Shea Stadium | 12:10 | Maholm vs. Oliver Perez | Box
You didn’t see this one coming. Don’t lie.
Oliver Perez was dominant through five and it looked like New York was well on its way to a series sweep.
But Paul Maholm threw yet another quality start, shaky Mets defense opened a door, and the Pirates took the set’s finale, 8-4.
Ollie was cruising until glovework (including his own) let him down. Two botched bunt plays and an infield single in the sixth made the seams start to fray. Josh Phelps blasted his first home run as a Pirate, perhaps the only hard-hit ball of the afternoon, and the Bucs took a 5-1 lead.
Jason Bay, despite saying yesterday that he’s seeing the ball “a lot better,” went 1 for 5 with three strikeouts. He stranded two runners in scoring position in the sixth, and had it not been for some timely two-out hitting from Xavier Nady, the game could’ve turned out much differently.
But a win is a win is a win, no matter how we got there.
Cesar Izturis got the nod, playing shortstop and batting leadoff. Izturis went 1 for 4 with two runs scored. Jose Castillo and Ronny Paulino were in the lineup, too, though saying they played might be a bit of an overstatement. The two combined to go 0 for 7 with four strikeouts and five left on base.
Damaso Marte pitched a scoreless seventh inning. He hasn’t allowed a run since June 22. In July, Marte has thrown 7 innings, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8. Contenders are taking notice, and they’ll likely get a chance to see what he can do against powerful lefties this weekend—the Phillies feature both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
After the jump is an inning-by-inning live blog describing, pitch by pitch, how Ollie did against his former mates.
Oliver Perez is obviously getting the attention, but Paul Maholm’s putting on a show, too. Through five, he’s allowed three hits. The Mets lead 1-0 as Ollie heads to the mound to face McLouth, Maholm and Izturis.
- Ball one to Nate, then ball two. Called strike, as a Pirate finally has the common sense to look at a few pitches. Ball three. “About ready to flip his bat away,” McLouth heads back to the batter’s box after Perez gets a call. Full count. Nate hits a broken-bat single up the middle.
- Maholm has two sacrifice bunts this season. “He hasn’t looked too good in these situations,” says Wehner.
- What a turn of events. Maholm singles to short—the defense doesn’t execute the bunt play. Cesar Izturis comes up with a sacrifice in mind, too, and lays down a bunt. Perez throws the ball away! McLouth scores, Maholm winds up on third, and Izturis takes second on the throwing error. Just like that, the score’s knotted at one.
- Freddy pops up with runners on second and third and no one out. Awesome.
- Wehner doesn’t understand why Bay isn’t being intentionally walked to set up the double play, but Willie Randolph has his reasons: Jason lifts a Perez fastball to short right. Two runners in scoring position and none out and the two guys you’d want to have at the plate—and no production.
- Perez throws ball one to Nady after a visit from pitching coach Rick Peterson. Nady swings at a fastball out of the zone to even the count. Strike two, then ball two on a 94 mph heater.
- “The ball deflected off the third baseman and into foul territory.” Nady hits a rocket to David Wright, who doesn’t come up with the ball. Two runs score, and Nady is credited with a single and two runs batted in. The Mets’ trainers are now checking on Wright.
- Wehner can’t figure out why the Pirates pitched to Nady with Phelps on deck. Rock, I have a feeling that’s what the visit to the mound was about.
- “Josh Phelps crushes a two-run homer,” says Brown, and suddenly the Pirates are ahead 5-1. Four are unearned. I can’t say I saw this coming.
- Perez walks Castillo, and Ramon Castro buys some time for the Mets bullpen. Ollie’s over 100 pitches now, and Paulino will be the ninth man to hit in this inning.
- Perez gets Ronny swinging, and you’d think that closes the book on his afternoon. Fortunately for the Bucs, it was his vintage stuff: Smooth sailing until one big blowup.
As Perez exits the game, the live blog ends. Ollie threw 6 innings, allowing 5 hits and 5 runs (1 earned) while striking out 9 and walking 1. I’ll be back for the recap later, and I’ll hang around the comments section until the game’s conclusion.
Phelps, who has the only Pirate hit, Castillo and Paulino due up for the Bucs. Perez has been brilliant through four.
- Phelps is Perez’ seventh victim, striking out on the 2-2 pitch.
- Castillo is no. 8, and moans to Charlie Reliford about what he believes to be a wide strike zone. Reliford yells at Colborn in the dugout. The Pirates sound frustrated. Ollie still isn’t throwing first-pitch strikes, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
- Paulino looks “awful” swinging at Ollie’s first offering. He eventually fouls out to Shawn Green. The crowd’s going nuts at Shea, as Perez continues to plow through the Pirate lineup.
- 18 pitches, 12 strikes, two more strikeouts. Ollie’s line: 5 IP, 1 H, 8 strikeouts, 75 pitches, 49 strikes.
Maholm’s throwing well, too: Ollie takes to the hill in the fourth with just a 1-0 lead. Due up for the Bucs are Sanchez, Bay and Nady. Let’s make some noise.
- Ball one, high. Greg Brown’s been saying that a lot. Sanchez offers at the 1-0, flying to Shawn Green. Doesn’t seem like the Pirates are too eager to work the count. Maybe they figure if Perez gets to two strikes, it’s game over?
- Bay tries to check his swing, but can’t—strike one. Foul ball, strike two. In the P-G this morning, Jason said he’s seeing the ball “a lot better.” Sounds good to me. Ball one. Bay looks at the 1-2. Strike three called. That’s five for Ollie.
- The booth is saying Ollie’s throwing in the neighborhood of 92 mph. Not fast, but not slow either, given his breaking stuff. When he was with the Pirates, he occasionally hit 97. Not anymore. He starts Nady off with two balls. Swing and a miss at the 2-0. Fouled off the 2-1. “He’s got that biting slider back,” says Brown. “Breaking ball, strike three called.” That’s six.
- 12 pitches, eight strikes, two more strikeouts. Still throwing a one-hitter, and only a few weak flies have left the infield.
McLouth, Maholm and Izturis against Oliver Perez. Doesn’t seem fair.
- Ball one, strike one, and then strike two on a foul ball to Nate. Ollie’s allergic to throwing first-pitch strikes. On the 1-2, McLouth flies to shallow left-center. It’s worth noting that Nate has earned two starts in a row against southpaws.
- Paul Maholm against Oliver Perez. Fast forward: Swinging strikeout. That’s four of the first nine.
- Strike one to Izturis. I guess when you’re facing the light-hitting Cesar, you’re not worried about the batter catching up to your fastball. Izturis grounds out on the 0-1 to second baseman Gotay. Three up, three down.
- 10 pitches, eight strikes, one strikeout. The running tally: 3 IP, 4 K, 1 H, 45 pitches, 29 strikes.
Perez takes the mound with a 1-0 lead, as Jose Reyes singled, stole second and eventually scored on David Wright’s sacrifice fly in the first. Ollie’ll face Xavier Nady, Josh Phelps and Jose Castillo this frame.
- Ball one to Nady. Perez just doesn’t throw first pitch strikes. But he’s effective: The 1-0 offering is fouled off, he throws ball two, gets a called strike and before forcing X-man to hit a lazy fly to right.
- Ollie starts Phelps off with three balls. “Effectively wild,” this is called. Perez throws a strike as Phelps takes. Josh beats out an infield single on the 3-1.
- Jose Castillo’s finally getting a little love from Tracy; this makes two starts in a row. The count runs full to Jose—the at-bat began with another first-pitch ball. The 3-2 pitch is fouled off; we’ll do it again. And again. Quick tidbit from the broadcast booth: Runners have stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts off Perez. The Mets’ backup catcher, Ramon Castro, has allowed 21 runners to steal. Nevertheless, Phelps isn’t in motion. After fouling off another 3-2 pitch, Jose swings and misses. Long at-bat, but ultimately just another strikeout.
- Ronny won’t even let me finish typing about Castillo before he flies out to Lastings Milledge in center.
- 20 pitches, 12 strikes, one strikeout, one hit. Still cruisin’.
Cesar Izturis, Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay against Oliver Perez. I’m guessing something like grounder to second, grounder to third, and a swinging strikeout. Probably 10 pitches should do the job.
- Perez starts Izturis with a fastball away for ball one. Second pitch is high, 2-0. Look at Izturis working the count! Ollie grooves one, right down the middle for the first strike. On the 2-1 pitch, Izturis makes “good, solid contact”—according to John Wehner—and flies out to left fielder Damion Easley.
- Ollie goes ball-strike-strike on Freddy before getting him to chase a pitch in the dirt. Too easy.
- Bay takes ball one, outside. I see a trend here. Strike one, then ball two, then strike two. Bay fouls off the 2-2 to stay alive. “Lots of breaking balls here to Bay,” notes Wehner. Bay takes a fastball high to work the count full. Swing and a miss on the 3-2.
- 15 pitches, nine strikes, two strikeouts in the first. Cruisin’.
It looks like Jim Tracy’s paving an easy road to victory for the Mets:
- Cesar Izturis, SS
- Freddy Sanchez, 2B
- Jason Bay, LF
- Xavier Nady, RF
- Josh Phelps, 1B
- Jose Castillo, 3B
- Ronny Paulino, C
- Nate McLouth, CF
- Paul Maholm, SP
Paul’s going to have to be on top of his game today; that lineup doesn’t look like it’ll be giving him much support, especially against the Mets’ ace.
From the MLB.com scouting report:
Perez retired all 10 batters he faced with runners on base and all six he faced with runners in scoring position in his most recent start, Friday against the Dodgers. In his five most recent starts, opposing hitters are batting .143 with runners on base and .105 with runners in scoring position.
Oliver Perez is 9-6 with a 3.00 ERA this season. He was acquired along with Roberto Hernandez in exchange for Xavier Nady last July 31.