Game Three: Benny and the Mets
The streak is over and we did it. All it took was a gutsy performance by Rick Reed and a clutch hit by Benny Agbayani. Benny is a fan favorite at Shea and I must admit to a certain fondness for him as well. First, he comes with his own theme song. Elton John never planned on this happening, but since he wrote Philadelphia Freedom for a now defunct soccer team (or was it a Team Tennis team…oh well), I'm sure he won't mind our appropriating Benny and the Jets. Benny has actually become a tough out, drawing walks, improving against a starter at bat by at bat. This is not to be confused with Jay Payton, who is virtually helpless when it matters most, as he was against El Duque. I know he had a couple of big hits earlier in the post-season, but I assure you, his big outs are far more numerous. A sure sign of a pitcher being out of gas is Payton hitting the ball hard.
I have to give El Duque his due. When the chips are on the line, I'd just as soon have him out there as anyone in the game. He gave everything he had last night and deserved a win. That he didn't get it is merely a sign that the Mets pitchers can hang in there until the Mets peck away, usually late in the evening.
Bobby Valentine came close to blowing this game by confusing Dennis Cook with a good pitcher. He is on the roster because he is a lefty and was brought into the game to face David Justice in the seventh. This is a classic "by the book" move. Unfortunately, the book is well out of date on this one. Cook has been pounded by lefties this year, allowing them to hit .322 with a .390 OBA and a .467 slugging pct. This is not good. And bringing him in to face Justice is particularly pointless, as Arthur Rhodes will tell you. How pointless? Justice hit .306 against lefties (compared to .279 against righties) and slugged a spectacular .716 against them. That's 10 doubles and 15 homers in 134 AB! And that doesn't count what he did to Rhodes. Yes, Turk Wendell prefers facing righthanded hitters, but lefties hit only .225 against him, slugging only .373. We ultimately escaped this, but let's pay attention, Bobby, it ain't like this stuff is a secret.
John Franco got us out of Cook's 8th inning jam, earning the win. Man was I happy for John -- as I've said before, no one is more a Met than him and it's great that he gets this piece of met history. Of course, we had to survive the now traditional heart palpitations while watching Benitez close the door. I guess if it was me, I would have Benitez be the set-up man for Franco. It's not like Johnny never did that job before. A little less pressure might be just what he needs.
Speaking of pressure, I think Timo is starting to press. I don't think we should've benched him last night, since we could use his speed against Hernandez, and it would have looked like we were blaming him for our being 0-2. Not that blaming him would have been inaccurate, just a bad idea to make a rookie the scapegoat. Now that we have a win, can we please play someone who might get a hit? Neagle is going tonight, how about giving Bubba Trammell a start and batting Benny leadoff?
It's Wednesday and if I remember my Mickey Mouse Club, that makes this "Anything Can Happen" day. With Neagle and Jones taking the mound, that is truly the case. If we can strike first and get into their bullpen, we just might tie this up. Then we have Leiter at home and a great shot of heading to the Bronx up a game. But I get ahead of myself -- let's celebrate the win, one more than the Braves got last year, and wear our colors proudly.
Hero: Benny -- when all about him were failing miserably with men on base, Benny drea a walk then ripped a double.
Goat: Bernie Williams -- he went 0-4, left 4 men on, and made the big out against Dennis Cook in the 7th.