When Johan Santana was disabled with a season-ending injury, the Mets knew his replacement would have some big shoes to fill. Since replacing Santana in the rotation last week, Nelson Figueroa has done his best to pitch like the Mets ace. Today, he pitched into the eighth inning and struck out a career-high 10 batters, as the Mets avoided being swept out of Chicago. Figueroa’s dominant performance and the hitters’ ability to strike early and often against Cubs’ starter Carlos Zambrano helped lead the Mets to a 4-1 victory on Sunday.
Figueroa had never struck out more than eight batters in a major league game, but he had already surpassed that total by the fourth inning. He gave up a run in the first inning, but recorded all three outs via the strikeout. It was the only run he’d give up all afternoon.
The Mets came out swinging against Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs. They turned that early deficit into a lead by scoring two runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth. They didn’t need to take their pitches or hope for a bad call by the umpires. They just came out hacking, getting a combined nine hits in the two innings that they scored runs.
Angel Pagan started the rally in the third inning by using a prototype version of his new reflecto-glasses to blind Carlos Zambrano on the mound. His ingenious tactics worked perfectly as Zambrano gave up a one-out single to Pagan. The next three batters (Castillo, Murphy and Francoeur) also singled to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Zambrano did not help his own cause as he committed an error trying to pick off Pagan at second base. Perhaps he was still blinded by Pagan’s shades. The Mets could have done more damage in the inning, but Jeremy Reed (making a rare start in left field) lined into a double play to end the inning, as Daniel Murphy was doubled off second base.
In the fourth inning, the Mets kept their hitting shoes on, continuing to do their best to give the Big Z a Big L. Five consecutive hits in the inning, including an RBI triple by Anderson Hernandez and an RBI single by Nelson Figueroa (he of the .333 average) chased Carlos Zambrano into the Wrigley Field showers. No word on whether the Gatorade coolers survived his departure.
That was all Nelson Figueroa needed to pick up his second victory of the year. He was removed in the eighth inning after a blown call by the second base umpire allowed Milton Bradley to reach base on an infield single. Figueroa’s final line was much like Johan Santana’s lines from the early part of the 2009 season: 7+ innings pitched, one run, six hits, two walks, 10 Ks.
Jon Lovitz came into the broadcast booth to schmooze with Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen after Figueroa’s departure, but his Mets debut was short-lived as Brian Stokes needed only six pitches to get three outs in the eighth. He induced Derrek Lee to ground into a double play and got Aramis Ramirez to pop out to Luis Castillo. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
The Mets barely broke a sweat in the ninth inning as Francisco Rodriguez needed only eight pitches to pick up his 28th save of the season. It was only his fifth save in seven attempts since the All-Star Break. That means the Mets spent $36 million on Oliver Perez and $37 million on Francisco Rodriguez, or as I like to call them, a win streak killer and a bullpen seat filler, respectively.
The Mets have a day off on Monday as they prepare to take their one-game winning streak into Colorado to face the Rockies. The Rockies were the last team the Mets won a series from, when they took three out of four at Citi Field in late July. In the month of August, the Mets lost seven series and split two others.
David Wright will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. As has become the tradition with the Mets, they have decided to take a man who suffered a concussion and activate him for a series at the home of a team that plays its games in the thinnest air. Way to go, Mets! The follies continue Tuesday night at 8:40 PM when Mike Pelfrey takes on Josh Fogg.
In the past two years, the Mets entered the final month of the season hoping it would be a September to remember. Now that the Mets are far from playoff contention, they can only hope the team can make it through the month in one piece so that it doesn’t become a September to dismember.