made] it happen.”

Wright, the Mets’ other main veteran leader spoke for a largely young team, saying, “That was awesome. Short of Tom Seaver, I can’t think of a better person to pitch the first one. The type of guy he is, the type of person he is, and what he’s been through in the last year – to come back and have that type of performance, that’s incredible and was glad to be a part of that.”

Manager Terry Collins, who has done a great job with getting his club to overachieve and unexpectedly contend in the NL East through nearly the first third of the season, fought back some tears during the postgame press conference while admitting that during the seventh inning, he told Santana that the Venezuelan-born lefty was his hero.

An overwhelmingly proud but worried Collins was also concerned that he had pushed Santana further than he wanted to, but with over 50 years of history at stake, there was no way he was pulling Santana early.

“It’s an honor,” Santana said of his place in history. “I know how much this means to New York and to the New York Mets.” And, while interviewed by SNY-TV’s Kevin Burkhardt on the field, Santana told the 27,069 fans in attendance, “[I’m] happy for you guys. Finally, the first one!” – a statement to which the crowd responded with an appreciative roar.

Just after that exchange, infielder Justin Turner congratulated Santana on television with a face full of whipped cream, to which a smiling Santana said, “At least it wasn’t shaving cream,” as sometimes used by other players for other celebrations.

“I knew the Mets had never had a no-hitter,” Santana added. “I had never had one. This was very special. All the things I’ve been through… this means a lot to New York. This is great.”

Along with the feats of Santana and Humber, the no-hitter was the third in the majors this season, as Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver threw one against Santana’s former Minnesota team on May 2nd.

About an hour after Santana finished off his no-hitter, Florida pitcher Jonathan Crawford did the same in an NCAA tournament game against Bethune-Cookman, when Carlos Delgado – sharing the name the same name of the ex-Met star first baseman (from 2006-2009) – made the last out.

While Santana officially etched his name into the record books and eternally into the hearts of Met fans, Johnson’s missed call will always be linked with the accomplishment in the reverse way that ex-Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was denied his own spot in baseball prominence.

Nearly two years to the day, Galarraga, now with Baltimore, retired the first 27 batters for Detroit, at home, against the Cleveland Indians, on June 2, 2010, before Jason Donald hit what appeared to be a ground out to secure a perfect game for Galarraga, who covered first base on the play. Galarraga caught a toss and beat Donald to the first base bag, but umpire Jim Joyce (who later apologized to Galarraga) mistakenly ruled that Donald was safe with an infield hit, simultaneously costing Galarraga a perfect game and what Santana is credited with thanks in part, to Johnson.

Just as Galarraga’s imperfect game will always be marked with an asterisk, Santana’s no-hitter will always be tainted as a n*-hitter.

Nonetheless, for a franchise that had unsuccessfully come so close so many times over so many years, it felt right that the Mets at long last caught a break, and that Met fans will no longer have to remain conditioned to thinking they’ll never see their team pitch a no-hitter.

Following the famous tag line for every Mets’ win of longtime Mets’ broadcaster Howie Rose (who was born in nearby Brooklyn, who attended high school and college in Queens, and who called the game on radio for WFAN), regardless of how the team’s first no-hitter happened, “Put it in the books!”

Posted under Brown Dirt, Carlos Beltran, Chalks, David Wright, Foul Line, Incorrect Judgment, Johan Santana, Magical Moment, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Umpire, Naked Eyes, New York Mets, Sixth Inning, St Louis Cardinals, Top Story, Vantage Point, White Chalk

This post was written by Jon Wagner on June 2, 2012

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Mets Sweep Nats and head to the Bronx behind Dillon Gee

New York – New York Mets right hander Dillon Gee has seen nothing but success when he faces the Washington Nationals. In his Major League debut last September 7th at Nationals Park Gee got his first career win and allowed one run in 7.0 innings. Back then he flirted with a no-hitter until Willie Harris, now his current teammate, hit a home run in the sixth.

In his second career start against the Nationals at Citi Field Thursday afternoon, Gee once again flirted with a no-hitter. He held Washington hitless for 5.2 innings, the second time in 10 career starts Gee has gone into the sixth inning with a no-hitter against Washington.

And the only run he needed was a Justin Turner RBI single in the fourth inning, one that stood up as the Mets swept a brief two-game series, 1-0 and now head to the Bronx for three games against the cross-town New York Yankees and the start of interleague play.

Francisco Rodriquez converted his 14th straight save in 15  tries and extended his scoreless innings streak to 18.0 innings, despite giving up a one-out double to Laynce Nix in the ninth inning. Gee (3-0) gave up two hits in 7 2/3 innings in striking out three and giving up three walks.

“The whole mindset of this game was to come in and attack hitters,’ said Gee about his performance. The Mets shut out the Nationals for the second straight game coming off a 3-0 win in the opening game Tuesday night. It was New York’s first consecutive shutouts since August 12 and 13 of last season against Colorado and Philadelphia.

Gee also got some help on the field that helped preserve the shutout. Turner, playing third for the injured David Wright leaned over the railing to grab a foul pop, Jason Bay made a sliding catch in left and Joe Reyes charged a ball for an out that could have led to a hit.

“I could have finished it if I had to,” said Gee. “I saw it like in the fourth or fifth,” he said about giving up no hits until that point. It is one of the hardest things to do in baseball but it wasn’t on my mind,” he said.

New York won for the ninth time in their last 13 games and since starting the season 5-13, they are 16-9 and the pitching staff has compiled a 2.96 ERA. Gee appears to have solidified a spot in the rotation and manager Terry Collins said, “He pitched his brains out and I was not going to let him lose this game.

The emphasis of course now for the Mets is the first of six games against the Yankees. Three in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium starting Friday evening and three more at Citi Field in early July. Though the novelty of this series has run its course, those in the Mets clubhouse, who have in the past played in the series still believe it has intensity.

More so for the fans, and maybe not the players, as the Mets feel confident they are going into Yankee Stadium with momentum and a winning formula. While the Yankees have been struggling, amid some controversy, they are still the New York baseball team that is always favored to overtake the Mets in the interleague series.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said the Mets Jason Bay about the Yankees series. Bay had a season high three-hits in the win Thursday which for now ended talk about Collins dropping him from cleanup to a lower spot in the lineup. “It’s fun to be in that atmosphere,” he said.

Collins will be managing a game against the Yankees for the first time since 1999 when he was with the Anaheim Angels. “This is a good way to come in,” he said about going to the Bronx. “Back-to back shutouts. It’s going to be fun tomorrow.”

Fernando Martinez is expected to come off the bench and slotted in the designated hitter spot in the Bronx. R.A. Dickey (1-5) opens the series Friday night, Chris Capuano (3-4) gets the ball in the Saturday night Fox Network game, and Mike Pelfrey (3-3) closes the series Sunday afternoon.

“It’s just another series for us,” said Mets catcher Josh Thole. But to Pelfrey, it is another series of importance, more so for the fans. “It’s either the Yankees or the Mets and it’s fun” stated Pelfrey.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Consecutive Shutouts, Cross Town, David Wright, Francisco Rodriquez, Game Series, Jason Bay, Last September, League Debut, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Ninth Inning, Rich Mancuso, Right Hander, Scoreless Innings Streak, Sixth Inning, Straight Game, Three Games, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on May 20, 2011

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Brooklyn Cyclones defeat State College Spikes, 6-2

Brooklyn, NY – The Brooklyn Cyclones (11-9) defeated the State College Spikes (11-9) in New York-Penn  League action on Saturday night at MCU Park by the score of 6-2. Playing a very team orientated style of ball the Cyclones were not only able to get key hits, but also played small ball having two successful sacrifice bunts along with five stolen bases in tonight’s game.

“The small ball is a huge part of our game,” manager Wally Backman said afterward. “We try to force our opponents to make a mistake. It’s another weapon and forces the defense to have to rush, and when you rush you are more likely to make mistakes.”

Catcher Juan Centeno was one of the offensive leaders for Brooklyn going two-for-three with three RBI while lifting his first professional home run over the right field fence in the bottom of the second inning. Another offensive leader was center fielder Darrell Ceciliani who had three base hits with three of the five stolen bases recorded tonight. Also contributing offensively was Jeff Flagg who had a RBI single in the bottom of the third inning. J.B. Brown scorched a triple to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning, which led to the final run for Brooklyn.

“I was looking for a fastball inside and was able to get good contact on it,” Centeno said of his home run. “I didn’t know right away that it was gone but it felt good to be able to get my first one tonight.” The catcher also had another key hit in the bottom of the seventh inning which plated the sixth and final run for the Cyclones. “I had a runner in scoring position and just wanted to make sure that I made good contact to drive the runner in.”

Starting pitcher Mitch Houck (3-0) had another outstanding outing going six and two-thirds innings striking out eight batters, while giving up five hits, two runs and one walk. Houck, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008, looked great tonight showing an electric changeup throughout the game, and had several State College batters off balance.

“Tonight Centeno did a great job of calling the game,” Houck said of his performance. “We did a really good job of changing speeds tonight, mixing pitches and location. He really did a great job behind the plate tonight.”

Backman had this to say of his young pitcher, “He has been great for us every time out. He has been very consistent for us and has been our number one guy.”

When speaking of the success that he has had thus far Houck said, “Most of the credit goes to pitching coach Rick Tomlin, he’s really helped me to develop into the pitcher that I want to be. I want to go out and attack hitters and let my stuff work for me.”

Work it did as Houck had blanked the Spikes until the top of the seventh inning as Matt Skirving plated the first State College run with a single to left field.  Kyle Saukko hit a single to right field before Backman made the call for reliever Ryan Frasier whose only blemish tonight was an RBI single to Gift Ngoepe. Hamilton Bennett had an impressive ninth inning striking out two batters and getting a fly ball out to secure the victory.

Backman has been asking for someone in the bullpen to step it up and had two guys do so tonight. “Frasier is one of the guys that we can consistently count on in the back end of the bullpen; he has had back-to-back good outings and will absolutely one of those guys that will step up for us.”

The two teams will continue the next two days in Brooklyn before the team goes on the road to take on the Lowell Spinners over the weekend.

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Pre-game notes: Mets centerfielder Angel Pagan was honored before tonight’s game. Pagan who played with the team in its inaugural season in 2001 had his number 35 retired before the game, while also throwing out the first pitch. “I am really grateful for the blessings I have had, it is great to come back and an honor to have been recognized like this.”

Posted under B Brown, Brooklyn Cyclones, Brooklyn Ny, Bunts, Centeno, Center Fielder, Changeup, Field Fence, Flagg, Game Manager, Houck, New York Mets, New York Penn League, Offensive Leader, Offensive Leaders, Sixth Inning, Starting Pitcher, State College Spikes, Tommy John, Tommy John Surgery, Wally Backman

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on July 9, 2010

McDonald: The Real Johan Santana is Back

Pitchers tend enjoy watching each other hit, so when Johan Santana took Matt Maloney deep last night for his first home run in – well – ever, the rest of the staff had to chime in.

“You tell him, he will never hit another one again,” laughed closer Frankie Rodriguez. “He grabbed a bat and was walking around the dugout saying he was going to hit one out.”

Of course with Santana leading the staff in home runs, other pitchers have to get their shot.

“As soon as he hit it, [Mike Pelfrey] ran in to the cage and started taking some extra batting practice,” deadpanned R.A. Dickey with the righthander in earshot and added, “So I have to hit one now, that’s how it works.”

The bottom line is that Santana finally found the formula to get himself back in the win column. As Jerry Koosman once said, “Shut them out and hit one out. Then you got yourself a win.”

And it seems like Santana needed the third home run to win this one, as the Mets still struggled to score runs. Only a fortunate sixth inning gave the ace some cushion in route to his sixth win of the year.

But it’s been like that for Santana all season. With very few runs behind him, he had no room for error. Unfortunately it meant he went through his rough patch in June, while the Mets were piling up the wins. But as the page turned to July it seemed to be Santana time.

He is 61-19 with a 2.73 ERA during the second half of the season. In 2008, he went 9-0 down the stretch and now it looks like he’s doing it again. Santana made a change in his arm angle, which is allowing his fastball a more explosive look, going back to the low-90s. Couple that with a change in his motion, which stopped tipping his pitches and you can see why he’s the Johan Santana of old.

“I am throwing my fastball much better,” Santana said. “And that makes my other pitches better.”

Especially his changeup, which is deadly.

“You saw hitters taking that changeup before,” said manager Jerry Manuel, “where tonight you saw it’s like he pulls the bat through the strike zone with that changeup.”

That’s why Manuel quickly retreated to the dugout with one out in the ninth and runners on first and second after Jason Bay’s error. The look on his ace’s face told the story.

“I’ll finish it,” he said.

And two pitches later he did ending an almost perfect night by the Mets ace.

Rodriguez may be right in that Santana may never hit another home run, but who cares? The most important thing is that the real Johan Santana is back.

Posted under Ace, Arm Angle, Batting Practice, Bottom Line, Changeup, Dugout, Earshot, Era, Fastball, Jerry Koosman, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Matt Maloney, Mcdonald, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Pitchers, Rough Patch, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Tipping His Pitches, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on July 7, 2010