Piazza, Beltran Chachacha. Mets Win Again

"NEW YORK -- They play 'em one at a time. They insist that's true. But no manager worth his salt, calendar or daily planner does. Even teams with no chance of a meaningful September or an active October keep one eye on tonight and the other on tomorrow."

No time for a proper send off. Mets won their third in a row and A Bunker is out the door yet again.

Be back in two mouth-watering weeks...


Woodward For A Day: Mets Blast Padres 3-1 in 11

A nightful of strange occurrences.

The first pinch hit homer of his career became the first walk-off homer of his career and the winning homer of the game as Chris Woodward's two run shot in the 11th gave the Mets an improbable victory over the NL West-leading San Diego Padres at Shea.

And pinch me because I know this was a dream and is no semblance of reality but was that Mike Piazza throwing out the NL leading base stealer Dave Roberts at 2nd base in the 8th inning??! Let's rewind and replay. Mike Piazza throwing out not just ANY runner, but the NL leading base stealer, at second place, on less than three hops! Wow. That's a victory all in and of itself, only the 8th runner out of 66 to get caught stealing by Piazza.

The victory was improbable in that it was almost the precise blueprint for the sort of games they lost during their vile and spiritless trip out West against the A's and Mariners - decent pitching, plebian hitting and one timely opponent run after another to bury them in losses.

But not this time. This time they got the decent pitching from Kris Benson who threw 7 innings of 5 hit, one run ball to keep the Mets close. They got the plebian hitting from the top three in the lineup who gave a 1 for 13 performance. But instead of seeing the bullpen give up just that one tiny run that makes all the difference between a win and a loss, they held this time and waited instead for the Padres bullpen to give in.

After the Mets put runners in scoring position in the 5th through the 10th innings with nothing to show for it, it was impossible to ignore the negative moment building like a losing crescendo, a tsunami of blown chances, their season in a nutshell.

Yet instead, just as you thought the script could be written in their sleep, Woodward and the Mets rewrote it with the funny, new angle: how about an extra-inning homerun that wins the game?

Nice one, fellas.

Can you do it again tomorrow?


Ace Beats The Funk, Mets Earn Split with Braves, 8-1

"That's why you guys call me the ace," Pedro philosophised following yesterday's victory that brought the Mets back to the .500 mark for the 23rd time in 92 games. "Anytime the team goes into a funk, somebody wants the ball, it's got to be me."

Indeed it does. With yet another series hanging in the balance, with the Mets yet again dancing on the head of the season's pin and trying not to fall off into the abyss of non-contenderdom, once again, it was Ace Pedro to the rescue.

Sunday only 6 innings were needed to establish the magic of Pedro. In that time he'd allowed only 2 hits, no walks and struck out 5 whilst the Mets built an insurmountable six run lead. Thereafter, it was up to the combination of the newly-promoted Juan Padilla, Heath Bell and KooKooKachoog to finish off the Braves who suddenly appeared less indominable.

While Pedro is indeed the ace, with the way Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano have pitched of late, and to a much lesser degree, Tom Glavine, you must also wonder why the Mets don't get it done for the others and what kind of psychological roadblock is stuck in the head of the team that only sees them rise to the occasion for Pedro.

The second and third games of this series could both have been won. Both Glavine and Zambrano had solid performances whilst Met bats did nothing in support, scoreless for 16 straight innings. It is merely an excuse to say that it was due to Smoltz and Hudson being on the mound rather than Ramirez and Hampton. When Pedro pitches, the Mets usually win regardless of who they are facing and it's that mentality that the Mets can't seem to carry over when their other pitchers are pitching.

It is the primary reason that the longest losing streak of the season (5) was immediately followed by the longest winning streak of the season (6) and immediately following that has been a season of mediocrity punctuated once every five days or so by a burst of supremacy when Pedro pitches.

Hard to believe with all the unfounded optimism surrounding the Mets that after 92 games, they are no better than the rotten Mets of last season.

"The difference", Cliff Floyd speculated, "is that we know we're better..."

The difference, as everyone should know, is Pedro. Not just his pitching ability, but the KIND of team the Mets become when he pitches. Confident. Certain. Effective. All the things they are not when someone else is on the mound.

In a way, some of the blame should be directed at Manager Willie. It is his job, after all, to figure out how to duplicate the invincibility and security the Mets feel with Pedro on the mound. It's the same team, the same players and yet, with Benson or Glavine or Zambrano on the mound, the Mets are tentative, afraid, almost waiting to lose.

So while we can all be happy that Ace Pedro is on the team to save the Mets again and again, we should also be asking ourselves where that confidence is in his absence.

If the Mets can figure that bit out, they will be able to go on one of those extended winning streaks that they will require to keep themselves in the race for either the NL East or the NL Wildcard. Manager Willie says the Mets are moonwalking, taking one step forward and one step back. That's all good and well, to observe the obvious, which takes no managerial genius. It is Manager Willie's job to take that extra step, to solve the question of how to push the Mets forward rather than allow them that step back.


The Mets now turn to the Padres for counseling whom they will host for a three game series. First up will be Brian Lawrence (5-9 4.27) against Kris Benson. Lawrence is 2-0 at Shea and has given up only 1 run in 16 innings pitched there. Sound familiar? Will this be another game where the Mets barely beat out of a few hits and play out the game with a cloud of mortality hanging over them?

The second game will feature Woody Williams (5-5 4.15) against Tom Glavine. Williams is 2-1 at Shea but with a massive 6.67 ERA there.

The last game of the series will boast the Padres staff ace, Jake Peavy (8-3 3.03) pitching against the suddenly-effective Victor Zambrano for whom the Mets rarely put up any runs. Makes sense that the Mets won't put up much against Peavy either.

Archie Bunker's Army predicts the Mets will lose two of three at home to the Padres which will lead them right back to the same questions we are posing here this morning.

When will someone other than Pedro show some leadership and pull the Mets above .500 once and for all? Perhaps not at all this season. Perhaps not at all.


Hudson Makes Short Work of Mets, 3-0

Hey, whaddaya know, Tim Hudson took the mound for the first time in a month, Tim Hudson started directly off the disabled list without even a rehab start, and Tim Hudson completely shut out the Mets for six straight innings over 62 pitches, five meaningless hits, leaving his commrades from the bullpen to pick at the remainder of the Mets batting carcass for a 3-0 win last night.

Hey whaddaya know, another game against the Braves, another loss for the Mets.

And once again, it will all come down on Sunday, to Pedro.

The Mets were shut out for the 8th time this season, a familiar refrain, 16 straight innings and counting of runless baseball for the somnambulistic batting order which could not even find inspiration in the return of Doug Mientkiewicz's two hits which raised his batting average to .224, probably because after each hit, Ramon Castro promptly ground into double plays.

For the second night in a row the Mets failed to knock a runner in scoring position home which means they have now left 7 RISP in two games - if the philosophy is to rely upon bases-empty homers from David Wright for the rest of the season, prepare for the worst.

"When you don't score runs," David Wright speculated after the game, "you don't win." Hmmm. He might be on to something there.

To be fair, they have faced Smoltz and Hudson back-to-back, an intimidating prospect for any lineup, let alone the Mets lineup which limps along like a cripple without a cure, game after disappointing game. But to be even fairer, that they have allowed the Braves only five runs in two games and couldn't manage a single victory, is a bit discouraging to say the least.

And if you think that's not sad enough, think about poor Victor Zambrano for a moment. After struggling comically with the strikezone in the early part of the season he appears to have finally found himself, only to be debased for his efforts by his teammates pathetic lack of runs in support.

The man once mocked for the Scott Kazmir trade, ridiculed for his wildness and lambasted for being a weak link in the Mets starting rotation, suddenly has a 2.34 ERA in his last nine starts and little to show for it save for a 2-4 record and just 22 runs from his teammates.

Last night was no different. Zambrano, although he paled in comparison to Hudson's domination, he allowed only two runs over seven innings, and kept the Mets in the game even though their hitters didn't appear very enthused about doing anything about it.

So, after opening the series with an exciting 6-3 win, the Mets have now lost two in a row to the Braves and can only hope that Mike Hampton doesn't mirror his pitching mates' performances. They can only hope that Carlos Beltran hits a bunch of homers for Pedro tomorrow, that the rest of the Mets bats wake up and that at best, they can split the series without the further humiliation of having their noses rubbed in their inability to beat their biggest rivals, not even at home.


Mets Return To Normal, Lose To Braves, 2-1

From the onset this game had the one primary ingredient that dictated the high probabibility of a Met loss: Tom Glavine starting against his former team.

Proving last night that the Opening Game's dramatic victory over the Braves was more a brief hallucination than a burgeoning new reality, the Mets, after a bad-hopping grounder bounded off Jose Reyes' bare hand, bloodied his ring finger and allowed the go-ahead run, were back on familiar grounds, losing to hated rivals, the Atlanta Braves, this time by a 2-1 margin.

For a few seconds last night, as David Wright's long fly to deep right fell short of becoming his second homer of the game, we caught our collective breath in hope that the impossible could become possible for the second night in a row. Not a chance. Last night, the Mets-Braves series, so many years the pentultimate bile of frustration, returned to normal. The Braves getting the breaks, the Mets making the excuses.

It wasn't even Tom Glavine's fault this time. Pitching against former teammate John Smoltz, they ended their respective outings with NEARLY identical seven-inning lines: 7 innings pitched and one earned run surrendered. The difference of course, was that Smoltz ended up with his 10th victory of the season and Glavine ended up with nothing but his self-respect intact. Smoltz threw 104 pitches, 67 for strikes, walked one and struck out five. Glavine threw 99 pitches, 59 for strikes, walked four (two of which were intentional) and struck out two.

Sure, David Wright continued to smolder in this nacent second half, smacking a second-inning homer off Smoltz to give the Mets a 1-0 lead we all instinctively knew wouldn't last, but the regularity with which the Braves dispense of the Mets and the Mets disappoint their fans, is enough to stoke the nausea that not even a brief lead can relieve.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, Smoltz was finally taken out of the game much to Shea's relief and replaced by none other than the bane of the Braves bullpen this season, Dan Kolb, who has since been demoted from closer to set-up man.

Kolb allowed a lead off single against Jose Reyes and before he had a chance to rattle Kolb and steal second base to put the tying run in scoring position, Mike Cameron grounded into an easy double play that ground our early hopes like a smoldering non-filtered Camel into an ashtray.

Other than Wright's near-homer off Reitsma in the 9th, that was it. A typical ending to a typical story. The story, for at least the past decade, that the Mets, no matter the year, no matter the rosters, will find a way to lose to the Braves.


Rotating Faces

Instead of blockbuster trades, the Mets announced Doug Mientkiewicz was being activated from the disabled list and that they had purchased right handed pitcher Juan Padilla's contract from Triple-A Norfolk.

The Mets also optioned lefty reliever Royce Ring to the Tides and not surprisingly, designated the disappointing Brian Daubach for assignment. Mank for Daubach and Padilla for Ring. Not groundbreaking news, is it? Mank was hitting only .219 with nine homers and 24 RBIs before mercifully, he was injured, although, you could argue that he almost appeared to be find his hitting stroke just before, having gone 8-for-28 with two homers and seven RBIs in eight games before his injury. If this is to be the Mets season, which all signs indicate, it is not, a suddenly hot-hitting Mank in the lower half of the lineup could be a boost they need. Any boost, really.

Although Ring has plenty of promise, he had a 5.06 ERA with an 0-2 record in his stint with the Mets this season while Padilla, 28, was 3-2 with 11 saves and a 1.44 ERA in 36 games in the minors.



Not to sound pessimistic, but regardless of how this series effects their position in the buyers/sellers market, maybe the Mets ought to listen to those bids for Cameron after all. After his early fling with batting success, Cameron is back to his normal formula and is 9 for 55 in July, hitting .167 with a rather putrid .207 OBP.

Having his glove in rightfield is a nice but with the Mets struggling most of the season at the plate, the last thing they need is a Cameron who can't even hit his weight and almost never gets on base. We have enough black holes in the lineup already and if some desperate team is willing to overpay for Cameron, by all means, now is the time to unload him before the rest of the season bares his incomprehensible hitting for the absurdist futility that it is and his market value drops back down to where it belongs.

It would allow the Mets to bring Victor Diaz back into the daily lineup and stop this sadistic experiment with him at first base down in Norfolk. Not to mention, whatever the Mets are able to fetch for Cameron, be that prospects, bullpen assistance or, dare we dream, a first baseman who can hit over .200 and add some power to the lineup, could be a much-needed boost and an indication to the team just what General Manager Omar envisions for them this season.


Omen Seekers Revel in Piazza's 3 Run Blast To Topple Braves, 6-3

Back in the old days, the Etruscans knew very specific means of divination. In their beliefs the signs they read were sent to them by a mythical boy called Tages, who in their mythology was to have been ploughed up from the earth.

They would seek to read the future by examining the entrails of sacrificial animals, the liver being of special importance for that purpose. They would observe lighting and interpret its meanings. And they would try and put meaning to any unusual phenomena which occured.

Fortunately, Archie Bunker's Army only has to observe last night's results to recognise that the second half of the season has started better than the first half did and allow all good omens of second half fortune to prevail.

After a disappointing first half of what will likely be his last season as a Met, Mike Piazza started the second half off with a majestic three-run, game-winning homerun in the 8th inning at Shea to lead the Mets to a 6-3 victory over the hated Braves.

"This is definitely a good start to the second half," Piazza massively understated. "It felt good to get a key hit. I know I'm not hitting .350 or anything, but I'm swinging the bat well."

The homer was Piazza's 388th, one behind Johnny Bench for 46th on the career list, and gave him 1,200 career RBIs.

Joining Piazza on the hit parade was Carlos Beltran who went career-high 4 for 4 on the night to extend his hitting streak left off from the first half, to 6 games. The expectation of course, is that if Piazza and Beltran get hot in the second half of the season, the rest will take care of itself.

And whilst you could say a mouthful of hopeful about Piazza and Beltran, David Wright, 5 for 31 leading up to the first half break and a piece of "the rest", another cornerstone of the future's foundation, had one of his busiest night's as a Met with a leadoff homer in the second inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead and a solo homer in the 4th to give the Mets a 2-1 lead, which made him 7 for 10 with four homers this season against Braves starter Horacio Ramirez.

In the 7th inning however, he booted a ground ball hit by Johnny Estrada and then threw it wildly to first base causing Mets starter Kris Benson to rattle and then surrender Adam LaRoche's two-run homer that erased the Mets' one-run lead and put them into a one-run hole. It was Wright's 16th error of the season which means even with his two-homer game, he still has more errors than homers this season. The learning curve is wide.

He led off the bottom of the 7th by being wisely walked by Ramirez and was later driven in on a pinch hit single by Jose Offerman.

Then in the 8th, with one out and runners at first and third, Wright made a diving grab of Kelly Johnson's pop bump, got to his feet and touched third to double off the runner and end the Braves' threat.

Roberto Hernandez (5-2) earned the win in relief of starter Kris Benson with one scoreless inning. Braden Looper pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 25 opportunities.

The rare victory over the Braves was only their third in 10 meetings this season.

Not to be outdone by Piazza, Beltran and Wright, the Only-Met-Who-Didn't-Make-The-All-Star-Team-But-Should-Have, Cliff Floyd, somersaulted his fragile body into the left-field stands to catch Ryan Langerhans' foul fly in the fifth inning. He ran full stride toward the stands and backhanded the ball just as he hit the wall and fell headfirst into an empty section just in front of the stands, a wonderful demonstration of his value this season not only at the plate, but in the field as well.

Starter Kris Benson, who along with Victor Zambrano are both reminders of last season's trade deadline deals as this season's looms ahead, continued to justify his presence on this staff and boost his boast as the Mets number two starter after Pedro. He gave up two earned runs in seven innings last night, posting seven strikeouts with no walks. He did not allow a hit until Pete Orr's grounder slid under a diving Miguel Cairo with one out in the fourth inning and he did not allow a run until Andruw Jones singled home Orr with two outs later in the inning.


The good news couldn't last forever. Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton, who had both been on the Braves' DL (imagine if you will, Pedro and Benson going on the DL at the same time!) are going to rejoin the rotation for this important second-half starting series.

Hudson will face Victor Zambrano Saturday night in his first start since June 14 and Hampton, the tosser who once scurried away on his little rodent legs for the big bucks and "better school system" in Colorado, will oppose Pedro in the series finale.

Tonight however, we have what might be an interesting matchup as two OLD teammates face each other for the first time. John Smoltz (9-5, 2.81 ERA) will face Tom "The Wrong Brave" Glavine (6-7, 4.97 ERA) - Glavine is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts against the Braves this season, having surrendered 19 hits and 11 runs in only 11 innings of work which includes a 12 hit, 7 run stinker in a little over four innings of work at Shea earlier this season.


In the More Good News Department, Monster Island Ishii will miss his turn in the rotation. Next Monday's off-day allows the Mets to keep four starters on the preferred every-four-days schedule and to skip Ishii, who has only intensified the pain of losing back-up catcher Jason Phillips. Whilst Ishii has struggled, Phillips has prospered in LA with 39 RBI in the first half of the season which ties him with the New York Yankees' Jorge Posada for the second-most among all Major League catchers.

Ishii demonstrates his difficulty pitching - ouch, no wonder he can't get anyone out!


If Ishii is on his way out, it is interesting to note that Steve Trachsel threw a simulated situation off the mound [Thursday] with some hitters, according to GM Omar. "He threw live from the mound with some hitters. How far away could [he] be? We're looking at least two weeks, early August, for him to come back."

Not that we can imagine such a sharp Trachsel coming back after so many months off but hey, no Ishii no cry.


In other NL East news, the Nats opened their second half with Preston Wilson and a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers after another late-inning meltdown which further demonstrates the growing fatigue in the Nats bullpen and leaves them

Meanwhile the Phillies and their five homers held off the Marlins at home in a 13-7 pasting.

This leaves the Marlins and Mets tied for last 7 games back, the Phillies a half game ahead of them and the Braves still 2 1/2 behind the Nats.

In the wildcard chase, the Mets are now 4 1/2 behind the Braves.


Favouritism Aside, Met All-Stars Are A Joke

It would be nice to be proud that despite a mediocre record hovering constantly near the break even point the Mets were able to get three players named to the All Star team. It would be nice to believe we deserved to have all three players named.

But let's face it. Rather than merit, we must instead thank that oft-perplexing phenomenon called fan voting, which has always been a puzzling mixture of hometown stupidity and misguided sentimentality.

Case in point: the National League's starting catcher, Mike Piazza.

You have to think this is owed to either a severe case of ballot box stuffing by overzealous Met fans or a national compendium of sentimentalists and hangers-on intent on giving credence to a player's past rather than his present. What other rationale could be given for making the laughingstock of the spaghetti-armed catcher's brigade the starting backstop for this year's National League team?

At least last season's selection, despite Piazza's miserable numbers and equally miserable defence, might have been defendable based upon a combination of his having just surpassed the all-time mark for homeruns by a catcher and the natural curiosity of wanting to see a Clemens-Piazza battery in the All Star game.

But this season offers no such excuses. Even Jason Phillips, the former Met backup catcher traded to the Dodgers earlier this season, is having a better season than Piazza, not to mention the Marlins' Paul Lo Duca, who at least made the team, Yadier Molina of the Cards and Ramon Hernandez of the Padres, who did not. That's four catchers in one breath more deserving than Piazza to start for the National League.

The vote is not supposed to be a referendum on potential Hall of Fame status, but a vote for who is deserving, based on current performance, who is an All Star. You don't keep naming Sophia Loren the World's Most Beautiful Woman 40 years past her prime simply because once she was the hottest biscuit in the oven, do you then?

Carlos Beltran is another anomaly in the starting lineup. Regardless of how much I look forward to seeing Beltran blossom, despite momentarily blinding superstar flashes, he hasn't yet blossomed, and certainly doesn't deserve to start in the outfield of the All Star team. Like Piazza's vote for his past, Beltran's vote seems to be for his future. The proof is in the fact that he isn't even having the best season of anyone in his own outfield.

Sadly, the best non-pitching Met and the only non-pitching Met deserving of All Star status is Cliff Floyd, the most notable Met absentee. Such is the off-key warbling of the vox populi

Of them all, the only Met deserving to be named to the All Star team who actually was, is Pedro and ironically, he is the one Met we don't really want to see in the All Star game since every pitch he throws therein is one less pitch in the arm for the Mets second half push for the NL Wildcard slot or better.


Pedro Pulls Mets to .500

Quite appropriately, 88 games later and at the All Star break in the action the Mets are pretty much exactly how they started the season: reliant on Pedro to keep them afloat.

At 44-44 the Mets have proven themselves to be masters of the middle road, neither good nor bad, terrible of terrific. Just a mediocre team with an extraordinary ace.

Not only does Pedro make the team better, in particular, he makes the Mets lone young superstar better as well. Carlos Beltran is hitting just .250 (63-for-252) in games Martinez has not started. However, he is batting .328 (21-for-64) in games started by the Mets' ace. Nine out of his 10 home runs have been hit when Martinez was pitching.

Yesterday, having already blown the first two games of the series to the less-than-stellar Pirates, Pedro led the Mets back onto the road to redemption, throwing seven innings of five-hit, one-run pitching and winning his 10th game of the season with a 2.72 ERA to lead the Mets to a 6-1 victory.

Unlike Friday night's horrific meltdown which saw them blow a 5-1 lead in the 9th and lose in 10, Roberto Hernandez and Bradon Looper managed to pitch the final two innings without incident.

As they have been lately, the Mets were once again marred by masochistic baserunning which almost undid them entirely. This time, it was Marlon Anderson, who was doubled up on a line drive to second base, and Mike Cameron, who was doubled up on a fly ball to left field when he forgot how many outs there were.

Naturally, if the Mets are to have any semblance of success in the second half, giving away runs on the basepaths will have to be eliminated. You can chalk up some small percentage of the boneheadedness to inexperience but in due time, and what better point than the halfway mark of the season, the Mets will have to take their collective heads out of their collective arses when it comes to baserunning and stop giving runs away and killing rallies.

Inspired by Pedro, the Mets’ No. 1-3 hitters — Jose Reyes, Cameron and Beltran — were 7-for-14 with five RBIs and helped lead the way to victory. Oddly enough, it is was a rare victory for the Mets against Pittsburgh. They are just 2-7 against the Pirates the last two seasons.


Washington's second straight loss to the Phillies keeps the Mets 8 full games behind the Nats for coughcough, first place.

In the inevitable wildcard race (we still think the Braves are going to be a lock for the NL East title by September) the Mets are 5 1/2 games behind those Braves but only a game behind the Marlins, who have underachieved with a 44-42 mark in the first half.


The Mets sent pitcher Brian Bannister to Class AAA Norfolk, pitcher Philip Humber and outfielder Lastings Milledge to Class AA Binghamton, and pitcher Gabby Hernandez to Class A St. Lucie.

Manager Willie announced his rotation for the games immediately following the All-Star break: Kris Benson will start on Thursday in the opener of the Mets' four-game series against the Atlanta Braves, Tom Glavine goes on Friday, Victor Zambrano throws on Saturday and Pedro Martinez will pitch on Sunday.


Pointing out the obvious, Piazza admits he stinks.


Bullpen Blows Another With 7 Run 7th

You might have thought Friday night's debacle was one of the low points of the season and you might have been right. It ranked right up there with the blown Opening Day game against the Reds.

But last night seemed to confirm the bullpen is hunched over the toilet, spilling its collective guts.

Whereas the meltdown on Friday night involved a four run lead, Aaron Heilman and closer Bradon Looper, Saturday involved a very ugly 7th inning which blew the game wide open as Heath Bell and Danny Graves combined to allow 7 runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates and blew their second consecutive game in a row, this time by an 11-4 margin.

Friday the heartbreaker, Saturday the haymaker.

The bullpen that had gone 12 innings without surrendering a run and allowing only one hit all series against the Washington Nationals proceeded to give up 11 runs in what amounted to three innings of disaster against the Pittsburgh Pirates, hardly a team you would expect a collapse against.

Does it mean the bullpen needs revamping? Does it mean the Mets should get desperate for immediate relief? Not yet. The bullpen hasn't been as big an obstacle to victories as has been untimely hitting, moronic baserunning miscues and dodgy fielding but it only takes a pair of horrific performances to get the Mets faithful chirping but if last night proved anything, it should be remembered for the moment Kaz Ishii cashed his last chips in as a Met.

Ishii had another lamentable performance and whereas Victor Zambrano appears to have been healed by Rick Peterson, Ishii appears to have learned nothing. Another four runs in less than six innings knocked him to 2-8 on the season and rolled his ERA up to 5.57. Granted, you don't expect much from a fifth starter but with someone like Jae Seo burning for the chance (6-3 2.84 at AAA Norfolk), Ishii's days as a Mets starter should be numbered.


Pedro gets his final start of the first half of the season for the Mets against the Pirates this afternoon but even a Mets victory will be hard to erase the memory of the last two miserable outings against the Pirates.


The Collapse of Everything: Mets Late Inning Waterloo in Pittsburgh Is "Toughest Outing" of the Year

Victor Zambrano did his job.

He held the Pirates to five hits and a lone run over 8 innings and left the game with a 5-1 lead and a reasonable expectation of earning his 5th win of the season.

Instead, Aaron Heilman entered the game in the 9th and loaded the bases en route to getting the first two outs of the inning. Heilman was replaced by closer Bradon Looper and instead of getting the last out of the game, following a mind-boggling 11 straight fastballs, surrendered a two-strike, two-run single to Tike Redman to make it 5-3. Still needing only one little out to give the Mets another win, Matt Lawton's fly ball to Cliff Floyd, which should have ended the game, was hideously misplayed, costing an additional two runs and tying the game.

And just like that, the game that was one strike from being in hand was going into extra innings.

"We just gave it away," Mets manager Willie Randolph explained to reporters after the game, working on his skills at pointing out the obvious. "We deserve what we got. You've got a four-run lead, you've got to close the door and we didn't get it done."

Cameron, Beltran and Floyd went down 1-2-3 in the Mets top half of the 10th and Looper, still in the game, completed his disasterous outing by allowing a game-winning single to Humberto Cota with two out after Miguel Cairo blew Mackowiak's one-out squibber to second base, initially intending to flip the ball to Jose Offerman at first. But Cairo glanced at the runner, thought he needed to hurry and instead fired an overhand throw past Offerman. When Cairo's throw hit a camera, Mackowiak was awarded second.

Looper blew his fourth save opportunity of the season and lost his fourth game of the season in what might be considered perfect synchronicity.

There's not much else you can say about this game except perhaps for the predictability of the Mets implosion.

One game on the heels of their dramatic third win in a four game series against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, the Mets lost a game in the ugliest way imagineable as their idiotic baserunning gaffes and their slopping feeling finally caught up with them. Where the Nats were unable to take advantage, the Pirates leapt and the result was a predictable loss.

By all rights, in many ways, the Mets should have lost perhaps one or two of the other games against the Nats because of similar bad play, but instead, it was the Pirates who finally said enough is enough, you can only make so many mistakes in one game and expect a victory.


Tonight, Kaz Ishii takes his 2-7 5.50 record into Pittsburgh to try and help the Mets recover from this bone-shattering loss. He will face Dave Williams (6-6 4.37), who has lost four of five decisions at home.


For A Day, Mets Escape The Bottom

There are so many savoury little tidbits to nibble over following last night's incogitable 11 inning, 3-2 victory over the NL East-leading Washington Nationals that you almost forget to chew.

Coming into this dramatic four game series the Nats had won six in row, had an NL-best 29-10 record at home, including 15 of their last 16 at home, and held a 10 game sway over the Mets in the NL East. The Mets were facing the very real prospect of yet another series loss, one which would kick them end over end, further down the stairs of the NL East cellar, into a darkness which might have well lasted the remainder of the season.

But not these Mets. For every moment of proliferate frustration this season has brought us there has always seemed to be that one game that puts a temporal end to the suffering and gives us mild hallucinations of what might have been or might still be. Time and again when the Mets have lain bloodied and bruised they have slowly gotten up, dusted themselves off and stood still to take the next wave of battering. Knocked down but not out. The legacy of this season's first half.

Last night, in a game that Manager Willie termed "huge", the Mets were able to overcome the odds and take their third game of four from the Nats, climb out of the NL East cellar for only the second time since June 9th and move on the Pittsburgh knowing they'd proven to the league that last rites were not to be issued...yet.

Mike Piazza, our favourite scapegoat all season, ended a 16 at-bat hitless streak, the third longest of his career, not only with a three hit night, but a game-winning bloop single in the 11th and a game-tying double in the 3rd to boot.

Oddly enough, even though they managed to take the lead in the 11th, another dizzyingly bad spell of baserunning cost the Mets what could have been an even wider lead when Beltran scored on Piazza's bloop, beating Jose Guillen's throw to the plate. The ball got away from catcher Brian Schneider. Piazza broke for second after stopping at first. He was thrown out. Floyd tried to score from third, he was thrown out at the plate. Bip, bang, boom. Just like that, the rally was killed. So quickly, closer Bradon Looper hadn't even had time to warm up to pitch the bottom of the 11th.

It was the 2nd time in as many games that the Mets had demonstrated an almost willful buffoonery on the basepaths following the 6th inning debacle the night before. It was also the key to this series that in spite of these baserunning gaffes and a few poorly timed errors, in other words, far from flawless baseball, the Mets were able to overcome themselves and take three of four from these Nats anyway.

Granted, this was a Nats side battered by injury. They managed only 10 runs total for the four game series, less than three a game and perhaps eerily reminiscent of the Mets frozen bat spell on a certain West Coast trip a few weeks back. Question is, would it be termed a Nat hitting slump, or the dazzling work of the Mets pitching staff? After all, they'd faced the top three pitchers of the Mets rotation and the Mets bullpen, perceived by many as the Achilles Heel of this team, pitched 11 2/3 innings in the series and allowed no runs.

There were several nail-biting moments to this victory including the 9th inning when Heath Bell came into the game with the score tied 2-2 following Hernandez's brilliant 9 pitch performance the inning before. Bell, who managed to record his first big league win in his 50th career appearance, had us all cursing Manager Willie's decision when with Schneider on first, he walked the .125 hitting Matt Cepicky to put men on first and second with a single out and Jose Guillen coming to the plate. This was certainly going to be another Waterloo moment for the Mets, we could feel it in our guts like the rumbling of a beef and chili bean burrito gone bad.

But to his credit, Bell got Guillen to swing on his first pitch which turned into a harmless fly ball to left centerfield which Carlos Beltran pulled down, and then induced Brad Wilkerson to ground to Wright at third for a force play and the end of the inning. But it was an inning filled with tension compounded by the WFAN broadcasters observation that Bell had recently taken to lowering his normally high pant legs "showing black sock, but not much." Was this an omen of good or bad tidings?

Bell, as it turned out, allowed only one hit over two innings and set the final frame for a controversial warm up on the mound in the 11th whilst Bradon Looper took a few extra warm up pitches in the pen. Looper earned his 20th save of the season and thoroughly impressed with his post-game interview filled with positivism and energy albeit through a fast-twitching southern-slurred speech which was oftentimes almost impossible to decipher as English.

For a night anyway, we could indulge visions what the Mets could be. Imagine Carlos Beltran and Mike Piazza getting hot in the order like last night's combined 5 for 10 performance at the plate. Imagine a bullpen with a stiff upper lip and an unbreakable back. Imagine a starting rotation that puts the clamps down on opponents early and keeps the Mets in the game. Imagine all of this, and 8 games is not a very long distance from first. For a day at least.


Coupled with the Phillies' 2-1 loss to the Pirates, the Mets were able to crawl out of the cellar to move a half game ahead into fourth place, one game over .500 but still 8 games out of first.

The Phillies will now host these very same Nats and another spin-out by the Nats will breath alot of life immediately into the NL East race. Unfortunately, pegged by ourselves a week ago to have regained the lead by the All Star break, the Atlanta Braves, despite numerous debilitating injuries, have now won 5 in a row and sit like a cat amongst the pigeons, deliciously imagining a fall from grace by the Nats.

The Mets of course, will now travel to Pittsburgh to face a Pirate team which just split their series with the Phillies.

Tonight, Victor Zambrano wields the machete and sports a 2.97 ERA since May. He will face Pirate "ace" Josh Fogg (4-4 4.42), who is 0-1 with five no-decisions since his last win on June 1 against the Florida Marlins. The right-hander has one win in seven starts at home, and the opposition is batting .313 against him at PNC Park.

In the rest of the NL East, the Marlins host the Cubs and the Braves will host the Brewers prior the end of the first half of the season.


Pedro Martinez pulled out of the All-Star game because he's scheduled to start for the Mets on Sunday.

It was quite unrefreshing to hear the idiotic duel chirping of WFAN announcers deriding this decision and claiming that unless you have a terrific injury, there is no reason to skip the All Star game if you are named a member of the All Star team. Rubbish. What do these clowns want, Pedro blowing out his rotator cuff pitching in a meaningless inning in a meaningless game? Buffoons! Pedro is correct, as Pedro most always is since he's joined the Mets (coincidentally enough) and he will be rested, as should be in preparation of facing the Braves following the All Star break.


Willie Is A Happy Birthday Boy, Mets Dodge Nats

Perhaps righteous punishment for their decision to allow Qrio the humanoid robot throw out the ceremonial first pitch, the NL East-leading Nats were beaten 5-3 by the NL East bottom-dwelling Mets last night, despite baserunning and fielding gaffes-a-go-go by the Mets that should have handed the game to the Nats under normal circumstances. Instead, the loss meant that for the first time since April 25-27, the Nats will not win a home series. The loss was also the normally indominable Liván Hernández's first loss since April 19th.


After slamming QuesTec the computer ump and saying it was ruining baseball, you have to wonder what Tom Glavine was thinking watching a robotic humanoid throwing out the first pitch.

"It was the kind of game that you know wasn't easy," Glavine noted, refusing to comment on Qrio, perhaps out of fear of retribution or being traded to some robotic baseball league before the trade deadline. "You're trying to battle, make pitches and keep the team in the game."

More linuep fiddling by the now 51 year old Manager Willie saw Reyes back in the leadoff spot, Beltran back in the 3rd slot and Cliff Floyd back hitting cleanup.

The effect was brilliant. After a loss the night before saw the first four in the order go a collective 2 for 16, the reshuffled lineup last night went 6 for 14 and scored 4 of the Mets' 5 runs.

All went along smoothly for Glavine and the Mets for the first three innings. Mike Cameron's opening inning homer had given the Mets a 1-0 lead before Glavine allowed three of the first four batters in the 4th to single to tie the game. After a sacrifice bunt by Hernandez, Brad Wilkerson knocked in two more with yet another single to make it 3-1. You could almost hear the thud of the heart dropping out even though the Mets had already come from behind in Game One and had nearly done the same the night before.

The Mets did in fact answer, but not until the 6th when Carlos Beltran started it off with a double to left-center field, and Cliff Floyd singled when Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen failed to haul in a shallow fly ball. David Wright walked to load the bases, and Anderson followed with a broken-bat, 60-foot squib single that scored a run. The next batter, Ramon Castro, slapped a single between first and second, knocking in Floyd and Wright.

However, although the blow could have been deadlier, sloppy baserunning, the kind that runs teams out of rallies, was the Mets bane as Castro, on his go-ahead single, turned too far around first, and Hernández picked up a loose relay throw near the plate and threw to first before Castro could get back. Later in the inning, Miguel Cairo flied to Guillen in right, and Anderson inexplicably broke for third base. Guillen made the catch and lobbed the ball to second for an easy double play. And just like that, the inning that should have blown the game wide open was over with a mere 4-3 lead. Hardly comforting against a comeback team like the Nats.

But the Mets proved resilient, thanks to the almost-forgotten Aaron Heilman.

In the bottom of the frame, David Wright's well-meaning but oft-misguided glove did some damage with one out and Glavine cruising, putting a man on. Glavine allowed a little meltdown thereafter, walking two batters to load the bases with two outs which is when Manager Willie decided that after 101 pitches, Glavine was gassed and Heilman was to play the hero.

Heilman induced the deadly Jose Guillen to an inning-ending groundout and thereafter, shut the Nats down for two more innings before Looper was brought in to earn his 19th save of the season.


The Mets remain buyers, for now anyway, according to Omar.

But if they turn sellers, last night's starter might be one of the first to go. Insidepitch magazine has an interesting Q&A With Glavine who apparently still believes 300 wins are a possibility. After last night, his 268th career victory, he needs another 32 which, going by his numbers with the Mets, would equal at least three more seasons. If he pitches until he's 50, there's always a chance...


This afternoon, Mets Pitcher-of-the-Month for June, Kris Benson (6-3 3.75) takes the mound for the Mets against righty Tony Armas (4-4 5.27). Armas is 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA against the Mets in 10 career starts against them. Benson has a 5.10 ERA away from Shea but a 2.73 ERA in day games. A win would put the Mets a game over .500 heading for Pittsburgh and a "mere" 8 games behind the Nats for the lead. More importantly, a semblance of momentum, taking 3 of 4 from the Nats. However a loss will have an equally powerful effect and would play right into their typical up and down performance all season.


Pedro Out-Pedro'd By Esteban, Mets Rally Falls Short

It isn't often you can say that Pedro was out-pitched by his opponent. Then again, the way these Mets hit, any opposing pitcher is a potential no-hitter spinner and any opposing pitcher is a potential Pedro.

Last night, over the course of seven innings, Pedro allowed eight hits, walked one, hit one batter and struck out six which was hardly a Pedroesque performance in itself but for most teams, most nights, should have been sufficient to earn a victory.

Last night for 8 long and excruciating innings, Esteban Loaiza held the Mets scoreless and allowed them a mere 5 hits. Granted, you could note that these days, the Mets batting order is hardly formidable, as yet another night of more strikeouts than hits would attest to, but even after waking up in the 9th inning to produce a two run rally, the Mets still fell short and dropped a crucial game against the Nats 3-2.

It was Pedro's third loss of the season and the 7th time the Mets have lost a game in which Pedro started. In five of those seven losses, the Mets lost by a mere run.

So the Mets are yet again back under .500 in this cat and mouse game of mediocrity, back to a double digit margin in the basement and back to bemoaning the wretched state of the batting order.

In the 9th inning last night the Mets had a chance, with two outs and David Wright on third, to tie the game against the National League's best closer. With the .311-hitting replacement first baseman Chris Woodward sporting a swollen knee due to fouling a ball off it on Monday and having struck out three times already in the game, Manager Willie decided to go the bench for a bat. The .087 bat of Brian Daubach.

Let's read that line again sportsfans. An .087 hitter was brought in to pinch hit with two outs, a man on third and the game on the line.

Why not bring in Kris Benson to pinch hit? He's hitting .316 this season. Even Kaz Ishii, who pitched the night before, was available and he's hitting a comparatively robust .263.

Predictably, Daubach's pop up to the shortstop ended the game and added another notch to the Mets loss total.

In their last three games, the Mets haven't been able to score before the seventh inning. Last night, the first four hitters in the order went 2 for 16 and the cleanup hitter, "All-Star" Mike Piazza is 2-for-22 without an RBI in his last six games, 0-for-his-last-13. The problem of whom to hit where is almost moot in that no matter where manager Willie seems to put them, with little variance, the Mets have virtually no penchant for any kind of consistent hitting.

Thus, another positive pitching performance is wasted. Another loss is generated, another game added to the deficit the Mets will have to make up in the second half if they are to have any hope of competing for the wild card.

So far this Mets season has looked like a long learning curve with an even longer horizon of plate mediocrity in between. Without bringing on at least one hitter who can get on base consistently and without another hitter to knock men in consistently, the season is bordering now on the lost, a magnificent menagerie of flubs, miscues, strikeouts and blown opportunities.

The time is neigh upon Omar to get busy and inject some life into the lifeless batting order of the Mets lest the season be lost before the second half of it even begins.


Don't expect any further miracles of capitulation from the Nats tonight. Their ace, Livan Hernandez (12-2, 3.32) is not only looking for his 12th consecutive win, but is 2-0 with a 2.40 against the Mets in three starts against them this season.

By contrast, the Mets will offer up Tom Glavine (5-7 4.95) and pray for rain perhaps.


Back In The Saddle: Mets Drop Nats on 4th of July

Archie Bunker's Army returned from the Scottish Highlands just in time to hear the final three innings of an exciting 4th of July Met comeback over the Washington Nationals last night, 5-2.

We didn't miss much in the interim: 2 out of 3 against the Phils, 1 out of 3 against the Marlins, a perfectly Met-like 3-3 whilst we were away.

Last night the Mets were able to make an unlikely comeback against a team in the Nats that has been on a wild run over the last month, has won 6 straight and have been on the verge of cracking open the NL East like a free range egg and frying their league rivals. The Mets had already fallen opening a huge lead in the NL East in the late innings who has a habit of winning in the late innings.

The Nats had been on a 6 game winning streak, had been 29-10 at home and 22-7 in one-run games whilst the Mets had fallen 10 full games behind them as they neared the All Star break so this series and indeed, this victory, come at a very opportune moment.

However, as the Mets trademark this season has been inconsistency our hopes will not rise too high just yet, not even with Pedro starting against the Nats tonight. Especially considering that even last night's victory came with the injury-riddled Nats playing with only three regulars in the lineup.


The urgency of the Mets struggles at the plate began to show as Manager Willie did some shuffling of the order, knocking Reyes to 7th, hitting Cameron lead-off and having Beltran bat 2nd in the order.

You can't really say it was much of a factor. The Mets, who had been on yet another run-less run, this time of 19 consecutive innings, were unable to put any on the board against Nat starter John Patterson other than two hits through 6 innings until Patterson tired and the Mets were able to manage a pair in the 7th.

From there, Nats reliever Sun Woo Kim blew the game in the 9th when he allowed Reyes to single, steal second and get driven home by pinch-hitter Jose Offerman (and here was a twist, I had to admit although I vaguely recalled Offerman's signing a few months back, with his strikeout ratio and crap batting average, I would never really expected to see him flourish as a pinch-hitter, but there you go...) before Mike Cameron doubled to score Offerman and then Beltran singled to score Cameron and all of the sudden, the Mets were high-steppin' with a 5-2 lead.

On another bright note, Kaz Ishii had his best start since late May, allowing five hits and two runs in 5 1-3 innings. Again, this should be noted in the vein of the Nats starting only three regulars due to injury but a good start is a good start and given the Mets recent hitting woes, a strong outing by the starter was imperative to keep the Mets in the game.


These are just quick notes as the unpacking from the trip hasn't even begun but I shouldn't mind pointing out the shock I registered when reading that the Mets had three All-Stars. Three! And not one of them was Cliff Floyd, the only guy on the team other than Pedro who even merits consideration.

I was shocked at the Piazza bid. Is there such a dearth of catchers in the NL that Piazza, who has had a miserable season to date, deserved such an honour? Granted, his offensive numbers, after a slow start, are virtually identical to Carlos Beltran's and regardless of how much I look forward to seeing Beltran blossom, he hasn't yet, and certainly doesn't deserve to start on the All Star team, all things being equal.

Cliffy, on the other hand, the only Met with anything even remotely resembling All-Star numbers, was snubbed. Go figure. Fan voting has always been a puzzling mixture of stupidity and misguided sentimentality.

But I'll save that rant for another page as well as the coming-soon-to-theatres-near-you review of the first half of the New Mets season.


On the heels of their unlikely victory over the league-leading Nats (Ishii starting against the best team in the NL outside of St Louis and the Mets down 2-0 going into the 7th), we will now put Pedro on the mound to try his luck as he goes for his 10th win of the season.

He faces the enigmatic righty Esteban Loaiza, (4-5, 3.81), who was 3-1 with a 4.33 ERA in June. In his only appearance against the Mets this season he walked 5 in 5 innings and earned the loss.

The Mets are now 4-3 for July and are back at .500 for the season, 9 games behind the Nats for the NL East lead.