Mets Asphyxiate At The Plate, Lose To Astros 4-1

It takes quite a combined effort by the forces of evil and ineptitude for the Houston Astros to win on the road. Prior to last night the Astros had been 5-23 away from home whilst the Mets had been a league best 21-12 at Shea. Last night however, perhaps still intoxicated from Pedro's performance the night before, the Mets somnambulated through what should have been a nearly-impossible loss and dropped a game to the Astros 4-1.

The star statistic for the night was that the Mets went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Perhaps in response, in a move that will no doubt have everyone catching their breath with disbelief, the Mets inked 36-year-old Jose Offerman to a minor league contract. The strikeout king of Latin America hit .182 with one home run and three RBI in 33 games with the Philadelphia Phillies this year before he was designated for assignment on May 20. Just the medicine we needed.

Nevertheless, in a weird Zambranoesque performance, Astros starter Brandon Backe allowed only four hits but walked a career-high six batters and added two wild pitches to boot over six innings.

Oddly enough, the man known for such performances, our very own Victor Zambrano, was decidedly un-Zambranoesque, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and pitching perfectly through the first 3 1/3 innings. All for naught however. In Zambrano's last five starts, the Mets have scored a total of eight runs. His record is 1-3 in those games, but his earned run average is 2.87.

And yet all of these forces coming together were not enough for the Mets to pinch out another victory and keep pace with the NL East leading Nats.

Morgan Ensberg's infield single with two outs in the sixth snapped a 1-1 tie and Jason Lane followed with an RBI double. In the seventh, Orlando Palmeiro hit a pinch-hit homer off Heath Bell. And that was pretty much it.

Not only did the Mets lose, but Mike Piazza got hit with a foul tip in the top of the first inning but remained in the game until his spot came up in the bottom half, when backup catcher Ramon Castro took his place. Will this be the Wally Pipp moment we've all been waiting for? One can only hope.

Worse still, Cliff Floyd nearly bailed out in the third inning when his left hand was spiked on a slide into second. The news so far is that he will continue to play but knowing Floyd, it's just a matter of time before something like this takes him down for his annual visit to the DL.

For those of you in the crowd who like conspiracy theories, note that last night wasn't the only time the Mets have failed to hit in the clutch. For the season, here are the RISP averages of our favourites:

Beltran .314
Floyd .281
Wright .269
Reyes .255
Cameron .238
Piazza .237
Matsui .220
Mank .135

These certainly aren't grounds for panic but there's no doubt that a team that hits like that with runners in scoring position all season are not going to last much later than the All Star break, even if the starting pitching is beginning to take on a semblance of form and competence lately.


In NL East news, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired reliever Ugueth Urbina from the Detroit Tigers for infielder Placido Polanco on Wednesday Urbina, who helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 2003, is 1-3 with nine saves and a 2.63 ERA in 25 games. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 innings. Guess we can settle for Danny Graves.

The NL East has done an almost complete flip flop from a few weeks ago. The Nats are in first place, the Phillies are in second place, the Braves and Mets are tied for third and the Marlins are bringing up the rear 2 1/2 games behind.


Tonight will pit two starters who might be back into the airs of ascendancy after slow starts. Andy Pettitte is 3-6 this season with a 3.47 ERA and is 6-2 with a 3.76 ERA over 13 career starts against the Mets.

And his opponent, Tom Glavine, we can hope anyway, has recovered from whatever it was that turned him from a potential Hall of Fame pitcher into crap overnight. In five starts, beginning May 13, he won three times, allowed one run in 6 innings of a no-decision and lost when he pitched six shutout innings. His ERA in that span, including the four runs he allowed in two-thirds of the seventh inning against the Braves, is 2.43.

No comments: