Thursday, October 05, 2006

Glavine, Aging Like a Fine Wine

Posted by Picasa.Apparently it can be as easy as rolling out of bed.

At least for Tom Glavine.

The two-time Cy Young award winner the Phillies could have had four years ago if not out-bid by the New York Mets made his first post-season appearance since 2002 a thing of beauty tonight.

Glavine, starting Game 2 of the National League Division Series against Los Angeles, threw six innings of shutout ball at the baffled Dodgers.

Glavine, killing them softly with smarts and stealth, allowed only four hits - all but one of those singles. he walked two, and struck out two, a performance precise enough to hold off L.A. And when Mets closer Billy Wagner sealed the deal with a scoreless ninth, Glavine and the Mets had a 4-1 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

"He's been doing that to hitters for a long time," Grady Little, the Dodgers manager, said of Glavine, owner of 290 regular-season victories. "This guy's an outstanding pitcher and a lof of hitters talk to themselves after they face him three or four times."

"He was superb, as usual," said Mets manager Willie Randolph. "He's a big-money pitcher, a big-game pitcher."

The Mets certainly welcomed the uneventful save by Wagner - his second. Wagner? He welcomed lessons taught by his friend. "It's frustrating," Wagner laughed, "because he does make it look that easy. I've never seen him when he's not poised."

Wagner, an admittedly an excitable type, marveled at Glavine, who showed a fellow vet something invaluable even on a shared ride into the stadium before the game. For it was Glavine who was both talkative and exciting, wild, said Wagner, "because I'm usually the blabbermouth.

"It was calming to see a vet really excited coming in," added Wagner. "And it makes me feel good because I don't feel like I'm the only person sitting there ready to puke. It to see him calm himself down and go out and pitch a great baseball game.

"It takes me back to when I watched him when I was growing up," Wagner added with a laugh.

For Glavine, his 33rd playoff start - and first as something other than an Atlanta Brave - produced a 13th win.

The 40-year-old lefthander who signed a free-agent contract with the Mets before the 2003 season, is now 4-3 in division series games, 5-9 in league championship series and 4-3 in World Series contests.

Glavine's post-season victory answered many questions. Yes, he could pick up his team with a healthy dose of veteran presence after the Mets had lost Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez to injuries on the eve of the postseason.

And yes, Glavine showed, he could continue a strong kick in which he'd won five of six September decisions to complete a 15-7 regular-season. That campaign proved to be Glavine's best since 2002, when he was 18-11 in his final season in Atlanta. It was quite an accomplishment considering that just before Glavine's impressive stretch run, the pitcher received the scare of his career when coldness in his left finger led to the discovery of blood clots.

Medicine rather than surgery took care of the ailment, then Glavine - "the lefthanded Greg Maddux," teammate David Wright declared - took care of business from September on.

As special as the season was, the playoff victory was all that and more, said Glavine, becaue "I've waited a while to do it, gone through some tough times here in New York, personally. It's the kind of thing you try and persevere and find yourself in position which I obviously wanted to be in when I came to New York."

So all things, big and small, will be savored, Glavine promised, including Randolph's "Big game, Tommy salute" before a national media contingent in the post-game news conference (That means a lot to me.")

But, Glavine, as business-like as a Wall Street exec, reminded, "it's a lot less about what I have or haven't done in my career in the postseason and much more about now."

Because he did in the here-and-now everything his resume suggested he could, Glavine and the Mets are one win away from the League Championship Series. And Glavine is one argument closer to sealing his all-but airtight case for a plaque in Cooperstown.

Redemption, Detroit Tigers-style

Yes, the Detroit Tigers are young, almost devoid of postseason experience and certainly never to be confused with the Forbes 500-caliber millionaires employed by George Steinbrenner.

But, the freshman team vs. the varsity?

That certainly was the perception on the eve of the American League Division Series between the wild-card winning Tigers and the league's winningest team in the AL East champion Yankees.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland even joked about it - often enough to suggest that the constant references to a mismatch had become an issue, and a cause, among the Detroit contingent at Yankee Stadium the last few days.

Well, Detroit stunned one-half of baseball-mad New York into silence today when it evened the series at 1 game apiece. The Tigers did so, thanks to superb pitching by some of those inexperienced kids, most notably starter and rookie of the year candidate Justin Verlander (5 2/3 innings, three runs) and 100-mph, flamethrowing reliever Joel "Zoom-by-ya" Zumaya (1 1/2 innings, three strikeouts).

With the win in his pocket and egg on the face of some of the Tigers' harsher New York critics, Leyland started to show how much the chiding had registered.

"I'm sure we haven't convinced everybody, but I hope in my heart that everybody realizes that we are a playoff team. I hope that we at least proved that today. To do what we did with those kids pitching and the way we played the game, I hope at least everybody believes that we're worthy of being in the playoffs."