Saturday, April 17, 2010

Good Ollie, bad bullpen

My gut reaction when Jerry Manuel exited the dugout to replace Oliver Perez with one out in the seventh inning against the Cardinals? "Don't take him out!"

How's that for bizarre?

Perez gave Mets fans what they've been looking for and then some, throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings until the bullpen turned a 1-0 lead into a 4-1 deficit. Nice to see the Mets get two back in the ninth and show some fight, but a loss is a loss. This one, though, I can't get too upset about, despite the fact that it came via a grand slam by Felipe Lopez (who somehow has five of those).

If Perez could pitch like that just half the time, it would go a long way toward solving the Mets' pitching issues. He has always had the stuff, and when you see him put it together like he did, it's impressive. And a bit infuriating when you wonder why he can't pitch that way more often.

You can't blame Jerry for taking Ollie out when he did. He's been burned too many times in the past, because when Ollie goes, he goes fast. Sure, he could have left him in to face the struggling Ryan, but then the righthanded Holliday was coming up next anyway.

This was about a bullpen that has been tremendous so far not executing. Nieve started the season solid but has gotten hammered in two of his last three appearances. And Valdes, who had looked like a revelation, got burned on a bad pitch.

The Mets played terrific defense, especially from David Wright, and Francoeur also made a nice catch while getting two hits and scoring twice, including the first run on a baserunning mistake that the Cardinals turned into a run.

Carpenter, as Gary Cohen noted, should have been the Cy Young winner last season and was as sharp as Perez in what was a superb pitcher's duel. So I can't really lay too much blame on the offense, nor Perez for pitching great, nor Jerry for making reasonable moves (Feliciano was ill and unavailable), nor a defense that backed up Perez big-time -- with the lone exception of David Freese's infield hit on a grounder to Reyes, who usually makes that play. Of course, that led off the seventh and turned into the tying run.

This one is on Nieve and Valdes, and we hope that this doesn't mean the bullpen is starting to unravel. 

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