Half A Dozen In A Row: Mets Over .500

For a half inning it looked like Game 11 of the season was going to play out like Game 1. Pedro Martinez would pitch a brilliant game and Bradon Looper, like magic, would make a Mets win disappear into thin air. The main difference this time was that the Mets had the last at bat.

Although Looper coughed up another fur ball from the pen, failing to convert a one run save opportunity, he padded his record to 1-1 after the relief catcher, defensive replacement but offensive whiz Ramon Castro, himself a former Marlin, singled in the bottom of the 9th with two outs to drive in Victor Diaz, another Met replacement player, and give the Mets a 4-3 victory, their sixth victory in a row and pushed them over .500 for the first time all season.

Mmmm, that sounds so good, I'll write it again: The Mets' sixth victory in a row.

The game started off promising. The most hatable Marlin, Carlos Delgado whose double error in the game previous cost the Marlins the game was in the lineup again and would go on to strike out three consecutive at-bats. And Al Leiter, old 6 inning Al, returned to Shea Stadium for the first time since he'd been ushered out the door by Omar Minaya and pitched a beautiful game only to see his 7 inning, 3 hit 1 run gem bested by Pedro, who also threw 7 innings and allowed only 3 hits but gave up two cheap runs while striking out 9. Pedro, the very man who'd helped start this victory run rolling last Sunday in Atlanta and who was making his first ever start at Shea in a Mets uniform. Including the three hits he allowed on Saturday, he has allowed eight in 22 innings, a .108 average.

Of these sixth consecutive victories, the Mets have come from behind in the late innings in four of them. You could make the argument that it's only a matter of the other teams' bullpen being worse than the bullpen of the Mets but that would be a difficult argument and the other fact is this Met team just seems to have enough confidence in themselves to know that no lead is insurmountable for them, nor apparently, against them.

After all, not many teams bounce back from losing their first five games of the season to winning their next six. The Mets were never as bad as their five straight losses indicated, nor are they as good as their six straight wins would indicate. Not yet anyway. The Looper situation is still an achilles heel but the bullpen itself seems to be less of a problem than originally imagined.

If you ignore the numbers of Looper and his set-up fraud Mike DeJean, the Mets bullpen have worked 15 1/3 innings, have allowed 14 hits and 5 earned runs (all off Many Aybar) for a very decent 3.14 ERA. Heredia, Hernandez, Koo and Matthews have not surrendered a single earned run between them but between Looper and DeJean you have 10 1/3 innings worked, 14 hits and 9 earned runs surrendered, an 8 walk to 4 strikeout ratio and two blown saves.

Were it not for the heroics of this never-say-die Met team, Looper would be on everyone's hit list today for blowing another save and undermining confidence yet again. After the Mets had used another 8th inning to take a lead, this time a one run margin, Looper came in for the 9th and promptly surrendered a lead off single to Miguel Cabrera and another single to Carlos Delgado who had whiffed unimpressively three straight times before facing Looper. After one fly out and a nice play at the plate to throw out Cabrera, he needed only one more out to seal the victory. He didn't get it until after Juan Encarnacion doubled off him, scoring Delgado and allowing the Marlins to tie the game.

Cryin' Mike Cameron replacememt Victor Diaz, is hitting .320 after yesterday's performance which saw his 8th inning single start a rally that allowed the Mets to go ahead, and his two out 9th inning double kept the Mets alive for Castro's heroics. Diaz has reached base in seven of his 13 most recent plate appearances -- four walks, two doubles and a single.

Meanwhile, although his RBI double in the 8th was the go-ahead run, Mike Piazza continues his rough beginning to the season. Although Pedro was credited with three wild pitches, it isn't hard to imagine that a different catcher might have been able to prevent them. He allowed another stolen base yesterday which makes 11 steals in 12 attempts over only 9 games that he's started. He still left two men on yesterday and is only hitting .200 on the season although his four doubles tie Jose Reyes for the team lead. We probably won't see him in this afternoon's game however, as he has more strikeouts (five) than hits (four) in 31 career at-bats against A.J. Burnett, the Marlins' Sunday starter. More and more often you have to wonder, with Castro hitting .400 as a late inning "defensive" replacement for Piazza, how much longer before replacement becomes permanent.

Overall, the Mets continue to strike out at an alarming rate. Carlos Beltran, whom nobody would bother to complain about otherwise, has 11 strikeouts and 14 hits. David Wright, struggling mightily at the plate in what may be a sophomore slump rather than a slow start, has struck out eight times and has only seven hits. Reyes has also struck out 11 times, Diaz has as many strikeouts (8) as hits, Eric Valent has nine strikeouts and only 2 hits, and Kaz Matsui, who may be back from his sore eye in today's game, has 6 strikeouts and 8 hits. As a team, the Mets have struck out 88 times in 11 games which, prior to yesterday's game, led the Major Leagues in futility.

Somehow, they win anyway. A week's worth of brilliant starting pitching, beginning with Pedro last Sunday and running through to Pedro's start yesterday. And a week's worth of timely hitting. The Mets may have been hitting only .267 going into yesterday's game, but something else to consider is that their pinch hitters are batting .417, 5 hits in 12 at-bats before yesterday, which dwarfs every other team's pinch-hit average. Clutch hitting is what is doing it for the Mets and clutch hitting is usually what does it for any team who wins World Championships.

Today, Tom Glavine pitches for the Mets, hoping to beat the Marlins after losing all four of his decisions against them last season. AJ Burnett has a 1-1 record with a 2.40 ERA so far this season and Glavine, perhaps shockingly, has proven to be the Mets worst starter so far, 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA.

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