6:56 p.m. CDT: I’m finally sitting down to get ready for this. If Chicago traffic is any measurement of game interest, nobody here is going to watch this game. I really have no idea where they are all going, as they are going to miss our first Game Seven of the postseason, with the Mets putting their fate in the hands of a pitcher with the worst record and ERA of any Game Seven pitcher ever. Considering how Jeff Suppan has pitched in the postseason, this either has the makings of a classic or a blowout.
7:02 p.m.: As a Mets fan looking for some reason for hope, it’s interesting to note that every once in a while this year Oliver Perez pitched like Oliver Perez. In his fourth and final start for Triple-A Norfolk, he put up a 7.0 1 0 0 2 11 line, and he five-hit the Braves on September 6. There’s something there and I agree with the decision to start him on a short leash with the other Oliver (Darren) having more experience coming out of the bullpen.
7:20 p.m.: Oliver Perez’s first pitch is up. I’m already panicking.
7:24 p.m.: Just a brutal error by Carlos Delgado on the infield fly by Albert Pujols. I understand how he’s clearly the leader of the infield and all, but David Wright clearly had a better line to the play and should have called him off. The good news is that Perez doesn’t let the Cardinals take advantage. Why is Juan Encarnacion batting cleanup? Even if there are some health problems, if you have Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Juan Encarnacion–isn’t the last one the odd man out?
7:34 p.m.: Beltran slices a two-out double to left field, a nice piece of hitting with the infield playing him to pull. He tacked on a nice slide to avoid the tag at second. I think Fox deserves significant credit for changing the way sports are televised, but I’m still totally annoyed by any graphic that has a sound effect; do I really need a “whoosh” when a little tab comes down to tell me what Carlos Delgado is hitting? Does George Lucas get royalties? It’s ridiculous, but I digress.
7:37 p.m.: Keith Woolner points out that “Beltran had to hit the ball 300 feet to reach second. Pujols only had to hit it about 20 feet and still ended up on second. If Pujols had hit it 300 feet, he would have have scored seven runs, and still been in scoring position.” Keith spends a lot of time in front of a computer staring at datasets and doesn’t get out much, but we still love him.
7:39 p.m.: Tim McCarver talks about how David Wright needs to use right field more. Wright strongarms one in front of Encarnacion and Beltran scores the first run of the game. For 30 seconds, Tim McCarver looks like a brilliant analyst. I look out my window for signs of the apocalypse.
7:47 p.m.: I was writing something offhanded about how any team than moves Yadier Molina up in the order simply doesn’t deserve to win. Then he goes and singles, creating a first-and-third situation with one out. Any player can make you look dumb in one at-bat.
7:49 p.m.: Ronnie Belliard squeezes home Edmonds to tie the game in what is pretty much textbook execution. I didn’t expect it, and by the looks of it, neither did the Mets. A gutsy, smart move by Tony La Russa to even things up.
7:50 p.m.: The difference between the Perez we saw in the first inning and the Perez we saw in the second was pretty significant. Perez missed a lot, and when he missed, he missed up and to his arm side–not a good combination. It’s worth keeping an eye on, as with the rally the Cardinals have the top of the order up in the third.
7:59 p.m.: I really thought I’d be commenting more on Joe Buck and McCarver here, but I find them both to be pretty milquetoast, saying little that is interesting or annoying. I found it notable that Buck mentioned that Rolen wasn’t talking to La Russa, yet did not go into details. As Maury Brown noted earlier in the week, the television ratings are down, but with New York and a Game Seven, this is likely Fox’s most watched game of the year so far, and possibly millions haven’t heard the whole story. So why not tell it? Everybody loves a good soap opera.
8:03 p.m.: After Eckstein doubles, Wilson strikes out for the second time tonight in what is a very bad at-bat. It would be interesting to somehow quantify or categorize these kind of pitchers who are “wildly effective” and total how low-walk/high-strikeout hitters do against them. I imagine that they do pretty poorly and swing and a lot of bad pitches, as even Perez’s bad pitches still have decent velocity and break.
8:07 p.m.: Credit the fan for making the Oliver’s Army sign and Joe Buck for recognizing the Elvis Costello reference. Encarnacion “provides protection for Pujols” by grounding into a double play. The Wilson whiff and this at-bat is why I believe batting order matters. After three innings, Perez has basically gotten away with murder so far considering how awful his command has been, Mets could be down by three or four at this point.
8:17 p.m.: This is why Perez drives people insane. After I’ve spent a half-hour talking about how off Perez is, he starts of the fourth inning with two fantastic sliders against Edmonds to put him down in the count 0-2 before he flies out to left. In almost every at-bat, you’ll see at least one plus-plus pitch, but also many that he misses on.
8:19 p.m.: Third man in the booth Luis Gonzalez wakes up and says something for the first time in about 35 minutes. He lets us know that he’s had injuries in his shoulder just like Rolen’s, and really brings us inside the game and the mind of a player by letting us know, “It’s tough.” Thanks, Luis.
8:21 p.m.: Fox shows a graphic on how often a runner scores when he reaches first base with zero, one and two outs. Tim McCarver prefaces it with, “one of the most important statistics in baseball.” I was hoping for something deeper. Perez retires the Cardinals 1-2-3, looks dominant, and the psychotic performance continues.
8:36 p.m.: Joe Buck says there is rain on the way…heavy rain. If somebody told you earlier that we’d be in the fifth inning at the 80 minutes mark, you would have called them kooky.
8:41 p.m.: Belliard singles, Jeff Suppan bunts him over, and Perez is in trouble again. With Eckstein up, I wonder about my Wilson comment and wonder how low-strikeout guys do against these kind of pitchers. Perez overthrows his first pitch to fall behind, comes back with his best breaking ball of the night, hits Eckstein him two pitches later and nothing makes sense anymore other than the fact that Perez is clearly driving Willie Randolph insane as he visits the mound.
8:44 p.m.: McCarver informs us that David Eckstein, “has 20 digits–10 fingers and 10 toes.” I swear to God I did not just make that up.
8:46 p.m.: Wilson whiffs for the third time, and without consulting the TiVo, I’m fairly certain that at least half of the swings and misses were on pitches out of the strike zone. With two on and two out, Randolph allowed Perez to face Pujols and we have our first real pressure moment of the game. Perez coaxes a pop-up out of Pujols to end the inning and yet another Cardinals threat. Through five innings, Perez is at 76 pitches, and due to lead off the fifth.
8:56 p.m.: After another easy inning for Suppan, Buck talks about the misting rain and says the forecasters are projecting the heavy rains to arrive in roughly an hour. Via e-mail and IM, BP folks are in the midst of a discussion about what the rules are here. If a downpour starts in the seventh and one team is up 2-1 and the rain lasts into the wee hours, can the umps call a rain-shortened game for the NL championship? Wouldn’t that be insane? Is there such a thing as resuming a game? Are the rules about what’s an official game and what is not different? They seemingly have to finish tonight. Tomorrow is media day for the World Series, which might be as important to MLB as the games themselves.
9:03 p.m.: Randolph makes the first questionable move of the game, leaving Perez in to face Rolen after he walks Edmonds on yet another case of overthrowing. BPer Ben Murphy doesn’t like the decision and IMs “OOPS” when Rolen crushes Perez’s first offering for what looks like a sure-fire home run to put the Cardinals up 3-1. Only Endy Chavez catches it…somehow. He leapt, he extended his arm well above the fence and the impact of the ball bent his wrist back on impact, yet some how he gloved it and held onto it. Edmonds was already around second by the time the catch was made as was easily doubled off. It’s still a tie game and in the sixth inning, so it’s too early to call it, but the catch certainly has the potential to be historic, and one that we talk about 20 years from now. IM from an American League scout arrives with a much needed Simpsons reference: “Best…catch…ever.”
9:20 p.m.: A great job by Suppan, who is due up third in the top of the seventh. 88 pitches, 6 2 1 1 4 2; a strange line, but it worked.
9:28 p.m.: OK, they’re leaving Suppan in. It’s an understandable decision considering that there are two outs, nobody on, and Suppan has been outstanding. On the flipside, bringing in a pinch hitter here would have forced Randolph to make a double-switch and/or burn up another reliever. In the end, La Russa plays it safe in a game that has seen Randolph takes some risks with Perez. Then again, the Cardinals’ only run has come on a squeeze play.
9:40 p.m.: Michael Tucker flies out meekly, then Jose Reyes and Paul Lo Duca follow suit with a pair of easy ground balls. The Mets have gone down 1-2-3 in four of seven at-bats as Suppan is at 99 pitches and cruising.
9:43 p.m.: Aaron Heilman takes the mound for the top of the eighth, and the rain continues to be manageable. This game is a classic argument as to why a low-scoring game is better than a high-scoring game. Every baserunner creates tension and drama. In order to make Joe Sheehan feel a little better about his postseason prognosticating, I sent him an e-mail before the game setting the over/under on runs scored at about 15. Ooooof.
9:47 p.m.: Scott Spiezio is in to pinch hit for Wilson and his three whiffs. Heilman strikes him out looking in a small victory for the Mets and reasonable facial hair everywhere.
9:50 p.m.: Pujols gets the unintentional intentional walk, setting up La Russa to once again pay the price for batting Encarnacion fourth as Heilman strikes him out.
10:04 p.m.: After Suppan walks Beltran, Randy Flores makes La Russa look smart, striking out Delgado by getting him to chase a slider outside the strike zone for strike three. La Russa takes an incredible risk here by leaving Flores in to face Wright so he can face the lefty Shawn Green on deck.
10:10 p.m.: After looking like he’s pitching around Wright, Flores comes back to strike him out on an excellent breaking ball, and La Russa’s move is upgraded from smart to genius. Green grounds out and the teams are a combined 6-for-52 (.115) at this point.
10:18 p.m.: Heilman comes out for the top of the ninth. Rolen singles with one out and Molina takes the first pitch he sees, a change-up that is up and flat, deep to left and everything in New York goes stone silent.
10:27 p.m.: Making things a little more difficult for the Mets is the fact that their 7-8-9 hitters are up. Wainwright is clearly pumped and having trouble commanding his breaking ball, which could be his emotions, could be the rain, or could be both. Jose Valentin loops a 3-2 fastball just over Belliard and in front of Edmonds for a leadoff single. Shea comes alive and we have tension again. Adam Wainwright‘s first pitch to Endy Chavez is about eight feet off the ground and Molina goes out to calm him down. It works, as Wainwright throws a strike. People talk about closers being more about opportunity than anything else, but I don’t buy that. There is a mindset required for the position. As I type this, Wainwright gives up a single to Chavez, and Cliff Floyd comes out in an attempt to do his best Kirk Gibson impression.
10:30 p.m.: Do you bunt here down by two with first and second with no outs? I say you just can’t give up any outs here down by two, though with Floyd there is the extra risk of the double play as he simply can’t run.
10:35 p.m.: Wainwright’s first good breaking ball of the night comes on a 2-2 pitch to Floyd and freezes him for the first out. Unless something happens here, it’s his last plate appearance as a Met.
10:38 p.m.: Reyes hits a flat curveball right on the nose but right to Edmonds, and Heilman’s only hope at this point is Paul Lo Duca.
10:41 p.m.: Lo Duca draws a walk, and now we have one of those moments that we pretend to be a part of when we are in are grade-schoolers in our back yards–bases loaded, game seven, two outs, down by two. The Mets really couldn’t ask for anyone other than Beltran here.
- 83-mph changeup; called strike, 0-1
- 76-mph curve that drops and tilts, nasty pitch; swing and miss, 0-2
- 74-mph curve, almost as good as the last; Beltran is out looking and it’s time to walk the dog.