Monday, September 14, 2009

Turning Back the Clock

My birthday is on April 30. As a present, my friend Dennis wanted to take my to a Mets-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Ballpark, somewhere I've never been. However, the day of the game, it was rained out and would be rescheduled on Sept. 13th. I wasn't particularly thrilled that I would have to sacrifice a day of NFL Week 1 with travel to Philly and as the Mets fell further and further into the second division of the National League, I thought I would just watch a few innings and watch Sunday Night Football.

Then I read that Pedro Martinez was going to start the nightcap. You see, back in May, the only pitchers worth watching a Mets-Phils game for the pitchers was Johan Santana and Cole Hamels. Now, Johan is injured, but the Phillies added Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez. Now, Pedro isn't the old Pedro and can't dazzle crowds like his days in Montreal and Boston (as well as frustrate Yankees fans, which ended in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS). He wanted to go back to the Mets, but after a less than stellar 2 1/2 years of a 4-year contract, the Mets decided that Tim Redding, Livan Hernandez and Oliver Perez would be better for them. So Pedro signed on with the Phillies in July and joined the rotation in August. Since he started, he's pitched at times well, other times, brilliant like when he outpitched Tim Lincecum on Sept. 3rd. It was in that start that brought Martinez into last night's game and I happen to be legitimately, not excited, but interested in this game.

After traveling about three hours to the stadium and catching the end of the late football games, it was game time and Tony Danza led with the National Anthem (yes, that Tony Danza). The toughest innings for Pedro was the first two as the Mets put runners on 1st and 2nd in the 1st innings and loaded the bases in the 2nd. He got out of it with a strikeout to Daniel Murphy in the 1st and a Cory Sullivan flyout in the 2nd. Then, Martinez got into a groove, retiring the order until a David Wright double in the 6th. He kept Wright on 2nd by striking out Carlos Beltran and giving up a couple flyouts. The 7th inning was when the Phillie faithful started to sense it was a vintage Pedro performance and despite the wave being prominently involved (seems like it's everywhere now, including Yankee Stadium), they responded appropriately. And Pedro worked into another two men on situation and put out the fire, still ahead 1-0.

I was surprised Pedro was out in the 8th inning, but the crowd was now fully aware that any batter would be his last. He got Wright and Beltran out quickly, but ended up walking Murphy in a nine pitch at-bat. Then, Charlie Manuel came out to seemingly take out Pedro, who was at 128 pitches, but ended up leaving him, acquiring Grady Little's sense of managing at that moment (not to mention glorious memories creeping up). Then, the Mets showed why they ended up being on the verge of elimination that night, by having Murphy steal third and was thrown out. Pedro ended the game with eight innings of shutout ball, with six hits, two walks and seven strikeouts, numbers you expect from him c. 2000. After a quiet ninth inning for a change by Ryan Madson, the Phillies gave him career win 219.

Martinez now has arguably better stats (5-0, 2.87 ERA to 6-2, 3.11) than Cliff Lee, who also came over at midseason with much more fanfare. Whether he can keep this up or not will be determined in the next month, especially if Pedro can get a start in the playoffs, which wasn't really considered when they signed him. However, I think as baseball fans, we should appreciate when great pitchers can show us a glimpses into their prime. If you have a young child, you can tell him or her about how great the man on the mound is and they could see it and would remember it forever. I know I will, even though there's no reason to believe this isn't the last time Pedro should have a great start.

Now it's time to review Citizens Bank Park for those who like to travel to different parks:
  • I loved the place, though it's helped by the seats we had in lower level 3B side. This is how a ballpark should look.
  • They have three bars around the building which is always good; I was in McFadden's which did a good job showing all the late football games and the beer wasn't too expensive which having been to Yankee Stadium know this is rare.
  • Everybody in Philly wears Phillies shirts at the game, except those with Eagles jerseys and the Mets fans who wasted their money traveling down the Pike; for some reason, I'm guessing that won't surprise you.
  • I have to admit, the Phillie Fanatic is the best at what he does, however I won't speak ill of Mr. Met since it's always good to see him walking around.
  • I love how I can get Yuengling at most concession areas, since it's my favorite beer.
  • Great way to end the game with the late Harry Kalas singing "High Hopes", as good as "Go Cubs Go"
  • Leaving the Philly Sports Complex by car was awful, even the Meadowlands would only be trouble for about 20 minutes, here it was about 45 minutes. Imagine the Flyers and Phillies playing at the same time during the playoffs, you're better off staying until the next day.

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