Monday, May 23, 2005

Hell Week

As the Calgary Flames made their run towards the playoffs in 2004, coach Darryl Sutter implemented a strategy that many in the hockey world regarded as revolutionary, and key to developing the playoff toughness necessary to reach the Stanley Cup finals, where the underdog but game tough Flames lost in 7 to the Lightning. Sutter grouped the final 28 games into four series of 7 games each, and treated them as playoff series. The Flames pointed to that as a big part of their Cinderella run.

While the baseball season may be too long and the games down the stretch too important to for that strategy, if there was a time to try it for Willie Randolph, the time would be now. These 7 on the road against Atlanta and Florida will be as close to a seven game series as the Mets may get, against playoff caliber opponents. Four wins out of seven would be a good sign that the Mets are in it for the long haul this time, and I don't think four out of seven is too much to ask of this group. Anything more would be gravy. Anything less...

Monday: Kaz Ishii (0-2, 3.96) vs. Horacio Ramirez (2-3, 4.69)

Ramirez is coming off a terrible outing against San Diego which followed a great outing against the Dodgers. He has only 15 K's to go along with 15 walks in 40 and 1/3 innings this season, and lefties are hitting .313 against the lefty hurler. Look for Doug Mientkiewicz, who has a better approach against lefties this season, to have a big game as the Mets take the opener.

Tuesday: Tom Glavine (3-4, 5.44) vs. Tim Hudson (4-3, 3.47)

Hudson is coming off a brutal start against the Red Sox. But against the Mets, who aren't familiar with him, he should bounce back. Glavine has been better lately, but his numbers against the Braves tell me that the Mets drop this one.

Wednesday: Victor Zambrano (2-4, 5.19) vs. Kyle Davies (1-0, 0.00)

Davies won his major league debut against the Red Sox on Saturday. He, like Tim Hudson, will be going on short rest as a necessity due to the injuries to John Thomson and Mike Hampton. This is obviously the unknown game. The Mets should be able to hit the rookie his second time out, but the Mets have historically made unknowns look like stars, and Davies comes highly regarded. Zambrano? Yeah we know he walks the park, but the Braves hitters are in the middle of the pack in the NL in taking walks, and are 4th in the league in strikeouts, so this is a game Zambrano could win...OK maybe not win, but at least get it to the bullpen which has been more solid than Atlanta's pen lately. And don't forget, there's always a chance that Heilman could take Zambrano's spot in the rotation on Wednesday. This one is a tossup, but with either Zambrano or Heilman, I'll go with a Mets win here to take the series.

Thursday: Kris Benson (2-1, 3.70) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-4, 3.19)

There has been something made of Kris Benson's Yankee start being pushed back a day which wound up costing him a start against the Braves, who Benson had some success with last year. But his numbers against the Marlins make this a blessing a disguise. Benson won his 2 starts against Florida last season, giving up only 2 runs in 14 and 1/3. Burnett isn't going to be a picnic, as evidenced by his complete game victory at Shea earlier this year. But the Mets have beaten Burnett three times before this season, and if they are going to win this 7 game "series", the Mets' bats are going to have to solve him. This one is another toss-up, but I have a vision of Benson getting it done and the Mets taking the opener against Florida.

Friday: Pedro Martinez (4-1, 3.14) vs. Brian Moehler (2-1, 2.13)

Mets fans heaved a sigh of relief after Pedro's nice outing today. Although he's not going to get the extra rest this time, it was apparent the extra couple of days during the last turn recharged Petey's batteries. Moehler is having a nice season and is not to be taken lightly. But he gave up 8 hits in his 5 innings of work on Sunday, and every batter he faced made contact. He has 10 walks and 22 K's in 37 and 1/3 innings so much like Horacio Ramirez, he's always around the plate. As long as the Mets are aggressive, they'll take this one for their fourth win of the road trip.

Saturday: Kaz Ishii vs. Dontrelle Willis (7-1, 1.45)

See that 1.45 ERA? His last start, which was his first loss of the season, brought his ERA up from 1.08. Scared yet? NO? Well check out his career numbers against the Mets: in 7 starts he's 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA, 40 K's in 46.2 innings, and a batting average against of .238. I don't think I need to go on...the Mets drop this one.

Sunday: Tom Glavine vs. Josh Beckett (6-3, 2.47)

If Glavine brings his "A" game and the Mets get into the bullpen, this is a winnable game, as they all are against the Marlins "if" the Mets get in to the pen. But Beckett has been a beast against the Mets in his career, going 3-1 (including 1-1 this season) with a 2.46 ERA, and a .210 average against. This one is the other toss up on the board to me, but I'm going with a Mets loss to bring them to 4-3 on the trip.

To me, 4 wins against these two teams is a successful trip. If it happens exactly the way I think it will, then there will probably be disappointment because the trip will end with two straight losses, and they'll gain no ground on the Marlins. But if the Mets just tread water on the road, that will be fine, since they're tied for the most home wins in the NL with 16 (they're 16-9, while the Padres are 16-4) and if they continue to win their games at home, then there will be plenty of time to reel in the fish.

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