Forty years ago â€“ in August of 1969 â€“ the New York â€œMiracleâ€ Mets were on their way to one of the greatest runs in modern Major League Baseball history (and a world championship), and all because of the great play of pitchers like Tom Seaver and hitters like Cleon Jones. The Chicago Cubs helped: engineering one of the all-time memorable collapses of the twentieth century. Thatâ€™s a fading memory now, but at least some of that era was on display at Wrigley Field on Sunday, as Mets pitcher Nelson Figueroa hurled like the Seaver of old against the Metsâ€™ traditional N.L. rivals â€“ the North Siders of Chicago â€“ striking out ten Cubbies and leading New Yorkâ€™s entry in the senior circuit to a decisive 4-1 victory.
Figueroa pitched seven complete innings and struck out ten, one of his best outings of the year, and one of the best outings by a Mets starting pitcher in the last month. Relievers Brian Stokes and Frankie Rodriguez pitched the game’s last two innings nearly effortlessly, adding a nearly flawless coda to the victory. To add to the win, the team hit well: every Mets starter had a hit, led by Angel Pagan, who had three, victimizing Chicago ace Carlos Zambrano, who suffered through his second shaky outing. The victory salvaged an otherwise depressing Mets visit to Chicago, where the New Yorkers had been defeated in two of three previous outings. The Mets are in the air to face the Rockies, before returning home to once again face the Cubs. You can read all about it, and you oughta, at The Real Dirty Mets Blog, where thereâ€™s a wrap up of the game â€“ and all the news about the New York Mets.
* * *
Thereâ€™s nothing boring about pitcherâ€™s duels â€“ as the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals proved today, in a knock-down-drag-out of curve ball finessers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. This was supposed to be no contest: with a kid with no experience, Garrett Mock, going up against a wizened ace, Adam Wainwright. But Mock and Wainwright dueled for six nail biting innings, matching nearly pitch-for-pitch in a equalizer that left both teams with nearly the same number of hits and runs. But when the game was ended, Mock ended up on the short end of the scoreboard, a 2-1 loser.
The difference in the game was a high fastball to Albert Pujols on a 3-2 count that the closest player to Lou Gehrig in the modern era put up the middle for a single in the sixth inning that broke a one-to-one tie â€“ the difference, as it turned out, in the game. It was clear from the way that the pitch was thrown that Mock hoped that Pujols would either lay off the pitch (and walk) or swing and miss (and take his place on the bench). But you donâ€™t throw a 3-2 fastball to Albert Pujols on a hope: another lesson for Washingtonâ€™s young pitching staff. The St. Louis and Washington hitters
* * *
attempted to change the outcome in the last innings (both Mock and Wainwright left after six) but in vain â€“ and the game ended as Mock and Wainwright had left it. And so Washington was swept in three games in St. Louis, but with this slight caveat: in this last game at least, the Nats showed that one of their young pitchers can go toe-to-toe with the best and play the game the way it ought to be played. To read about the game and get all the latest news on the Nationals, be sure to check in on Centerfield Gate blog.
The long difficult slide that the Florida Marlins have had against the otherwise hapless San Diego Padres is finally over â€“ and not a moment too soon. The Marlins broke their losing streak on Saturday with an impressive outing from one of their big, young pitchers. Sean West, one of the big arms of their future, showed that he can step into the big leagues, with an impressive six inning seven hit showing against the Padres in Miami, giving the Marlins a victory and putting them back in the win column. The Marlins bats showed up, after being nearly silent the last two games, putting six
well-earned runs on the board with well-timed fourth inning hit from rookie Chris Coghlan â€“ his 46th of August (a Marlinsâ€™ record). But the story today was West. “It’s huge just to know I can contribute like I am right now,” said West, whoâ€™s only 23 said. “I’m just trying to get six-plus innings in every time I go out.” This was Westâ€™s fifteenth start.
The Marlins had only six hits in the game, but they made them count in the 6-4 victory. Marlins manager, Fredi Gonzalez, thinking of the schedule ahead and the games remaining before the end of the season, was relieved: “I don’t
* * *
know if it’s desperation, but we’ve got to win ballgames,” he said. “When we pitch well, we’re a good club. When that doesn’t happen, we don’t look very good. But that’s not only us, that’s the other 29 Major League teams. When
you don’t pitch, it doesn’t look so good.” On Monday, the Marlins face the real test: three games versus division rival Atlanta at home. They then face-off against the Washington Nationals in Washington before heading back home to face the Mets. Then itâ€™s back home to once again face the Nats. Thatâ€™s twelve games in a row against the N.L. East. It wonâ€™t be long now and the Marlins will know whether theyâ€™ll be playing in the post season or practicing their putting in Broward County. For all the news about the Marlins, and Sundayâ€™s game, be sure to go to our friends over at Fish Guts blog.
The Atlanta Braves went into Philadelphia with high hopes, and they battled and battled and battled â€“ but when it was all over, the Phillies increased their lead in the N.L. East, and the Braves faded. Nor did the Braves creep any closer to the top of the wild card standings. The Braves are now 8.5 games back in the N.L. East with just over one month left in the season. Time is short and getting shorter. For the Phillies, the news couldnâ€™t be better: they took the last game of their match-up against the Braves at sold-out Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night 3-2. But it was oh-so-close. Up until the seventh inning, Jair Jurrjens was in command of the game, throwing his fastball by a tough Phillies line-up. But a throwing error by third baseman Chipper Jones proved costly, leading to two Phillies runs â€“ and the game. The error put runners at second and third and one batter later, Philliesâ€™ hitter Carlos Ruiz put a ball into the left field corner, scoring two: “One thing about playing against the Phillies is that you can’t make mistakes,” Jones said. “If you make mistakes against them, they’re going to take advantage of it, which is what good teams do. We ended up making a couple of mistakes tonight and it ended up burning us.”
If Atlanta rued the error, Philadelphia credited themselves with clutch hitting â€“ and staying in the game. Joe Blanton, often overlooked as one of the Phillies most dependable arms, pitched seven innings of three hit ball and the Phillies bullpen shit down the Braves lumber when it counted. Brad Lidge looked particularly effective â€“ coming up with his 27th save. Atlanta now heads to Florida where they must win, while Philadelphia has a day off on Monday, before welcoming the San Francisco Giants. Oddly, the Phillies can help the Braves a lot by winning against Frisco, but the Braves can only help themselves in Miami. All of this will be the subject of great interest to our N.L. East Chatter blogs. You can read about the Phillies road trip at Phillies Phandom and be sure to keep up with the Braves at Braves Baseball Blog.