Mets Insider: Location the mantra to remember

Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson is known in baseball circles for a variety of unorthodox teaching techniques -- one of which involves working with his staffers to devise their own secret code words to repeat to themselves before delivering their pitches in order to (hopefully) trigger the proper mechanical response.

In eastern circles, they call such things mantras -- and one can only imagine how Peterson must have felt as he watched from the visitors dugout during the Cardinals' 5-0 win over the Mets in Game Three of the NLCS.

While his own starter Steve Trachsel was getting hammered to the rather un-cosmic-like tune of five hits, five walks and five runs in one-plus innings of (forget mere work, more like) hard labor, there was Jeff Suppan smoothly throwing pitch after pitch, batter after batter, innings after inning, precisely where St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina was putting down his glove.

A pretty effective mantra that Suppan's got going, Peterson was probably thinking to himself. It certainly works in real estate, so why not baseball?

Location. Location. Location.

Jeff Suppan is not an overpowering pitcher. As evidenced by his career average of roughly just five strikeouts per nine innings, and he generally gives up more hits than innings pitched.

But when he's going right, he throws his assortment of fastballs, change ups and sliders where he wants to, and gets batters to out by getting them to "hit 'em where they [i.e., his defenders] are."

The St. Louis pitcher took a while to find his way this year: After winning 16 games for the Cards in '04 and '05, he struggled in the first half, but after the All-Star break he ranked third among major league starters with a 2.39 ERA over 94 IP and finished a respectable 12-7 record.

Against the Mets in the NLCS' Game Three, Suppan was about as right as rain--tossing eight innings of three hit, one walk, four strikeouts shutout ball. And Suppan's home run off Trachsel -- whom he also homered off in '05, by the way -- was just the icing on the cake.

For Trachsel, whose career nine hits/six strikeouts per nine innings match up closely with Suppan's, Game Three's theme song was more like "MacArthur Park," with the cake left out in the rain, than anything to celebrate.

The righthander's 15 wins during the season tied him with Tom Glavine for the team's best, but his inconsistency was generally masked by the league-leading run support given to him by the usually thriving Mets offense (his 4.97 ERA was over a run higher than fellow control pitcher Glavine's).

Trachsel's woeful performance against St. Louis, on the heels of his ineffective showing against the Dodgers in the NLDS, did not bode well for the Mets' already depleted starting pitching.

And certainly not after a line drive off the bat off Preston Wilson forced Trachsel out of the game, leaving him not only with injury added to insult, but as a question mark for his next start -- and that's if the suddenly reeling Mets can get him another start in the rapidly shrinking playoff schedule.

Repeat: Short series. Short series. Short series.


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