The Mets have a chance to take the Great Leap Forward today, after being aided on Thursday night not by Mao-Tse Tung, but rather by Hong-Chih Kuo.
After what seemed like every "expert" picking the Mets to go down without a fight, the Mets are facing their crusty old nemesis Greg Maddux at 7:30 tonight with a chance to clinch a spot in the NLCS against the Padres or Cardinals.
At this point, it seems like the Mets won't have too many worries. The NLCS won't be starting for a little while, and that means no Oliver Perez starting an important game.
Of course, keeping Oliver off the hill means winning tonight with our other weak link, Steve Trachsel, throwing pitches in the dirt.
Trachsel has been an enigma this year, generating a ton of run support for the other team's starter while simultaneously receiving more from his own hitters. Trachsel is ranked by Baseball Prospectus as having the National League's luckiest win-loss record, which at this point makes a ton of sense.
The data backing Steve up are not promising. His BB:K ratio is 78:79. He served up 23 gopherballs on the year, while giving up 185 hits in 164 innings.
However, all hope is not lost. Trachsel has had a few good outings this year, including his seven innings of one-run ball against St. Louis as well as his 6.1 innings of shutout pitching against Florida in the clincher.
And I'm not sure I am living up to my responsibility as a pseudo-journalist by suggesting that Steve Trachsel can pitch well tonight. Let me just suggest that Trachsel has never made a postseason appearance before. Whether that's good or bad in determining how he'll throw is up to him.
Trax will be facing a lineup devoid of firepower, though. The Dodgers have lost Nomar Garciaparra for the time being, meaning we will likely see James Loney at first base tonight, given the righty on the mound.
The 22 year-old Loney had a field day at Coors Field about a week ago, going 4-5 with 2 HR and 9 RBI. At Dodger Stadium, however, the rookie first baseman is hitting only .220.
My prediction: a gutty five innings of two-to-three run ball from Trax, while the Mets manage just a little bit more against the equally gutty Maddux and the marginal set-up men between him and Takashi Saito.
Champagne gets in Vin Scully's eyes tonight.
I'm sure all of you heard the Joe Beimel story, but if you haven't, Beimel cut his hand in a bar after lying to management and saying he cut it in his hotel room.
Did this story remind no one of Shane Spencer cutting his foot in a bar while drunk with Jason Phillips in 2004? Because the story at that point was just a downright silly note on a season getting siller, given Spencer saying something along the lines of "Well, I couldn't really feel it in my shoe, but then I noticed I had a three-inch gash."
The Rangers visit the Flyers today in what will be the home opener for a Philly team that was deeply embarrassed by Marc-Andre Fleury (right; who is my darkhorse pick for the Vezina Trophy this year) in a 4-0 loss. Fleury stopped 40 shots. 40!
I don't know where I read it earlier this year, but one of the writers noted that the Penguins had hired a French-speaking goalie coach to aid Fleury's development by removing the language barrier.
So the Flyers will be coming out angry today at the Wachovia Center.
The Rangers won 5-2 vs. Washington on Thursday, with new captain Jaromir Jagr netting a goal thirty seconds in followed by Brendan Shanahan scoring two to reach six hundred for his career.
Blair Betts and Martin Straka also scored, while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 of 27 shots. The unsung hero of this game was the Rangers penalty kill, which succeeded in shutting out Washington over 14:23 of kill time, despite missing last year's killers Jed Ortmeyer (leg injury) and Dominic Moore (trade).
My pick: Rangers take this one, with another strong showing from Lundqvist in net and hopefully better discipline from this team regarding stupid penalties.
Just a few other notes:
-Darius Kasparaitis, still recovering from two offseason surgeries, should not play tonight, but he will be ready in the coming week.
-Watch this as a developing storyline: veteran backstop Kevin Weekes will no longer be splitting time with Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik has been cemented as the starter, with recent first-round pick Al Montoya moving up the organizational ranks in the coming days. Expect Weekes to be in some other city well before the trading deadline.
The Jets will face the Jaguars tomorrow, with nothing really to be gleaned from the injury report. The Jets have listed thirteen players as probable, with starters Chad Pennington, Kevan Barlow, Justin Miller, Kerry Rhodes, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, and Anthony Clement on that list.
Listed as questionable are wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Tim "I'm so White" Dwight. Also there are cornerback David Barrett and offensive linemen Pete Kendall and Trey Teague.
Cedric Houston, the only bright spot in this year's running game, is doubtful with the knee injury he sustained last week.
For the Jaguars, Marcus Stroud and Marcellus Wiley are missing from the defensive line, both out, with Matt Jones also out for the week.
However, secondary terrors Rashean Mathis and Donovin Darius are healthy and ready to go.
A few storylines for this game:
My pick: Jaguars win by a field goal. Hopefully, the Jets O-Line will be able to get the running game going and prevent huge hits on C-Penn. It's a big hopefully though.
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