Archive for June, 2010

Marlins 10, Mets 3

Posted: June 28, 2010 in Mets

The Mets were blasted tonight in Puerto Rico, falling to the Marlins 10-3. The only good thing you can say about this game was Jason Bay hit a pair of home runs.
R.A. Dickey (6-1) finally lost a game for the Mets, you knew he wasn’t going to stay undefeated the rest of the year. He was hit around in the third inning, when the Marlins scored four of their five runs. Dickey lasted five innings, and the Mets’ bullpen had their worst performance in awhile. Fernando Nieve and Ryota Igarashi combined to give up five runs, with all the runs coming on three Marlins homers. The stadium in Puerto Rico is a bandbox, smaller than any stadium in the majors, even Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. So the ball was flying out of there, with five home runs hit by the two teams.
The Mets (43-33) drop to 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves in the NL East. They take on the Marlins again Puerto Rico Tuesday, with Hisanori Takahashi (6-3) opposing Nate Robertson. Expect runs aplenty.

Eminem – Recovery: Last year, Eminem returned from a long hiatus and released Relapse, which was solid but unspectacular. It had some wonderful raps, but some silly ones as well, and was full of the misogynistic and homophobic lyrics that have littered all of his releases. It was a bit disappointing, given all he had been through since the release of 2004’s Encore. His best friend and collaborator Proof was killed in a gunfight at a club. He went through a deep depression and delved into drug abuse even more, getting addicted to painkillers, sleeping pills and just about anything else he could get his hands on. He reportedly put on a ton of weight and was hospitalized, eventually going into a drug rehab center. While there were some mentions of everything that happened to him on Relapse, there was way too many attempts at comedy and plenty of slasher imagery fantasies, as he rapped about killing female celebs like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Also, he continued the tired old beef he has with Mariah Carey of all people, and while those raps were sometimes funny, I found myself yearning for something more from Em. He’s always been a fantastic rapper, with a flow and wordplay virtually unmatched in the game. So, I was extremely pleased when I heard Recovery this week, which is actually the release Relapse should have been. Here, he apologizes to fans for what he views as bad albums (Encore and Relapse had their moments, but they weren’t up to the standards of the Marshall Mathers LP or The Eminem Show) and addresses his many problems of the past five years. He discusses his drug addiction and personal insecurities in “Talkin’ To Myself” where he admits that he was jealous of rappers like Lil Wayne, T.I. and Kanye West for no other reason than they were putting out quality material while he sat at home with his addictions. It’s very refreshing when an artist lays his emotions bare for all to see, and several times it comes through in this album. On tracks like “Going Through Changes” and “You’re Never Over”, he pays tribute to Proof with poignant heart-felt lyrics, including a chillingly effective use of a Black Sabbath sample on “Changes.” Elsewhere, he tackles his abusive relationship with ex-wife Kim on “Love the Way You Lie”, which includes a great hook sung by Rihanna (no stranger to domestic violence, making it all the more heartfelt), admitting he still loves Kim several times on the album although he knows its best they’re not together. His love for his daughters is genuine, which makes the misogyny still found here confusing, although Eminem has always been a complex guy, a tough nut to crack if you will. This isn’t a serious affair all the way out, as Eminem’s sick humor can still be found on tracks like “Cold Wind Blows” and “White Trash Party”. The 17 tracks are an exhilarating ride, and well worth it. Eminem delivers the goods for his best release since The Eminem Show.
Sod rating: ****

Drake – Thank Me Later: Drake is relatively new to the rap game, but he’s already a superstar, thanks to a self-made mixtape, a smash single in “Best I Ever Had and a quality debut EP.
His first full-length album was much anticipated, and it delivers on the promise of his EP. Drake successfully weaves his deft rapping with indelible hooks throughout, sung well by the rapper himself. He’s no R&B superstar crooner, but you can feel his emotions in his singing, which is good enough for me.
First single “Over” deals with his meteoric rise to fame with lines like “I know way too many people here right now that I didn’t know last year” with utmost sincerity. He’s wary of the many new “friends” he has, but pays tribute to the ones that have been with him throughout elsewhere on the album.
Drake doesn’t come across as a punk or thug, yet he’s far from squeaky clean either. He walks the fine line and his honesty is refreshing. He deals with a love lost on “Karaoke” as his girlfriend couldn’t handle his rapidly changing lifestyle, yet he longingly wishes she could have.
On “Fancy,” Drake gives love to the women that work for their money and don’t take crap from anyone, which is probably refreshing to superstars since many women probably just throw themselves at them without thinking. Mentors Jay-Z and Lil Wayne appear in the album, as Drake has several rap and R&B luminaries appear here, showing he’s got good taste (and an ear for hits). Alicia Keys sings the hook to opening track “Fireworks” and Mary J. Blige shows up at the end of “Fancy”.
Top flight producers like Kanye West and Timbaland also make appearances, and the music is never boring as a result. Drake has arrived, and I look forward to seeing what he does in the coming decade.
Sod rating: ****

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mojo: Tom Petty last recorded with the Heartbreakers in 2002, when the band put out The Last DJ, the only album they’ve ever released that I didn’t care for. It had good intentions, as it railed against corporate behemoths that controlled the music industry and also lamented the downfall of radio stations across the country. Good idea, poor execution. On Mojo, the band is back, and it sounds better than it ever has. Rocks perhaps harder than it ever has, too. Only one problem – Petty’s songs don’t really match the performances. While there isn’t a bad song here, there’s no instant classics. No American Girl, Free Fallin’ or Refugee. That’s not saying the album is bad, because it certainly isn’t. The band, led by guitarist Mike Campbell, are the real stars here. On bluesy numbers like “Jefferson Jericho Blues” and “U.S. 41,” they rock with reckless abandon. You really get to enjoy the quality musicianship on full display here. The album has got plenty of filler, but its expertly crafted filler and enjoyable nonetheless. This would be a real triumph if Petty was in peak songwriting form. Maybe next time.
Sod rating: *** 1/2

Mets 8, Indians 4

Posted: June 16, 2010 in Mets

The red-hot Mets (feels good to say that) won their sixth straight tonight and fifth straight on the current road trip, beating up on a bad Indians team 8-4 tonight.
Jon Niese, who threw a one-hit shutout his last time out, wasn’t as good this time but still got the job done. Niese went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, winning his third straight start since coming off the disabled the list. The offense pounded Indians starter Mitch Talbot for eight runs and 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings, with every starter picking up at least one hit.
This is what good teams are supposed to do, beat up on the bad teams. It’s something the Mets have had trouble with since winning the division in 2006. Now a season-best nine games over .500 at 37-28, the Mets remain a half-game behind the first-place Braves (Atlanta beat the Rays tonight) and three games up on the third-place Phils (who topped the Yanks). Florida and Washington are slowly fading, although you can’t count them out, as there is plenty of baseball left and each team can get hot. Still, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a three-team race.
The Mets have been getting outstanding starting pitching during this current 17-5 run, which is good because the bullpen is a bit of a concern right now. Jenrry Mejia, who should be in the minors working to be a starter, hasn’t gotten consistent work and it showed with a rusty performance tonight in which he walked the only two batters he faced. Raul Valdes is MIA and Ryota Igarashi has been mostly ineffective since returning from the DL. Fernando Nieve also hasn’t been getting much work, which means an increased workload for Pedro Feliciano. I’d send Valdes and Mejia down to the minors and call up Manny Acosta and Bobby Parnell. Hopefully Omar is working the phones to make a trade for a starting pitcher, thus returning Hisanori Takahashi to the pen, where he’s flourished. I’d love Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt, but have a feeling it will be Jake Westbrook or Kevin Millwood.
The Mets get a first-hand look at Westbrook on Thursday night when they go for the three-game sweep. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey gets the call for the Mets.

Mets sweep Birds, head to Cleveland

Posted: June 14, 2010 in Mets

The Mets completed a three-game sweep of the hapless Orioles over the weekend, winning their first road series since last season. Today’s win was a laugher, as the Mets blasted four homers to back Mike Pelfrey in an 11-4 victory.
David Wright belted a pair of homers, Jason Bay also homered in a 4-for-4 performance, and Chris Carter added a three-run jack for his second homer in as many starts.
Pelfrey, who has been superb all year, was pretty ordinary today, allowing three runs on nine hits in six innings. Still, without his best stuff, he weathered an early storm (three runs in the first two innings) and blanked the O’s in his final four innings. He’s now 9-1 and clearly having an All-Star caliber season.
Wright now has two more homers than he did last year, so it’s nice to see him swinging the bat well again (he had a prolonged slump earlier in the year where he was striking out at an alarming rate). Overall, good feelings in this series. Many times over the years, the Mets haven’t beaten the teams they’re supposed to while playing well against top-notch squads. Had the Mets been able to knock off the Nationals a few more times in September 2007 and 2008, they make the playoffs, just to name one instance. Now, they travel to another poor AL club, starting a three-game series in Cleveland on Tuesday. Johan Santana gets the call against young righty Justin Masterson.

Finally! For the first time since September, the Mets have won a road series.
Granted, they had to travel to piss-poor Baltimore to pull it off, but wins are wins nevertheless.
Hisanori Takahashi followed two bad starts with an effective outing tonight, tossing seven strong innings of one-run ball for the victory. Pedro Feliciano and Francisco Rodriguez finished up a nice pitching night.
Baltimore’s Brian Matusz was very good as well, pitching eight innings and allowing two earned runs, both on solo homers by Jose Reyes and Jeff Francoeur.
The Mets have now won three in a row and seven of eight to move to a season-best six games over .500 at 34-28. New York remains 1 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East. New York goes for the sweep tomorrow afternoon, with Mike Pelfrey taking on Kevin Millwood.

With the seventh pick in the MLB draft, the Mets went with RHP Matt Harvey of North Carolina. I had heard they would go a number of directions with this pick (Zach Cox, Justin O’Conner), but this seems sensible to me. A right-handed power arm with projectable build (6-4, 225). I was actually hoping the Mets would take LHP Chris Sale, since he goes to Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and seems like the real deal, but Harvey is a strong choice. Can always use more pitching.

Mets sweep Marlins

Posted: June 7, 2010 in Mets

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted on the Mets, but they’re playing well again.
Of course, they’re back home, where they are now an incredible 22-9 to start the season.
Today, they finished off a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins in impressive fashion, rallying from a 5-0 hole in the sixth to post a 7-6 win. The Mets scored three in the sixth, three in the seventh (on a game-tying 3-run homer by a red-hot Jeff Francoeur) and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez curiously left the infield back with nobody out and runners at the corners. Ike Davis hit into a double play, but the go-ahead run scored. K-Rod, in typical K-Rod fashion, made things interesting in the ninth but ultimately nailed down the save.
Hisanori Takahashi was subpar for the second straight start, allowing five runs in 5 1/3 innings. He was excellent early on, but the Marlins eventually caught on to his array of offspeed pitches. The wind helped the Marlins out as well, with both of Florida’s homers helped by a strong gust out to left field. Strangely enough, the wind shifted and was blowing in at the end of the game, keeping Ronnie Paulino’s ninth-inning drive in the park. So the wind giveth and it taketh away today.
The Mets improved to 30-27, three games behind the first-place Braves and a game behind the second-place Phils. I’d love to get excited about this team, but they really need to start winning on the road if they hope to make a playoff run. 8-18 away from Citi Field just isn’t going to cut it. An upcoming trip to Baltimore and Cleveland will hopefully help break the road slide.
The Mets are off Monday and host the San Diego Padres for a three-game set starting Tuesday night. Mike Pelfrey will oppose Clayton Richard.