Pedro-Smoltzy II - Braves Win 4-3

There were the inevitable comparisons to their first matchup of the season when the Mets had started their season by losing five in a row and Smoltz was burning through the Mets order, striking out 15 and Pedro was matching him out for out with a two hitter before the Mets exploded in that fateful 8th inning.

It wasn't quite as exciting, the stakes weren't quite as high and the venue had moved from Turner Field to Shea but after allowing three quick runs in the top of the first, for the fourth time in his five starts and the 15th time in the Mets' 21 games, the opposing team scored in the first inning and the Braves went on to win this 4-3.

The drama came eventually but not until a 9th inning rally when down 4-1.

Eric Valent, the man who has struck out in 50% of his at-bats this season, led off the ninth inning rally with a two-out double off the Braves not so imposing closer, Dan Kolb. Mets pinch-hitters were three for three last night and Valent raised his batting average to .150 on the season.

Jose Reyes, the original "attack hitter" himself with no walks in 20 games this season so far, brought Valent home with another double. This led to Mike Piazza, getting his twice-weekly day off, pinch-hitting for Kaz Matsui and lashed an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-3.

Carlos Beltran followed him with his only hit of the night before Braves manager Bobby Cox finally wised up and replaced Kolb with the lefthanded John Foster to face Floyd, who already had two hits and was the Mets leading RBI man. You could almost sense a dramatic 9th inning comeback. That's how it is with these Mets. They don't quit and it is no longer patently absurd to imagine them having the guts and stamina to produce precisely this kind of rally that keeps the fans from streaming out to the 7 train early. But, with the count 1-and-0, Floyd just missed a fastball and popped up to end the game.

Willie keeps insisting that Ramon Castro is not going to be Pedro's personal catcher but the signs are growing that he is indeed and who can blame Pedro after all? Last night it was an alleged bruised base of the left thumb that kept Piazza out and Piazza had removed himself from the lineup last week when Martinez pitched in Florida, citing soreness. Castro also started Martinez's start, opposite Smoltz, in Atlanta on April 10. So there you go. Coincidental soreness and injuries or Pedro putting his foot down about having a designated stolen base every time he let a runner on board. It's a growing trend ladies and gentlemen and whilst pitchers like Heilman and Zambrano are not good enough to merit their own personal catcher, you can imagine that if Pedro has done it on the QT, how far will the jealous Glavine be from asking for the same?

To his credit, at least Piazza is starting to hit a little. His RBI single last night raised his average to .246 and his 12 RBIs are tied for second on the team behind Floyd's team-leading 15 in 16 games.


Heath Bell and Mike DeJean both had a scoreless inning of relief work. Despite some horrific performances from DeJean, Mike Matthews and Bradon Looper, the bullpen is shaping up better than expected with a collective ERA under 3.00 - they've pitched 53.1 innings of relief, have given up 59 hits, 26 earned runs, 25 walks and have struck out 48 batters. They've had six save opportunities and have blown three of them.


Royce Ring has Senator Al Leiter's old 22 number. Ring, just called up to the Mets after going up and down the ladder in an inconsistent season last year, credits pitching coach Rick Peterson with his resurgence for tweaking something in his delivery. Whatever it was, it seems to work. Ring's slider and two-seamer are sharper, complementing his changeup, and the new arm angle has added nastiness.


The kudos for the New Mets grow daily. Even Smoltzy had nice things to say about us after he'd limited us to a run and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings:

"They don't have the sense of the previous Mets' teams (ie; not quitters and somnambulists and whingers) -- They just have something different. They're going to be a team that's going to be there all year, I can promise you that."


This afternoon's game could be another potential pitching duel, on paper anyway. Former Met Mike Hampton faces former Brave Tom Glavine.

Mike Hampton (2-0, 1.17) has allowed just five earned runs in his past 48 innings dating back to the beginning of September. Opponents are hitting just .224 against him. He is 14-11 with a 2.86 ERA in his career at Shea Stadium.

But Glavine of course, has been insufferably bad against his old mates. He beat his former team once last season, but lost to the Braves in his other two starts, badly.

Last night's loss dropped the Mets to 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins and a game behind the Braves in the NL East, tied with the Nats at 11-10.

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