Mets Power Past Cardinals to Even NLCS
The Mets knew they were in a bit of trouble entering today’s NLCS Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals, because they were down 2 games to one and had just been shut-out in Game 3. Game 4 was not a must-win situation for Willie Randolph’s team, but the Mets manager remarked that it would be nice to “ensure that we’ll be back in New York at the end of this series” as early as possible. Of course, if the NLCS didn’t return to New York, it would mean that the Cardinals had won it in 5 games. That won’t happen, as Carlos Delgado and Company put on a powerful display at the New Busch Stadium.
The pitching matchup of Anthony Reyes (above) and Oliver Perez intrigued no one
Almost every MLB analyst predicted that Game 4 would be a slugfest, mostly due to unimpressive (to say the least) pitching matchup. Oliver Perez was the Mets’ starter, and his regular season record was a catastrophic 3-13 with a 6.55ERA — the highest regular season ERA for a playoff starter in baseball history. Rookie Anthony Reyes was scheduled to take the hill for the Cardinals, and he went 5-8 with a 5.06ERA during the regular season. Reyes had promise but wasn’t showing it this season and Perez was downright awful, so it was plainly visible why anyone from Fox’s Ken Rosenthal to ESPN’s Baseball Tonight analysts to the Sunday bum watching a 60-inch plasma TV next door was predicting a high-scoring affair.
Oliver Perez (Mets) looked “semi-sharp” to start the game
While neither of the two starters looked extremely effective through the first two frames, Oliver Perez and Anthony Reyes got the job done. Perez did allow a run to the Cardinals in the 2nd inning, but sporting a 6.55ERA coming into the start, a 4.50 mark through the first two innings shouldn’t have been a disappointment. Reyes didn’t allow any Mets to cross home plate in his first two innings of work, but his control was non-existant.
The Mets finally broke through in the 3rd, led by a David Wright homerun
It was clear from watching the first two innings that Anthony Reyes’ lack of control would catch up to him eventually. The catching-up was painfully quick, as Carlos Beltran and David Wright both slammed solo homeruns in the 3rd, to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Wright’s homerun was a sign that the standout 3B was finally coming out of his playoff funk (.190 average through NLDS and first 3 games of NLCS). Wright also made it clear that unlike his fellow New York “third-baseman” (Alex Rodriguez), he can come through when it matters.
Juan Encarnacion tied the game with a triple
Much to the Mets chagrin, their one run lead disappeared in just a few minutes. Scott Spiezio drew a four-pitch, one out walk, and Juan Encarnacion tripled to rightfield to drive him in, tying the game at 2-apiece. After a scoreless 4th, the scoring resumed, this time with a lot more thunder.
Carlos Delgado’s three-run blast silenced the Busch Stadium crowd
Tony La Russa decided to hand the game to his bullpen early, with Anthony Reyes sputtering and his pitch count at an extremely high (for 4 innings of work) 86. That was a mistake, and a New York-sized one at that (no pun intended). The first Cardinals’ reliever was Brad Thompson, and he didn’t last long. Paul Lo Duca led off the inning by reaching on a costly fielding error by 2B Ronnie Belliard. Carlos Beltran singled to rightfield moving Lo Duca over to 2nd base. Then came the big blow — a three run bomb by Carlos Delgado to open up a 3-run, 5-2 lead for the Mets. The Mets would be done scoring in the 5th, but the damage was done, and Brad Thompson left the game having retired just one batter (Randy Flores came in to finish off the Mets in the 5th) and having allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits and the Belliard fielding error.
David Eckstein narrowed the gap with a solo homerun
The Mets 3-run lead didn’t seem extremely safe with Oliver Perez still on the mound, and it seemed even more penetrable after Perez surrendered a leadoff homerun to David Eckstein, bridging the gap to 5-3. Perez rebounded however, striking out Scott Spiezio and Albert Pujols and inducing a flyout by Juan Encarnacion to close out the Cardinals’ 5th inning hopes.
The 6th inning was the baseball equivalent of hell for Josh Hancock
I’ll preview the top of the 6th inning by telling you that the Mets batted around and that Cardinals’ reliever Josh Hancock did not retire a batter despite throwing 21 pitches; I’ll be even more informative and tell you that just 9 of those 21 were strikes. That should be enough to tell you it was disastrous for the Cardinals and enjoyable (at the very least) for the Mets.
Jose Reyes led off the inning with a single. Paul Lo Duca singled advancing Reyes to third. Carlos Beltran walked, loading the bases. Carlos Delgado hit a 2-run, ground-rule double moving Beltran to third and extending the Mets lead to 7-3. David Wright walked on 4 pitches. Josh Hancock exited the game without retiring a batter and having allowed 3 hits and 2 walks. He was relieved by Tyler Johnson. Shawn Green hit an RBI single loading the bases and making the score 8-3. Jose Valentin cleared the bases with a 3-run double blowing the game wide open with the score now 11-3 Mets. Endy Chavez struck out. Oliver Perez struck out. Jose Reyes flied out.
That was the Mets 6th inning in a nutshell. 6 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. Five of the runs were charged to Josh Hancock, whose NLDS ERA (this was his only appearance) spiked to 162.00 — almost certainly larger than the number of Cardinals fans who still thought their team could pull off a Game 4 miracle.
The Cardinals had to respond and Jim Edmonds led their effort
St. Louis knew it had to at least put up a fight in Game 4, so the Cardinals put on a little power display of their own in the bottom of the 5th inning. They took full advantage of Oliver Perez still pitching, with Jim Edmonds and Yadier Molina each destroying a pitch for a solo homerun. Perez would finish the 5th, but it would be his last inning of work, and the score was 11-5 after 5. The Mets’ southpaw finished with a dismal stat line of 5 innings, 9 hits, 5 runs (all earned), 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, and 3 homeruns allowed. Nevertheless, it would be enough to earn him his first playoff victory.
The Mets would add another run in the 6th inning on Carlos Beltran’s 2nd homerun of the game, making the score 12-5.
A game like this was exactly what we expected of the National League’s best team. The Mets finally showed that they belonged in the NLCS, by pounding the Cardinals pitching staff, and verifying “as Pujols goes, so go the Cardinals” theory (Pujols went 0-for-4 in Game 4). With the series now tied at 2 games apiece, the Mets have regained homefield advantage, and they’ll look to give themselves two games to work with, by sending Tom Glavine, who dominated the Cardinals in Game 1 to the mound. Glavine will be countered by Jeff Weaver, who pitched surprisingly well for St. Louis in the NLDS opener.
FINAL SCORE: Mets 12 Cardinals 5
Pitchers of Record:
W: Oliver Perez
L: Brad Thompson
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Carlos Delgado
The previous question was…
Detroit starter, Jeremy Bonderman, was featured in the bestselling book Moneyball as an example of what kind of front office mistake?
The correct answer…
Moneyball author Michael Lewis used Jeremy Bonderman as an example of poor drafting. The A’s took Bonderman with their first pick several years ago, before trading him away, after being disappointed by the flameballer’s pitching in their minor league system.
Today’s question is…
On September 25, 2003, Carlos Delgado became just the 15th player in MLB history to do what?