NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — MAY 5, 2007

You’ll hear it said a couple dozen times that a player was better than his line looked before you’ll hear the opposite observation, but tonight Brandon McCarthy’s line was better than he actually pitched. One run on two hits in six innings is a great-looking result for a starting pitcher, particularly one who had been struggling, but Brandon McCarthy wasn’t consistently sharp.

Four walks, one strikeout. Ninety-four pitches in those six frames, which is a bit too many. Only 52 strikes, an unacceptable 55 percent strike rate. Six groundouts and 11 flyouts (plus a home run), commensurate with McCarthy’s flyball tendencies. He put himself in tough spots too often, bringing good stuff to the mound tonight but spotty command of it at times.

But the thing to take out of this start was that McCarthy, to his credit, battled and battled and battled, and kept the game in control even when he ventured into hot water. When he hit his spots and spun the ball well, he looked more like Jack McDowell than I’ve seen him since he arrived. There’s room for improvement, but maybe we should treat this effort like a gift horse and give it a little distance. This, without a doubt, was progress.

But what do I know? I thought Pudge Rodriguez and Steve Nash could still play, and that we didn’t get enough for Travis Hafner.

Solid win tonight. Good looking in all phases. Even came complete with a pregame, players-only meeting that reportedly lasted 20 minutes and featured four or five players addressing their teammates.

I choose to believe that Michael Young and Hank Blalock pick up those three hits apiece and Mark Teixeira and Gerald Laird stay hot with or without that meeting, and that the timely hits and tighter defense and good baserunning and effective pitching were simply the result of players getting the job done. But if that pregame session inspired anyone in the room or made them feel better or more focused or more relaxed or whatever they needed, then I’m glad it happened.

Bottom line: Needed that win, and McCarthy did his part.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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