Some think I don’t like Oliver Perez. Not true. I just don’t like to watch him pitch when he’s all over the place. He wasn’t last night. The “Good Ollie,’’ is very enjoyable to watch. Here’s how I wrote it:
NEW YORK _ His psyche has always been the focal point in every game Oliver Perez pitches.
Las Vegas probably even has a line on what inning he will implode.
Perez, who can dominate one inning and be dominated the next _ heâ€™s been known to waffle between hitters _ appeared to be set up for a collapse in the fourth inning last night at the Stadium.
The Mets had scored four against Chien-Ming Wang, but the long inning got longer when Carlos Delgadoâ€™s two-run homer was taken away by a blown umpireâ€™s call.
The adversity of the lost runs coupled with the delay screamed meltdown. It looked that way when Derek Jeter singled and Hideki Matsui homered, but Perez cut it off right there, and then pitched out of trouble the next two innings to give the Mets an 11-2 victory last night over the Yankees.
“It was huge when he got out of the fourth,â€™â€™ manager Willie Randolph said. “He was outstanding.â€™â€™
Perez refused to say he was prompted by Billy Wagner prodding to step up, but it was clear he rose to another level in the fifth after Jose Molinaâ€™s leadoff double when he got Johnny Damon on a grounder, struck out Bobby Abreu looking, and retired Jeter on a fly.
“I donâ€™t think of that,â€™â€™ Perez said of being called out by Wagner. “All Iâ€™m thinking about is doing my job. All Iâ€™m thinking about is to keep the team in the game.â€™â€™
Perez got out of the sixth when he got Robinson Cano on an inning-ending double-play grounder.
“He made some big pitches when he had to,â€™â€™ David Wright said. “He didnâ€™t give in to them.â€™â€™
Perez retired the Yankees in order in the seventh, and after the Mets scored six in the eighth, he came out for two more hitters.
“Ollie got into a nice rhythm,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “I thought he could have gone further. When heâ€™s locked into his rhythm, he is pretty tough to beat. When heâ€™s feeling his confidence, heâ€™s pretty good.â€™â€™
Randolph has always admired Perezâ€™s competitive fire, but admits not being happy when he loses focus, often the result of improvising with arm angles in his delivery when he gets into trouble.
Thatâ€™s what happened in his previous start against Cincinnati when he gave up one hit through five innings, lost it with three runs in the sixth.
Catcher Brian Schneider said Perez did none of that last night.
“He was aggressive and didnâ€™t give in,â€™â€™ Schneider said. “The turning point in the game was when Molina lead off that inning with a double and he shut them down. He got some big outs.â€™â€™
Perez was the “Good Ollie.â€™â€™
Even in the fourth when Perez gave up the home run to Matsui, it was a bad pitch, and not an issue of losing focus and walking hitters.
While Randolph prefers to keep his pitchers around 100 pitches. A measure of Perezâ€™s effectiveness was 100 pitches took him through six innings against the Reds, but last night his 109 took him through 7 2/3 innings.
Perez hit two batters, but walked only two. He had only four strikeouts, but that indicates he let his defense work for him.
“Heâ€™s at his best when he doesnâ€™t take a lot of time between pitches,â€™â€™ Schneider said. “Iâ€™ll put down the fingers for a fastball or curveball and he throws it.
“When he does that heâ€™s very aggressive.â€™â€™
And, very good.
Which, of course, leads to the obvious question: Why canâ€™t he do this all the time?
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