Sometimes we search mightily for a theme. Wednesday, the Mets and Marlins gave us one on a silver platter: Henderson Alvarez versus Wilmer Flores. Two kids from the same hometown, making their mark in the NL East in the same season. Valencia v. Valencia.
Flores had just finished demolishing the remnants of Brad Penny’s career–he keeps turning up like a Brad Penny (ouch!)–with two home runs and six RBI on Tuesday. Twice this season, young Wilmer has rolled a six at the plate. He can simply turn on the ball–no doubt about it. I believe the spendthrift Mets will give him–non-arbitration eligible that he is–a shot at the shortstop or second base job next season.
Alvarez, who gained his 11th win on Wednesday, leads the league in shutouts with three (Bob Gibson is rolling his eyes somewhere) and without some injuries could have been a 15-game winner this season. He has a nice assortment of pitches that seem to keep everyone off balance.
In the fifth inning, the rubber hit the road. Or, the bat hit the ball. Flores, up with the bases loaded, ripped a liner off Alvarez to deep, deep, left-center field. There, Dominican centerfielder Marcell Ozuna spoiled the plot, at least from Wilmer’s point of view. He leapt and caught the ball at the wall. By my tally, for his play against the Mets alone this season, Ozuna deserves a Gold Glove.
So, the winner of this Showdown a la Valenciana, (I tried in vain for a metaphor with paella, the native seafood dish of Valencia, to no avail) by the slimmest of margins, Senor “Shutout” Alvarez. (copyright notification-I gave him that name several months ago when he already had three shutouts.)
Tonight we wait and see what another Valencia native, King Felix Hernandez, does against AL West champions the pretend-we’re-from-Los-Angeles Angels. There’s a lot riding on his right arm as the Mariners make a play for the wild card. Originally, MLB had shown this as an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel between Felix and 17-game winner Jered Weaver, but the Angels decided to give their ace a break after clinching the division this week. Gotta save them horses for October.