Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Let's play 7: Mets force Cards into the Ultimate Showdown in Sports

Rookie pitcher John Maine tosses 6 scoreless innings and Jose Reyes' leadoff HR helps the Mets force a Game 7 tomorrow night.

Mets, 4-2
WP: Maine
LP: Carpenter
HR: Reyes

As I said yesterday, this Series has followed a bizarre pattern- that is, there is no pattern. Other than St. Louis winning 2 games in a row (2 & 3) this series has had more surprise outcomes & hidden twists than an episode of Prison Break. Star pitchers have pitched badly (Carpenter in Gm 2), and bad pitchers have shone like stars (Weaver in Gm5); green rookies have pitched like seasoned veterans (John Maine tonight) and playoff veterans have pitched like AA prospects (Billy Wagner in Gms 1 & 6.) The only things that have been predictable is that a no-name has made himself a playoff hero (So Taguchi) and the superstars (Beltran, Delgado, Pujols, & Edmonds) have come through in the clutch.

But tonight's non-pattern/pattern made perhaps the least sense of all. The Cardinals had their ace,Chris Carpenter, the 2005 Cy Young Award winner and the likely winner this season as well, on the hill going up against the Mets rookie righthander John Maine. The kid was thrust into the playoff rotation when El Duque Hernandez went down with a calf injury before his start in the NLDS against the Dodgers. All he has done since then is provide solid starts (other than a small meltdown in Gm 2 when he allowed 5 BBs & 3 ERs) and a steady, calming presence on the mound that allows everyone around him to relax as well. Tonight all he did was shut down the potent Cardinal hitters with a masterful 5.1 innings of 2-hit shutout ball. He's a rookie.

Maine event, Maine man, Maine-iac, whatever you call him the kid is cool

It helps relax a pitcher when your stud SS starts off the game with a nerve- calming home run to take the edge off of everyone. This kid is using his time in the postseaon spotlight to show the whole world what a phenomenal player he tryly is. He's beginning to resemble a Rickey Henderson-type catalyst- homeruns, triples, stolen bases. After tonight's 3-4, 2R, 1RBI, 1SB, numerous terrific defensive play performance, the 23 year-old from the Dominican is hitting .282 (11-39) with 1-2B 1-3B, 1-HR, 7R, 5RBI & 3SB. Talk about making a name for yourself when it counts. The Mets would get another off of Carpenter(6IP, 7H, 2ER) in the 4th on a Shawn Green single, and when Paulie LoDuca tacked on 2 more with a single off Braden looper it looked like the Mets would cruise into Game 7.

Look, up in the sky, it's a superstar being born

But wait- the ninth inning was yet to be played. And the second coming of Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner, got the call to nail down the 4-run win. Wrong. Wagner and his shrinking confidence got into immediate trouble, allowing a single to Encarnacion, then a single to Rolen, who can barely life his arm above his shoulder and had been 0-3 w/ 4 men LOB (bases loaded in the 1st) in the game. After getting the next 2 out, up stepped Wagner's nemesis, So Taguchi. Taguchi had tagged Wagner for the game-winning HR in Game 2, and this time he got the closer for a 2-run, confidence-crushing double to break the shutout and the good feelings the Mets had been having up to that point. Wagner then induced a game ending groundout, but a lot of people in Met land will be losing sleep over the fact that this guy might have to be called on to save a Game 7.

So tonight we are all treated to a spectacular sporting event-Game 7 of a League Championship Series. The only thing better is a Game 7 of a World Series, but we;ll take this for now. It will be Jeff Suppan for the Cards, himself a veteran of an NLCS Game 7 two years ago against Roger Clemens & Houston for the right to go to the World Series. If you recall the Cards were in that series , so guess who won the Game 7. he will be opposed by either Darren Oliver or Oliver Perez. Right now the Mets don't care if it's Oliver Twist on the mound. They forced the ultimate showdown; now all we have to do is sit back & enjoy it.

MY PICK: With all the momentum going with New York, plus the decided advantage of playing a Game 7 at home, I'm going with... The Cards. Logic says the opposite of what should happen will happen, therefore I look for the Cards boppers, especially Pujols, to come through, and who knows, maybe we;ll even get to see So Taguchi take Wagner deep again for the Series winner.

Cards 6-4

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