The Week In Review: Conforto Finally Comes Through In Philly

Things were certainly bleak for the Mets before they took the field at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia last Friday. The team had won only one game in May and had been reeling over the last three weeks.

     To make matters even more dire, the Mets dropped two out of three games to the lowly Reds in Cincinnati earlier in the week. That would have been bad enough but the Mets were guilty of a lineup clerical error at the Wednesday rubber game when they were called for a rarely seen double play for having hitters come up out of order. Apparently the handwritten lineup card that Mets manager Mickey Callaway had was different from the official one submitted by computer to the umpires and to Reds manager Jim Riggleman. That embarrassing snafu wiped away a Mets runner on second base and was a factor in their’ 2-1 loss. Needless to say, it made the Mets a national punch-line.

     It sure looked like deja vu for most of the Friday night game with the surprisingly good Phillies. The Mets’ offense looked even punier than usual against one of baseball’s best pitchers, Phillies starter Jake Arrieta, who had no trouble shutting them out in seven-plus innings of work.        His Mets counterpart, Steven Matz, allowed just one run in five innings (a home run to Odubel Herrera) but that was misleading as he was constantly behind the count on nearly every hitter. He threw 95 pitches in five innings and so Mets manager Mickey Callaway had to remove him before the sixth inning got underway.  Fortunately for the Mets their bullpen kept the Phillies off the scoreboard for the rest of the game.

     With one out in the top of the ninth inning Wilmer Flores singled off of Phillies closer Hector Neris. Up stepped Michael Conforto who has been in a season-long slump. Conforto slammed Neris’ s first pitch down the left field line but it just curved foul. Two pitches later, Conforto hit it clean into the stands to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Newly acquired catcher Devin Mesoraco homered on the next pitch to give the Mets an insurance run. Mets reliever Jeurys Familia closed the door on the Phillies in the bottom frame.

      Conforto’s heroics couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for Mickey Callaway who admitted that his team badly needed this kind of jubilant comeback win..

     Callaway nicely handled the lineup debacle with humor. He joked with the media  that he was relieved to see that the sun did come up the next day and he chuckled when I told him that I thought that he’d have to wear a scarlet letter on his uniform given all of the attention that the miscue received. Mickey told me he used the needed off-day before to walk around Independence Hall to help clear his mind.

     It wasn’t a happy bus ride up the New Jersey Turnpike back to Queens for the Mets as the Phillies were able to get a split of the two-game series on Sunday, 4-2., thanks primarily to Nick Williams’s pinch hit three-run homer off Paul Sewald. 

     Jacob deGrom in his first stint back since coming off of the disabled list for a hyper-extended elbow lasted only one inning on Sunday in which he threw a whopping 45 pitches. He managed to escape a bases loaded-nobody out situation without the Phillies scoring but Mickey Callaway figured that his Houdini act wouldn’t last much longer in the game and he did not want to take a needless risk on deGrom’s arm.

      It was good to see former Met and all-around good guy, Neil Walker, get the walk-off hit in the 11th inning Saturday that propelled the Yankees to a 7-6 win in 11 innings over the tougher-than-expected Oakland Athletics.

     The 39th annual Sports Emmy Awards were held at the Frederick P. Rose Jazz Hall last Tuesday night.

     Among the presenters was former Mets ace and current YES and MLB analyst Al Leiter. The Mets traded Matt Harvey earlier in the day to the Reds and Al made it clear that he did not think that it was a good move for the one-time Dark Knight. “Cincinnati is uncomfortably hot in the summer; Great American Ballpark is a bandbox; and the Reds are a bad team,” Al stated unequivocally. Like a lot of us, he wondered how Harvey, a renowned night owl, would adjust to the slower-paced lifestyle of Cincinnati which is the antithesis of the city that never sleeps.

      Alex Rodriguez won his second Emmy Award for his studio work during last fall’s baseball playoffs. I asked A-Rod how a Sports Emmy ranked with his MVP Awards. “I’d put them on the same level,” he replied with a smile.

      I then asked him if his television career is more hectic than when he was playing baseball. “I would say that it’s a lot more hectic than I thought that it would be.”  Alex is currently on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast while still working for FOX Sports, and on top of that, contributing pieces to ABC News. 

     A-Rod said that although he is keeping busy in the world of broadcasting he doesn’t envision that his career going in the direction of that of former Giants linebacker and Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.

     Barry Frank was the recipient of the Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. If that name doesn’t sound familiar it’s because Barry wasn’t a broadcaster but rather an agent for the entertainment/sports behemoth, IMG.

     Frank also created a number of TV sports-related events that required no rights fees which made him a very popular guy with network executives. Baby boomers will fondly recall one of his best creations, “Battle of the Network Stars,” that was hosted by the inimitable Howard Cosell.

    ABC tried to revive the series to less than stellar ratings last summer. Frank wasn’t involved with the reboot and said that he wasn’t surprised at the meh reaction from the public. “‘Battle of the Network Stars worked because it was a time when there were only three broadcast major networks and few even knew what cable television was,” Barry told me.

     One ABC revival that did click last summer was that for the old Chuck Barris tongue-in-cheek amateur talent exhibition, “The Gong Show.” ABC Entertainment recently announced that the second season of “The Gong Show” will commence on Thursday, June 21 with Mike Myers once again handling the hosting duties through his British alter-ego character, Tommy Maitland.

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