Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brewers Win NL Wild Card; Mets Say Goodbye to Shea

For the first time since 1982, the Milwaukee Brewers will play baseball in October. I didn't think much of the move at the time but C.C. Sabathia turned around the fortunes of this club when they acquired him from Cleveland in July. Pitching on three days rest, Sabathia tossed a complete game against the Chicago Cubs for a 3-1 victory. The Brewers were down 1-0 into the 7th inning but the Brew Crew tied it on a bases loaded walk by Craig Counsell. "The Hebrew Hammer" Ryan Braun nailed down the Wild Card with a two run homerun in the bottom of the 8th. Of course, it was barely two weeks ago when the Brewers fired Ned Yost and replaced him with Dale Sveum. The Brewers went 7-5 under Sveum. Not earth shattering but it would be good enough.

Fans and players alike didn't move an inch in Miller Park awaiting the outcome of the New York Mets-Florida Marlins game. The game was scoreless into the 6th when the Marlins scored two runs. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the inning on a two run homerun by Carlos Beltran. But the the much maligned Mets bullpen loomed large once again. In the top of the 8th, Wes Helms hit a pinch hit homerun off Scott Schoeneweis to give the Marlins a 3-2 lead. Mets manager Jerry Manuel took out Schoeneweis and put in Luis Ayala. Dan Uggla went deep off Ayala to give the Marlins a 4-2 lead.

The Mets did have some opportunities. Marlins reliever Kevin Gregg had retired the first two hitters in the 8th when Jose Reyes hit a ground rule double. It actually worked against the Mets because had it not bounced over the fence Reyes could have had an inside the park homerun. But then Gregg walked Beltran which meant Carlos Delgado came to bat as the go ahead run. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez took out Gregg and put in veteran lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes who has given Delgado fits throughout his career. Delgado hit a long fly ball to left but Josh Willingham caught it to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 9th with two outs, Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom walked pinch hitter Damion Easley to bring the tying run to the plate. The Mets were not going out Easley. This brought up Ryan Church. Could Church deliver a miracle for the Mets this Sunday? He put a drive into the ball but it landed peacefully in the glove of Curtis Maybin. Marlins won 4-2 and for the second season in a row the Mets were denied a spot in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Brewers and their fans toasted with Old Milwaukee.

The Mets also said goodbye to Shea Stadium. In 2009, they move across the street into Citi Field. Needless to say, Shea Stadium went out with far less fanfare than Yankee Stadium. But Shea has had its moments since opening in 1964. The Beatles played there in 1965, the Jets won Super Bowl III there in 1968 and the Mets won two World Series titles in 1969 and 1986. Throw in some other concerts and wrestling matches Shea had a good run. I was there last year and its not much to write home about. I'm sure Citi Field will be an improvement.

The question is though whether the Mets will be better in 2009. They collapsed in 2007 with a 7 game lead with two weeks left in the season. Willie Randolph was fired mid-season and replaced by Jerry Manuel. The Mets played much better under him but it wasn't good enough. They had a three and a half game lead with two weeks to go this season. If nothing else, the Mets need to revamp their bullpen. They obviously will pursue Los Angeles Angels closer Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez who becomes a free agent at season's end as Billy Wagner is unable to pitch in 2009. But even if they sign "K-Rod" they need shore up their middle relief because Schoeneweis, Feliciano, Sanchez, Heillman and company couldn't do the job once Wagner got hurt. This is why Manuel let Johan Santana pitch complete games in his last two starts for fear the bullpen wouldn't hold his lead.

The Mets have a lot of talent with Santana anchoring the starting rotation, a power trio of Beltran, Delgado and David Wright and role players like Easley, Fernando Tatis and Endy Chavez who made a couple of brilliant plays in left field today. But the Mets are expected to win and somehow I doubt they will stand pat this off season.

Meanwhile, the Brewers travel to Philadelphia to face the Phillies in the NLDS. The Cubs will host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the other NLDS. Both games begin on Wednesday. I'll post my predictions in a couple of days.

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