No matter which team was your team today, you came back with a DWI — intoxicated by the performance of Dontrelle Willis or David Wright.
Yes, we finally beat the D-Train (8-1, 1.85, in case you missed it). Or, more properly, we no-decisioned him to irrelevance in the final accounting. Of course Dontrelle wasn't exactly starting with the man in the mirror after this one: He was as good as advertised, from the kinetic leg kick to the absurd movement on his pitches to the intensity he fairly radiates on the mound or in the dugout. He's even terrifying at the plate.
We finally broke through in the seventh thanks to some wonderful at-bats — Lo Duca's leadoff, 10-pitch gem that ended in a single (the offical pitch count on that one is 11, but I think one of them didn't count because Dontrelle got charged a ball for blowing on his hand), followed by a stubborn six-pitch at-bat ending in another single for Beltran. But let the record show that this was the inning in which the D-Train's cars unlatched themselves to go sailing off the tracks into ravines: Beltran's single trickled past Hanley Ramirez's glove and could have been a fielder's choice; Dan Uggla ugghed a double-play ball from Delgado into a de facto sacrifice; and against Wright Jeremy Hermida played what should have been a nice but not hosanna-worthy catch into a ghastly triple. (Ghastly for them, I mean.) Tough day at the office for Dontrelle, but he's going to have a few more of those as these under-the-limit Marlins grow into their fins.
Not to take anything away from the sublime Mr. Wright, please note. Keith and Gary say this virtually every at-bat, but it bears repeating in every medium and forum: Not since Edgardo Alfonzo has an 0-2 count meant so little. Wright looks like he can control an at-bat from any count. (Witness the final at-bat, in which Wright saw he could lift the first pitch to the outfield and so calmly ended things.) Is David Wright really 23? He hits like he's 33 and an eight-time All-Star.
One should beware of falling in love with teams that start off the season 4-1. (A year ago we were 0-5 and had our heads in the oven.) One should also beware of projecting from a week of playing rivals who can't seem to get out of their own way. But caveats noted, why shy from what's right in front of us? This looks like a very, very good baseball team.
Wright is Wright. Delgado is Delgado. Xavier Nady ain't this good, but I'll happily take half of his current output. Jose Reyes looks like a different player, taking walks and working better counts, but as importantly showing a much-improved sense of the strike zone that's given his aggression some focus. Glavine demonstrated once again today that his '05 second half was no mirage. Anderson Hernandez's defense is pinch-me good. Duaner Sanchez looks like he has terrific stuff and plenty of guts. And while Pedro and Billy Wagner have hit some bumps, they're at least present and accounted for.
Beyond that, it's the intangibles that have me pacing around at 6:30 or 12:30 wishing the next 40 minutes would have the decency to step aside. It's pitchers pitching inside, no matter what the Jose Guillens of the world think of it. It's Lo Duca gathering the infield and coolly handing out marching orders — no insult whatsoever to a recent much-beloved Hall of Fame catcher, but I don't remember seeing that in recent years. It's Hernandez and Reyes practically jumping up and down in the dugout because they're getting the chance to play more baseball, yippee! It's Beltran exuding confident determination ever since standing up to the fans, in his ultra-quiet way. (And, in a rare note of Shea sanity, since that moment there's been barely a boo.) Julio Franco isn't the only player of recent vintage hailed as a great clubhouse guy, but in his case he's provided ample evidence he's a great dugout guy and field guy, too. Not to mention that something tells me he'll outhit Ice Williams.
This team has a swagger and strut I haven't seen in a long time, and the way they go about their business gives you the definite impression you'd be a fool to quit on them. As evidenced by today: Come 7th-inning-stretch time, the D-Train had thrown a mere 67 pitches and held a 2-0 lead, and I found to my bemusement that I wasn't worried. Really? Dontrelle? Low pitch count? Insurance run on the board? Not worried?
Nope. Not in the least.