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.

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