Thursday, May 27, 2010

You can't get any better than that

I believe it was Gary Cohen, in a recent Mets broadcast, who said that for starting pitchers like John Maine and Oliver Perez, "The scholarships are over." That point was repeated during Wednesday night's 5-0 win over the Phillies -- a second straight shutout -- as Hisanori Takahashi earned his first win as a starter with superb outing in his second consecutive start.

Gary, Keith and Ron all agreed that at this point, Mets starters not named Johan or Mike will have to prove themselves worthy of a rotation slot every time they go out there. Your contract means nothing. Your willingness to pitch in pain is admirable, but doesn't help win ballgames. Throwing strikes, limiting walks, putting up innings -- those things count the most.

Takahashi did just that in shutting down a Phillies lineup that has more flight than fight these days. Hernandez noted that Chase Utley looks like he's hurt his hip again -- either that or he is as lost at the plate as Mark Texeira -- and Ryan Howard was waving at breaking pitches like he was shooing away moths.

When the Mets moved Takahashi to the rotation, the concern was that the move would weaken the bullpen. But if Takahashi, who was a starter in Japan for years, continues to pitch like this, then he is much more valuable in the rotation. The guy flat knows how to pitch, and the difference between him and Perez -- who does not know how to pitch, yet somehow earns $12 million a year -- is stark.

When Jon Niese returns, he also will have to show that he's worthy, although he will be given plenty of slack, mainly because there's no one else to take his spot on a regular basis. Fernando Nieve will start Saturday as the Mets juggle that last position until Niese's return.

With Takahashi in complete command, once the Mets took the lead you got the feeling that the game was in hand, even when the Mets were only up 2-0. The vibe was 180 degrees from what it is typically against the Phillies, who have the kind of offense that can quickly eliminate any deficit.

Jose Reyes snapped a long homerless drought with a solo shot leading off the third, and then the Mets put the game away in the sixth on a leadoff double by Wright, a sweet bunt for a base hit by Pagan, a stolen base by Pagan (the Mets ran wild on Brian Schneider) and a two-run double by Barajas. A throwing error by Utley (nice) allowed Reyes to come up and single in the fifth run.

Just like that, two shutouts and the series is already won. The Mets go for the sweep (!) Thursday night in a showdown between Mike Pelfrey and Cole Hamels, who had a brutal April but has pitched well in his four starts in May.

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