Griff's View O'The Game: 8/9-Mets Foil Robbery

In the mid-to-late '80s, the Cardinals used to drive the Mets insane by nearly stealing on them at will and also playing routinely superb defense against them as well. This was also with a good-throwing catcher in Gary Carter and a pitching staff that was pretty adept at keeping runners from getting too comfortable a lead on first. Tonight the Cardinals did it off Mike Piazza, who is kindly called an average defensive catcher, and the Cardinals defense robbed the Mets as well.

That was nice and all, but despite all that, the Mets hung on to win a 2-1 nailbiter, with Armando Benitez striking out J.D. Drew to end the game while I was chugging Pepto Bismol out of the bottle. It's still worth looking back at the Cardinals robbery though, as it should have been a 5-1 Mets win at least.

The first act of theft was perpetrated by recently-acquired Scott Rolen, considered by many to be the best defensive third baseman in the game. With runners on first and second, Ty Wigginton hit a hard ground ball towards third. With a dive to his right that reminded me of Graig Nettles in his Yankees heyday (hey, I'm a Mets fan, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate players who wore the Yankees uniform), Rolen snared Wigginton's grounder, got to one knee and threw to second for the innining-ending forceout.

Rolen brazenly made another theft on defense in the second inning. Rey Ordonez hit a ground ball to Rolen, who was playing deep in the hole. The fact that he was playing deep and also had to backhand the ball should have given Ordonez a fighting chance at a close play and another chance to hurt himself in a headfirst slide. Rolen had other ideas, transferring the ball from his glove to his throwing hand and throwing in one smooth quick motion, throwing Ordonez out by ten feet with a perfect strike to first. The announcers were so amazed they showed the throw three times.

Eduardo Perez, the Cardinals right-fielder, the son of Hall-of-Famer Tony Perez (a.k.a. "Big Doggie"), should adopt the nickname "Guard Doggie." First he hit a home run off of Leiter to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead, and then, in only his twelfth start (I only know that because the announcer told me) in right field this year, made two amazing plays to rob the Mets. First, with the score tied 1-1, courtesy of Mo's mammoth home run, and one runner on, Mike Piazza hit a ball to right field that looked like it was destined to be a two-run home run, Perez timed his jump at the wall , caught the ball, and when it dislodged from his glove on impact, was able to keep the ball cradled against his body and off the ground, for the out. Piazza looked like he wanted to out there and arrest him himself. After the Mets had stolen a run to go ahead in the fifth, actually scoring without a hit in the inning by having Roger Cedeno walking, stealing second and advancing to third on a throwing error by catcher Mike Matheny and scoring on a wild pitch, Perez robbed another Perez, Timo to be exact, by making a superb diving catch of a sinking line drive and subsequently doubling off Roberto Alomar, who had NO idea the ball had been caught.

While not completely harkening back to the days of the speed-oriented Cardinals where Vince Coleman, Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith all terrorized the basepaths, the Cardinals still managed to steal two bases off a lefy pitcher, usually a difficult feat. The combination of Leiter's big leg kick in his pitching motion and Piazza's throwing difficulties, the plays were not close at all. It was all moot though, as the Mets won the game. Crime does not always pay.

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