Thoughts and notes from Game 2 in the wee hours before flying to St. Louis:
The best news for Billy Wagner is that there is no customary travel/media day between the second and third games. He will not be asked repeatedly to explain how he came into a tie game in the top of the ninth and gave up a leadoff homer to So Taguchi and three runs in the inning to take the loss. If the situation calls for it, he will merely go straight back into the closer role the next night, typical of the regular season.
Taguchi’s game-winning homer in a pivotal moment reminded me of Ozzie Smith’s homer in the 1985 NLCS.
It will be interesting to see how both teams respond tonight, considering their travel schedules. The Cardinals’ team bus left Shea at 1:28 a.m. ET, meaning players probably would hit the sack back home in St. Louis perhaps around 5 a.m. CT. Then they get to the ballpark perhaps in the 3 or 4 o’clock hour. As for your friendly blogger, this one officially goes down as an all-nighter, with some attempted Zs on a 6 a.m. flight from New York.
Here’s something I had to pass along because Preston Wilson asked me to. He was taking a peek at ESPN Baseball Tonight on the clubhouse monitor before heading to the team bus, and they were showing a Web Gem. "Why do they always have to be diving plays to make a Web Gem?" he asked. "Show a guy who gets a great jump on a ball and doesn’t have to dive." He specifically cited Endy Chavez’s diving catch in Game 1 as an example. "Endy first broke backwards on the ball, and then he had to hit the ground to make the catch. It was a nice catch. I’m just saying, watch outfielders who get a great jump. Make that a Web Gem. Everyone wants to see a player having to hit the grass." Sounds logical to me, especially coming from an outfielder.
The 2006 NLCS Game 1 ticket was kind of cursed. If you bought one of those for Shea Stadium, then first of all you came out to the ballpark on Wednesday night and waited through rain and then learned that the game was postponed. And it was sad enough that night with the news of Cory Lidle’s fatal plane crash. Then those same Game 1 ticket holders were required to use that ticket for Friday, as Game 2 ticket holders were the ones who saw the Mets’ series-opening victory behind Tom Glavine and Carlos Beltran. The Game 1 ticket folks sat through four-plus hours on a cold night and saw the team somehow lose this one.
Many people are thinking that the Cardinals are in the driver’s seat because they now go home to face Steve Trachsel (who gave up Mark McGwire’s 62nd homer at old Busch in 1998), Oliver Perez and Tom Glavine, who is expected to pitch on short rest. But from what we are seeing in this series, forget expectations. This has the makings of a surprising, go-the-distance dogfight, in contrast to the ALCS.
It’s still hard to imagine that Carlos Delgado wasn’t the man of the night. Two big homers and it didn’t matter in the end. Baseball is that way sometimes. Do you think this guy is enjoying being in the playoffs after all those years, or what?
What do you think? Did the Taguchi homer cost the Mets the series? Are the Cards in control back home? Or are the Mets still the best team in the NL? And if this series goes the distance, could the winner have a leg up on what could be an overly rested Tigers team?
After taking this picture from in front of the Cardinals’ dugout during batting practice on Friday night, I wanted to know how long it took to paint her face. By the time I caught up with Carolyn Goodman, 41, of Mineola, N.Y., she was over behind the Mets’ dugout. Here is a quick Q&A with a fan at Shea for Game 2 of the National League Championship Series:
MLB.com: How long did it take to paint your face?
Face Painter: About a half-hour. One of my coworkers did it today. I teach elementary school band. The kids were having fun with it. They know I paint my face and I’m a Mets maniac. I have Mets signs all over my car. Everything.
MLB.com: What about the Gary Carter Mets jersey you are wearing?
Face Painter: I wore a specially autographed Gary Carter jersey just for the occasion. He signed it the day after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I was able to see that happen. He is my all-time favorite Met. I loved his grittiness and spunk, the way he called a game. He was The Kid. I’ve only worn this jersey twice since he signed it — when they clinched [last month] and now.
MLB.com: How do you think they did on your face?
Face Painter: I was happy with it. I was going to have them paint a "NY" on each side, but I figured this was pretty good.
MLB.com: What do you think of the Mets so far in the playoffs? They are 4-0.
Face Painter: We’re off to a great start. I think it will be a continuation. I think this is our year — one game at a time.
MLB.com: Who is your favorite Met now?
Face Painter: I don’t have a favorite player on this team. I just love the whole group. It’s a very classy collection.
Tony La Russa on Scott Spiezio starting at third tonight instead of Scott Rolen: "[Rolen] has been cleared by the medical staff, so I just watch the baseball side. I just believe that if you know Scott’s stroke and you see some of the swings he took yesterday, you know there’s something preventing him from being right. And that doesn’t mean anything for tomorrow. You know, [Steve] Trachsel, [Oliver] Perez. That’s just it for today, and [we’ll take it] one game at a time."
Willie Randolph on Cliff Floyd and Friday’s latest news: "[Floyd] had an ultrasound today and there was no further damage found in the ultrasound. We’ll hopefully have him ready for pinch-hitting duties tonight." Randolph did not rule out the possibility of Floyd returning to the field this series.
Happy Friday the 13th. We touched on that subject at MLB.com, and keep an eye on No. 13 if he comes in to close another Mets game tonight.
Chris Carpenter vs. John Maine at 8:19 p.m. ET.
Everyone who has followed David Wright’s MLBlog all season knows what kind of crowd he has there. All you have to do is read the comments; he’s today’s teen idol. This fan during pregame batting practice is a great example of that following:
Here is another pregame Powervid during BP:
One big two-out, two-strike swing for a 430-foot homer. Take that one away, and we’re still playing. The opener of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night was all pitching and defense, a nice pitchers’ duel between victor Tom Glavine and Jeff Weaver. In the end, it was decided by the same Carlos Beltran who took the postseason by storm for Houston in 2004. Cardinals fans will be quick to point out that Albert Pujols won that battle of the heavyweights with his own spectacular and unforgettable performance that led to his MVP honor as St. Louis won that NLCS. Will Pujols answer with the next salvo in Game 2? Advantage, Mets and Beltran.
It’s 2006 Cy Young Award candidate and 2006 postseason bat-eater Chris Carpenter against Mets youngster John Maine at 8:05 p.m. ET on Friday. It looms as an ideal chance for St. Louis to take a split back to Busch Stadium for the middle three games. If they go back down 2-0, that would be an absolute crusher, given the man they are sending out to the hill. Here we go: Cards vs. Beltran again.
One definite memory from Game 1 was the crowd. There were 56,311 as noted in the mid-game post below, an LCS record at Shea, and after waiting since last Saturday to see their team, there was a stunning decibel level and an amazing endurance of standing for what seemed to be most of the game. Carlos Delgado was standing at his locker afterwards when a reporter asked if he had ever heard Shea as loud as it was when Beltran belted the 430-footer.
"If they don’t cheer like that for that home run, they’re not ever going to cheer," Delgado said. "It’s been loud here all summer. These fans know how to make noise."
More importantly for the Mets, they kept this guy (0-for-3) quiet in Game 1:
Final thought: David Wright, Jose Reyes and Delgado have never experienced losing an MLB postseason game. Not a bad way to start the October life.
Mookie Wilson was here before the game to see if the Mets can do in 2006 what he helped them do 20 years ago. But Preston is on the other team, so he was being tugged a bit.
Tony La Russa and his close friend Bill Belichick spent a long while chatting during batting practice. Belichick visited with him during Spring Training, and on Tuesday, the Patriots’ head coach showed up at his press conference wearing a La Russa No. 10 jersey. "I’m a Tony La Russa fan," Belichick said. "I was in [Spring Training] with him this year for a couple of days. It was a lot of fun. It was a great experience. I learned a lot. … Tony is a great leader and manager and tactician and just the way he handles the team, sitting in the dugout with him down there and watching him manage the game and all, it was pretty enlightening." I tried to wait out Belichick to chat with him, but he stayed by the cage for the duration. Oh, to have heard this entire conversation.
Here’s the big boy with the lumber. I refuse to say "little David Eckstein." This guy has become a postseason fixture in this decade. Notice the savvy action photography in the background.
3,110 hits, 465 homers, 1,833 RBIs, All-Star every year from 1977-88, lost a World Series in 1981 with the Yankees ("Mr. May") and then finally won it all with Toronto in 1992. Also a friend and former Yankee teammate of Willie Randolph, who now manages the Mets. Here’s Dave Winfield.
I just felt like taking a Moonlight Graham shot before the game.
It’s Cards vs. Mets at 8:19 p.m. ET. Aaron Neville will perform the national anthem at Shea Stadium. Darryl Strawberry will throw out the first pitch. Constantine Maroulis will sing "God Bless America."
The big news in pregame is that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has moved up Chris Carpenter to start Game 2 on Friday night — instead of Game 3 in St. Louis. "We decided we’re going to pitch Chris," La Russa just said in the interview room. "He’s our best pitcher, and that’s his fifth day." Jeff Suppan will go in Game 3, Anthony Reyes in Game 4, Jeff Weaver in Game 5.
Willie Randolph said the Mets’ pitching plans are the same despite the rainout. When asked about the possibility of playing five in a row, he said, "It’s just like the regular season" — citing the fact you sometimes play two weeks in a row without an off-day.
Remember, if you’re coming out here tonight (and the weather is beautiful), you have to have "NLCS Game 2" tickets. For Friday’s game, the "NLCS Game 1" tickets will be used because of the rainout on Wednesday night. MLB also announced that Game 2 of this series will be at 8:05 p.m. ET on Friday, with the Oakland at Detroit ALCS game moved up to 4:30 ET that day due to cold weather.
We’re back to talking about baseball today. Yesterday was one of the worst and saddest days I can remember in 22 years of covering pro sports. There obviously have been more devastating events — the 1989 World Series earthquake included, incidents with major loss of life — but it was just the circumstances, coming to the ballpark and everyone talking about a plane crash in the same city and then suddenly realizing it was a baseball player. It was just surreal. The rainout was very fortunate; I don’t know a lot of people who were thinking at all about baseball here at Shea last night.
One other pregame note that is pertinent to this city: Tiffany & Co. will salute Major League Baseball and commemorate the postseason with a window display featuring the 2006 World Series Trophy. It will be displayed starting on Monday in the famous 57th Street windows of its flagship store along Fifth Avenue. MLB first commissioned Tiffany & Co. to create the trophy, officially named "The Commissioner’s Trophy," in 2000. Stop by and take a good look if you’re around the area. There is still a chance it will remain locally visible beyond Oct. 22, if the Mets win it all. There are three other cities interested in displaying it soon.
NEW YORK — It is still almost surreal to even think of baseball out here at Shea Stadium right now, but the decision was just announced to postpone Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Cardinals and Mets until Thursday night — strictly because of the weather.
As the hours trickle by, my head has not stopped shaking. I still can’t believe what has happened. One minute you are in a taxi hearing that a plane had crashed into an Upper East Side building. Then you are thinking there could be a rainout at night, and just trying to get details because you’re worried about what happened in the city where you live.
Then you’re sitting in the media workroom and a local TV outlet mentions that they are hearing the plane was registered to a "Cory Lidle."
We braced for the worst from there and began reporting. Our Yankees beat writer, Mark Feinsand, had been told by Cory that he was flying out today. Gradually all of the tragic pieces of this story came together. Had rain subsided, they would have done everything possible to play this game, to avoid playing on five consecutive days. But there’s no game tonight. I am glad, because I haven’t thought about the sport for several hours now and I work in baseball.
What a tragic and surreal night, and my sympathies are with Cory’s family as well. The only good news is that there weren’t more casualties — it could have been much, much worse. But baseball has lost one of its own, on the night and in the same city where it was supposed to begin the process of deciding who wins a pennant.
Obviously the situation is very sad here right now as Cory Lidle was confirmed as the pilot of the small aircraft that crashed this afternoon into a high-rise condo on the Upper East Side. I was on the East Side at the time, in a taxi headed across the East River going to Shea, and heard it on the car’s news radio. Looking back in that general direction, visibility was so poor it was hard to see the column of smoke, an indication of how bad the looming weather is here today. Most people here are trying to find news on the TV monitors, and will set this blog aside as we are focused on what has taken over the news in a tragic way.
Seemingly very secondary right now, the NLCS is scheduled to begin just after 8 ET tonight and obviously that is in question at this point due to the weather forecast. It’s a steady rain on the field right now.
It was one week ago in New York that the impending threat of rain caused Game 2 of the ALDS to be pushed back a day. Updates to follow. New York City hour-by-hour, courtesy of weather.com:
1. Will home-field advantage matter? Only two of the NL Championship Series played in this decade were won by the team that opened at home — Arizona in 2001 and St. Louis in 2004. The other four were won by Wild Cards: Mets in 2000, Giants in 2002, Marlins in 2003 and Astros last year.
2. Can St. Louis keep Jose Reyes off base? Bad things happen to opponents when he’s on. Very bad. Reyes is 2-for-11 against Jeff Weaver, but the 0-for-5 game against him on Aug. 22 of this season is the only one that’s relevant.
3. Will Friday still be a travel day? Keep an eye on the weather.
4. Will Albert Pujols be pitched around more than usual? Willie Randolph told us today he doesn’t want to let "the big boy" hurt them, but he and Tom Glavine both said the situation will dictate how he is approached. Much will depend on the protection of Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, who, according to manager Tony La Russa, "looked good" on Workout Day.
5. Will it matter? La Russa also noted what a big strike zone Pujols has. No holes in that swing.
6. Can the Mets continue to make up for the progressive injury bug? These aren’t role players. Good to see that our fellow MLBlogger Cliff Floyd will be on the roster and posting away.
8. Will Preston Wilson — then age 12 and sitting behind home plate for Mookie’s dribbler to Bill Buckner — spoil plans now for a 20th-anniversary celebration at Shea?
9. Can Glavine render some key hates-to-face numbers meaningless? Consider: Rolen (.358, 19-for-53, 2 HR, 14 BB), Pujols (.450, 9-for-20), Juan Encarnacion (.361, 13-for-36), Ronnie Belliard (.417, 5-for-12). He has Edmonds’ number: .211, 4-for-19. And can Weaver find an answer for Carlos Delgado, who is hitting .500 (19-for-38) against him with four homers and 14 RBIs?
10. Will we see the same Carlos Beltran who was otherworldly at the plate and in center field for Houston in that 2004 NLCS against the Cardinals? It didn’t get much better than watching him and Edmonds make dueling defensive gems in center during that series.
Feel free to add your own questions, and remember that we’re still in prediction mode here…