Thursday, May 25, 2006


Oh Shea can I see!

I was minding my own business at the High Times office late on Wednesday afternoon when Matt's friend Sarah called. She had two tickets for the Mets-Phillies game that was about to start in an hour. Did I want them? I bobbled my head up and down like a ceramic doll. Danny Danko and I were drinking beers and well, drinking beers. "Wanna go, Dan?" I coaxed. "I don't know," he said. "Let me call Sarah." That's his lovely wife, not Matt's friend who was offering the ducats. They had made plans for a dinner BBQ in their Brooklyn backyard. But it was the Mets afterall. Neither of us had been to a game so far - with more than a quarter of the season "in the books," as WFAN's Howie Rose likes to say, it was about time to make our maiden Met voyage of 2006. Sarah gave Dan the go-ahead and we were off to Shea - by cab!

We learned from the car radio that Cuban defector Alay Soler, in his first inning ever as a Met, gave up 3 runs. Not a good start. By the time we arrived at Shea and located our $38 field-level seats (down the 3B line in Section 250, Row G), it was the bottom of the 2nd. Carlos Beltran homered (his 13th) in bottom of the first. The score was 3-1. Dan quickly ordered two cans of Bud (my least favorite beer) from the first vendor he saw. Then he bought a dog from Sam the vendor, who informed our section that the Mets had traded Jorge Julio for Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez a few hours ago. Yippee! (More on that later.)

In the 4th, a HR by David Wright (his 8th) and an RBI single by Chris Woodward (starting at 2B in place of Kaz Matsui) tied the score at 3. The next inning the Mets took the lead when Jose Reyes tripled (his 6th) and scored on Joe Valentin's sac fly (he started in place of Xavier Nady in RF). Meanwhile, Soler settled down and held the Phils in check for the next 5 innings. Willie Randolph replaced him in the 7th with Pedro Feliciano, who promptly relinquished the lead on Pat Burrell's 12th HR. But the Wright Stuff came through again in the bottom of the inning, plating what would be the winning run with a single. Wright's 3-for-4 outing drove his average up to. 322. He now has 31 RBI.

Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner finished off the Phils, with the sketchy saver mowing them down 1-2-3 in the 9th. The Mets (28-17) won 5-4, and now lead the Phils (23-22) and the Braves (24-23), who beat the Padres, by 5 games each. This afternoon they can sweep their NL East rivals. It'll be Jeremi Gonzalez (0-0, 10.13) vs. Brett Myers (2-2, 2.75), 1:10 pm start on FSY & WFAN.

Shea Stadium was as annoying as ever, with loudspeaker prompts to cheer, and moronic scoreboard pizza races and quizzes. (Tom Glavine delivered the line, "Here's looking at you, kid?" Now which movie's that from?). The ugly "Big Apple" popped out of its sheath twice after HRs. Can anyone bomb that thing? I ate Nathan's fries and onions rings, and a Carvel hot fudge sundae - very nutritious.

David Wright is by far the most popular Met - except perhaps for when Pedro Martinez pitches. Lots of cute girls donned No. 5 jerseys, and one held up a placard asking the 23-year-old budding star to marry her. Nice offer. Omar Minaya's latin-tinged team has its share of Hispanic fans now - I even heard drumming in the upper deck and there's a guy named "Cow-Bell Man" who does a better job getting the crowd going in rhythm than the stupid handclap noises and instructions to get "mad as hell" like William Holden in Network. Shea has long needed a makeover. That will come when the Mets' new Ebbetts Field-style stadium opens in 2009 and Shea is inploded. Can't wait!

El Duque for Jorge Julio trade
The Mets have two Cuban defectors on the roster - as least for now. Hernandez was imported from the Diamondbacks for Julio, whose 45-game Met career ended unceremoniously. He was 1-2 in 18 games with a 5.06 ERA. Blessed with a 97 MPH fastball, Julio intimidated no one and preferred to throw his splitter.'s Marty Noble writes: "Hernandez had a 2-4 record and 6.11 ERA with the first-place Diamondbacks. He had started nine games and pitched 45 2/3 innings, allowing 52 hits and 20 walks and striking out 52. On May 16, he lasted two innings because he strained a muscle in his side... El Duque, hardly the consistent performer he was with the Yankees, need only pitch a level higher than that attained by Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez to be an asset to his new team. And [GM Omar] Minaya expects at least that much from the officially 36-year-old Cuban defector, who began his major league career in 1998 and who brings a 72-53 career record with him... When Hernandez will pitch is an unknown. His first start won't bump Martinez or Tom Glavine from their Friday or Saturday starts against the Marlins. There was an indication on Wednesday that El Duque could pitch on Sunday if the Mets decide to split him and the eventual fifth starter - whether it is Gonzalez or Soler. Because Hernandez pitched on Monday night - he allowed one run in seven innings in a no-decision against the Pirates - he won't join the Mets until Friday, when they play in Miami. And because the Mets bullpen was short without Julio, the club promoted Heath Bell from its Triple-A Norfolk affiliate rather that add Hernandez to the 25-man roster. Speculation was that Bell would remain with the team when Hernandez is added, and either Soler or Gonzalez would return to the minor leagues after Thursday's game."

So Minaya has made up for the bonehead Kris Benson-for-Julio trade somewhat. Hernandez can't be any worse than Jose Lima, and he comes with bonafide post-season cred (with the Yankees and the last October with the World Series-winning White Sox).

BLOOMIE QUIZ: Who was the last Cuban defector to play on the Mets?


• The Yankees took the Fenway series from the Red Sox, winning the rubber match, 8-6. Randy Johnson got the victory, despite allowing 9 hits, 4 BBs and 5 runs in 5 innings. The Yanks (26-19) are within a half-game of the Bosox (26-18). They return to Yankee Stadium to host the hapless Royals this weekend.

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