A “Lasting” Impression

The New York Mets took three of four from the Cincinnati Reds this weekend staying ahead of the surging Atlanta Braves.  They out-pitched, out-hit, and out-played a rejuvenated Reds squad that had won five of six their last week heading into the All-Star break.  The table was set and the Cincinnati Reds arrived to Shea Stadium with their major league leading 131 homeruns with the intention of spoiling Ralph Kiner’s unofficial going-out party. 

At the beginning of the season, Reds GM Wayne Krivsky and the Cincinnati top brass assumed that this would be the year they would experience some meaningful games come September.  Last year the Reds finished three and a half games out of first place in the NL Central.  With an optimistic and healthy Ken Griffey, Jr. teaming up with Adam Dunn and a handful of young stars in Brandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo, and Aaron Harang things were on the up-swing.  As the bullpen and starting pitching did not perform as expected, the front office decided it was time for a change. They went ahead and fired their manager Jerry Narron and replaced him with advanced scout Pete MacKanin essentially scratching the season and crossing their fingers that Griffey would not jump ship leaving them with a roster full of names like Hopper Norris, Kirk Saarloos, and John Coutlangus. 

The Mets on the other hand are clinging to a one and half game lead in the NL East over an Atlanta Braves team that has won four in a row and seven of their last eight.  On the opening night of the series, the first of four games, gave us a dominating performance by Orlando ”El Duque” Hernandez and the Mets bullpen. Hernandez stroke out seven batters and retired twelve straight before handing the ball over to Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano who returned the favor by pitching two scoreless innings extending the streak to eighteen before Billy Wagner closed the deal with the save.  Jose Reyes and Ruben Gotay led off the game with back-to-back solo home runs gaining respect from their new first base coach Ricky Henderson.  Henderson is the all-time leader in lead-off homeruns.  The Mets only loss, Friday night, in the series was at the expense of their ace John Maine whose timing seemed off from the extra days of rest he received during the All Star break.  Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips, who redeemed himself from a base running mistake the night before, went three for five with a double, homerun, and six RBI leading the Reds offensive that reeled off eight runs on nine hits.  The Reds were also buoyed by a strong performance from their starting pitcher Aaron Harang.  He pitched six innings giving up only three runs and striking out eight batters improving his record to 10 – 2. 

If you were to ask Lastings Milledge, “What his fondest memory of Ralph Kiner is?  A look of confusion would follow and Milledge’s response would most definitely be, “who?”   I guess you can say the same for Kiner, who was honored Saturday night, as his career is coming to a close while Milledge’s has just begun.  The spotlight was then shifted over to another of baseball’s fine gentleman.  Tom Glavine, the Mets crafty left-handed veteran pitcher, threw for eight innings giving up two hits surrendering only a run while striking out five to record his 298th win inching him closer to a personal benchmark of three hundred career wins.  The Mets escaped that game with a late-inning tie-breaking run picking up the win and holding their ground in the NL East.

The momentum carried into Sunday’s matinee which saw a return of Oliver Perez from the disabled list with back spasms.  Perez’ six solid innings rendered him six strikeouts and a win improving his record to 8 – 6 quelling some doubts concerning his health.  The much improved back-up catcher, Ramon Castro, continued to swing a hot bat going two for three with a double and a RBI raising his average to .309.  Jose Reyes also went two for three with two RBI recording his sixth homerun of the season and is now batting .308.  The Mets closer Billy Wagner preserved the win and notched his twentieth save pitching a scoreless ninth lowering his ERA to 1.52 on the season.  The Mets are now headed to the west coast where they will be up against the top two teams in the NL West.


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