Mets Ring In May Day With A 9th Inning Victory

What potent blood hath modest May.
- Ralph W. Emerson

Is this the full circle? With the Mets leading last night by three runs in the bottom of the 9th inning in RFK Stadium, Bradon Looper came in from the bullpen to try and earn a save and another shot at redemption. In the first game of April he was horrific, blowing not only a two run lead, but the victory itself in his infamous bottom-of-the-9th inning meltdown that saw the Mets lose their April opener to the Reds.

And here we were again, this time in the May opener, away from home and Looper on the mound like a plague of locusts waiting to destroy the victory crop the Mets had planted with their three run top of the ninth rally.

But not even after Looper allowed Cristian Guzman's two-out triple and followed that up by walking pinch hitter Termel Sledge, a .229 hitter this season to put the tying run at the plate, did we lose faith that no, no-way José would Looper blow another.

Fortunately for himself and the rest of us, he didn't. Brad Wilkerson bounced a broken back and the ball back to Looper who threw him out at first to earn his 4th save of the season, drop his ERA 4.09 and give the Mets a 6-3 victory on the first day of May. The win snaps a stubborn 4 game losing streak and allows us all a chance to breath easier for a day with Pedro due up next.

More heroic than Looper's frightful performance were Miguel Cairo's tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Carlos Beltran's two-run double in the top of the 9th as someone else's bullpen blew the game for a change.

Eric Valent, replacing Victor Diaz in RF, began the 9th by getting his only a hit of the night, a single which raised his batting average to .160 for the season (only marginally worse than Mike Piazza's .212 sinking-faster-than-swimming average). Willie brought on Marlon Anderson to pinch hit and wisely, instead of sacrifice bunting, he allowed the man with the .391 average to hit away.

Anderson popped a broken bat blooper for a single which led to Jose Reyes, with two swinging strikeouts to his credit on the night, dropping a beautiful bunt down the third base line which he ran out for a single to load the bases with none out. Cairo's sac fly to centerfield drove in Valent and was swiftly followed by Beltran's bases-clearing double.

Beltran is hitting .385 with RISP which you might think quite impressive until you realise that Cliff Floyd is hitting an unbelievable .526 with RISP to go along with his MLB season high 17 game hitting streak. As a team, the Mets are now eighth in the National League in hitting with runners in scoring position (.252). But between Beltran and Floyd, they are the heart of this team offensively right now and you can only imagine what the middle of the order might be like if Piazza weren't having an end of the career hitting crisis. There's still hope though and as much as I bash Piazza for his stubborn refusal to learn to play first base and his impish and ineffectual two-hops to second base where runners steal at will, Cliff Floyd isn't a likely candidate to stay healthy all season nor is he likely to hit like this all season, there will still be space in this season for Mike Piazza's last hurrah.

I would add paranthetically that although he was hitless again last night, he was able to throw out the not-so-speedy Nick Johnson trying to steal second in the fifth inning and bigger still, threw out the very speedy Guzman at third in a rally-killing attempt in the 7th although with the caveat that the attempt was rather foolish for trying to steal third with a left handed hitter at the plate. Well done for a change. In fact, the first time since July 22, 2002 against the Expos that Piazza threw out two potential basestealers in one game.

Starter Aaron Heilman had another erratic night on the mound although for the most part, he escaped being punished for his five walks, giving up only three earned runs to keep the Mets in the game through six innings. Roberto Hernandez, who earned the win, had two innings of shutout relief and now has an ERA of 1.64 which is more than anyone had a right to expect.

Meanwhile, some help appears to be on the way for what at the moment is the Mets most glaring weakness: the starting rotation. Kris Benson will pitch in a side session Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and if he throws well and without pain, he could rejoin the Mets and pitch as early as Wednesday against the Phillies. This would seem to push either Seo or Heilman out of the rotation but the way he's pitched so far this season, Victor Zambrano is more worthy of a one-way ticket to Norfolk. However, for the immmediate purpose of the series against the Phillies, the Mets should try to take advantage of Jae Seo's effectiveness against them -- he has a 2.78 ERA in five career starts against them -- and also take advantage of Benson's effectiveness against them. Benson has a 3-0 record and 2.30 ERA in six career starts against Philadelphia.

The other perceived weakness at the start of the season was the bullpen and although Looper is a bit dodgy for a closer, in 67 innings of relief so far this season, the bullpen has allowed 71 hits, 31 earned runs (for a 4.16 ERA), 29 walks and 56 strikeouts. Better still, if you erase Looper's horrific Opening Day outing and take away the numbers of Mike Matthews who was designated for assignment, the ERA is knocked down to a very respectable 2.94.

Down the Road

Cryin Mike Cameron will move his rehab from Port St. Lucie to Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday. The plan is still for him to join the Mets by the weekend. He played in a Class A game Sunday for the fourth time in five games. he had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances in the St. Lucie Mets' 11-0 loss to Daytona. And of course, Victor Diaz, looking over his shoulder, after sitting out last night's affair, is hitless in his last 14 at-bats making the decision to push him out a bit easier.


The Mets will have four straight games against the cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium before traveling to Milwaukee.

The only two set starts are the first two games are Pedro (2-1, 2.75) against Phillies ace John Lieber (4-1, 3.03) and Glavine (1-3, 5.67) attempting to redeem himself against Brett Myers (1-1, 1.35). Don't expect much though: Glavine started against the Phillies four times last season and lost three times. In fact, he is winless in seven starts against the Phillies over his two-plus seasons with the Mets.

Seo (1-1, 3.27) is scheduled to face Randy Wolf (1-3, 6.52) on Wednesday. Wolf has a 6-4 career mark and 3.23 ERA against New York. His one victory this season came against the Mets; he went eight innings and gave up three runs in Philadelphia's 5-4 victory on April 18.


Last night's victory, combined with the Marlins loss, moved the Mets to within three games of first place in the NL East and the Marlins will begin a two game series at the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. Leiter is due to face Mike Hampton in the opener followed by AJ Burnett against Tim Hudson. The Nats travel to LA to face the Dodgers.

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