Every aspect of the team had a hand in the crushing sweep: The bullpen blew the first game, the offense was the culprit in the second one and the starting pitching was at fault in the third.
I settled in front of the TV for game one. The Mets jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and I had visions of a sweep dancing in my head.
That’s exactly how the series should have started, but unfortunately, that was the high point of the three games.
Pittsburgh chipped away at the lead, but Livan Hernandez (after maybe being pulled too early) left the game in the capable hands of the best bullpen in baseball with a two-run lead.
Bobby Parnell did his job in the sixth, Pedro Feliciano took over in the seventh and I sat back thinking, "This bullpen doesn’t blow games; this one is over." Then J.J. Putz came in and completely blew the whole shebang by giving up four straight hits and an intentional walk.
I looked down to the end of the couch, and asked my daughter’s big stuffed Winnie the Pooh, who had been watching the game with me, “What happened? The Mets always win when they have a late lead nowadays?”
Pooh turned to me and said, “Don’t worry. It’s an aberration, not an omen of things to come. Last year’s bullpen is a distant memory. And it was J.J. Putz. He’s the only weak link in the ‘pen. He’ll work things out, and the rest of the relievers will pick up the slack until he’s turned things around. It’s only one game. Johan Santana is pitching tomorrow, so they’ll surely win that one.”
“You are wise, my pudgy friend,” I answered back.
Pooh and I kicked back for the second game of the series. Santana was his usual dominating self for the first four innings, but then started to show some chinks. He even made an error, though he started two fantastic inning-ending double plays in the fifth and sixth. He finished with a minimally qualifying quality start (six innings pitched, three runs), but was good enough to keep the team in the game.
It was the offense who let them down this time. Again I looked toward Pooh for some reassuring words after losing two games to lowly Pittsburgh.
“The bullpen pitched two scoreless innings, and Santana was good enough to win, but with so many injuries to the everyday players, it was bound to catch up with them sooner or later.
"If David Wright and Gary Sheffield are red hot, then they can get away with a triple-A lineup, but if they’re not hitting, there’s only so many runs a lineup filled with a bunch of Wilson Valdezes will score.
"The Pirates actually had a better lineup than the Mets in this game. Don’t worry, Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora will be back for the next game and Mike Pelfrey is pitching.”
“Once again, you have calmed my nerves, your Tubbiness.”
I was, annoyingly, at work for the final contest. I followed the beginning of the game on Yahoo, and then was stuck in an hour-long meeting. When I returned to my desk, the Mets were losing, 9-4. Pelfrey had just put the finishing touches on the worst start of his career.
I quickly called home and asked Pooh, “What the hell is going on?”
“You’re on your own for this one,” he answered using the speaker phone. “I just got my head stuck in this damn jar of honey again.”
Abandoned by my friend and swept by the Pirates.
Everything and everybody around the Mets is falling apart. If one of the reliable parts to the team has an off day, they don’t have a chance to win. They’re so thin now, if the starting pitching doesn’t come through or the bullpen melts down or what’s left of their big hitters are slumping, the other parts of the team can’t overcome that.
The Mets have been hanging in there over the last month, but they’re starting to fall farther and farther behind the Phillies. Hopefully a trip to Washington will turn things around for them, and the return of Ryan Church next week will give them some more depth, but then again, Tim Redding is pitching tomorrow, so how bright can things be?
But they’ll be far away from Pittsburgh. And none of the players has the swine flu. Yet.