When the Mets came to San Francisco earlier this year, it was supposed to be the Giants' big test. The Giants were on a little May hot streak, and they'd just climbed a few games over .500. But, oh, sure, anybody could beat up on the Nationals and the Rockies, but the Mets, ho ho: there was the real challenge. And the Giants kind of messed themselves, losing the first three of a four-game series. Right after that series, the Giants went into San Diego and lost all three one-run games. The season was over at that point, and we started to focus on 2010. At least the Giants would be able to get some prospects for Bengie Molina in a deadline deal, right?
Something happened. The Giants got better. The Mets got worse. I don't follow the Mets that closely, so I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I can make an educated guess by taking a look at their roster. Let's take a look...mm hmm. Oh, I see. Ah. Apparently, some members of the starting lineup were involved in a wheat thresher accident. And then some were attacked by ocelots. And then one of them fell down the dugout steps. A full list after the jump:
Carlos Delgado - Wheat thresher accident
Jose Reyes - Parcheesi piece stuck in eye socket
Carlos Beltran - Swallowed contents of WD40 cannister
J.J. Putz - Ceased to exist after realizing his name was totally made up
John Maine - Pulled hamstring in his arm
Fernando Martinez - Nerve-tonic induced gigantism
Luis Castillo - Fell down the dugout steps. Seriously.
That's just a wee bit of bad luck. Some folks don't consider it poor luck, though, preferring to question the training staff. Yeesh. For the first time in decades, the Mets organization has to wade through a circus-like atmosphere. It must be such a jarring change for them.
Hitter to watch:
Wait, Alex Cora is still an active player? Cory Sullivan? Anderson Hernandez, the Dominican's answer to Lopez Smith? Man, this team is nicked up. The gimpy clankmitt in left, though, will always scare me. Gary Sheffield is on a very, very short list of hitters who made me twitch in fear every time he came up. Jeff Bagwell's on the list. Albert Pujols. Probably some left-hander. But Sheffield combined patience and wild abandon like no player I've ever seen. Just watching one at-bat might give the impression that, because he swings out of his shoes on almost every pitch, he must be a .230/.231/.500 guy at best.
And while I'll always have a soft spot for those Gagne/Bonds matchups, my favorite hitter/pitcher matchup in the past decade was Sheffield and Robb Nen. My favorite episode of the long-running series: saving the game in which Bonds hit his 500th home run by striking out Sheffield, ending a 87-pitch at-bat with the tying run at third.
Pitcher to watch:
Livan Hernandez. Relies on guile. Trickery. Savvy. Elbow grease. Bacon grease. The only reason he's still in the league is that there are still some hitters who go up to the plate without a plan and wildly hack at his slop. Here's where you'd expect me to write that 70% of those hitters are on the Giants. Nope. That's too easy. Besides, the number is at least 80%.
The Giants have already whomped on Livan this year, and there's no way they'll do it again. He'll fall behind a guy like Bengie Molina, throw three straight curveballs with a 3-1 count, and Molina will pop the last one up. He'll walk back to the dugout, muttering, "Man, I can't believe he threw me a curveball on 3-2! I was totally sitting fastball." Rinse and repeat for every non-Sandoval hitter.
Man, four games? That's a lot of Mets. I'll predict this series will grow tiresome, win or lose.