Meet the Mets, Beat the Mets

added 5/6/2002 by Todd Brody

There is an adage in baseball that to win in baseball, you have to win series. Forget about individual games, win the series. Coming into this weekend with the Mets, it seemed that the Astros had forgotten how to win a series (at least against contending teams). And this particular series against the Mets was critical. Sure, it's May, and it's hard to say with a straight face that any games in May are "must-win." But I wanted the Astros to win THIS series. The Mets are leading their division and, with their excellent starting pitching and hard-hitting lineup (that had just taken apart the Diamondbacks), these games would be a real challenge for the Astros. But most of all, they are the Mets, one of the Astros' greatest rivals since way back in 1962. Any series against the Mets is a big series. And living in New York, I had a personal reason for wanting the Astros to kick a little Met butt. There really isn't anything more satisfying in this world than listening to a bunch of Mets fans cry on the radio after their team gets taken apart.

The best way to win a series, of course, is to win the opening game, which the Astros failed to do. In fact, the Astros got hammered. And Dave Mlicki who had been one of the nicest surprises so far, took the brunt of the Mets bats. That Pedro Astacio got the win for the Mets was a nice little ice pick in the eye for the Astros who should have signed Astacio in the offseason but are too cheap to do so. The best thing that I can say about the first game is that perhaps the Mets did all of their hitting in game one, because the Mets didn't do very much offensively from that point forward.

Games two and three featured brilliant pitching performances by Carlos Hernandez and Roy Oswalt. And the games were similar in that neither started off particularly well for the Astros' young stars. Both Hernandez and Oswalt got into bases-loaded jams in the first inning. Oswalt had two base-runners in the second inning and suffered an unearned-run when Julio Lugo threw a ball away on what would have been an inning-ending double play. In fact, at the start of both games I remember being very anxious that the Astros would not be able to score enough runs to win. But from that point forward, the two were nearly unhittable. In one of my earlier columns this season, I said that it was unreasonable for anyone to think that Hernandez and Oswalt would have Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling type seasons so early in their career. I guess that Pancho and Lefty want to prove me wrong and nothing would make me happier.

The two latter games were also similar in that the Astros did things that they haven't done with much frequency this season - run the bases well (and taking the extra base when possible), and hit in timely situations. During the second game, the Mets television announcers were talking about how well the Astros were running the bases and they wondered whether that was the result of Larry Dierker or Jimy Williams. I got a little chuckle out of that. But timely hitting was what won these games. {Darryl Ward}'s big two-out double scoring Lance Berkman from first was a very clutch hit. And Ward is making Gerry Hunsicker look smarter and smarter, hitting at a very nice clip. Moises Awho? Oh, he's that guy in Chicago batting .120 who keeps getting hurt. And game two was even nicer in that the Astros won against Al Leiter, a fine starting pitcher who throws a lot of off-speed pitches, and they did so with very few hard hit balls. The Astros were scoring runs on grounders that found their way out of the mitts of Mets' fielders and into the outfield. These are balls that were caught a couple of weeks ago. Sure the Astros got two home runs from Berkman, but that was just a side-show for ESPN's benefit. The Astros won with a lot of bloop singles. And that's not bad either.

A couple of personal notes: The Astros are playing down in Philadelphia this week. I'm going to try to go to at least one game - If my wife lets me go, of course. As far as she is concerned, if I can leave my office at 4:00 to drive down to Philadelphia, I can surely go home at that same time and play with the kids. Perhaps she has a point. But if you are watching the games on TV, and you see a guy sitting behind the Astros dugout with a flashing Astros hat, a circa 1980s jersey, and an Astros foam finger (and that said fan appears to be getting his ass kicked by a bunch of Phillies' fans), you'll know who it is, so light a couple of candles for me. And speaking of the kids, I went with my family and my brother's family to see the Riversharks in the independent Atlantic league. After buying a sharks hat and two foam fins (their version of the big foam finger) and after waiting in line for my three-year old son to be photographed with "Hammer," one of the sharks mascots, my son insisted that we leave and he cried from the 2nd to the 4th inning until we did. Let's just say that I will not be taking him to any of the Astros/Mets games this year because I'm not leaving those games early. And finally, Willie Nelson is coming to my home town, Englewood. Say what you want about country music and poorly conceived duets with Julio Iglesias, but few things make me happier than seeing that decrepit old dope smoker on stage with the family. Maybe I can convince him to come back to my place afterwards and catch the Astros on the dish.

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