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the mets looked like the cardinals of the last coupla years ---- they won the game largely with their gloves, turning four double plays (one a heart-breaker) and nailing a runner at the plate. they also made the most of a so-so hitting night by getting some well-timed hits. new york went 3 for 6 with two outs and men in scoring position; their only extra-base hit of the night came in such a situation. 5 of their 6 runs scored with two outs.

the cardinals, meanwhile, twice failed to get runners home from third base with one out --- three times, really, since eckstein came around third and tried to score (not . . . ) with 1 out in the 6th and El Albert on deck. nice thinking, oquendo. at the plate, they were uncharacteristically passive against tom glavine, taking 12 called strikes against him in the first 4 innings. last year in the nlcs, they were unabashedly aggressive: swung at 31 of the 40 strikes glavine threw in game 5 (78 percent) and roughed him up for 10 hits in 4 innings. when they finally started taking their rips last night, the cardinals began to hit:

inn swings /
strikes
swing
pct
ab h bb
1 thru 4 16 / 28 57 13 2 0
5 thru 9 36 / 48 75 19 8 3

in the end, the cardinals got as many baserunners as the mets and had more extra-base hits, yet still contrived to get outscored by 5. that's how big the double plays and the lost baserunners were. all three of the best run-scoring models (base runs, linear weights, and runs created) had the cardinals no worse than even; via base runs (the most accurate model in a sample size this small), the cardinals "won" the game, 5 to 4.

carpenter earned his "L" last night in consecutive half-innings, the bottom of the 3d and top of the 4th. first he screwed up the squeeze play, which cost a run; then he took the mound and started missing the strike zone. 10 of his first 16 pitches in the 4th inning were balls; with 2 on and 2 out and the score still just 2-0, carp started overthrowing, missing low 5 times in a span of 7 pitches to jose reyes and paul lo duca. reyes walked; lo duca got ahead 2-0 and then 3-2 before spanking a sharp single up the middle to put the mets firmly in control.

so taguchi made his detractors look good, if not his team. while it would have taken a phenomenal play to catch delgado's opposite-field drive in the 3d inning --- the thing hit off the top of the fence --- gooch never gave himself a chance, ineptly chasing his tail as the thing sailed over his head. the short fly ball he dropped a few innings later didn't end up costing anything, and neither did the two easy groundouts he hit back to the pitcher, but these demerits will embolden his critics --- as well they should. he stinks. taguchi is the early favorite to serve as this year's "marquis test," ie the underperforming veteran who puts la russa's judgment on trial. tony failed last year with marquis, allowing loyalty (or desperation, or whatever it was) to trump common sense until october. we now know that encarnacion will be out until at least may (scroll down to the second item), leaving plenty of at-bats for fringe big-leaguers. i'd just as soon see ryan ludwick take them. maybe the marlins will give us back john gall. maybe philadelphians will run pat burrell out of town . . . .

or maybe it's not in the spirit of opening day to launch right into a dump-the-player campaign. swiss-cheese outfield or no, i really do feel exactly as greg does over at Faith and Fear: "The long night of winter is over. Nothing sucks."

ok, then; not even so taguchi. not for now. links: