Thursday, October 19, 2006

The New Backe

Mets' rookie pitcher John Maine wasn't screaming out on the mound and he wasn't pumping his fist while sprinting into the dugout between innings, but aside from that, he did a pretty good Brandon Backe impersonation on Wednesday night.

If you ask Cardinals fans which Houston pitcher caused them the most grief during the 2004 and 2005 NLCS rounds, they would probably have to say Backe. Oswalt pitched some gems, but it was the bulldog number four starter that always seemed to serve up a magical performance when the Astros needed it most.

And there is something psychologically damaging to an offense when they get beat by a young starter, by a guy that isn't supposed to be able to shut them down. The Cardinals had just knocked around Tom Glavine on Tuesday and were sitting on a 3-2 lead with the probable repeat winner of the NL Cy Young on the mound in Chris Carpenter. And while Carpenter gave up a leadoff home run to Jose Reyes and allowed another run to cross the plate on a Shawn Green single, I think we can agree that he did his part, allowing only two runs in six innings. If you had told St. Louis that Carpenter would do that, they would have felt great. After all, they were only facing John Maine. A rookie pitcher on a short leash.

Yet history repeated itself as Maine did what Backe did several times over the last two years ... he picked up his offense, his Hall of Fame pitcher (Glavine in the Clemens role), and his whole organization and put them on his back. At times it was pure grit at other times it was with pure dominance, but the one constant is that he kept coming up big time and time again.

If the Mets find a way to win tonight and advance to the World Series, John Maine will always have a special place in the hearts of Mets fans. If you don't believe me, find a 'Stros fan and ask them how they feel about Brandon Backe.

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