Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Mets 6, Cubs 1, 4/19/10: We Like Ike

[Editor’s note: we were going to go to Small Beast, our usual Monday night hang. But when one of the last of the great bluesmen offers you a free Mets ticket, do you say no? At the risk of becoming just another baseball blog, we offer you Ike Davis’ debut…]
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Diehard Mets fans are not an easy sell when it comes to the the promotion of a highly touted prospect, especially during such dismal times as these – so often a Timo Perez or Victor Diaz will come up, make a quick splash and then turn into…Timo Perez or Victor Diaz. Yet there wasn’t a Mets fan at the ballpark tonight who in his or her heart of hearts didn’t leave with the secret hope of one day having bragging rights to the night Ike Davis made his debut. Most impressively, in his first trip to the plate, the lefty first baseman who tore up the Grapefruit League this spring battled back from a 0-2 count and smacked a sharp single to right field. He also displayed power with a long fly to the warning track in right in the sixth, drove in a run in the seventh and nonchalantly handled a towering Alfonso Soriano pop fly – although he wasn’t able to dig an Alex Cora throw out of the dirt in the sixth, resulting in an error being charged to Cora for allowing Cubs catcher Geovany Soto to take third on pitcher Randy Wells’ infield hit.

For the first four innings, the game was a classic cold April Flushing pitchers’ duel between Wells and the Mets’ Jon Niese, the one extra-base hit being a wallop off the 415-foot sign in right – a homer anywhere else in the league – by Soriano. Wells’ slider bamboozled the Mets’ hitters until an improbable rally in the fifth. With two outs, Alex Cora singled to right, Niese muscled the ball through the left side of the infield and the free-swinging Angel Pagan was then presented with a four-pitch walk. Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot held the Mets to a single run by corralling Luis Castillo’s slow grounder behind second at the edge of the grass as Niese held at third. With the bases loaded, Wells – who also excelled at the plate, with two hits – made quick work of David Wright, whiffing him with a succession of sliders.

All but abandoning his signature curveball, Niese pitched magnificently for five and two thirds, in and out of trouble, freezing the Cubs’ lineup with a live, moving fastball. Scattering eight hits with seven strikeouts, he turned over a slim 1-0 lead to Fernando Nieve. That lead disappeared in the space of about fifty feet as Cubs centerfielder Marlon Byrd hit a Texas chop off the turf – by the time it had returned to earth, Soto, who’d walked and then gone to third on the Cora throw that Davis couldn’t dig out, had come in to tie the game. Nieve managed to stop the bleeding by getting Jeff Baker on a comebacker.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella turned over the game to rookie lefthander James Russell, who began the bottom of the seventh by plunking pinchhitter Jose Reyes, then went 2-0 on the next pinchhitter, Gary Matthews Jr. before getting him to chase a 2-2 slider out of the strike zone for the first out. The next hitter was Angel Pagan: Piniella had Jeff Samardzia warming in the bullpen but left Russell in for a matchup that looked auspicious and proved every bit as much when Pagan launched one into the seats in straightaway center for a 3-1 lead. Luis Castillo then drove a scorching opposite-field liner into the glove of an immobile Soriano and Piniella had finally seen enough.

Wright greeted Samardzia, the former Notre Dame wide receiver and Heisman candidate, with a solid single and then stole second, scoring on Jason Bay’s double off the left-centerfield wall. Lefty Sean Marshall then took over on the hill but the damage continued, a fourth run scoring on Davis’ second hit of the night and another on a wild pitch that Rod Barajas mystifyingly swung at and missed.

Jenrry Mejia held the Cubs scoreless the rest of the way with a seemingly effortless over-the-top delivery, mixing in an effective changeup to complement a fastball that clocked as high as 95 MPH on the stadium gun, catching pinchhitter Kosuke Fukodome looking at a 2-2 heater on the outside corner to end the game. Unlike at Yankee Stadium, there aren’t a lot of Fans from Hell at Mets home games; in our case, we had just the opposite seated close to where we were in the front row up in the third tier down the rightfield line. Over the course of three hours, the big guy must have had about six beers, onion rings, a footlong hot dog and something else. When he wasn’t eating, he provided a running color commentary that kept the entire section in stitches. Barajas became Rod Basura when he fanned for the first time; as the game was ending, phonetic theory came into play, specifically how to pronounce Fukodome’s last name (try it – it got better as it went along).

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April 20, 2010 Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Citi Field = Shitty Field

First time at the new ballpark. The first thing that greets you – after the shock of seeing the parking lot where Shea (a dump, but it was OUR dump) used to be is the facade, striking in its cheap resemblance to a roadside stripmall or an ATM. It isn’t even worthy of a little league team, let alone a major league franchise, all paper-thin brick and metal overlay and spray-on faux-adobe. The cheapness is even more evident once you get inside. In an even more brazen display of cost-cutting while ratcheting up ticket prices, there’s vastly less fully enclosed space than there was at Shea, the sky visible from below decks upwards. Meaning that when it’s hot, you’ll be hotter, when it rains, you’ll be wetter and when it’s cold, as it was last night, you’d better bring a jacket or else.

The concessions at Shea were pretty nasty, let’s face it. The new stadium’s are even less inviting, several on the field level with their winding, labyrinthine lines roped off and therefore vastly more difficult to escape should you tire after standing in the same place for half an hour waiting for that $7.50 12-ounce plastic cup of beer (wine is $10). Instead of the anonymous Shea vendors, several national chains are featured along with a local pizza place and numerous bracciole stands. The bathrooms are no nicer than at the old place, although to the Mets’ credit they pipe the radio broadcasts in there now.

And that new rightfield overhang is a nightmare for outfielders, fans and umpires (more on them a bit later). Situated way up on the third tier, about 3/4 down the rightfield line, it was impossible to see anything happening in foul territory down the line, or for that matter about fifteen feet foul behind first base. Was it really worth it to design the place as a graveyard for their current rival Phillies’ lefty power hitters? Call it the House that Utley Built. And he doesn’t even play here more than nine games a year unless you (doubtfully, at this point) count the playoffs.

And about the game. Johan Santana started, a cold mist rolling in along with a nasty garbage-dump smell from somewhere between Flushing and the Rockaways. Although he struck out the side in the first and the third, it didn’t look like he was getting a good grip on the ball, perhaps an explanation for his unusually high walk total (six in six innings along with eleven K’s). The low point was the fourth inning where Johan came unglued after giving up a Strawberry-esque two-run laser shot by Adam Dunn deep to right-center. After walking opposing pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (batting average: .000) to load the bases, he then missed with a 3-1 fastball to the free-swinging Christian Guzman to force in a run and tie the game. He managed to get out of the sixth courtesy of two marvelous, sprinting catches by backup centerfielder Angel Pagan to get Dunn on a ferocious liner and then the pitcher, making an impressive attempt to make his first hit of the season a grand slam. Could have happened – anybody remember Felix Hernandez last year? Against Johan, no less?

Jordan Zimmerman is a star in the making with mid-nineties heat countered by a nasty slider. He made it into the bottom of the sixth in a 3-3 tie as the hapless Nats (a phrase that’s too apt to avoid copying from every other sportswriter out there) threw the ball all over the place. Catcher Wil Nieves dropped an easy pop fly but managed to throw to first to get Ramon Martinez, and Josh Willingham misplayed a Ramon Castro drive into a double that bounced on the chalk down the leftfield line. And then there was the incident along the other foul line, a shot by Daniel Murphy initially ruled a double with Gary Sheffield (a juicer, but he’s OUR juicer) being thrown out at the plate trying to score from first. Then an interminable wait while the umpires reviewed the play, which stumped us as well since all we saw was the bounce after the ball hit…somewhere. Didn’t look like it made it into the visitors’ bullpen, that’s for sure, as the umpires eventually ruled after an least seven-minute delay. But anything that’s good for the Mets is good with us.

The Nats’ bullpen is a joke, and the Mets capitalized, Nats manager Manny Acta mysteriously leaving righthanded one-pitch wonder Jesus Colome in to face the lefty-hitting Murphy with the bases loaded, even though he had Mets nemesis Joe Beimel available. Murphy predictably  responded with a liner that bounced on the warning track in center to drive in a couple of insurance runs. Which turned out useful when with two outs in the ninth, Murphy ably lunged for a Guzman grounder that Carlos Delgado wouldn’t have been able to get to, but then misplayed it. Guzman then stole second without a throw  -and what’s with the stupidest new official scorer fad, “defensive indifference?” The guy scored on Nick Johnson’s single. Guzman rightfully deserves credit for taking the initiative to get into scoring position. K-Rod finally got Ryan Zimmerman (no relation to the pitcher) to take a dubious slider for a called third strike and put Washington out of their misery, 7-4.  Go Mets.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | baseball, Culture, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments