Mets Improved By Absence

Ah yes, secretly, I knew it would work.

With the Mets in a terrible tailspin; four consecutive losses, swept and humiliated by the hated Atlanta Braves and wallowing in an 18 inning scoring draught with a four game series against the then-NL East-leading Florida Marlins on the menu next, Archie Bunker's Army decamped to the canals of Utrecht with the hope that four days of sin and fun would somehow, magically perhaps, reverse Mets fortunes.

And of course, it did.

Three of four from the Florida Marlins with only a late inning meltdown from the bullpen between them and a full four game sweep puts the Mets right back on the map and confirms that this is not a team that is willing to die with it's tail between it's legs. This is a team that can hang in there for the duration and perhaps, with a few masterful touchups by Omar in the Department of Trade, a team that can well bank hope on a possible future this postseason.

Of course, we are getting ahead of ourselves with enthusiasm. The Marlins are the only winning team out of the Cards, Braves and Yankees the Mets were able to take a series from. We did note prior to this flurry of Yankees then Braves then Marlins:

"If the Mets can at least break even during this stretch, 5-5 or 6-4, they will be keeping pace and continuing to prove themselves."

Ok, not a paradigm for hyperbolically optimistic support, but a safe projection that the Mets, who went 4-6 instead, nearly met. And thus, they are still reasonably close to sniffing distance from the front runners (2.5 games from the Marlins and Braves, tied for third with the Nats) and did it without Carlos Beltran for more than half of those games. Not bad.


Coming to town to join the Mets will be the 29-22 Arizona Diamondbacks. Game One will see Kris Benson, RHP (3-1, 3.86) against Brad Halsey, LHP (3-2, 3.34).

Game Two is scheduled to feature Victor Zambrano, RHP (2-5, 4.74) against Brandon Webb, RHP (6-1, 3.39) and the finale will see Pedro 5-1, 2.79) facing Shawn Estes, LHP (4-3, 3.79).


For the purpose of record keeping, here is a brief recap of what we missed:

May 25th: Mets 12 Marlins 4:

Carlos Delgado must have made hearts all over Queens sink when he homered in the first inning off of Kris Benson to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Here we go again, one can imagine one might have thought. But Benson singled in a run in the second inning followed by a patented Jose Reyes triple to drive in two more runs and suddenly it was 3-1 Mets. The Marlins came back to tie it in the bottom of the 4th but the ill-fated Frank Castillo project was not to be. The Mets pounded Castillo, then Vorman Bazardo, then John Riedling for a total of 12 hits and 12 runs whilst Benson, Bell and Aybar kept the Marlins at bay the rest of the night. Reyes (pair of triples) and Cameron (pair of doubles) both had 3 RBIs each and Wright stayed a step ahead of his perpetual miscues with a 2 for 4 night and 2 RBIs of his own. Two nice rarities for the Mets: no errors, no bases stolen against them and only two walks surrendered all night.

May 26th: Mets 1 Marlins 0

Pedro against Brian Moehler, hardly your classic ingredients for a pitching duel but Moehler had a 2.13 ERA coming in, even lower than Pedro's. Both pitched 8 solid innings, Moehler giving up only 4 hits but a run whilst striking out 6 and Pedro giving up 5 hits, 0 runs and striking out 10. Not even Looper Scooper could blow this one and actually pitched a rare 1-2-3 9th inning for the save, his 11th of the season. Familiar sights: stolen base off of Piazza and an error by David Wright (his 8th of the season)

May 27th: Mets 6 Marlins 1

Facing the dreaded D-Train in what seemed a certain loss with the unpredictable Ishii on the mound for the Mets, much like Benson in Game One, Ishii generated a run of his own with an RBI single in the 4th. Not only that but he gave up only 5 hits, 3 walks and a run in almost seven innings of work to outduel the D-Train, who gave up two runs over 6 innings of work. This was perhaps the most surprising victory of the trip and even Mike Piazza managed to break out of his slump with 3 RBIs and didn't allow a stolen base. Better still: no errors. You can see a pattern building: pitchers knocking in their own runs, virtually errorless baseball and none of the wild and unpredictable outings so characteristic of the bottom end of the rotation. Result: three consecutive wins. Not so hard, was it lads?

May 28th: Marlins 6 Mets 3

Although this promised to be four-game-sweep worthy with Tom Glavine in a Mets uniform looking suspiciously like Tom Glavine in a Braves uniform before tiring after six innings with a 2-1 lead outdueling Josh Beckett, it was not to be as the bullpen became goats. Heath Bell got the loss and KooKooKachoog the blown save when Carlos Delgado blasted a 3 run homer and the Marlins totalled 5 runs in a fatal 7th inning. Sweep averted, but the Mets have to feel reasonably good about themselves with Carlos Beltran due to return shortly, the top end of the rotation pitching admirably, tales of Ishii and Glavine regaining form, virtually errorless baseball and the biggest worry likely to be their youth and a power struggle at second base between Kaz Matsui and Miguel Cairo.


Mets Are Mute At Bat Again, Swept by Braves in 3-0 loss

If we were waiting for the patient to begin showing the first signs of the disease, wait no longer. The classic early signs of a dismal season are already begin to show up on the Mets: inability to beat quality teams, errors which cost games or hand the momentum over to the opponent, injuries, spotty starting pitching, once-hot-hitting now cooling with two consecutive shutout losses...

This isn't a matter of bad luck or a temporary dip in play, it's a matter of a far more deep rooted and sinister problem: the Mets plain ole Can't Beat the Better Team Syndrome. Consider that against the Cubs, Cards, Yankees and now the Braves over the several weeks, the Mets are 3-9 and with a four game series looming ominously on the horizan against the NL East-leading Florida Marlins, it isn't likely to get better anytime soon. Not until the Cincinnati Reds come up on the schedule again.

Last night was another dollop of the same miserable miscues that have plagued the Mets for the last four games in a row during their four game losing streak:

Fielding buffoonery: Shockingly effective through the first four innnings by allowing no runs and only two hits, Victor Zambrano's facade began to crumble in the bottom of the 5th when Johnny Estrada drew a leadoff walk and Ryan Langerhans singled. Pete Orr followed with a comebacker to Zambrano, whose throw to third base sailed into left field, allowing Estrada and Langerhans to score. And just like that, with mute bats in their hands for the second straight game, the Mets lost another.

Massive defensive liability behind the plate: In his ongoing effort to maximise his uselessness to the team, Mike Piazza, the Idiot Who Said Meeting Rush Limbaugh Was Like Meeting George Washington two days ago, allowed a whopping 5 stolen bases last night on four of his trademark bounced throws: twice by Rafael Furcal and THREE stolen bases by Marcus Giles. As an encore, he went 0 for 4 at the plate again which makes him 0 for 9 with six strikeouts and hit into a double play since gushing like a schoolgirl over the reptilian Limbaugh and rightly so. After uttering such inanities to compound his already miserable season for the Mets, here's hoping that Piazza and his Met career are ground to a halt with a merciful season-ending injury. Harsh? C'mon. Mike Piazza's career has been one long landslide ever since gay rumours were first fired up and not even a sham marriage has been able to halt it.

Zero Momentum: They couldn't beat a Triple A pitcher summoned up from Richmond only a week ago to replace the injured John Thomson. Kyle Davies struck out four of the first six batters he faced before fanning two with runners on the corners and one out in the fourth. The 21-year-old righthander subsequently allowed just four hits and one walk before being chased by Mike Cameron 's one-out triple in the sixth to earn his second win in two starts. (to be fair, he also beat the Red Sox in his debut last weekend)...

Add it up and the cake you've baked with these ingredients are Manager Willie's second full-scale panic of the season as the Mets stumbled below .500.

With Carlos Beltran still out, limited to a pinch-hitter's role last night and possibly out for the entirety of the Florida series, Cliff Floyd hurt his right middle finger on a fourth-inning foul ball and said afterwards that he had aggravated a previously-popped tendon (he originally hurt it in 1997). He said, "It's going to be sore as hell for a few days," but noted he could still play. (Well, probably not with much effectiveness at the plate and we can watch the swan dive of yet another batting average.) -- Floyd is 2 for his last 20 at the plate over the last seven games yet still taking the cleanup spot in the order whilst David Wright, desperately struggling to knock in more runs than he allows by bonehead plays at third base, is 11 for 21 over that same period. Just a little food for thought as Manager Willie takes slack for not being more flexible with the lineup card. Last night's batting order was the same as the one the night before and has produced two straight shutouts.


Can we hope this spell of bad news is over? What's next, Carlos Delgado making us regret his signing with the Marlins instead of us the rest of the week with some massive homerun and RBI display?

They lost three straight to the Braves with Ishii, Glavine and Zambrano, the bowel movements of the starting rotation, and now the upper crust will get it's chance to reverse the trend of losing to winners.

Kris Benson will be on the mound tonight against the 36-year-old Frank Castillo, the former Cubs and Red Sox pitcher whom the Marlins have promoted from their Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate to fill the void in their rotation. Castillo had a 5-2 record and 3.79 ERA with the Isotopes.

On Friday, Pedro (4-1, 3.14) takes the mound against righty Brian Moehler, RHP (2-1, 2.13).

Thereafter you can pretty much forget about it. The Mets haven't announced which stiff will take the mound Saturday and Sunday but the Marlins will have Dontrelle Willis, LHP (8-1, 1.55) out there on Saturday and Josh Beckett, RHP (6-3, 2.63) out there on Sunday.

If the Mets come out of Florida with a split, and nothing but unsubstantiated hope and faith at the moment points in the direction of them being able to, they will be relieved to come away from this roadtrip with a win at all.

Looking ahead, after a day off, they will host the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants, Houston and the Angels in a 12 game homestand.


Archie Bunker's Army will take a brief respite from the losing through Tuesday in order to recharge in the brothels and coffee shops of Utrecht and Amsterdam. It will be the first games missed this season but considering what lay in store for the Mets, now is as good a time as any for a break.

Archie Bunker's Army will return in time for the opening homestand against the Arizona Diamondbacks.


Glavine Loses Again To Braves, 4-0

It wasn't enough that Tom Glavine pitched well better than his traditional disasterous outing against his former teammates because a new Brave pitcher threatened to become the most recent Met nemesis and the Mets lost their second in a row to the Braves this time 4-0.

Tim Hudson, the man the Mets might have been able to go after this offseason if they hadn't already traded their blue chip young arm, Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for the likes of Victor Zambrano last summer in a panic, held the Mets to nothing whilst he was on the mound: 8 innings of shutout pitching in his debut against the Mets and going on three days' rest. The kind of pitching performance the Mets only sometimes see from Pedro, let alone the rest of the ragamuffin starting rotation.

It's an old story, this Tom Glavine not beating his former team. It's a story we're all tired of hearing, tired of feigning enthusiasm for. Your number two pitcher, the guy who you paid untold millions to come and save your rotation a few years back, can't beat your number one rival. You can frame it however you want: Glavine sucks and it doesn't matter who he pitches against, Glavine was paid off by the Braves and gets kick-backs for every time he loses to them, Glavine is a choke artist overcome with emotion everytime he sees his old uniform, whatever, it's an old story that gets older with the retelling.

So while Glavine was singing the same hideous song called "I suck and I can't beat my former team" in his hideous, off-key voice that sends even the most loyal Met fans into early dementia, Hudson (5-3) not only scattered six hits, walked two and struck out six in eight innings but also contributed an RBI as he grounded out in the three-run seventh.

And the contribution from Glavine's current teammates?

Well, the old favourite flogging horse, Mike Piazza twice came to the plate with two runners in scoring position and two out and struck out. Adding insult to injury, in the sixth, after a leadoff single by Cliff Floyd, Piazza grounded into a double play.

For those who weren't paying attention: Piazza twice came to the plate with two runners in scoring position and two out and struck out. In the sixth, after a leadoff single by Cliff Floyd, Piazza grounded into a double play.

The Mets scored zero runs and it isn't difficult to see why. How much lower can he be shunted down the batting order? Is the seventh spot out of question? What about the eighth spot? What about letting Mike DeFelice catch until Ramon Castro returns from the DL? Certainly DeFelice is less of a defensive liability and well, he can't do much work than Piazza at the plate.

You know who else helped yet again in the losing effort? Our favourite third baseman, David Wright, who has struggled mightily battling fielding demons over the last week or so and has almost single-handedly cost the Mets two or three losses.

Last night, Hudson's RBI ground out was courtesy of Wright when the grounder was initially misplayed - moving to his left, Wright would have had a difficult throw to the plate. He dropped the ball and threw out Hudson as Estrada scored.

As often happens following a Wright miscue, the starting pitcher promptly surrendered. In the instant case, Glavine allowed Rafael Furcal to follow up with a run-scoring triple which mercifully ended Glavine's night.

One thing Manager Willie needed to do this season which to date he has been unable to do, is win in Atlanta. Sure, he did it when the Mets were on a five game losing streak roll at the beginning of the season but here's the stinging facts:

They have lost 24 times in their last 31 games at Atlanta, not to mention how they were blown out of postseason chances there in 1998 and 2001 and how their postseason ended here in 1999.

Glavine can't beat the Braves? Ha! Neither can the Mets.

Tonight, for your masochistic pleasure, Victor Zambrano takes the mound for the Mets. On a three game losing streak, having Zambrano coming in to try and halt the losing is something like asking a cannibal to perform surgery.

It won't be hard to predict this one: Mets will likely lose their 4th in a row whilst getting swept by the Braves and dropping further still in the NL East standings.


Idiot Ump Prevents Mets From Beating Braves, 8-6

Thanks to second-base umpire Jeff Nelson who inexplicably ruled that the game-tying slide by David Wright into second base to break up a potential double play and force Rafael Furcal to throw low and wide to first was actually a slide out of the baseline, the Mets rally of the ages was crushed like the hopes of Uzbeki protesters. Actually it wasn't even a call, it was a reversal of fate so intrusive and misguided, it cost the Mets their rally and the ballgame, 8-6.

Ok, maybe it wasn't really Jeff Nelson's fault. It was a wide slide and out of the basepath nearly into right centerfield in an effort to throw off Furcal, and a justifiable call but maybe just the kind of call you don't normally see made at the most crucial point in the game.

"He showed no attempt to reach the bag safely and stay on it," Nelson told a pool reporter of Wright's slide and his subsequent call. "It was an intentional act, and it's automatic that the batter/runner is called out on the back end of the play."

It's nice and perhaps necessary to find another on Scapegoat Patrol as the Mets let another one slide through their fingers at the onset of what is promising to be a very fruitless and disappointing tumble downwards into the pits of National League East hell over the next five or six days.

With Piazza out of the lineup because he can't catch more than a couple of games in a row (and if this series against Atlanta was so much more important than the Subway Series as several Mets indicated then why wasn't he rested against them instead of the Braves?!) - and Beltran out for perhaps the entire series due to strained right quadriceps muscle and even Kaz Matsui, for better of worse, out with a strained right trapezius muscle, the Mets fielded a team that saw DeFelice catching, Woodward in rightfield and Miguel Cairo starting at second, not exactly the A Team but certainly no excuse for the miserable pitching that accompanied it.

Oh yes, with Glavine and Zambrano in the wings, Kaz Ishii, on the heels of his rousing return against the lowly Cincinnati Reds, turned in an absolutely abyssmal performance against our most hated rivals, blowing the game apart in an act of sabotage so blatant that the Mets were down 4-1 by the second inning and 7-3 after four against a team that is now 14-5 at home, second best in the majors behind the Padres, who are 16-4.

The funny thing is that Ishii encouraging performance against the Reds came on Asian Night at Shea Stadium and here he was facing the Braves on Asian Heritage Night at Turner Field so straight away you begin to believe that it's fate - Ishii would turn in another dazzling performance and the hangover of the game blown to the Yankees would disappear.

Instead, after retiring the side in order in the first inning, Ishii allowed Furcal, who was a dismal 6-for-50 on the road trip for the Braves, to hit a bases-loaded triple in the second inning and reach base his last four times up. He allowed seven earned runs in four heartbreaking innings of disillusionment, seven hits and walked three (one with the bases loaded) whilst striking out nary a Brave and leave the Mets with nary a chance save for Wright's maniacal slide which was quickly overruled.

Wright, who was tossed from the game when he exploded against Nelson following the call, had a decent night otherwise, going 3 for 3 with a homer plus two backhanded stops, one diving play fielding at third. It won't make us forget the flub on Sunday against the Yankees, especially not when he committed a crucial error in the second inning, backing up on a grounder and launching an ill-advised throw that carried into the Atlanta dugout. Trying to do too much.

That error put runners on the corners with two outs but was enough to cause Ishii to become unglued. He intentionally walked Wilson Betemit to load the bases and get to Braves pitcher Horacio Ramirez. Easy enough, you figure. But instead, he walked Ramirez, allowing a run to score and then gave up Furcal's triple to make it 4-1.

The Mets came back in the 4th with a pair of runs, one of them on Mike Cameron's homer, but Ishii gave the game right back to the Braves in the bottom half of the inning when a double and a walk set up a three-run homer by Marcus Giles (only his second of the year) and gave the Braves the lead they would not relinquish, 7-3.

Manny Aybar and Mike DeJean pitched politly and reasonably quietly the final four innings (giving an over-worked bullpen even more work with two notorious early-exit pitchers in the queue to flail against the Braves over the next two nights) but the damage was done. The Mets chipped away at the Braves lead but of course the pivotal call, the 8th inning ruling that saw Wright explode and get ejected, sealed the Mets' fate despite Chris Woodward's homer in the 9th and Reyes' triple that threatened another rally after DeFelice and Mike Piazza, as pinchhitter, struck out.


Mike Piazza's capacity as Met Meathead grew almost legendary last night even though he only made his one pathetic strikeout appearance. Apparently, he spent his free time yesterday getting a baseball autographed by the radio commentator Rush Limbaugh. "It was like meeting George Washington," Piazza said.

I'll let that statement settle in your intestines for a moment before it is violently spat out in a colonic fit. Stay near the toilet.


The loss dropped the Mets to 23-22 on the season and another game back behind the Florida Marlins who now sport a fat four game lead over us in the NL East.


I know it seems pointless to even bother worrying about who the Braves toss out there to pitch against us when Tom Glavine is scheduled to perform his usual disabled pitcher routine against the Braves tonight, but for the overly optimistic of you lot, here is some food for thought, tiny granules, crumbs:

Tim Hudson is starting for the Braves and look to see a bunch of switch-hitting lefties for the Mets as left-handed hitters are batting .339 against him and right-handers have compiled just a .217 mark. This will be his first career start against the Mets. His perfect chance for a perfect record. He is 2-3 with a 5.90 ERA in his past five starts but at home, he's 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA in four starts.

My prediction? Pain.


Grounds Crew Blows Another For Mets

"They need to stop booing Matsui and these guys when they miss balls, they should just give them a standing ovation when they catch one." - Derek Jeter following his two errors in Game One, blaming the grounds crew for his woes.

There are alot of ways that you might chose to look at yesterday's loss to the Yankees and Eight of Flubs by Morrissey in the Post probably puts it as best as anyone today. A gem of an article which unlike Pedro's performance, was not crumpled up and thrown into the rubbish the minute he finished it.

Is it odd that the two most important flubs were both created by the Mets two youngest and most hyper-enthused players on the field, Reyes and Wright? Or Wright and Reyes, however you want the slogan to go? And say what you will about Manager Willie going to the Hernandez well for the fifth straight game in lieu of letting the guy who is supposed to be making his living by closing, The Looper Stupor Experience, actually close out the game, but it was the two kids who let the first two cockroaches of Yankee hope back into the game in the 8th that spellt doom for the Mets in the end.

"That's the moment, man, the moment of the game," Reyes tried to reason of his attempt to bare hand a simple toss from Cairo to start a double play as the sting of the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Yankees sunk in. "You don't think about it, you just want to do it."

Fair enough. Reyes is trying to be clutch, like alot of Mets have been already this season. It didn't work. He's young. In a few months, maybe he will be making that play (provided his hammies don't put the whammy on his season), or maybe a few years, but it is the effort of leadership, the effort to be clutch, that seems important at this stage, I believe. (On the other hand, you can also say that Reyes has a little hotdog in him as well, which doesn't sound as nice as trying to be clutch by making a circus play instead of a safe one when the game was on the line.) - time will tell which was right.

And Wright simply appeared to draw a blank on a routine jab, a pity after the beautiful catch into the seats on a 3rd base side foul that yanked Pedro out of the bases loaded fire. Unlike Reyes he doesn't try to be fancy but he flubs some easy ones sometimes that make you wonder how many more years before he can hone a polish on some consistent talent defensively.

Still, for some reason, it seems difficult to feel too awfully disappointed about the series itself. Yes, taking two of three from the Yankees, kicking some sand in their faces would have been a nice sensation, especially rolling into Atlanta and Florida for a pair of important showdowns. But both loses were fired by defensive miscues, the second baseman and first baseman in Game One and the shortstop and third baseman in Game Three. All infielders. Perhaps we should follow Derek Jeter's heartfelt whinge about the infield play surface at Shea and blame the grounds crew for the errors. It was the grounds crew, my friends, the incarnation of evil and incompetence. If Derek Jeter had to play on such rock and pebble fields of uneven composure when he was growing up, he'd still be in the little leagues, so impossible it is.

So we can say that we lost to the Yankees because the infield wasn't properly kept. The Wheel of Contention spins again to spell another lost series against another contender.

That's what makes me uneasy about this Atlanta and Florida trip.

"The games we play down there [Atlanta] are more important than the ones we played this weekend." -- Mientkiewicz said yesterday.

The Mets have lost the last three series' they've played against contenders - the Cubs, Cardinals and Yankees. And even though the Cubs look like they sit on the precipice of quitting the season already with the Cards jumping out so fast, it reminds us again that the Mets' best hope at the moment is to make sure they beat the teams they are better than. Eventually, if there is to be prolonged infatuation with this team this season, they will start to take some from the teams better than them as well.


Ishii (0-2, 3.96) tries to get us back on track against Horacio Ramirez (2-3, 4.69)and the Braves. The Braves have a few problems of their own for a change with two of their best starters outside of Smoltz and Tim Hudson on the DL at the moment. Finally. Chinks in the armour?

Well, no reason to get excited for the evening to follow will feature Perennial Brave Victim, Tom Glavine against oh hell, what does it really matter? 1-7 with a 9.36 ERA against the Braves is all that matters.

And to follow it up, like a left uppercut following a blow to the solar plexus, none other than Victor Zambrano will perform his disappearing control act for Game 3 of the series.

Should be fun for the masochists.


Mets Make Mockery of The Unit, 7-1

If this was a battle of free agent pitchers, the Mets definately won. If this was a battle for redemption after being criticised all winter long for artificially inflating the starting pitcher market in paying Benson to stay with them, the Mets won that too. Randy Johnson, $48 million for three years versus Kris Benson, $22.5 million for three years. Randy Johnson surrendered 12 hits and four runs over six and two thirds innings and Benson allowed only 3 hits over six shutout innings. The Mets won this one almost easily, 7-1.

There were tense moments of course. No Subway Series game is ever a laughter, not with drunken Bronx bums starting fights in the stands and Yankee Yobs spreading around the stadium like some sort of communicable disease. But the Mets, led by Benson, who appears to like the big stage and the pressure, and by their hitters, including the token Korean lefty reliever KooKooKachoog, who smacked a Randy Johnson offering 400 feet over Bernie Williams' head to the warning track as if to underscore the futility of Johnson's pitching yesterday, made easy work of the Yankees, setting the stage for this afternoon's rubber match and second free agent duel, Pedro against Pavano.

Nine of the first 16 batters Johnson faced yesterday recorded hits and he seemed constantly on the ropes, just another gangly, pockmark-faced pitcher with unusual height, no longer The Unit, the intimidator, the man who would bring the World Championship back to the Bronx. No, that spot in the rotation might still have to go to Roger Clemens before the end of the year. And the Mets hit him like batting practice.

After booting two infield grounders on Friday night and having the nerve to blame the Mets grounds crew, still recovering from their gambling scandal, Mr Yankee, Derek Jeter was nailed on the elbow by Benson in the 6th inning yesterday and knocked out of the game.

Jeter went as far whinge to the media after his crap game Friday night, noting "They need to stop booing Matsui and these guys when they miss balls, they should just give them a standing ovation when they catch one."

Yeah, right Derek. And it was the grounds crew's fault that you went 0 for 5 and struck out three times on Friday night too, you muppet.

So Benson did him one in for the grounds crew and appeared to thrive in the playoff-like surroundings of the Subway Series. Prior to yesterday's game, he had it known he was eager to face the Yankees and made it known this was his biggest game pitching in a looooong time which seems logical for a guy who spent most of his career pitching for a team of bottom feeders like the Pirates in exile and obscurity. "It was all exactly what I expected," Benson gushed afterwards. "The atmosphere really motivated me to play well."

After the shocking double for Koo, he wasn't done. When Jose Reyes laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move him to third, he discovered no one was covering home plate and so bolted home and made a brilliant headfirst slide to score. Replays may have shown that it was the invisibile pinky that allowed him to be safe at the plate but it didn't really matter by then anyway. The Unit was humiliated and the Mets were showing their mettle.

And typical for Mike Piazza this season he guessed wrong yet again yesterday. As Koo went to the plate, he turned to David Wright in the dugout and said, "If he gets a hit, I'll donate a million dollars to charity."

That's why Wright was laughing the hardest of all the Mets, pointing back at Piazza after bounding up the steps of the dugout upon contact.

"It's going to be a significant amount (to charity) over the next 20 years," Piazza said rather sheepishly in the clubhouse afterward, when asked about his boast. But maybe he should donate his entire salary to charity since he doesn't really earn a penny of it as a defensive liability behind the plate and an offensive millstone around it. Haha. Maybe not so funny for Mike after all. He went two for four yesterday and raised his batting average for the season all the way up to .245, which shows you from how far down he's had to climb up this year so far.

But then again, nearly everyone had a big day at the plate teeing off on The Big Unit. Jose Reyes' two-run, tack-on triple in the eighth inning gave him three hits and four RBIs for the day. David Wright had two hits and two runs batted in. Beltran had two hits before leaving the game with a tender hamstring. Even Met pitcher were 2 for 3 on the day.

What the victory really means at the end of the day is only that this series is even and the Mets are still only two games behind the Marlins for first place in the National League East.


Pedro is still due to take the mound for the Mets today and even though it's against the Yankees, it might be a case of same daddies, different brothers.

In his seven years with the Red Sox, Martinez made 27 regular-season starts against the Yankees, going 9-10 with a 3.30 ERA.

He also faced the Yankees in five postseason starts and a relief appearance, posting a 1-2 record and 4.72 ERA.

Pedro will face the man he was originally traded from the Expos to the Red Sox for, Carl Pavano. Since 2002, Pavano has faced the Mets 9 times and has a 4-1 record with a 3.25 ERA against them. At Shea itself, he is 2-0 in 4 starts with a 2.60 ERA.


Met Bats Plead the 5th, Fielders Flubs Earn Yankees Win Opener 5-2

Let's play the old favourite, you guess the outcome: The Scenario: The Mets can only manage three singles and a pair of doubles all night long in support of the Victor Zambrano, the man with the anarchistic arm who has more walks than strikeouts and more hit batsmen than anyone else in the league.

Bing! You guessed it! Mets lose.

It started off bad enough when The Oak Ridge Boys performed Friday's National Anthem. The Oak Ridge Boys for gawd's sake! In Queens. For all those country and western fans living there and for that matter, all three fans around the world who claim to love both country and western music AND the Mets. Oak Ridge Boyz In Da House. Will there be a more memorable moment in Shea this season?

For the first three innings anyway Zambrano looked perfectly capable, as though it was Good Victor day instead of Evil Victor day, walking only one batter and inducing the next into a double play.

Then in the 4th, he walked one, allowed an RBI double, then walked two more to load the bases with one out. This is Zambrano Time, when he starts bouncing pitches ten feet in front of the plate, or twenty feet over Piazza's head, or hitting batters. It's as though his arm takes control and says "Look here Victor, I'm in charge and if I want to throw the pitch into the stands, that's what I'm going to do!" whilst Zambrano is attached to this maniacal arm, unable to do anything in his defence.

However and miraculously so perhaps, considering Zambrano, he was then able to induce Posada to pop up to the infield and struck out Robinson Cano, (who claims he was named after Jackie Robinson but plays more like Robinson Caruso).

In the bottom half of the inning, the Mets answered right back after an error by Derek Jeter allowed David Wright to get on base so Kaz Matsui could double him home. Matsui actually made it all the way to third thanks to another Jeter miscue. However, much like the Yankees, the Mets were unable to take advantage with Zambrano popping out and Hamstring Jose performing his complicated strikeout routine for the crowd to end the inning.

It stayed 1-1 until the 6th when Zambrano allowed Hideki Matsui a leadoff single and an easy steal of second before walking A-Rod. Trouble. Another chance for the Mad Arm to go crazy. Tino Martinez grounded out to advance both runners and leave first base open for Zambrano to walk Posada to load the bases, one out all over again. The inning should have been over when Cano grounded to Matsui for what should have been an inning-ending double play but instead Matsui, OUR Matsui, not the Yankee Matsui, flubbed the ball allowing THEIR Matsui to score (ancient Japanese gesture of respect?) - then ANOTHER error, this time by Doug Mientkiewicz at first base, allowed ANOTHER Yankee to score and make it 3-1. By then, Zambrano, having thrown 108 pitches and only 56 of them for strikes, was removed and replaced with Heath Bell who came in to show him how it's done, striking out Derek Jeter and Tony Womack to end the inning without giving the infield another chance to throw the game away.

Beltran's single to score Reyes in the 7th made the game closer but in truth, that was the end of it, Zambrano keeping us on the edge of our seats and runners on the bases with six walks in five and a third innings of pitching, the infield flubbing two balls to allow to Yankee runs and then the Yankees bullpen shut us down the rest of the game.

The only other excitement came in the Yankee half of the 9th when Roberto Hernandez uncharacteristically allowed the Yankees to put some more distance between them and us with two runs on three hits and a walk in two thirds of an inning of work.

This brought in Aaron Heilman for another bullpen stint. Heilman, who pitched beautifully in relief of Kris Benson's first game back off the DL a few weeks ago, is the honorary reliever bumped as a starter in what was a 6 man rotation.

Against the bullpen trio of former Met Mike Stanton, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera, the Mets were powerless, managing only one base runner in the final two innings and allowing the Yankee to breeze to their opening game winner, 5-2.


What Would The Subway Series Be Without The Subway?

"I didn't get a toy train like the other kids. I got a toy subway instead. You couldn't see anything, but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by." - Steven Wright

There are purists out there who want to save the precious term Subway Series for moments when it "really" matters, like a World Series, but let's face it, the fans ride the subway to the goddamned games whether it's October for all the marbles or late May with little more than local pride on the line, so Archie Bunker's Army is calling it the Subway Series.

Rather than inundating you with every little nuance; the steroid-goiter waiting to sprout on Giambi's scrotum, the Yankees leading the Major Leagues in players who have had beer dumped on them (Sheffield in Boston and Giambi in Oakland), the pupil versus teacher managerial rubbish they will force feed you ad nauseum over the next several days, the $300 million or so worth of salaried players that will take the field at Shea this weekend, the matchup of each team's worst starting pitcher in Game One (Kevin Brown against Victor Zambrano), the corporate versus blue collar, history versus infamy, etc., let's have a look at another aspect:

The Subway itself.

First of all, how about an intriguing collection of people on the Subway photos?

Here are the subway ads, deconstructed.

And, of course, The NYC Subway History.

And if that isn't enough, how about NYC Subway Historical Maps?

60 minutes on the New York City Subway System is another collection of photos although fortunately, they do not take 60 minutes to scroll through unless you have a REALLY slow connection.

To savour the quintessence of trivial bullshit, why not take the Subway Quiz? Hours of fun for the whole family, after the encyclopedias have all been read, the bibles have been put away and the house is finally empty of scotch.

Or not. Let's stick with what we know and love so fiercely: Subway Graffiti

A collection of NYC Subway Signs.

Of course, if you're a buffoon like John Rocker who can't stomach the view from the Seven Train to Shea, you can always just drive there. Of course, they don't call this the sitting in gridlock series, they call it the subway series but for those bound and determined souls:

Here are the directions from Yankee Stadium to Shea. A good laugh, it is. 10 miles in 19 minutes indeed! Only if you're going sometime around 6 in the morning on a Sunday. Try it during rush hour tonight.

And as the token bone to the dogs who insist we must dissect the minute details of pre-series angst, let's linger on the finer moments of last season's success in an otherwise dismal season for the Mets.

And of course, for the purists, there's this collection of the 2000 World Series.

Lastly, there's the ever-happy chant to learn and relearn:

Yankees Suck!

Yanks Suck!

And of course, The Yankees Suck: A Flash Series.


Reds Cure Whatever Ails You, Mets Complete Sweep 10-6

Ah, but for a season of Cincinnati Reds.

Although Tom Glavine was far from convincing, throwing 101 pitches in 6 innings whilst giving up 9 hits, two walks and hitting a batter, because this performance came against the Reds, it was sufficient to allow him to earn his third win against four losses and the first time he's won consecutive starts in more than a year.

He twice got of bases loaded jams. In the 5th, after a double and a hit batsman, he loaded the bases by allowing a single to Reds pitcher Eric Milton and then saw a fortuitously double play go his way on a poor call at first base which frankly, was a bad call and probably should have meant an earlier exit for him. Then, as if to tempt fate, he followed this good fortune by walking Felipe Lopez to load the bases again in the same inning and allowed Sean Casey to collect an RBI single to make the score 4-2 before finally getting Junior to ground out to end the inning.

An inning later, Glavine was again lucky although this time more by Red malaise than umpire error when with two outs and two men on, Reds pitcher Eric Milton singled yet again, but teammate D'Angelo Jimenez was thrown out at home by Cliff Floyd (his fifth assist of the season) to snuff out another potential rally -- Jimenez never even bothered to slide at home plate.

But, these were the Reds and Glavine escaped with a victory despite a mediocre performance aided and abetted by four Cincinnati errors.

Jose Reyes, who has struggled at the plate almost since the onset of May, getting just 10 hits in his last 54 at-bats for a .185 average, had three hits including a stolen base, a pair of triples and seven total bases for the night.

Mike Piazza, batting just .219 on the season before last night went 4 for 4 with a walk and a double to raise his average to .242 after a day's work agains the Reds.

Chris Woodward, playing in rightfield for Cameron who had moved to center to fill in for The Franchise, hit his first-ever homerun as a Met and his first homerun of the season to open the scoring in the second inning with one on and two out to give the Mets a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish.

And most importantly, the Mets, reeling from dropping a series at Chicago against the Cubs and another against the Cardinals at home, will go into their big series against the Yankees having won three in a row to raise their record to 22-19 for the season.

About the only man who didn't benefit from playing the Reds was reliever Manny Aybar, who allowed 3 hits and 3 earned runs in a single inning of slop work to almost single-handedly hand the game back to the Reds after going into the 9th with a daunting 10-3 lead.


From the good news/bad news department comes the information that Pedro Martinez will miss his start in the series opener against the Yankees. Pedro had a cortisone shot in his right hip on Tuesday after an MRI showed inflammation. The good news is that the dodgy hip might go a long way to explaining Pedro's last two shaky outings. Of course, since his hip is so pivotal to his motion, one is left lighting candles and incense in the hope the cortisone shot will work in mysteriously happy ways and the words "Pedro's hips" will never be uttered again.

At the moment, he's due to start the closing game of the series on Sunday against Carl Pavano making it a matchup of the 1997 trade that sent Pedro to Boston.

The rather hideous offside news to this is that it means Victor Zambrano will be pitching the opening game of the series against Kevin Brown and the Yankees which is kind of the equivilent of farting very loudly on a first date.


More good news for the Mets: Atlanta Braves key starter John Thomson was forced to leave Monday night's start against the Padres at PETCO Park because of what the Braves are calling a strained flexor tendon in his right middle finger. The verdict isn't out yet but may bode well for the upcoming series against the Braves in Atlanta. Thomson has been 11-3 with a 2.85 ERA since last year's All-Star break.

Better news is that their closer, Danny Kolb, brought over from Milwaukee to replace John Smoltz, experienced his third blown save in 13 opportunities for the Braves Tuesday night.


Japanese Duo Lead Mets On Asian Night, 2-1

Just imagine what the Mets will do on Hispanic Heritage Night...

A pair of Kaz's; Kazuo and Kazuhisa, led the Mets in their celebration of Asian Night at Shea Stadium last night and to victory over the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1.

Kazuhisa Ishii, absent from the club since mid-April and fresh off his turn on the disabled list pitched well enough to prevent the appearance of Victor Zambrano from the bullpen and Kazuo Matsui hit an uncharacteristic two run homer in the seventh inning to lift the Mets last night and yes, it "really" was Asian Night.

Ishii threw what must have been well over his intended pitch count, with 96 pitches, but was effective for 6 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and an earned run although he left the game down 1-0 and didn't earn the victory. Better still, he went 2 for 2 at the plate to raise his batting average to .333, better than everyone on the Mets except Mike Cameron and PH specialist, Marlon Anderson.

Matsui, the scourge of many Met fans for his relatively pallid performances thus far this season, has actually begun to show an ability in the clutch of late. In the past four days, the Kaz Man has provided a bases-loaded triple, a game-winning homer and a multi-hit, multi-R.B.I. game.

However, not every Asian Met had a happy night. Lefty Korean relief pitcher Dae Sung Koo (KooKachoog) started the ninth inning instead of traditional closer Braden Looper because Koo throws left-handed and the first three hitters due up for Cincinnati were left-handed batters. Koo retired Sean Casey to start the inning, then gave up a single to Ken Griffey Jr. and walked Adam Dunn. The calls to rid the Norfolk bullpen of Scott Strickland and bring him home will only grow louder.

Jose Reyes' woes in the leadoff position continue to plague the Mets. Last night Reyes was 0 for 4 again with no walks, dropping his batting average to .250 and his OBP to .276. Reyes ranks 370th in the Major Leagues in On Base Percentage, barely ahead of Mike Piazza's .275, just to give you a little perspective.

The answers unfortunately, are not so simple. No one on the Mets is particularly fitted for the leadoff spot. As a team they rank 19th in the Majors in On Base Percentage even though they are tied for 8th in the MLs in walks. As a team they are hitting only .259, which ranks them 17th, just ahead of the Braves and Phillies. By comparison, the Baltimore Orioles, with a DH to cheat with, are hitting .293 as a team. You might make the argument for Miguel Cairo on the nights he replaces Matsui but no one else on the Mets has any particular penchant for getting on base and for being fast unless you want Carlos Beltran leading off for you.

One thing the Mets are proficient at unfortunately, are strikeouts. They are 2nd in the Major Leagues with 276 behind only, guess who, the Cincinnati Reds.


There are indications that Cryin Mike Cameron will have his CF spot back tonight in the series finale against the Reds. Cameron may spell Beltran, who is batting a respectable .298 with 6 home runs, but he revealed yesterday that he feels "discomfort" at the plate and is getting "distracted" hitting at Shea Stadium. However, Beltran is also the only Met to have started all 39 games to date so perhaps a mental health holiday is in order.


Two lefties take the mound in the last game of the series tonight, Tom Glavine against former Yankee, Twin and Phillie Eric Milton. (and better still, it is an afternoon game which means that I can actually listen to it live tonight instead of staying up into the wee hours of the morning trying to keep my eyes open catch the final few innings)

The Reds have won six of 10 games when they have been opposed by a left-handed starter. Two of those victories came in starts by Glavine and Tuesday's starter, Kaz Ishii. (although Ishii has now vindicated that early loss and so too perhaps will Glavine).

Although Milton has beaten the Mets once this season, he is 0-3 over his last five starts, and has watched his ERA go from 4.98 on April 21 to a whopping 7.21 currently.

And with the first two games already won, with the Mets 21-19 and having Thursday off, thoughts inevitably begin turning to The Best Show In Town, the upcoming series against the Yankees, who have now won 10 in a row, followed in short order by a crucial three game series at Atlanta and a crucial four game series at the Florida Marlins.

If the Mets can at least break even during this stretch, 5-5 or 6-4, they will be keeping pace and continuing to prove themselves. However, another set of series' like the one against the Cubs and the Cardinals dropping two of three will leave the Mets in a sordid tailspin, beginning to question their hopes for the season.

And perhaps in anticipation of the upcoming series against the his daddy the Yankees, Pedro is dressing in orange suits and blue shoes - if it works, he should outfit the entire Met team in the gaudy wardrobe.


What A Difference Six Weeks Makes - Mets Pound Reds

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." -Charles Dickens

You might not have known it to look at how the season started, with this same team from Cincinnati appearing like a harbinger of doom on the horizon of the Met season with three straight victories, yes these same Reds, now approximately six weeks older, these same Reds who pounded Met pitching for 22 runs in the first three games, appear now to be a different team altogether; infinitely meaker, less consternating and, let's face it, the kind of team the Mets should be beating, the kind of team that lightens the burden of their disappointing three game series against the Cardinals.

The Mets did their job last night unlike those first dreadful trio of games to start the 2005 season with: Kris Benson, on the DL back then was on the mound last night working on his third start and looking all the better for it allowing only 4 hits, striking out 8 whilst appearing momentarily domineering over 7 2/3 innings and earning his first victory of the season.

There was no 9th inning meltdown as their had been on the Opening Game of the season this time. KooKooKachoog pitched the rest of the game with a flawless precision that might render these calls for lefty bullpen arms premature, striking out three, walking none and giving up no hits.

Met batters tapped out 13 hits although it should be noted that against Reds pitching this is no great feat, not with the Reds pitchers sporting the second-worst ERA in the NL (5.68). Even in those beleaguered opening days of the season the Mets still managed to pound out 30 hits in three games against this team of washout arms and burnt out careers. There is something tangibly exciting about getting to beat up on a team with a .378 winning percentage, even if it is only May.

Another Met not present in that opening series was Cryin Mike Cameron who last night helped shunt the Reds limited opportunities by making a great throw from right field to nail Foolish Felipe Lopez at the plate - ironically on a one hop throw which is the normal number of hops it takes Mike Piazza just to throw halfway to second base from his catcher's squat.

And our whipping boy of the month, Piazza, even managed to hold on to the throw although to be fair, Lopez neither intimated nor went through with a full head on body block that might have jarred the ball from the trepid Piazza mitt. To his credit, Piazza even managed a single and a double in four at-bats to raise his gloriously ballooning batting average all the way to .216 - heady days indeed for the notoriously fading backstop who has seen his career flash before his eyes more than once already this season.

With Ramon Castro now on the DL, Mike Piazza may be the man behind the plate whether Pedro likes it or not, Mike DeFelice notwithstanding.

But that's a concern for the Subway Series, not now, when the Mets can savour giving the Reds the kind of pasting they'd should have given them to start the season. Team roles in league races are already being defined and unfortunately for Reds fans, despite their 3-0 start to the season, they are a team that appear to be unable to sustain hopes for a successful season beyond a week. Last night's victory moved the Mets back to a game over .500 and the Reds to ten games under .500.


Tonight Kaz Ishii will take his turn against the Reds after a quick and impressive return from disabled list. What that means, without further definition of the rotation by Mets management is that they have for the moment anyway, a six man rotation. But look out because Ishii will be on a strict pitch count limit tonight likely meaning that Victor Zambrano and his tempestuous relationship with the strikezone will also be on display tonight, coming this time out of the bullpen.

What Ishii's return also means is that despite hitting .294 with four homers and 15 RBI and scoring 17 runs in 28 games, Victor Diaz is the odd man out on the roster and will be scurrying back to Norfolk for some playing time. It's hard to argue with the decision for the moment simply for the fact that Cameron has been on fire since his own return, Floyd has been on fire for most of the season and Carlos Beltran is well, the Mets best all-round player so there simply isn't a starting spot open for Diaz and the common wisdom is that he will be better off tearing up AAA pitching than rotting away on the bench waiting for pinch hit opportunities or Cliff Floyd's fragile little body to flair up again. Good luck Senor Diaz and may your stay in the minors be your last.

With Zambrano likely to come out of the bullpen to spell Ishii, the best hope for a Met victory tonight is something like a 10-0 lead going into the 5th inning. Although we can't be certain, it would appear that not even the league leader in hit batsmen in the person of Zambrano can give up a lead that big.

Then again, you never know.


Dainty Day At The Plate, Morris Subdues Mets, 4-2

It wouldn't have been hard to guess that after the first two games against St Louis both teams would have taken a game. You would have looked at Game One and saw that Glavine was pitching and you could think to yourself, ok, there's one loss for the Mets.

Equally you could have looked at Pedro taking the mound for Game Two and thinking to yourself, ok, there's a win for the Mets.

Although you'd have been wrong both times in this series, when you looked at Game Three, the formula seemed there for another victory for the Cardinals. All you really had to look at was Matt Morris taking the mound against the predictably mediocre Aaron Heilman and figure to yourself, looks like the Cards will take two out of three.

They did.

Mastering the concept of playing just well enough to lose and led by Aaron Heilman's 5 2/3 innings of Tragicomedic pitching, moving from Jose Reyes' leadoff pop up in the bottom of the first all the way to Doug Mientkiewicz's strikeout in the bottom of the 9th to end the game, the Mets give every impression that they are an orchestra only occasionally capable of striking the perfect key.

In some ways you are suprised they aren't worse. Let's face it, when your hopes in a rubber match are riding on Aaron Heilman, you can't expect much. Up and down the line, with the exception of Pedro, the Mets starting pitching is dominated by guys who are usually bad, sometimes nearly pedestrian and on the rare occasion, briefly brilliant, just long enough to make you wonder "what if".

What were Heilman's flaws? A few mistakes for homers was all, really. You could say the same thing about Pedro the day before. A few mistakes against a team that has great starting pitching three days in a row and you do end up losing two out of three at home. But let's not forget that the Cardinals were last year's National League Champions, even if they were humbled by the Red Sox in the World Series.

You see Matt Morris winning his third game of the season and dropping his ERA down to 2.95 and you think to yourself, wow, Aaron Heilman's 3-3 record and 4.37 ERA is pretty average. Yet it wasn't really that bad of an outing. 4 runs off 7 hits is not the kind of performance you fret about for the 4th or 5th starter in the rotation. He even struck out seven whilst walking only one which is quite an impressive number given the majority of the Met rotation's perplexion with the strikezone.

No, the Mets were just off on Sunday, similar to Saturday. Playing teams the Brewers or the Phillies or the Reds, this is ok. They can take two of three in series' against that kind of competion but against a World Series calibre team this simply isn't enough, the Mets have to play over their heads, better than they really are in order to take two of three from the Cards.

That's the reality. It's nothing to moan about. It wasn't anyone's intention to win the World Series this season. The intention was to compete and to provide hope for the future which, if the talent coming up through the farm system is any indication, is a future worth waiting for.

There's still plenty of time in the season and occasionally, the Mets have shown glimmers of what could be if they were lucky enough, if they perservere enough, if they take enough of these three game series' against teams like the Cardinals and the Marlins and the Braves.

One thing that is not helping them at all is the presence of Mike Piazza. It seems evident that not only is his inability to catch an enormous liability, (just yesterday, another dismally two-hopped a toss to second base on a pitchout, another throw, this time from Carlos Beltran, rolling under his glove,) but even his hitting has evaded him. Yesterday was another 0 for 4 collar, dropping his batting average down to a scapegoatish .207 for the season, hurting the Mets doubly. There's no DH in the National League and Mike Piazza has only reaffirmed that he no longer has any business being here in the land without DHs. It's detrimental to the team having Manager Willie rolling the dice with this washout day in and day out waiting for him to catch fire. Granted, the spector of Ramon Castro haunting homeplate is nothing to compose odes of joy about either but at least the guy can field and for alot of teams, a solid defensive catcher is sufficient for your purposes. You don't need the useless talents of the guy who finally ego'd his way into the record books for most homeruns for a catcher taking you down a notch every game.

These Mets aren't a bad side. They're somewhat balanced which is what a team of essentially mediocre hitters has to be. They are the only team in the majors with five players who have six or more home runs: Floyd (10), Mike Piazza (6), Doug Mientkiewicz (6), Beltran (6) and David Wright (6).

If the Mets can continue beating the teams that are as mediocre or worse, taking two of three from the teams with no hope and one of three from the playoff dancers, who knows, they might buy themselves enough time to find themselves getting hot just around the time the playoffs are awarded. They just need to hang in and don't let the whole thing collapse in the meantime.


Now that Ishii is doing better quicker than expected it's time for some rotation rotation. Either he or Zambrano will get the start in Game Two against the Reds and frankly, given how Zambrano has melted down game after game, I'd prefer to see him hone his awareness of homeplate somewhere safely far away, like Norfolk. There's a possibility that Heilman will get the call down to the minors instead but Heilman appears to be ready to assert some responsibility on this team. He isn't great but he isn't Zambrano.


After the humiliation of getting swept in the opening series of the season in Cincinnati, the Mets will host the Reds who, one hopes, will finally get their comeuppance.

Since that infamous beginning the Reds are a miserable 11-23 on the year.

PROJECTED PITCHING MATCHUPS - note that this is the kind of starting rotations the Mets should really wake their bats up with...sure beats facing Marquis, Mulder and Morris...

May 16, 7:10 p.m. - Paul Wilson (1-3 4.76 ERA) vs. Kris Benson (0-1 6.75 ERA)

May 17, 7:10 p.m. - Ramon Ortiz (1-1 6.75) vs. Victor Zambrano (2-3 5.45)

May 18, 1:10 p.m. - Eric Milton (2-4 7.21) vs. Tom Glavine (2-4 5.77)

The series notes, in more detail than anyone outside of Queens or Cincinnati could possibly require or even want for that matter, can be found here.

In the rest of the NL East, the Braves and Marlins travel West to face the Padres and Dodgers respectively. The Nats open a series at home against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Phillies get to host the Cardinals.


Disappointment Prevails, Cards Win 7-6

It was meant to be an afternoon of imported aces, former Expo and Red Sox ace Pedro against former A's ace Mark Mulder. It was meant to be a pitcher's duel, a nail-biter, the kind of arm action Shea Stadium hadn't seen since Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS, Gooden against Nolan Ryan.

But yesterday's fizzling drama was not a pitcher's duel at all. In his first start against the Cardinals since Game 3 of the World Series, Pedro was not vintage Pedro (88 pitches over 6 innings for four earned runs and meagre four strikeouts and two two-run homers surrendered) that had the Mets in a 5-2 hole by the time he was finished. And unlike his last start against the Brewers, this time Piazza was on the bench where he belonged and "unofficially designated" catcher Ramon Castro was behind the plate so there was no official doorstep on which place the blame.

Then again, neither was Mark Mulder anything exciting as he too was sandblasted on the mound, giving up 10 hits and 6 earned runs in five short innings of work that needed 103 pitches, only 68 of which were strikes.

When the Mets were rallied by a bases-loaded triple by Kaz Matsui to tie the game and then the pinch-hitting Victor Diaz singled Matsui home to give the Mets a 6-5 lead with none out, it was beginning to feel giddy, as though they were capable perhaps of even sweeping the Cards at home.

But instead of building on the lead, going for the jugular with 4 runs in, runners on the corners with no outs and the middle of the batting order coming up, the rally fizzled when Jose Reyes was thrown out at second trying to steal to make up for getting caught up in the old fake-to-third-throw-to-first head game. Shortly thereafter, Miquel Cairo fouled out and Carlos Beltran grounded out and zippo, there went the Met chance to break it open.

Instead, the bullpen was given the fragile one run lead and the difference between yesterday's game and most others was Roberto Hernandez, who has been perhaps the most consistent reliever in the pen, earned his first blown save and his first loss of the season after allowing a walk to Abraham Nunez, a bloop single to Pujols who Floyd was playing practically at the warning track out of fear and then Jim Edmonds, whom Hernandez struck out with the tying runs on in the eighth inning Friday night to help preserve Tom Glavine's 2-0 victory, followed with a soft double that landed fair down the right-field line to score Nunez with the tying run.

Prior to that, Hernandez had had 8 straight outings and 9 1/2 innings without giving up a run and you figure unless you're Mike Piazza, everyone's going to have a bad day once in awhile (in Piazza's case of course, most days he's safest watching from the bench) - what you expect from a team with title aspirations is that when a steady reliever like Hernandez blows one, someone else does a number at the plate and redeems them all to win the game.

Not so this time out. With former Met Jason Isringhausen making his save-opportunity debut fresh off the DL, struck out Mike Cameron with two on and two out in the bottom of the 9th to earn his 8th save of the season.


If you're one of those who still miss him, Bobby V is do A-Ok Joe in Japan.


Who's That Imposter in the Number 47 Jersey? Mets Beat Cards, 2-0

"I didn't want to be in position where I had 290 wins and I was looking for a team in three years to get 10 more wins. I wanted this to be my last contract and have the opportunity to win 300 games," - Tom Glavine, hyper-optimistic upon signing with the Mets in 2002.

Well, it's taken nearly three years but Tom Glavine finally pitched for the Mets as he once did in the wonder years of his Braves Hall of Fame past. At the very least, finally shedding the contemptible post-2004 All Star Game Tom Glavine skin and bursting through with a newer, more loveable version which, if repeatable, might give the Mets the edge in the NL East race.

Glavine pitched seven-plus scoreless innings against the most productive lineup in the National League last night and emerged almost as...guess what? the winning pitcher for Mets in a valient 2-0 victory against the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

In a way, you had to wonder, "who's this?" when you saw someone out there in the old number 47 jersey pitching as though he knew what he was doing, as though the strikezone was dictated by himself rather than those dodgy umpires who won't give the wide-berth strikezone once afforded him as a Brave.

In the end, it was an admirable performance, the kind that almost made you forget the Robert Earl Hughes-like ERA, the inaccuracy, the inning-by-inning blasting he has withstood this season, one mediocre opponent after another.

After 24 walks and 50 hits in his first 36 2/3 innings, last night it was only four hits allowed, no walks, no runs.

"A lot had been said and written about me, that I might be at the end of my rope." Glavine said afterwards, relieved and hopefully back to his former life.

Better still, unlike previous years, the bullpen didn't blow a well-pitched game for him. Roberto Hernandez followed Glavine and struck out pinch-hitter Jim Edmonds and retired pinch-hitter John Mabry and David Eckstein on ground balls. Then, in yet another who-is-this-guy sort of evening, Braden Looper pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth save, completing the Mets' third shutout of the season without making us bite our fingernails down to the marrow getting there.

The two runs for the Mets were delivered by Cliff Floyd, recovering from an abyssmal road trip that saw him go 2 for 22, who hit a pair of homeruns for the only two runs that mattered off losing pitcher Jason Marquis (5-2).


More news on the Let's Push Zambrano Out A Window front: Kaz Ishii threw four scoreless innings for Class A St. Lucie against Fort Myers in a rehab start. Ishii, who threw 49 pitches, allowed one walk and struck out three . . .


It's Pedro Time again at Shea this afternoon going against tbe virtually impregnable Mark Mulder, LHP (5-1, 2.70).


The Cardinals Are Coming! The Cardinals Are Coming!

"Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you is determinism; the way you play it is free will." -- Jawaharlal Nehru

Fresh off taking three of four from the NL West front-running Dodgers, the St Louis Cardinals make a visit to Shea Stadium for a three game series.

What we should know about the Cardinals in anticipation:

At least two former Mets, neither doing particularly well this season, are on the Cardinals roster: Roger Cedeno and Bill Pulsipher.

Scott Rolen was recently placed on the DL after running into Choi Hee-seop, who if I recall correctly, was run over by Kerry Wood once when Clemens was pitching in Wrigley for the Yankees a few years back. In any case, Rolen won't be playing against us which is a pity since he was only hitting around .200 the last week before he was injured. In his place is a probable platoon between Scott Seabol, (who was called up from AAA Memphis where he was hitting .325 with 8 homers and 24 RBIs) and John Mabry.

Also missing will be Cardinal closer Jason Isringhausen, another former Met, who is still on the DL.

The Cardinals bullpen has a collective 4.67 ERA as of yesterday compared to the Mets bullpen collective ERA of 4.07. The Cardinal closers (Izzy and his replacements) have saved 14 of 17 chances. The Mets have saved only 9 out of 13 chances.

Cardinal starters have a combined 19-7 record with a 3.38 ERA.
Met starters have a combined 11-14 record with a 4.67 ERA.

The Cards are hitting .276 with an OBA of .349 and a .453 slugging percentage. They have scored 175 runs in 33 games and have 11 stolen bases. They have walked 118 times and struck out 160 times.

The Mets are hitting .257 with an OBA of .331 and a .416 slugging percentage. They have scored 162 runs in 35 games and have 19 stolen bases. They have walked 124 times and struck out a whopping 253 times.

The Cardinals are hitting .293 with runners in scoring postion, 4th in the Major Leagues. The Mets are hitting .233 with runners in scoring position, 24th in the league.

We know all about Albert Pujols but did we know that he is hitting .375 on the road this season with 3 homers and 8 RBIs in 13 road games?

Jason Marquis, the first starter to face the Mets, has a 2-0 record in 3 road starts and a 1.23 ERA.

The Cards are pretty formidable starters on the road. Mark Mulder is 3-0 in 3 starts with a 1.64 ERA and Morris is 1-0 in 2 starts with a 1.50 ERA.

Who's Hot Last Seven Games:

Reggie Sanders .421/.500/1.105, 4 homers, 7 RBIs
Larry Walker .455/.520/.864 - 2 homers, 6 RBIs
Mark Grudzielanek (try that on for size yea who love typing Mientkiewicz over and over) - .393/.452/.679, 11 hits and 5 runs.
David Eckstein .481/.548/.556, 13 hits and 6 runs
Albert Pujols 3 homers, 9 RBIs

Geez, that's only 5 out of the 8 hitters in the lineup...somebody hose these boys down.

Who's Not Last Seven Games:

Cliff Floyd hitting .091
Kaz Matsui hitting .120
Jose Reyes hitting .133
David Wright hitting .190

Geez, four out of eight hitters in a tailspin. Can this series seem any more unbalanced? Is the home versus road hitting factor at work?


In Game One Staten Islander Jason Marquis (5-1 3.26 ERA) versus Tom Glavine (unmentionable season stats). Glavine hasn't beaten the Cardinals since 2002. Hmmm. Sounds like another delicious blowout. Keep your eyes closed during this one kiddies.

Game Two will feature a great showdown between Mark Mulder (5-1 2.70) against Pedro (4-1 3.06). One of the novelties of having a legitimate ace is all the great pitching matchups over the course of the season. Christ how I've missed that with the Mets!

Game Three will feature the infamous "To be announced" taking the mound against Aaron Heilman (3-2 4.08) During Heilman's career he has a 4.54 ERA at home and a 7.09 ERA away from Shea. So better we use him here.


In other news, KooKooKachoog is on the ropes. Face lefties, walk lefties. A quick and simple story. Meanwhile, in AAA, The Bullpen Is Beautiful...really, how long before we can call up some lefty relief help?



Derrek Lee Wins Battle With Bell, Cubs in 10, 4-3

All anyone seemed to be able to talk about for the majority of the game was the bitter, somewhat unpredictable wind blowing in from left field and the blustery conditions. Granted, 14 mph gusting is no ideal condition for a baseball game but in the end, it was more the tremendous 11 pitch at-bat of Cub star Derrek Lee against Met reliever Heath Bell in the bottom of the 10th that proved the undoing of the Mets yesterday. His walk off homer gave the Cubs the victory and their first series victory since April 25-27. The Mets went home the losers for the third time in their last four games.

Bell should not be the scapegoat though as he did get the Mets out of a Mike DeJean and KooKooKaChoog-induced jam in the bottom of the 9th when he entered the game with the bases loaded and one out and after nearly hitting batter Neifi Perez to knock in the winning run, induced him into a short and sweet 1 to 2 to 3 double play that ended the inning. Perez was was booed by Cubs fans for not trying to get hit by the pitch to win the game which simultaneously demonstrated the mercilessness and genius of Wrigley Field fans.

And although not much more could be expected with the Mets sending Victor Zambrano out to pitch for them against Cub ace Mark Prior, with the aggressive Cubs being 2nd to last in the league in walks taken, Zambrano's characteristic wildness was an issue only briefly, a flash of incoherence and wildness in the second inning when all the damage was done.

Surreal Second

After a 19 pitch first inning, Prior came back out for the 2nd, blowing on his hands and obviously cold and unhappy. Cliff Floyd, who has cooled down to almost subzero, now 2 for his last 23 after last night's game, opened the inning with a walk after eight pitches driving Prior's pitch count to 27 after only the first four batters of the game. Mike Piazza, who does seem to be hitting the ball hard of late even if the results aren't usually successful, bounced one to second baseman Jerry Hairston for what should have been a double play but Hairston muffed it and suddenly the Mets had men on the corners with none out and Mientkiewicz coming to the plate. Mientkiewicz walked to load the bases with none out and we're all thinking by then, now's the time to bust open on Prior who will eventually find his groove and cuff us the rest of the game if he doesn't reach 100 pitches by the 3rd.

David Wright, who had been 0 for 8 and battling a bruised left foot, struck out looking bringing up hometown Victor Diaz who last season hit a late-inning homer to help knock the Cubs out of the playoffs that last time he was in a game that Prior started. Diaz smacked a shot off the right field fence that the wind kept from being a grandslam and with the slow footed Piazza and Mientkiewicz on the basepaths, only two managed to score to make it 2-0 Mets. After this theatre, Prior calmed down for good, striking out Zambrano and inducing Jose Reyes into an inning-ending grounder. The result was two runs on two walks an error and one hit, the only hit Prior would allow until Victor Diaz singled in the 7th inning.

So at the break, it's easy to imagine things are going well for us. Up 2-0 against Prior who has a heavy pitch count and Zambrano possibly able to coast against a Cub team that will swing at almost any crap he throws so long as it's "somewhere" near the plate.

When Jose Macias grounds out to short to start the inning the confidence grows but then, inexplicably, Zambrano begins to unravel as though his brain has been taken over by Cub-loving aliens and being subconsciously directed to lose complete control of himself and his pitches.

First he hits Jerry Hairston with a pitch. Then the weak-hitting Henry Blanco gets a wind-aided single that lands between Beltran and Matsui which Matsui should have been able to take himself were it not for the winds changing the pattern of the ball at every rotation. Suddenly there are men on first and second and the crowd can sense that Zambrano is in dire need of some electroshock therapy to bring him back to his senses.

He follows that up by balking to advance the baserunners in a move so blatant that all four umpires signal for it. Then he throws one in the dirt against Prior who should be an easy second out before throwing the next pitch wild past Piazza allowing Hairston to score from third. Suddenly it's 2-1 and Zambrano is performing the most exaspirating yet comical meltdown you can only witness in a Zambrano performance. He then WALKS Prior to put men on first and third with one out.

Somehow managing to get a grip, he induces Corey Patterson to hit a grounder to Mientkiewicz at first. Mientkiewicz steps on first for out number two and then throws home to try and nail the advancing yet sloth-footed Henry Blanco at the plate but the throw home is short hopped and defensively apoplectic Piazza who OF COURSE can't handle it because it isn't right there in his glove and the next thing you know, Blanco has scored and it's 2-2.

Neifi Perez comes up and smacks the first legitimate base hit of the inning to score Prior and suddenly it's 3-2 with the dreaded Derrek Lee coming to the plate. Perhaps wisely or perhaps just because he has no control, Zambrano walks Lee to put two men on for Jeremy Burnitz who does what we all in Mets Land remember him doing best: SWOOSH! He strikes out swinging! Way to go Jeremy!

So by the time the dust clears, Zambrano has managed to pinch out an abominable inning which included a hit batsman, a base hit, a balk, a wild pitch, a walk, another basehit and another walk. Stellar performance. Coming into the game Zambrano had allowed an almost unfathonable 67 baserunners in a mere 32 innings of work. That was through 21 walks, 41 hits and 5 hit batsmen.


In the end, everyone settled down thereafter and the game lulled us all into a false sense of boredom with WFAN announcers milking every opportunity they had to whinge about how cold and blustery and windy it was and how uncomfortable the players were and how bad the "elements" were, winding this around dull and lifeless chatter punctuated with the usual array of idiotic repartee that almost makes one wish one were deaf and merely reading the teletext AP pitch by pitch account instead.

It does afford me the opportunity however to hear my All-Time Favourite Baseball Phrase again when the WFAN duo start discussing Cub injuries and finally get around to Aramis Ramirez's CRANKY GROIN. Oh, how I love that phrase. It encompasses so much with so few words, everything from a groin pull to premature ejaculation.

It also reminds you that the Cubs are playing almost at half-mast with Garciaparra and Ramirez and Todd Walker out of the batting order.


Prior keeps rolling, retiring the next 13 straight Mets in order before Diaz's single off him in the 7th signals his fatigue. After seven innings, 110 pitches and about 8,000 references by WFAN broadcasters to him blowing on his hands and fingers to keep warm, Prior finally leaves the game allowing us the luxury of planning for the future with the de rigueur ineptitude of the Cub bullpen the only thing preventing us now from winning the ball game.

And sure enough, although we have to wait an inning, in the 9th, the Mets rise up against Cub closer Ryan Dempster in his first actual save attempt with or without the shaved head, of the season. Piazza narrowly misses a game-tying homer that goes foul before he strikes out. Then Mientkiewicz walks and is followed by a David Wright single, his only hit in his last 12 at-bats. This of course, brings hometown Victor Diaz to the plate who had the only two hits off Prior in the game. Inexplicably, he doesn't have the same luck off Dempster and strikes out giving the Mets two outs and two men on with....oh my, Eric Valent coming to the plate.

Valent, now the 5th outfielder on the squad and not even the main bat off the bench, 1 for 10 of late and ZERO runs batted in on the season, comes to the plate with no options other than Tom Glavine to pinch hit.

But Valent hits a single that scores Mientiewicz and causes even Dusty Baker to hang his head over another closer cockup before Jose Reyes kills another rally by popping up to end the inning. Nevertheless, the Mets tied the game and it was only then, when the real battle of creeping ineptitude bullpens got underway that the game once again became a rollercoaster ride of excitement.


It should be noted that Roberto Hernandez is excluded from the Blunder Brigade's crappy bullpen membership for the time being. He threw another two scoreless innnings of work last night, this time with three strikeouts to boot, and has not given up a run in his last 8 1/3 innings which encompassed his last seven outings, earning a save and a win in that time whilst lowering his ERA to 1.10.

DeJean allowed a bunt single and a walk on four straight pitches before David Wright's drop-attempt at a double play on a popped up bunt effort doesn't cut the mustard keeping two men on but getting only one out.

Koo was brought in to do one job, lefty-on-lefty and what does he do? Walks the lefty on four straight pitches to load the bases. Well done!

But it allows Heath Bell to come in, play hero for one inning and goat the next and that, as they say was that, done and dusted. Chalk another one up in the LOSING column for the Mets. Not as bad as expected, but could have been alot better with the Mets coming home for a 9 game homestand to face the Cardinals, the Reds and the Yankees.


Fortunately for the Mets, the Braves own crappy closer, Danny Kolb, blew another save and earned another loss last night, this time in Colorado, which caused the Braves to lose even their grip on first place. The Marlins won behind D-Train's 7th straight victory and the Phillies and Nats both lost.

What that means for the NL East standings is that the Braves are still up by a mere half game over the Marlins, the Nats three games back, the Mets three and a half back and the Phillies an almost-distant 6 and a half games back with a malingering 15-20 record.


Maddux Silences Met Happy Bats, 7-0

An old nemesis dropped down into the visions of sugarplums dancing in the collective Met heads last night. HOF probable Greg Maddux, now 34-16 in 60 lifetime starts against the Mets, shut them down for nearly seven full innings allowing only 3 hits and no runs whilst striking out 10 and the Cubs bullpen, only the day before on the verge of laughingstockdom, finished the job by holding the Mets hitless the rest of the way to give the Cubs an easy 7-0 victory.

Maddux has more wins than ANY other pitcher in Met history, ahead of other Hall of Famers Steve Carlton (30), Bob Gibson (28) and Juan Marichal (26). So perhaps this loss can get chalked up to, well, certainly not bad luck.

And they certainly didn't do much against Maddux. The only time they mustered an even marginal scoring threat was when they loaded the bases against Maddux with two outs in the seventh after Chris Woodward, replacing David Wright who was out with what is being optimistically called a bruised foot, walked following strikeouts by both Piazza and Mientkiewicz. The Kaz Man followed up with an unlikely single and pinch hitter extraordinaire Marlon Anderson drew another walk.

It was then time for Maddux to depart after his 100th pitch and he did so to a standing ovation from the crowd of 38,813 at Wrigley Field. Of course, even with two outs, given the history of the Cubs bullpen this season an enormous Met comeback was not out of the question but miraculously for the Cubs, Michael Wuertz, who sported a 36.00 ERA with the bases loaded, got Jose Reyes to ground out and end the inning and that was about all the excitement the Mets could muster for us last night.

Kris Benson, making his second start of the season for the Mets, proved rustier than he did in his first outing, giving up six earned runs and 10 hits in six innings but at least demonstrating alot more control than most Met pitchers outside of Pedro, walking none and throwing 62 of his 84 pitches for strikes.

He'd had have to have thrown an almost perfect game for his outing to matter as Reyes, Cameron (first hitless game since his return), Beltran, Floyd, Piazza, Mientkiewicz combined for a decidedly unheroic 0 for 22 with 8 strikeouts on the evening. Some nights are just like that and considering the Mets have been such hot hitters lately, this was bound to happen at some point: A Hall of Famer pitcher hanging them out to dry.

And there's always room for encouraging news, even if it wasn't at the game: Jae Seo continued to show a hot, new mastery, even if it was down in AAA. He allowed two runs on four hits over six innings, but didn't factor in the decision for the Tides.


Today is the dreaded day game following night game routine but worse still for the Mets is that the imminently dreadful Victor Zambrano will perform his traditional danse macabre with the strikezone, this time in Wrigley Field, a typically unforgiving venue for pitchers with control issues.

More foreboding still is the opposition pitcher, none other than Cub ace Mark Prior, who is 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA in three career starts against the Mets.

To quote the venerable Clubber Lang: My prediction? Pain.


Looking ahead it might be practical to remember these happier times of hard hitting and quick victories because following this series, the Mets will host the NL Central leading St Louis Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds (well, that might be ok, a chance to vindicate that wretched three game sweep to start the season) and thereafter, a three game series against the Yankees, a three game series AT Atlanta and a three game series AT the Marlins. If they can come through that stretch still above .500, the month of June is a wee bit kinder.


Sorry to say that combining with the Mets loss last night were victories by the Atlanta Braves over the Rockies which increased our deficit to 3 1/2 games, and the Florida Marlins, which increased our deficit from second place to two games. The Nats took it on the chin at Arizona and the Phillies lost the Brewers in Milwaukee.


Cubs Bullpen Lifts Mets 7-4

For the first time since April 2002 season, the Mets beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Two Mets with .238 batting averages knocked in six of the Mets seven runs including all three runs over the final two innings against a rancid Cubbie bullpen to lead the Mets back to the path of righteous twice-rain-delayed victory.

Doug Mientkiewicz hit a homerun over the 368 mark in right centerfield in the 8th off the newly annointed set-up man LaTroy Hawkins and then an RBI single off newly annointed closer Ryan Dempster in the 9th. Mike Piazza, another .238 hitter, had a three run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the 9th.

Kaz Matsui managed a one run homer as well to give the Mets three for the night and an NL-leading 43 homeruns on the season. What ever happened to Willie Ball?

The go-ahead run and the two insurance runs were even enough for Bradon Looper to earn another save without causing undue heart palpatations, profuse sweating and sporadic bouts of nausea, save for the leadoff double he surrendered before finally striking out the red-hot Derrek Lee to finally end the game.


Aaron Heilman had another respectable outing, weathering two rain delays that totalled an hour and thirty three minutes (which, much to my own personal schadenfreude meant that the game was still going on when I was awake at 4:30 in the morning GST) - Heilman shut out the Cubs over the first five innings although finished with 96 pitches over 5 1/3 innings, gave up a total of five hits and two walks and two earned runs before yielding to Dea-Sung Koo who promptly gave up a three-run homer to Michael Barrett to tie the game at 4 in the 6th.


Contrary to what the monster numbers by Carlos Beltran at Wrigley would have suggested (.510 8 homers and 17 RBIs lifetime going into last night's game), he had a comparatively quiet game after two straight three hit games, with two singles and two runs scored, raising his batting average to .316.


Cryin Mike Cameron continued his rather torrid comeback pace and now has two hits in each of his first 5 games since coming off the DL.


Oddly, Piazza, who seems to struggle mightily at the plate most nights to offset the defensive liability he represents behind the plate (another 2 for 2 night for baserunners off his arm), has still managed to scratch his way to 22 RBIs this season, a more than respectable pace considering his rather vaporous batting average.


Out of the necessity that derives from having only 6 men available out of the bullpen, Manager Willie has produced a curious dependancy on the hot hand over the last several days. Looper recently came off three consecutive outings, Hernandez had three straight outings and Heath Bell, prior to his scorelss 8th, had pitched in 3 of four days. Let's hope this doesn't spell burnout over the late stretches of the season.

Nevertheless, the bullpen held when it was necessary and saved the game for the Mets which, when you contrast it to the misery of the Cubs bullpen, is something worth savouring.

The Cubs former closer cum set-up man, LaTroy Hawkins was mercilessly booed by Wrigley fans and was even capable of giving us vicarious willies recalling the nightmare nights and dark days of Armandogeddon.

But now a bullpen combination that allowed six hits and three earned runs over the final two innings is the Cubs problem, not for us to ponder. Bradon Looper will never be considered automatic but as shaky as he sometimes seems, he does seem to get the job done of late and earned his 8th save of the season last night.


Both the Marlins and the Braves lost last night to give the rest of the NL East a chance to crawl closer to the lead. Clemens outpitched Burnett as the Astros beat the Marlins and Colorado knocked Braves ace Tim Hudson around to win. The Nats beat the Diamondbacks as Livan Hernandez won his 5th game of the season and even the Phillies, who took two of three from these very Cubs, won again, defeating Milwaukee.

All that leaves the Marlins 1 1/2 behind the Braves in second, the Nats 2 behind, the Mets in 4th, 2 1/2 games back and the Phillies bringing up the rear with a 15-18 record.


Tonight, the pitching menu will be serving:

Kris Benson making his second start of the season, this time against HOFer Greg Maddux. Benson will still probably be limited to a very specific pitch count of around 100. Maddux made one start against the Mets last year and was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. Of course, that was against the old, decrepit and disappointing Mets not this year's masterful and inspirational version.


Although the Mets were certain to miss it, the Cubs made the SI list of teams fallen below expectation already.

Paul Sullivan of the Trib points out the obvious in noting that the Cubs bullpen is out of whack.

Judging by The Goat Riders of the Apocalypse and The Uncouth Sloth it's pretty depressing to be a Cubs fan right now.

Too bad for them. We've had our share of misery already, time for someone else to suffer....


Streak Snapped: Familiar Culprits Cost Mets, 5-4

"I don't know what Piazza's percentage is throwing runners out, but I don't think it's very high, so you try to be more aggressive when he's down there." Junior Spivey, who stole second base on a one hop Piazza throw in the bottom of the 9th that led to the Brewers winning run.

The first question that leaps to the mind is why was Piazza still behind the plate in the 9th inning with the score tied in the first place? Normally, Manager Willie replaces him with Ramon Castro -- but Ramon Castro started the game and was pinch hit for by Cliff Floyd in the 9th leaving only Piazza back as a defensive liability.

Cliff Floyd struck out, negating any possible advantage there may have been to replace Castro with Piazza defensively and you'd have to say, it was just one of those games the Mets were bound to lose: Glavine starting, Piazza catching in the 9th out of necessity. In short, a disaster waiting to happen. We should be happy with winning the three game series and let it go at that. We all know Glavine will put us in the hole and we all know Piazza's arm is as effective as a drinking whiskey through a dirty dishrag.

That the safe call on Spivey's steal was controversial is of little consequence. Had Ramon Castro still been behind the plate Spivey wouldn't have dared try to steal and Mike DeJean could have blown the game a batter later on his own.

Glavine, of course, continued to distress rather than impress.

You'd think he'd have been hard pressed to do worse than Milwaukee's Chris Capuano did to start the game. Capuano walked Reyes and walked Cairo and then surrendered an RBI single to Carlos Beltran before he'd gotten the first out of the game. However, he settled down thereafter and didn't give up another run until Mike Cameron's two run homer in the 6th.

Glavine, on the other hand, sporting a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the first inning, birthed another pitching mongoloid and started even worse than Capuano. It only took him two batters to surrender his first run, an opening walk to Brady Clark and an RBI double to Bill Hall to tie the game before he'd recorded his first out.

After Miguel Cairo threw out Hall at the plate two batters later, it appeared Glavine's damage could be limited. But then he walked Lyle Overbay and then he allowed ANOTHER RBI double this time to Jeff Cirillo, who is hitting .218. So there you have it: two walks, two doubles, two runs.

For an encore, Glavine gave up two more runs an inning later after two consecutive singles and yet another RBI double, this time to Geoff Jenkins. When Carlos Lee followed with an RBI single, the 4th consecutive hit of the inning off Glavine, the only thing that saved him was Victor Diaz throwing out Geoff Jenkins at the plate to end the inning.

So after two innings, the Mets were down 4-1, Glavine had faced 13 batters and allowed 6 hits and two walks. In all, for his 109 pitches, Glavine allowed 11 hits and 4 earned runs. Not as gruesome as his standard outing but hardly the stuff of the number two man in the rotation.

That the Mets were able to make a comeback and even put themselves in position to have the combination of Mike Piazza's weak arm and Mike DeJean's dodgy two thirds innings of relief undermine them, speaks volumes of the character of the team. The Brewers had a seven game winning streak going into this series and only managed to eke out a single victory in three games and even that victory required a few innings of Tom Glavine's pitching, Mike Piazza's limp arm, Mike DeJean and a questionable call to make it official. If it takes all these things conspiring together for the Mets to lose, well, things could be much worse indeed.


Aaron Heilman (3-2, 4.19) is back in the starting rotation after relieving Kris Benson on Thursday. He will face Jon Leicester, RHP (0-2, 7.50) who was called up from Triple-A Iowa to make his first big-league start. The right-hander opened the season with the Cubs, but was sent down to Iowa on April 27. He is stepping in for Ryan Dempster, who has been moved to the bullpen. Leicester faced the Mets in 1 2/3 innings of relief last year. He did not allow any runs.

The Cubs, after losing a three game series to the Phillies, are 13-17 for the season.

Thanks to the brill summary in the Trib:

Season series: First meeting. Cubs won 2004 series 4-2.

Monday: 7:05 p.m., WCIU-Ch. 26.
RH Aaron Heilman (3-2, 4.19 ERA) vs. RH Jon Leicester (0-2, 7.50).

Tuesday: 7:05 p.m., Comcast SportsNet.
RH Kris Benson (0-0, 3.86) vs. RH Greg Maddux (1-1, 4.50).

Wednesday: 1:20 p.m., WGN-Ch. 9.
RH Victor Zambrano (2-3, 5.63) vs. RH Mark Prior (3-1, 3.09).


Who's hot: Prior has 39 strikeouts in 32 innings and is limiting opposing hitters to a .202 average. Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran is hitting .382 in May with three homers and 11 RBIs.

Who's not: Jeromy Burnitz is 1-for-10 on the homestand. The Cubs have dropped to 10th in the National League in runs scored after being fourth on April 27. They've scored two or fewer runs in four of their last six games.