When we picked this game to go to at the start of the season, it was simply because the Mets used to be Mrs. SnakePit's team. We had no idea that, come first pitch, the Diamondbacks would be the swirling centre of a tornado of controversy that seems destined to rumble on, even if the man responsible, Jason Grimsley, has packed his bags and departed the organization. How this will affect the team in the long-term remains to be seen; while Grimsley was not a central cog of the roster, it can't be a positive.
Two games is hardly a significant sample size, yet the lacklustre performance since the revelations came out - a long way from the roaring tiger who swept the Braves at Turner Field - was obvious. We could do with a series against, oh, the Kansas City Royals' AA-affiliate about now: unfortunately, we've got the Mets instead, who merely have the best record in the NL. Given the circumstances, I think a split of the four-game series would be a credible result.
A good chance to get off to a winning start today, and I'm delighted to announce the return of an old friend to Chase Field. Yes, today's GameDay Thread is brought to you by the letter ?, since El Manati Peque?o, Orlando Hernandez, is back to face Arizona for the first time since being traded for Jorge Julio. He's been virtually the same for the Mets as here: plenty of K's, but short outings, and a lot of base-runners. In two starts for New York, he's allowed 13 hits, six walks and 12 K's in 11 innings, with eight earned runs. Interesting to see if our knowledge of him helps our hitters.
We send up Claudio Vargas, who is tied for second behind Webb with six wins, but that ERA of 5.20 is a bit worrying. However, it's largely the hitting which was Arizona's downfall in the Phillies series, and in particular, we need the top third of the order, Counsell, Byrnes and Tracy, to step it up. Combined, they're just .145 (10-for-69) this month. Meanwhile, slots 6-8 - Clutchie, J-strada and O-Dawg - are at .371 (23-for-62).
As is traditional, here's my eight things I want to see - getting this up early, since I've a bunch of other stuff to do before we depart, and I'll likely forget otherwise!
- A win. Normally, that goes without saying, but given the circumstances, and the current three-game losing streak, it becomes almost an imperative.
- Quality start from Vargas. He's only 5-for-10 in that department (though Hernandez is just 3-for-11) with just one in the past month. Time to turn it around.
- Hernandez gone by the end of the sixth. He will be wild and give out free passes. We need to take pitches and get into the Mets bullpen. The more innings today, the less they can throw tomorrow.
- Valverde in the closer's role. With Julio pitching the ninth yesterday, in a non-save situation, I think that indicates Melvin wants to hand the reins back to Papa Grande, especially with a friendly crowd.
- A walk for Counsell. As noted, he's been in a bad slump: not getting hits or walks. His pitches per at-bat are way down (4.08 last year, 3.58 in 2006), and his last base on balls was May 20th, 70 plate appearances ago.
- Multi-hit game for Jackson. He was quiet in the Phillies series - 2-for-10 - and seems due. His longest gap between multi-hitters is only six games, so expect one this set.
- Errorless baseball. The team has not started June well in this area - seven errors in the past week, only the Brewers had more in the NL. Our fielding percentage is now third-best in the division and our defensive efficiency still sits below 70%.
- Tracy back, and no K's. He's been feeling flu-ish lately, and between that and his ankle, was out of the starting lineup on Wednesday. Good way to avoid strikeouts. :-) Keep that up, Chad, but we need you in the game.