Monday, August 27, 2007

As the race heats up, Maine cools down

John Maine threw 111 pitches last night. Unfortunately, he did it in 5.2 innings. The Dodgers collected nine hits, six runs, and a walk off Maine, who was outpitched by David Wells, whom the Padres released earlier this month because of poor performance. If Maine can't outpitch Wells, the Mets have a problem. But then, Maine's been having problems in his last four starts. During that stretch he's lasted only 5.1, 5.0, 5.2, and 5.2 innings, averaging 112 pitches per start. That's about 21 pitches an inning.

Maine's faltering at the worst time, and Peterson seems unable to get him back on track. If arm fatigue's causing Maine's problems, he needs rest, not more innings. But then, this is the pennant run, and Maine's one of the Mets' horses running in the race.

Maine wasn't the only pitcher in the Mets organization who threw too many pitches in too few innings yesterday.

In New Orleans in an afternoon game, the Zephyrs' Adam Bostick gave up three runs while striking out three. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

But Bostick also has problems finding the strike zone. In his next-to-last game he threw 85 pitches in four innings. Yesterday, he threw 92 pitches in five. Only 43 were strikes, not a good percentage if you want to win baseball games.

In the third inning, his pitches danced outside the strike zone often enough to grant free passes to three batters. Specifically, he walked the leadoff batter. The second batter tried to bunt, but Andy Tracy, the Mets first baseman, turned it into a 5-6-4 double play. Then, Bostick walked the next batter. And the next batter. But not the next batter. That hitter, Geovany Soto, cleared the bases with his 24th home run.

Luckily for him, he didn't lose the game even though he walked twice as many batters as he struck out. That's because the Zephyrs scored eight runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings; but Zephyr reliever, Steve Schmoll, couldn't hold the lead. In one and two-thirds innings he gave up five runs, none earned, on three hits and two walks. And then his replacement, Ryan Cullen, gave up a solo homer to give the Iowa Cubs a 9-8 lead, which is how the game ended.

This is the first game in Bostick's last 11 in which he walked more batters than he struck out. In the previous 10 he had never walked more than three. Maybe he just doesn't like pitching during the day. His ERA in day games is 12.27; whereas, in night games it's 5.49. And his ERA when the bases are empty is an amazing 1.99.

If any pitcher has to puzzle the Mets management, it's Bostick. He can strike batters out. In 582 innings he's struck out 619 batters. But he continues to linger in the minors. This is his sixth season in in which he hasn't made it to the majors.

If only the Mets pitching coaches could mix a potion that would make Bostick's pitches less adverse to avoiding home plate, especially during day games, then he might be able to break the bonds that are confining him to the minor leagues.

And now, news about four good pitching performances.

Down a level in Double-A, a starter is having more success. Kevin Mulvey pitched six innings of four-hit ball, holding the Trenton Yankees to the only two runs they scored in the game. He walked just one batter while striking out 10. Though he didn't gain the victory, the five Mets relievers that followed him held the Yankees scoreless until the 14th inning when a single, double, and error produced the Mets winning run.

In Single-A, St. Lucie sent the Mets fans who attended their game home with a smile. Deolis Guerra, a man the Mets are counting on to pitch at Shea some day, limited the Palm Beach Cardinals to two hits and no runs over five innings as the Mets shut out the Cards, 5-0.

In short-season Single-A, Brooklyn won 8-2. It was won by a pitcher whose record is even better than the game's final score. Dylan Owen. In recording his eighth win against only one loss, Owen held Vermont to five hits and a run in five innings. He leads the NY-Penn League in ERA, wins, and WHIP. His ERA's under 2.00, and his WHIP is under 1.00.

And for those who missed it, in Kingsport on Saturday Michael Olmsted, a pitcher whom I consider to have a lot of potential, started and pitched six innings of one hit, one run ball in which he struck out seven.

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