Half Game Away: What A Difference A Year Makes

"We've got a lot of young guys on that field. On the positive side of it, they don't really understand what's at stake." - Cliff Floyd, finger on the pulse of the Mets success.

Isn't it nice when someone else's bullpen blows it for the night?

Just listen to the disgust from Philly's Daily News in the aftermath:

"As they entered their 22-game stretch against playoff contenders, the Phillies needed to be sharp in every aspect. They knew this.

They were anything but...The Phillies stranded two runners in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. That is their chronic problem. Only the Diamondbacks have stranded more runners."

Come from behind, 6-4 victory for the Mets. It isn't hard to imagine the shoe being on the other foot.

(Charlie Manuel lets Fieldin Culbreth have it over Culbreth's call of Kenny Lofton out at homeplate, who tried to score on Chase Utley's single in the fifth inning. Manuel was ejected from the game by Culbreth.)

I wondered if it could have gone the other way. In fact, I thought about this after Cliff Floyd struck out in the 7th with the bases nearly loaded, down 4-2, the whim of the baseball gods or the cumulative synergy of the season reigning down upon the field like an early evening thundershower. I thought about it early in the game when Seo had appeared to lose his mystical, magical touch.

I thought about Carlos Beltran stepping up - his furious performance when it counted last season almost propelled the Astros to the World Series and here he was in the opening game of the Mets biggest stretch of games all season, going 3 for 3, walking, driving in a run with a single, driving a homerun, throwing out a runner at the plate. Quality.

And yet more importantly, fueling this sudden run we have been waiting for all season was once again, a backup: Ramon Castro, replacing the almost-forgotten Mike Piazza hits the three-run homer that seals it for the Mets and you recall that this is what fuels the historical sagas of sports: the nowhere men popping up into the spotlight to suddenly become the somewhere men. Victor Diaz, Jae Seo, Mike Jacobs, Ramon Castro, Señor Hernandez (can we honestly say we expected this kind of season from him to anchor the flimsy bullpen?) and the multitude of contributions from our unsung bench, the best pinch hitters in baseball.

And yet, the Mets, 18-4 in their home openers so perhaps we shouldn't allow ourselves to get into too much of a tizzy about this opening victory. There are still two more against these resiliant Phillies and then the deadly road trip.

But for a night anyway, we can rejoice that it was not our bullpen that failed tonight, it was theirs and although you can view success from the point of the winners, you must also give thought to the success gained because of the failure of the others.


We could have all been writing about Seo allowing more runs in the first 1 2/3 innings - four - than he had in his last five big-league starts combined.

We could have all been writing about Floyd's big K in the 7th that gutted what seemed to be the rally we were waiting for and his 0 for 4 night in general.

Instead, we can note that Reyes, Beltan, Wright, Diaz and Castro went a combined 10 for 18 at the plate, scored six times and drove in five runs collectively.


The others in the wild card chase all won: The Marlins managed to beat the Cardinals to move into a tie with the Phillies for the top spot in the WC lead. The Astros beat the surging Reds and the Phillies of course, lost their 29th game to a National League East rival, the most intra-divisional losses of any team.


Kudos to the NY Post for jumping on the Met bandwagon quickly with a clever headline:
Mets Celebrate Ramon Holiday.


Whilst all this goes on, Mike Piazza nurses his disabled limb by giving the horns (gracias a Mets Blog) - I saw Mike Cameron in the dugout wearing his Mets jersey and rooting on the team - did anyone see Piazza out there?

I'm rather disappointed to see him busier playing playing rock critic diva than playing catcher and hitting homers for the Mets but I guess that's what the career has boiled down towards the end. He's got his All-Time Homers For A Catcher record. I hope he goes to the Hall of Fame in a Marlins cap. Bitter? Naah. I just can't get it out of my head that he compare meeting Rush Limbaugh to meeting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, General Douglas MacArthur and the Pope.

By the way, if you hadn't heard, busy as he is, Piazza managed to make it as the starting catcher on the All Porn Mustache Team (as did Manager Willie, cha!)


The easiest preview of all for tonight's game comes from The Sports Network:

"A pair of fire-throwing righthanders will face off this evening in the Big Apple, as Philadelphia's Brett Myers and New York's Pedro Martinez will attempt to get their respective teams a leg up in the hotly contested NL wild card race.

Martinez is 1-0 over his last two starts and is working on a 12-inning scoreless streak. The 33-year-old allowed just two hits through six frames versus Arizona last Thursday, fanning six and walking four. Martinez is tops in the majors in WHIP (0.89), while ranking second in the NL in BAA (.192), third in strikeouts (182) and sixth in ERA (2.77).

Martinez has been dominant against the Phillies this season, registering a 2-0 mark with a 2.08 ERA in two starts. For his career, Martinez is 7-3 with a 2.59 ERA versus Philadelphia.

Myers is 1-0 over his last two starts, including a no-decision versus Arizona last Friday. In that game, Myers was limited to just four innings, allowing four hits and three runs while fanning and walking four. Myers was pulled early by Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel due to his ineffectiveness. The 25-year-old has still won five of his last six decisions overall.

Myers is 5-5 with a 6.19 ERA in his lifetime versus the Mets. This year, Myers is 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA against New York."


Met Bats Stay Silent Against Giants

Did we really need those 32 runs in 2 games against the Diamondbacks? Couldn't we have saved a few for the Giants?

On the heels of a five game winning streak, the Mets lost their second consecutive game to the hapless San Francisco Giants, this time by a 4-1 margin. They scored a total of three runs in their three game series yet miraculously, managed to win at least the series opener.

Seemingly relaxed David Wright and why not? Unlike his teammates, Wright is still hitting: He batted .481 with three homers and 10 runs during the road trip.

Giants starter Noah Lowry allowed five hits while striking out six in eight innings while the Mets, fielding a watered-down batting order without Cliff Floyd, Mike Piazza and phenom Mike Jacobs, went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. They are now hitless in their last 24 times up with men in scoring position.

Now they return to New York after consecutive losses to begin a stretch against their National League East rivals. Nevertheless, a 5-2 road trip was nothing to sneeze at.

"Definitely disappointed with how it finished up, but you look at the big picture," David Wright said. "This was a very strong road trip for us and now we need to get some rest [today] and gear up for a big month ahead."

Kris Benson returned to the rotation after a week off and but for a rotten 6th inning in which he appeared to tire (until you witnessed his tantrum in the dugout after being pinch-hit for) and allowed two homeruns and three runs total, may have assuaged some concerns about the state of his health going into the biggest leg of their season.

The Mets lone run came in the top of the 6th when, a half inning after his diving catch saved a run, Carlos Beltran got his first extra base hit since returning from his crash with Cameron, a double. He eventually scored when Lowry's wild pitch on strike three to Woodward escaped Mike Matheny to give the Mets the 1-0 lead they promptly blew in the bottom of the 6th.

Fortunately for the Mets, the Phillies, Astros, Marlins and Nats all lost meaning they lost no ground in the NL Wildcard chase. They did fall to 6 games behind the Braves for the increasingly distant NL East lead.


The Mets play host to the Phillies in a three-game series starting Tuesday, and they plan to pitch Jae Seo, Pedro Martínez and Tom Glavine.

Trachsel will be kept in the bullpen as reward for his brilliant opening outing of the season and Victor Zambrano will be saved for Friday in Florida, where he has a history of success.

In the NL WC race, The Braves will host the Nats, the Marlins host the Cardinals, the Astros host the streaking Reds and the Phillies of course, will be at Shea.


A Day Without Heroics

Admit it, you were getting spoiled for awhile there, weren't you?

Five straight road games, five straight wins was a nice run but having scored only two runs in their first two games of this series, the streak was bound to come to an end as the Mets fell one hero short of a victory.

Last night with the Giants' Jason Schmidt pitching just well enough to outduel Tom Glavine, the Mets were beaten 2-1 when they only managed four hits and did nothing with the six walks Giant pitchers surrendered.

Ironically, it was former Mets closer Armandogeddon, earning his 250th career save, who got the final out after Victor Diaz doubled with two out in the 9th and Jose Offerman walked to put the go-ahead run on base before Chris Woodward's fly ball to centerfield feel short of a dramatic homer.

Wright In A Less Heroic Moment After Striking Out In 9th Against Armandogeddon

Back in the 7th, you could feel momentum swing once and for all in the game when the Mets failed to capitalise on a visibly-tiring Schmidt who, after walking the bases loaded, was able to induce Jose Reyes to bloop weakly to second base and end the biggest Mets threat of the game. Reyes had previously tripled in the third inning and had scored the lone Mets run.

Tom Glavine earned a loss despite allowing four hits and two runs.


Fortunately for the Mets, the Phillies lost 2-0 to the Diamondbacks so no ground was lost in the wildcard race. The Houston Astros lost 8-3 to the Dodgers, and the Nats were shut out by the Cardinals.

The Marlins and Braves both won which means the Mets are five games out of the NL East race again but still only one and a half games behind the Phillies in the NL Wildcard.


Next up, Kris Benson, who was rested after last Sunday's horrific outing against the Nats, has started seven games against the Giants in his career and is 1-5 with a 4.57 ERA. He will face Noan Lowry, 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA and 27 strikeouts in August. Looking like another low scoring game for the Mets. How will we feel returning to Shea after back-to-back losses?


Ace Up The Sleeve: Trachsel Shuts Out Giants in Return

Five months after disc herniation and back surgery, not having pitched in the Majors in nearly 11 months and having seen limited rehab duty in the minors, no one was quite sure what to expect from Steve Trachsel on Friday night when he faced the Giants.

Steve Trachsel
1993 Bowman #172
Rookie Card

There is little doubt however that many would have expected eight innings of two-hit shutout pitching, including 5 2/3 no-hitting innings to start the game, Trachsel's reentry into the Mets starting rotation. And after the 1-0 win, their fifth win in a row on the road, now a mere four games behind the Atlanta Braves and one and a half behind the Phillies for the NL Wildcard, it might be officially whispered that the Mets are running the table in a way they've been waiting for all season long.

"He made tons of big pitches," Giants manager Felipe Alou said of Trachsel's debut. "It is hard to believe that a guy making his first start would be so sharp. You do not find a guy throwing eight innings on his first start."

It was a good thing Trachsel made certain that David Wright's monster blast in the 2nd inning and the 1-0 lead stood up throughout the course of the game because the Mets were only able to muster seven hits off Kevin Correia. But Trachsel held out for eight innings, the eighth being the scariest when he retired Randy Winn with runners on first and third and two outs on a fly ball to center on his 108th pitch of the night and everyone listening was busy second-guessing Manager Willie for leaving Trachsel in too long.

That was before Bradon Looper was given another chance to put our hearts in our mouths with yet another hysterical, scattershot performance that saw a lead off 9th inning double by Omar Vizquel before three consecutive groundouts to finally finish the game off.

What we've got now is a real battle on our hands, a real dilemma for the coaching staff and by far the deepest rotation in baseball.

No one really knows how this calculus will settle in the end. They now have six capable starters. Both Trachsel and Zambrano are uncertain yet occasionally brilliant fifth starters or bullpen fodder. Seo has risen from the ashes to put on pitching clinic after pitching clinic. Glavine has found his brilliance of old in the strike zone with only 4 walks in his last 7 starts and 11 starts with at least six plus innings allowing three runs or less. Benson, rested for a game before he will return in the finale against the Giants on Sunday, should return to the form he has held all season and Pedro, dear Pedro, will be watched in every drop of sports page ink for signs of fatigue.

The bullpen, a house of cards with every night a potentially spectacular implosion, is still the Achilles heel of the team. With no lefties in the pen, in a unique twist, the Mets will use righties with a good record pitching against lefties instead of traditional lefty on lefty matchups late in games.


Today, Glavine will face Giants' traditional ace Jason Schmidt as the Mets attempt to twist another victory out of this thus far, perfect road trip.


This victory, coupled with the Brewers' defeat of the Braves, has tightened the NL East race further still. The Phillies gave another kick to the Diamondbacks, 11-3 whilst the Nats, Marlins and Astros all won to keep the NL Wildcard race a complete toss up.



With a four-game sweep on the line against the Diamondbacks, Pedro Martinez began the first inning, as he often does, on a less-than stellar note. He walked Craig Counsell and after getting Chad Tracy to fly out, watched Ramon Castro throw out Counsell trying to steal second base only to then hit Luis Gonzalez and walk Tony Clark.

But then he struck out Troy Glaus to end the inning and thereinafter, summoned his vintage Pedro, striking out the side in the 2nd and holding on to another flirtation with a no-hitter until Gonzalez's one out single in the 6th.

He finished his night after 100 pitches having allowed only two hits and no runs in six innings of work and left with a 2-0 lead. Victor Diaz drove in two runs with a sac fly and a solo homer in the second inning. For a change, the bullpen held the lead for him and afforded Pedro his 13th victory of the season against five losses. The erratic Bradon Looper earned his 26th save of the season with a scoreless 9th inning.

After two nights consecutive nights of hitting hedonism, Met bats returned to normal with only six hits and three runs on the night but it was sufficient as they went on to win 3-1 and complete their four game sweep of the Diamondbacks in Arizona.

Either it is the disabled bats of the Diamondbacks or Mets starters really are that good. In the course of the sweep, Glavine, Zambrano, Seo and Pedro combined to allow a total of only four runs in 29 innings. For those of you counting at home, that's a 1.26 ERA. Pitching and defense win ballgames, so it is alleged, and while the defense is suspect at times, the starting pitching has been superb.

In doing so they also pulled within one and a half games of Philadelphia, which was idle Thursday, in the National League wild-card race, and they remained in a third-place tie with Florida in the National League East.

The Mets' last four-game sweep was Aug. 15-18, 2003, against Colorado at Shea Stadium.


With the unusual four-game sweep in hand, the Mets can now turn their attention to San Francisco and the Bonds-less Giants.

Tonight Steve Trachsel is scheduled to make his 2005 debut, returning after undergoing lower back surgery in March. He had a 1-1 record in two starts against the Giants last season and has an 8-4 record and 2.75 ERA against them in 18 career starts.

He will face Kevin Correia, RHP (2-4, 4.86).

On Saturday, Tom Glavine, who has won three of his last four starts and has a 2.19 ERA over the last 37 innings pitched, will duel against Giants ace Jason Schmidt who is 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA in August and has won four of his last five decisions.

Sunday series finale will pit the rumoured sore-shouldered Kris Benson on extra rest against Noah Lowry, LHP (10-11, 3.81). Lowry is now 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA and 27 strikeouts in August, and his 1.45 post-All-Star break ERA leads the Majors.

Two hot and tough pitchers for the Giants will be a stern test for the newly confident Mets while the Mets have two question marks pitching for them in Trachsel and Benson.

They will be hard-pressed to win this series, momentum or not, even though the Giants are just 55-71 on the season. Since Aug. 4, the Giants have played in a strict sequence of wins and losses:

Three wins, three losses. Two wins, two losses. Three wins, three losses. Two wins, two losses. They sit eight games behind the Padres in the NL West.

Second baseman Ray Durham has been hot since the All-Star break, hitting .342 with 22 RBIs.


Meanwhile, the NL Wildcard chase, the Marlins will travel to Chicago to face the floundering Cubs. The Nats will host the NL-best St Louis Cardinals. The Braves travel to Milwaukee to diminsh the Brewers. The Phillies get their turn against the Diamondbacks and the Astros will travel to LA to face the Dodgers.


Mets Set New Road Standard, Pound D'Backs 18-4

The Mets home may be Shea Stadium and they may have had taken turns looking miserable all around the country on the road this season but it would appear, given three games, three victories and a 32-5 run margin over their last two games alone, that the Mets and Bank One Ballpark are new-found friends.

The argument could be made that at 58-69, the Diamondbacks are not exactly playoff fodder and this perhaps would explain in part why the Mets suddenly look like an offensive road juggernaut as opposed to the mincing, feeble powderpuffs they've more closely resembled on the road this season up until now. But something more protean would appear to be at work over these Mets these last several days since they left Shea. They've developed a swagger.

All season long one of the more conspicuous absences from the lineup has been a power bat from first base. Ever since the failed effort to sign Carlos Delgado was painted over with the quick signing of Doug Mientkiewicz, first base has been a merry-go-round of powerless, low-rent production. Mets first basemen have knocked in 46 runs this season, by far the fewest in the major leagues, and they have hit 14 homers, among the fewest in the majors. In five games, Jacobs is hitting .538 with nine runs batted in.

For the moment at least, it appears the Mets catcher of the future, Mike Jacobs, might be well on his way to becoming the Mets first baseman of the future and his two homers last night, fourth in four games, were part of the spark of an offensive explosion so immense it nearly blighted out all the road failings of the season.

In addition to Jacobs' wild night, Jose Reyes had three hits, including his ML-leading 13th triple, his 6th homerun of the season (which give him 3 in his last six games) and four RBIs from the leadoff spot. Mike Cameron-replacement Victor Diaz had "only" two hits, but both of them were doubles. Mike Piazza-replacement Ramon Castro also had a pair of doubles, scored three runs and drove in a pair. And David Wright, who is replacing no one but creating a rapidly growing All Star portfolio at third base, had a pair of homeruns, four hits and scored four times.

Christ, even Kaz Matsui had three hits.

All told, they had a season-high hit total with 20 and set franchise records for total bases with 44 and extra-base hits with 13 which is normally the sort of production they get combined out of a six game series on the road, all rolled into one spectacular night of fireworks, confidence, shock and awe.

So, what do we make of these reformed Mets, these Mets who have not only taken the first three from the Diamondbacks but have done in such a brilliant and convincing fashion the rest of the National League suddenly has to take notice?

It's becoming evident that the infamous Cameron-Beltran collision in San Diego on August 11th, which we all knew would either unite or divide the Mets, has had magical qualities of renewal for these Mets. They've won 8 of 12 since that collision. They have persevered all season, mustered just enough to keep their heads above .500 and unlike the rest of their rivals for the NL wildcard, have yet to experience the sort of spine-tingling run of victories necessary to set a team out from the pack.

But that moment may fast be approaching. The starting pitching is coming together, the hitting is coming together and player contributions are coming from everywhere; under rocks, from the skies, in the drinking water. In short, the Mets have become a team and whilst they have done so, they finally look as though they are ready to run a string of victories of their own.

Magically lost in this sudden hitting hubris was the continued, mystical performance of Jae Seo, who like Jacobs, has been pulled out of a hat to perform miracles, boost the team's energy when it was sagging and more importantly, provide the Mets with a key ingredient to any playoff run: more pitching.

Seo, as he has done in all his outings since returning to the team from AAA, was brilliant, taking a scoreless effort into the 7th inning last night before allowing two runs which increased his ERA since his return to 0.89 ERA. Seo's performances have been like a cortisone injection to a painfully inflamed joint.

But what does it all mean?

Well, with a road trip consisting of Atlanta, Florida and St Louis still looming like a deadly warship on the horizon, it doesn't mean much yet. Three consecutive road victories, for a team that has wallowed away from home in a collective sort of somnambulstic stupor, is quite an accomplishment. Exploding for 32 runs in two games whilst getting quality pitching is also something to take notice of.

The Mets would appear to be finding themselves, or perhaps more precisely, they have found themselves already and for a team that has struggled to define itself all season, this may be just that moment when it all begins to fall into place.

On the other hand, you can't help but worry that this illusory moment of production, this heady swathe of three straight road victories, is merely another taunting form of success we dare not dream of. Just as mysteriously as the Mets have found themselves, they might lose themselves again and two or three games later, they might be looking at a similar losing streak because well, that's how the Mets season has been so far.

But if you believe in momentum, it would appear the Mets are beginning to gain it, the "x" factor of faith, action and achievement. This could be the beginning of a long dynasty, the "New Mets" we have craved since Spring Training, since the monumental signings of Pedro and Carlos Beltran.

I for one, am willing to suspend disbelief. That the offense has thrived in spite of losing two veteran bats in Cameron and Piazza from the lineup is significant for it is precisely these contributions coming from unexpected places which define a team making a playoff run, the unpredictable yet equally spread out success of one player, then another whilst the hands of Pedro, Cliff Floyd and David Wright have steadied the Mets through their most turbulent times, are all signs that something greater is ahead of us.

This is a team that had numerous opportunities to quit this season and the Cameron-Beltran collision, followed shortly be the demoralising loss on the heels of Pedro's almost-no hitter, should have broken the Mets collective backs and spirit. But it didn't. What hasn't killed them, as the auld axiom goes, has made them stronger.

Strong enough to make the playoffs this season? Possibly. It just might happen.


Pedro takes the mound tonight against another former Expo, Javier Vasquez, the Pedro-Light as the Mets attempt to sweep the entire four game series from the Diamondbacks.


Mets Tempting Fate With 14-1 Bashing of D'Backs

"I feel a different energy right now. If you are a manager you're attuned to your team, and I feel good about [the road trip]." - Willie Randolph, as they began their seven-game road trip out West.

"We're playing great and we're playing hard," said game hero Ramon Castro after last night's victory. "We never give up. We're a team, so we're playing together, and right now we're a winner."

Right now, yes. They are winners.

Last night, second game into a road trip that seemed destined to dismantle their season, the Mets finally pushed past five victories over .500 for the first time all season with a lopsided 14-1 steamrolling of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Believe it or not, this is the first time since May 18, 2002!, that their record was at least five games above .500 - that's over three years of the combination of mediocrity and misery felled with one victory. They'd tried to do it two other times this season, June 8th and July 25th and both times they ended up with a loss. So this, symbolically anyway, was a beeeeeg victory.

Victor Zambrano, with Steve Trachsel breathing down his neck, threw eight innings of six-hit, one-run baseball and win his 7th game of the season against 10 losses.

In the meantime, the Mets pounded out 17 hits (most all season in a 9 inning game) and 14 runs in support. The roll call of success was long:

Rookie Mike Jacobs, the Mets future catcher who might possibly have solved the Mets season-long vacuum at first base, had his second homerun in three games, two hits in three at-bats and raised his average to .375, production unheard of from first base all season.

David Wright who, despite the occasionally annoying propensity for errors, continues to fulfill even the highest expectations, went three for three, scored four runs, stole his 14th base of the season and drove in a pair with a pair of doubles. He continues to burn through August with a .370 batting average, a .460 OBP and 24 RBIs in 20 games.

Jose Reyes hit his 12th triple of the season tying Florida's Juan Pierre for the NL lead and had two hits in four at-bats and, after a brief stretch of getting only one hit in 16 at-bats has now had 10 hits in his last 22 at-bats over the last five games (a .454 clip).

And Piazza fill-in Ramon Castro had a spectacular night, driving in five runs with a triple and a double. It was his third game this season that he drove in three or more runs all by himself.


Atlanta, Florida, Nats and Houston all lost games lats night but the Phillies thumped the Giants meaning the Mets are now tied with the Nats for the bottom of the NL East, just 5 1/2 behind the Braves. They are two games behind the Phillies for the NL Wildcard, tied with the Nats, a game behind Florida and a game and a half behind the Astros.

Of these teams, it is important to note that only the Mets have yet to have a prolonged hot streak this season. If they were to do so now, they could easily take the NL Wildcard and possible, the NL East.


Trachsel is scheduled to start Friday night in San Francisco, bumping Benson to Sunday, which was supposed to be Zambrano's next start.

Danny Graves, who had a 5.89 earned run average in 17 games, was designated for assignment meaning if he clears waivers he could be back down in the minors unless there is another MLB team desperate enough to give him a chance. Good riddance. Better still, this roster move allows the Mets to keep ahold of Mike Jacobs. Hmmmm. Must have been a tough roster move. A reliever who doesn't reliever or a young, versatile catcher/1B on a hitting tear.


Jae Seo (5-1 1.09) gets another turn tonight, this time facing veteran Russ Ortiz. Ortiz is making his third start since being activated from the disabled list. He was on the DL for two months with a stress fracture in his right rib cage. He has allowed 18 earned runs in his last 14 innings pitched over three starts (including the one prior to going on the DL).


Glavine Guides Mets To Rare Road Victory

Like an amnesia patient gradually recalling a past life, Tom Glavine, Met, is finally starting to remember how to pitch like Tom Glavine, Brave.

Allowing only five hits and a lone run in eight innings of seemingly-forgotten artistry, Glavine lifted his record back to .500 (10-10) and lifted the Mets to their 64th victory of the season and their 5th in the last 7 games with a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Since the beginning of July, Glavine has made 10 starts, has a 2.97 ERA and a 5-3 record to show for it. not to mention four earned runs over his last 22 innings pitched.

"He’s throwing cutters," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "He’s throwing into left-handers, throwing changeups to left-handers, and it used to be just sinkers and changeups away for effect and go back out there. He’s pitching in a lot more and he’s manipulating the baseball off his fastball."

Last night he threw 113 pitches and had retired 14 in a row at one point before reluctantly surrendering the ball to the unstable closer Bradon Looper with a narrow 3-1 lead, probably expecting another near-victory of his to be lost in some enigmatic odyssey by the bullpen.

But Looper stayed the course, earned his three outs and the save and the Mets began a seven-game road trip with a rare victory to put them 2 1/2 games off the pace from the Astros for the NL Wildcard.

Using an oddly configured lineup with catching future Mike Jacobs starting at first base, Mike DiFelice catching and Kaz Matsui making his first start at second base since the rule of Go-Fushimi, the Mets scored twice in the first after Kaz Matsui singled with one out and Webb walked Carlos Beltran behind him. Floyd followed with a double into the right-field corner.

Jose Reyes later showed muscle again like barring his teeth, (power and speed together?)with a homerun and the Mets were on their way to a road victory.

Say it slowly. Road victory. Exhale.

Only about 16 more of them to go.


Steve Trachsel is back on the Mets although instead of giving the proverbial boot to the unpredictable Victor Zambrano they will use Trachsel for what can only be politiely termed as bullpen duty, ie; mop up, slop up, clean up after Zambrano now that Ishii is a distant memory, and perhaps the occasional Benson horrific outing and maybe even spell Pedro after the fifth inning of most starts to save him down the stretch. Who knows? Perhaps neither Trachsel nor Zambrano cleared waivers but one thing is inescapable:

The Mets don't need 6 starters. Pity they can't use one to get a power hitting first baseman.

Tonight, Zambrano gets a chance to demonstrate that he either belongs in the rotation or mucking stalls in the bullpen. He will face Claudio Vargas, RHP (7-6, 4.47), picked up on waivers by the Diamondbacks in early June, has won his last three starts. Considering Zambrano is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in his last two starts, this combination doesn't look promising.

Who knows, maybe Trachsel will be on in "emergency conditions" before the 3rd inning after Zambrano has walked 8 batters, hit four and given up 10 runs.


Apparently, You Can't Win Them All. Mets Drop Finale To Nats, 7-4

It wasn't a perfect homestand, taking four of six from the Pirates and Nats. But coming on the heels of a disasterous road trip (and in the Mets lexicon disasterous and road trip are synonyms), it was soothing tonic. Trouble is, another road trip out West is looming ominously again and unless the Mets figure out a way to pack up their Shea Success and bring it on their road show, the season's dreams are going to come to a rather quick and painful end shortly.

How can we be so pessimistic?

After all, aren't these the Mets who keep picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, getting back in the box just when you thought they couldn't possible do so again?

But we've all heard the litany of the Mets Road Woes recited verse and chapter, week after week like a self-fulfilling prophesy. We've seen the gloom and doom forecast and even the schedule (7 games out West against the Giants and Diamondbacks, one series at home against the Phillies and then away series' against the Braves, Marlins and Cardinals). Enough to make any road wussy queasy.

But that's tomorrow's worry.

Yesterday's game was about Kris Benson.

In Benson's last two starts, both wins, he allowed just three runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Yesetrday, he allowed three runs to the first six batters and faced 10 batters overall in the first inning against the Nationals yesterday. Eight of them got hits. Six of them scored. Benson left after two-thirds of an inning, the shortest outing of his career.

On the heels of nearly blowing a game in which you held an 8-0 lead, it seems rather ambitious to imagine that you could come from 6-0 behind the following day.

We can't really say that the Mets almost did it.

Yeah, there was rookie Mike Jacobs, pinch hitting in his first major-league at-bat, hitting a three-run home run to right to make it 7-3.

But too much of this:

Called Striking Out With the Bases Loaded in the 8th

But two out of three against your divisional rivals is not bad, even at home and even though a three game sweep would have been better. Just imagine if they'd lost that game on Saturday instead of pulling it out in the 10th. Two losses in a row at home just prior to a road trip and Mets Woes would be at their worst.

Instead, after four winnig four of six the Mets can scoff a little at Benson's outing, blame it on the odds or fate or the rare event, like a solar eclipse, when the Nationals bats finally came to life with a vengeance. When you think about it, the Nats scored a total of 14 runs in three innings over two days and pretty much nothing in the other 25 innings.

And on the other bright side, the long-overdue DL experience for Mike Piazza in his grimacing hurrah, dying out his dog days as repayment for his selfish behaviour as a Met (and no, that shame will not equal his HOF career a few years down the road but at the moment, it still tastes bitter, a year and a half later), brings us Mike Jacobs, catcher of the Mets future.

Prior to being called up for some valuable playoff race experience thanks to Piazza's DL calling, in 433 at-bats with the AA Birmingham Mets, Jacobs batted .321 with 25 home runs, 37 doubles and 93 RBIs. Nearly half (64) of Jacobs' 139 hits went for extra bases.

Yesterday, after his three run pinch hit homer, he got his first Shea Stadium curtain call to add a little smile to an otherwise grimacing day.


The Mets get no break now, heading straight out to Arizone for a Monday game against the Diamondbacks. The Dbacks are 58-67 this season and probably out of the picture for both the wildcard and the NL West title but that wouldn't stop them from kicking the chair out from under the Mets.

Monday night may see Tom Glavine's ongoing battle to reach .500 this season come to a fortuitous end. Glavine has made eight starts at Bank One Ballpark, home of the Diamondbacks, and he has won seven of them.

However, he will be facing Brandon Webb (10-9, 3.89) --


Mets Escape Bullpen Meltdown

It started out as a beautiful day.

First came Ramon Castro's 3-run homer in the 2nd innning to give the Mets a comfortable 3-0 lead with Pedro on the mound.

Then in that same inning came Jose Reyes' 2-run homer which ended a 4 month homerless draught and gave the Mets a 5-0 with Pedro on the mound.

And even with Pedro's fastball only registering in the low 80s, when David Wright his yet another three run homer, this time in the 3rd inning, the Mets had an 8-0 lead with Pedro on the mound and the three homers represented 25% of the homeruns Nats starter Livan Hernandez had given up all season.

Indeed, a beautiful day.

Pedro's stiff lower back and the massive run advantage was plenty of reason for Manager Willie to pull Pedro after 78 pitches and give him some well deserved rest after 6 scoreless innings of work with only 4 strikeouts to show for it.

And then, the clouds came in.

Danny Graves, making just his fourth appearance of the month showed his rust and perhaps some of why a miserable team like the Reds got rid of him in the first place by giving up five runs in the seventh innning, yet only one of them earned, in a mere third inning of work following a Jose Reyes error, two hits and two walks.

Koo Koo Kachoog was also unable to fend off the 7th when he allowed a hit and another earned run to make the score 8-6 before Aaron Heilman finally came in to put the fires out.

Heilman pitched through the 8th, allowing only one hit in one and a third innings before giving way to closer Bradon Looper for the 9th inning to finish off the Nats after a little belch of indigestion. Heilman, by the way, has pitched in seven games during August and has allowed only one earned run in 11 innings of work, an 0.82 ERA, and one wonders if next spring he shouldn't be given a shot at the closer spot.

Because Looper nearly blew it again for the Mets in the 9th in what is rapidly becoming a familar yet ugly scene.

Looper gave up three hits and two earned runs in one lousy inning of work, just enough to allow the Nats to tie the game but not enough to blow it. Lucky us.

Let's play a little game called How Not To Be A Closer:

It's becoming the Bradon Looper game as, completely opposite of Heilman's sparkling numbers for August, by contrast Looper's ERA over this month is a gruesome 5.19 with a 1-2 record. He has blown only five saves all season but with Looper's constant trouble it always seems as though he's blown the game, even when he hasn't.

So there we were.

8-0 lead destroyed. Extra innings, bullpen wasted.

Chris Woodward's run-scoring pinch-hit single knocked Gerald Williams home with the winning run as the Mets rallied back to edge the Washington Nationals, 9-8, in 10 innings but this was too edgy, even for the Mets.

Instead of a laughter they were almost caught with a kidney punch.

But, as they say, no use worryin' about what ain't.

The Mets won the game, their third in a row and are right in the thick of everything all over again.


With the extra-inning victory, the Mets (63-59) inched to within a half-game of the Nationals, with an opportunity to overtake them in the NL East and the NL Wild Card race on Sunday. New York trails Philadelphia by two games for the league's fourth playoff berth, though Houston and Florida are also between Washington and Philly.


Seo Seo Good, He Almost Looks Like Pedro

If you blinked in the last several weeks of this season you might have missed the Freaky Friday exchange of bodies between Pedro and Jae Seo.

Last night against the Nats, rivals to the Mets in the NL East and the NL Wildcard race, Seo pitched Pedroesquely, shutting the Nats out for 8 straight innings and helping the Mets get the first leg up on the Nats with a brilliant 1-0 victory.

New York is 17-4 in series openers at home, tops in the majors.

Seo has allowed only 1 run in his last three starts over 23 1/3 innings and has a 3-0 record and a miniscule 0.30 ERA since returning from the minors to show for it. So good has he been that he is even out Pedro'ing Pedro himself.

In his own last three starts, Pedro has pitched 20 innings, allowed 10 earned runs (for a 4.50 ERA) and an 0-2 record.

We will have a chance to examine this phenomenom a little closer tonight when Pedro follows Seo on the mound and demonstrates his homemade Kimchi Bokkum bap whilst impressing us with his Korean banter in the clubhouse.

Last night of course, Seo was facing the lowest-scoring team in baseball but this again, was the kind of game the Mets routinely lose on the road. In fact, wasn't it just last Sunday on the road that Pedro had a no-hitter going into the 8th during another Met offensive lack of offence before blowing it all in a matter of pitches?

They waited until the bottom of the 7th to put a run up on the board in support of Seo. Piazza's replacement, Castro, doubled with one out and then scored when Mike Cameron's replacement, Victor Diaz, singled to give the Mets the only run they'd need. Once again, the Replacement Mets prevailed although the man who has played in the most games this season for the Mets, Jose Reyes, had a gem of a game himself.

Talk about streak hitting, Reyes had been 3 for 32 following his 20 game hitting streak and last night, broke out big-time, going four for four and stealing three bases: a terror all night who the Mets somehow failed to bring home. Reyes also helped turn the key double play of the night in the 9th to kill any Nat hopes for a rally.


The win moved the Mets (62-59) to within 2 1/2 games of the lead for National League Wild Card spot. New York trails division rivals Florida (64-57) and Philadelphia (65-58) by two games, and Washington (64-58) by 1 1/2 games, while Houston (65-57) holds the lead. The Mets remain in fifth place in the NL East, but their deficit to the division-leading Braves shrunk to 6 1/2 games Friday with Atlanta's 12-7 loss to San Diego.

Seo improved to 1-7 in 11 appearances against the Expos/Nationals franchise. ... The Mets have won 13 of their last 17 home games.

Carlos Beltran has been on base 8 times out of 12 since returning from the collision heard round the world and has stolen a base in each game. It's as though the reality of almost having his season ended prematurely has inspired him.

This, the emergence of Seo and Reyes, bode well for the Mets however before anyone gets too excited, let's not forget that following this series, the Mets will be on the road for five out of the next six series' and will have to face the Braves, Marlins and Cardinals in the road trip which will define their season.


Duke Of Hurl: Mets Blanked By Rookie

There were two moments in last night's game for the Mets, via Cliff Floyd, to assert themselves against a rookie pitcher on the mound and complete their sweep of the Pirates and both times, the rookie pitcher won and Cliff Floyd struck out.

The end result was a virtual no-show for the Mets, a 5-0 loss which dropped them back to only two games above .500.

But it wasn't Cliff's fault, it just seemed that way. Zach Duke, the Pirate phenom pitcher with the slow, deceptive motion that disguises a wicked overhand curveball and a sneaky low-90's fastball that cuts in on the hands of right-handed hitters, has still not lost yet this season and won his sixth straight game after allowing the Mets two measely hits over seven innings. He went to a three-ball count once against his first 21 hitters.

The Mets first baserunner didn't come until two outs in the fourth inning, when right fielder Nate McLouth dropped Carlos Beltran's routine fly ball. Up came Floyd, down went Floyd on strikeouts, ending the inning.

And then again, not until the seventh when Beltran singled for the Mets' other hit off Duke. Up came Floyd, down went Floyd, striking out on another 75 mph curve. When David Wright walked for yet another tic of hope, Chris Woodward, who broke up Duke's no-hitter in the 5th, hit into an inning-ending double play. And that was it for the Mets against Zach Duke.

His six straight wins is the longest streak by a Pirates rookie since Don Robinson won seven straight decisions in 1978.

Mets lost for the ninth time in 13 Victor Zambrano starts.

All in all, a predictable evening.

Ace versus...



With the loss, as uninspired as any this season, the Mets are three games from the wildcard lead now that the Astros lost their third straight and the Nats and Phillies split their doubleheader.

The race is tighter. The Phillies took over the wildcard lead, a half game ahead of the Nats and Astros. The Marlins remain a game back and the Mets of course, get their chance to effect the race when the open a three game series against the Washington Nationals tonight.

The Phillies host the Pirates, the Marlins host the Dodgers and the Astros will host the Brewers.

John Patterson (7-3) starts tonight against the Mets for the Nationals. He has no-decisions in two starts -- both Mets victories -- this season against New York. Patterson has allowed five earned runs in 12 innings against the Mets.

The Mets will put Jae Seo on the mound again, hoping for a continued run of his domination. The Nationals handed Seo a loss on April 29, tagging him for three runs on three hits over five innings. But Seo has allowed just one run on nine hits over 15 1/3 innings in victories over the Cubs and Dodgers since he's returned from the minors.


Through A Fractured Playoff Face, A Leader Is Born

It didn't take long for Carlos Beltran to make it home last night.

In the bottom of the first he scored from first base on Cliff Floyd's single, whilst the team and the giddy public gasped at a possible home plate collision, he ran full steam ahead 'round third and scored standing up.

The legend grows, the leader is born.

I know how much everyone carped about the New Mets and Carlos Beltran being the new fractured face of the Mets but despite the massive potential, this has been Beltran's NYC learning curve year and although he was voted an All Star, there have been moments when those intermittent boos began to escape the lips and throats of Shea denizens, moments not, I emphasise, of doubt for his talent, but simple impatience for the man to reach the next echelon already.

Being part of one of the more gruesome collisions in recent baseball memory, suffering a concussion and fracturing a cheek bone, could have been a step back but instead the near-tragedy seems to begin to define Beltran, give his hometown heroism shape and form.

We all know Beltran could have easily copped out on his teammates and there probably wouldn't have been many to question him had he opted for surgery and for missing a chunk of the remains of the season just when his team needed him most.

But he didn't. Instead he exhibited courage, toughness and skill, all at once and deepened the respect his teammates have for him as well as the minor awe with which the fans are going to come to regard him.

He rounded the corner at third and headed swiftly for home as though he were the picture of perfect health but in reality, he was running closer toward his destiny as perhaps someday being the greatest Met of all.

Last night his appearance in the lineup was inspirational but it wasn't just an appearance. It was a lead role. A spark and verve his mates sorely needed following what appeared to be the final gong of doom on the Mets season.

Beltran reached base three times, walking twice with a bunt single, stole a base and scored two runs as the Mets took their second straight from the Pirates, this time 5-1, and moved to within 2½ games of the NL wild-card lead, which is shared by the Astros and Phillies.

David Wright continued his neck-in-neck race with Cliff Floyd for the team RBI lead and punished the idiotic Pirate management decision to intentionally walk Floyd to pitch to him in the fourth inning. Wright is 6-for-7 in those situations this season, with 13 RBIs, and continued bashing opposing pitchers for disrespecting him with a two-run single.

Tom Glavine faced 30 batters all night, threw 108 pitches, 65 for strikes, allowed nine hits but only one run in 7 solid innings. He left the game in a mess in the 8th with none out and men second and third, but Aaron Heilman earned his first save of the season by pitching a perfect 8th and 9th innings striking out 4 of the 6 batters he faced.

So, two in a row, too much to believe on the heels of that disasterous West Coast misadventure?


Tonight might not be so lucky as the Mets will prepared to face 22 year old lefty Zach Duke, a bit of a phenom pitcher for the Pirates this season having gone 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA this season.

Facing him will be the indeterminable Victor Zambrano carrying his 6-9 record and 4.16 ERA with him. Zambrano has faced the Pirates already this season and is 0-0 with a 1.12 ERA against them.


Lost in the uproar about Beltran's return was Mike Piazza's quite diminuendo. He is listed as day-to-day with a hairline fracture of the pisiform bone in his left hand. To replace him, the Mets recalled their catcher catcher of the future, Mike Jacobs from Double-A Binghamton and designated pitcher Jose Santiago for assignment Wednesday.


The Kris Benson Reunion: Just Like They Drew It Up In The Winter

Remember all off season how much teams whinged and pitched fits when the Mets signed Kris Benson for 22.5 million over three years? Oh how they wailed about the Mets artificially inflating the starting pitcher market! Oh how them moaned that the Mets were throwing money at an unproven entity, reckless ratcheting up the value of starting pitching at a time when they'd thought they'd had a lid on it all.

Now, in yet another Mets hour of need (one of many that have popped up this season already), Benson justified a little more percentile of those millions with a gutty, less than stellar performance which was sufficient to lead the Mets to a 6-2 victory over the Pirates.

With a waning fastball forcing him to rely on speed changes and location, Benson still held his former teammates to 7 hits and two runs whilst knocking in a pair of runs himself in the bottom of the decisive 4-run 2nd inning to improve his record this season to 9-4 with a 3.49 ERA. Not bad for the money. Almost a bargain.

The second inning outburst came after the Pirates had already pushed two across in the top of the frame and the turning point was a scuppered double play ball hit by Victor Diaz which should have helped the Pirates out of the inning quickly and would have changed the face of the game. Instead of one man on third and two men out, the Mets had men on first and third with only one out.

Pirate starter Mark Redman, who gave up only 5 hits but allowed 4 untimely walks, then allowed the Mets to push four runs across, two of which were driven in by Benson himself.

It was one of those nights. The opposite of so many other excruciating nights the Mets have gone through, last night they managed two less hits than the Pirates, made two more errors than the Pirates yet still somehow managed to score four more runs than the Pirates. Go figure.

Roberto Hernandez and Bradon Looper closed out the game for Benson without causing too much of a stir for a change and the Mets have now moved within 3 1/2 of the Houston Astros wildcard spot.

With Mike Cameron's number 44 hanging in the dugout along with the reappearance of Carlos Beltran, the Mets, who for all their flaws, have never quit on the season at any point at all no matter how dreadful and dreary their chances have seemed, continued their struggle onward. Last night was another example of the doggedness of the Mets spirit as well as the timeliness of their return to Shea, road woes still unsolved.

Yesterday, as if to inflate Met spirits further, Carlos Beltran announced, like a true team leader, that he would forego surgery on the bone fracture below his eye and might be back in the lineup as soon as tonight against the Pirates.

"I decided not to," Beltran said of the surgery that would have put him out at a time the team desperately needs him. "I really want to be out there and be with my teammates."

If it was time for the team leader to step up and lead, Beltran has certainly proven he is indeed made up of leadership material. Lesser men might have tossed it in, opted for the surgery, team concernes be damned. But even at the vague risk to further damage to his pretty face, Beltran has held firm.


Glavine (8-10 4.41) will take his turn for the Mets tonight against Josh Fogg (6-7 4.94). Glavine's ERA over his last six starts is 3.07 and he has surrendered only two walks over his last five starts and 35 innings.

Fogg has allowed 13 homers over his last 10 starts. Since July he is 2-3 with a 6.85 ERA.


Hard to imagine that after all his false starts, all his hamstring and leg injuries, Jose Reyes passed the 500 at-bat mark for the season two games ago. If there were one thing that seemed also a bankable certainty this season it was that Hamstring Jose would find another frustrating leg muscle injury to cripple his season.

Not only that, but his 117 games are more than any other Met, a new-found endurance we didn't expect from him.

Over the last 30 days, Reyes is hitting .315 with a .347 OBP, including 15 stolen bases over 26 games.

Cliff Floyd his hitting .318 with 5 homers and 20 RBIs over his last 25 games.

Believe it or not, since the middle of July, Kris Benson is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA over his last six starts, a team best, whilst Pedro has struggled with a 1-2 record and 4.37 ERA over his last five starts, despite last Sunday's brilliant near no-hitter.


No No-No For Pedro

The losses mount like corpses on the road behind an invading army. Two of three in San Diego, two of three in LA, and all with their own painful stories behind them from the head crash of two Met centerfielders converging at once at the same place to the near-miss of Pedro's no-hitter which dissolved eventually into another loss like a love gone suddenly rotten.

And what else would we expect on such a tour but losses mounting?

These weren't your average losses. They were all devastating in their own distinctive flavours, one hammering blow after another rained down upon the collective skull of optimism. How much more can these Mets take of the late inning disappointments birthed out of a staggered bullpen?

It only took two pitches for Pedro to undo the optimistic thread he had woven for seven and a third no-hit innings, gasping hope knowing that a no hitter was the tonic the team needed, that extra burst of excitement, the precise tonic the team needed to rise above the disappointments.

But like all else this season, disappointment was king.

Five outs away from the dream of history, the dream of placing a giant footprint on this season in emphatic fashion and yet, two batters later, poof. Gone.

In four pitches, a triple by Antonio Perez followed by a homerun from Jason Werth, the exclamation was placed behind the sentence of this season and the knowledge that the Mets are going nowhere further is underscored, highlighted, written in bold lettering across the sky.

As if the loss of the no hitter and the lead weren't enough, the Mets gathered themselves for one final gasp in the 9th when Marlon Anderson doubled with one out and then stole third. He dashed home on Victor Diaz's slow bouncer to a drawn-in infield but, perhaps predictably these days, was thrown out at home by a perfect throw from Antonio Perez. Poof. Gone. Pinch hitting Kaz Matsui struck out and that was it. Song over. Kill the applause.

Once again the Mets were left to watch their opponents celebrating on the field after the game. Once again the thoughts of what could have been but most decidedly is not, haunts them.


For yea optimists still standing, not yet punch drunk, not yet allowing the embalming fluid of the season fill you gratefully, it might be worthwhile to point out that despite all this the Mets remain just four games back from the wildcard.

Is it possible for a team that has swallowed so many disappointments in such a short period of time, two wins out of six games on the West Coast again, to turn it around once back home?

The Mets open a three game series on Tuesday against the Pirates with Kris Benson pitching the opener against his former teammates. Mark Redman, who has allowed five or more runs in his last six starts will face him.

Stay tuned. The season isn't dead just yet.


Replacement Mets Top Dodgers, 5-1

Jae Seo, the AAA pitcher that the Mets let linger in Norfolk most of the season whilst Kaz Ishii made fools of even the most half-hearted believers had another admirable outing yesterday, this time throwing 8 innings of 5-hit 1-run ball and helping the Mets defeat the Dodgers 5-1.

Joining Seo in the replacement Met category were Ramon Castro, filling in for the oft-resting Mike Piazza, Gerald Williams, starting in centerfield in place of the concussed and fractured-cheek'd wonderboy, Carlos Beltran, whilst Victor Diaz started in place of Cameron in rightfield and Marlon Anderson filled in at first base which has been empty pretty much all season.

Castro and Williams hit back-to-back homers in the 2nd inning to stake Seo to an early 2-0 lead, Diaz had an RBI and Seo did the rest with Looper tossing in a useless one inning of perfection with the game already in hand.

Seo, after being ignored most of the season despite his successed, now has a 4-1 record and 1.35 ERA in his only five appearances. On the advice of pitching guru Rick Peterson, Seo developed a cutter and a splitter to go along with his fastball and changeup whilst whiling away in the minors.

Manager Willie, who can ill-afford to ignore these kinds of performances, noted that Seo was still going to be in the starting rotation next week, even with the likely return of Steve Trachsel following his fifth and final rehab start, although no one has suggested how it will be pulled off, six starting pitchers for five starts.


The jury is still out on Carlos Beltran and whether or not he might need some minor surgery to replace the non-displaced fracture in his cheek bone. He is set to rejoin the team on Sunday although no one is quite sure when he might be available again to play.

As for Cameron, his facial surgery appears to have been successful and although there are several comments that this will be a 4-6 week disablement, unless the Mets are in the thick of a wildcard spot race, it's hard to imagine Cameron will need/bother to come rushing back into the lineup.


Pedro Martinez will be back where his big league career began on Sept. 24, 1992, against the Reds. He hasn't pitched on the Dodger Stadium mound since eight years ago Sunday, when he was with the Expos.

Pedro might be a Met rested whilst they sort out a rotation with six starters. The Mets have lost his last three starts and his velocity seems to have diminished somewhat meaning he might be running out of a little steam and a little extra rest might be in order.

He will be pitching against Brad Penny (5-7, 3.50 ERA) who has a 2-9 record and 6.40 ERA in 14 career starts against New York.

Verdict: Mets victory.


The Mets are 13-6 in Castro's last 19 starts, and he is hitting .309 (21-for-68) with four homers and 23 RBIs in that span replacing Piazza. Considering he was a counterweight to the loss of Phillips, Castro was a brilliant pick up this season and just might be penciled in as Piazza's permanent replacement next season.

Speaking of Piazza replacements, it would appear we'd not have gained much in the gunning-down-runners department had we kept Phillips and not taken Ishii. The Mets are 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts against Phillips this season.


Yesterday's victory meant as much in the NL East standings as the loss the day before it. The Mets still stand solidily in last place, 7 1/2 games behind the Braves.

However, they gained a game back in the Wildcard race and are four behind the Astros after Kip Wells matched Houston ace Roger Clemens inning for inning through seven, shutting out the Astros on six hits and the Pirate won, 1-0.


Sinking Ship Sinks Deeper in Extra Inning Loss To Dodgers

Rats are the first to desert a sinking ship. Allegedly, that's because in the old days of wooden sailing vessels, rats lived in the holds of the ships and would be the first to know if a leak had developed. But that's the the point anyway, merely testing the minds ability to deflect, distract, deny the issue at hand which is: Mets 2005 season, a sinking ship?

You have to admit, it was a curious game to play.

Likely distracted by the news of the Cameron and Beltran injuries, which by all accounts, were even worse than dreaded and will likely see Cameron gone the rest of the season and Beltran more than a little shell-shocked for the next month, the Mets blew their chance at turning these losses into a positive and instead, absorbed yet another blow to the solar plexus, this time in the form of an 10th inning loss to the LA Dodgers, the fist being the homerun by the rookie Dodger catcher Dionar Navarro off closer Bradon Looper, his career first, to give the Dodgers their precious 9-8 victory and dump another load of unhappiness in the lap of the Mets.

It's not that this day, this game had to be an exercise in pain and misery. Not at all. Called up from Norfolk, Victor Diaz started in right field in place of Cameron and drove in three runs on two homers straight away as though to remind all of us in our depths of despair that there is still the Mets bright future to be happy about.

And who'd have thunk it? Jeromy Burnitz, still paying dividends?

But it has to make you wonder: the Mets gloom temporarily erased when the man called up to replace Cameron surprises us with two home runs and then they still lose the game anyway...

Looper's game-blowing gopher ball came on the heels of a six day lay off and he didn't hesitate to admit he was a little rusty but really one wonders: wasn't it just the last time around he was begging off because he'd been used too much? Too much, too little, both with the same results, blown saves, blown games and leaving the rest of us to come up with the idea that Manager Willie has to be a bloody alchemist to figure out what the precise calibration and combination of not enough work and too much work will be the magical elixir that coaxes Looper out of his shell game of throw and duck and blow another game and instad, start saving games like he's paid to do.

Of course, we could go on about Manager Willie's questionable tactics; using the closer on the road with the game tied but frankly, why bother? He'd already left Zambrano in too long and then when he finally brought in Aaron Heilman, Heilman waved in the next few runs like he was hailing a cab. If you can't rely on your bullpen is it any small wonder that Willie is reaching for the Roberto Phone 9 games out of 10?

Even before Looper's loser, the Mets pen had been shaky. Hernandez wove himself in and out of trouble in the 8th whilst in the 9th, they barely escaped losing in regular time again. Both times, they were able to escape and oddly enough, Looper's gopher came only after he'd recorded the first two outs without incident and we'd almost had a chance to relax. (Myself, I was drinking tea and listening live at 7 am, a fascinating proposition these time zones, to wake up at 6 in the morning and be able to listen live in the bottom of the 8th as the Mets nearly collapsed over and over...enough to dump the tea for a stiff single malt, but frankly, we're all getting used to this grisly sort of Met meltdown and can learn to laugh it off see, hahaha, last place and falling, wildcard disappearing, hahaha...)

So from this we can pick little optimism, and even Cliff Floyd sounded the same weary resignation in the locker room after the game so you know this is it, the Mets are tossing the life boats over, the ship is sinking. The rats are swimming.


The score card reads as follows:

Cameron: 1 broken nose, multiple fractures of both cheekbones and a concussion. Beltran: also had a concussion, in addition to a small fracture in his cheekbone.

Piazza has thrown out 12 of 81 base runners attempting to steal on him this season. A double amputee buried up to his neck in concrete to do that well. Then again, Piazza helped kill a rally with a strike em out throw em out double play you'll probably never see in his career again, throwing out Oscar Robles whose name should join the other 11 in infamy as so slow even Mike Piazza could throw them out.


For those in the mood to snort a dose of Kaz Ishii this morning, wasn't it eye-gouging to see Jason Phillips pound a two-run double over Cliff Floyd's head?

Ishii's replacement, the pitcher we could have had pitching out there for us all along without having to surrender Phillips, Jae Seo, RHP (3-1, 1.42) will take the mound in yet another futile effort against D.J. Houlton, RHP (4-5, 5.49), whose humdrum outings this season would lead one to believe that he will likely handcuff the Mets entirely for 6 or 7 innings on the way to victory.

Ahhhh, smell it. The tang of resignation hangs heavy in the air this morning. Or perhaps it's merely the smell of the future, the last thing to hold on to when there's really nothing left.


Mets Season Comes Crashing Down

"I couldn't imagine being a paramedic going to the scene of a wreck. That's what that was, pretty much, a wreck," Marlon Anderson said.

Man, it was ugly.

"I couldn't go over there, man," the last remaining outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "Once I saw the blood, I'm not good with blood. It choked me up for a minute. We were laughing and giggling one minute, the next minute, a man's down on the ground, both of them."

With the score tied in the seventh inning Padre pinch hitter David Ross popped a pitch to shallow right center field which both Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran took off after. With both concentrating on the ball, Cameron sprinting to his right and Beltran to his left, both left their feet in dramatic dives to try and catch the ball only to collide full speed, mid-air, head-to-head in a collision that would have made even ardent football fans cringe with the force of it.

If you haven't seen it yet (and my guess is this is being played over and over on national television in America like Theisman's leg getting snapped like a twig on MNF) and possess a morbid curiousity here it is.

Apparently, Cameron was bleeding from the mouth and nose. The NYT reported that left fielder Cliff Floyd tried to approach Cameron, his closest friend on the team, but he said he saw blood on the turf and became too choked up. He walked away and crossed himself.

It appeared that dazed, Beltran tried to get up and had to be held to the ground.

And all the while, in an odd scene, while everyone was taking it in, Ross was running around the basepaths and probably would have made it for an inside-the-park-homerun were it not for Chris Woodward sprinting out and picking up the ball and holding him to a triple. Joe Randa later drove him in to make the score 2-1 as it stood for the rest of the game.

But no matter, by then. The shock has set in on the Mets and this likely symbolises the end of the Mets hopes this season.

Cameron was placed on the disabled list after he broke his nose, sustained multiple fractures of his cheekbones and was found to have a concussion and Beltran, fortunately, had "only" a sore left shoulder and a cut on his left cheek.

Victor Diaz was called up from Norfolk and will replace Cameron, but whether or not Beltran will be available is still up in the air.

""It stinks that we lost and it stinks that one of our buddies got hurt," said starting pitcher Tom Glavine, who gave up two runs and had three hits and probably felt that it also stunk he didn't get to .500 yet again this season.

The Braves lost as well though which means the Mets are still 7 1/2 behind them. But the Astros keep winning and are now 4 ahead of the Mets for the wildcard.

Now they must somehow forget about this, suck it up and move on to Los Angeles where they will throw Victor Zambrano, Jae Seo and Pedro, who threw only five innings in his last outing, against Jeff Weaver (10-8, 4.34), D.J. Houlton, RHP (4-5, 5.49) and Brad Penny, RHP (5-7, 3.50).

The Dodgers are 51-63 for the season, have won only 4 of their last 10 and even have a losing record at home but there is no doubt this collision, not to mention the loss of their two best fielders as well as their bats, will have shaken the Mets to their core on top of having lost two of three to the Padres.

This is the moment of the season. This ranks up there with the 0-5 start to the season, the need for victory stronger now than at any other point if they are to save themselves and not now begin their descent, fall back from the pack, peel away and start thinking about 2006.

If it does prove to be the end, at least it ended spectacularly.


Wright On!

One night after his bare-handed grab of a fly ball shocked the house in San Diego, David Wright etched his name deeper into the memories of Padre fans and solidified his quest for future stardom by tying career-highs with four hits and six runs batted in to lead the Mets back on to the road to redemption with a 9-1 victory over the Padres.

Joining Wright at the winners, not the whiners table, was Kris Benson who held the Padres to just one run and three hits as the Mets snapped the Padres' five game winning streak and brought theirs back up to one. For a change, no whistful commentary on the Mets horrific road record, no clucks of disappointment at the end of another winning streak whose wings were pulled off before it could ever get off the ground. Just a victory, a beating, a two-man show to carry the Mets into another day.

Highlighting Wright's night was a 400 foot 3 run homer in the 4th inning, his 17th all year, in addition to his 30th double of the season and stealing his 12th base of the season. Although he is still shaky at times in the field, Wright's train appears to be arriving at the station at high speed and if one of these nights we're going to stand back and nod at the words of the pundits in our ears about Wright being the next great third baseman. He is hitting .302 and over the last 30 days he's hitting .354 with 6 homers, 26 RBIs and 8 doubles with a .414 OBP.

The other half of the two man tandem to top the Padres, Kris Benson carried a one-hitter into the ninth before David Ross' leadoff single. He had struck out six and hadn't allowed a walk until Khalil Greene reached with two outs in the eighth inning. His only true error was allowing a one-out double to catcher Miguel Olivo, the No. 8 hitter, in the third inning and thereafter, Benson was virtually perfect, retiring 15 straight before Greene's walk.


The victory kept the Mets on pace both in the NL East, still 7 1/2 behind the Braves and in the NL Wildcard, still three behind the Astros.

Tonight Tom Glavine will try and help win this series for the Mets and bring his own record to .500 on the season.


Pedro Goes Mortal, Padres Drop Mets, 8-3

"Everybody has an off-day -- today was mine,", the Mighty Martinez said following the loss that broke the momentum of the Mets three game winning streak.

Of course even his off days are not as profound as say a Tom Glavine off-day or a Kaz Ishii off-day or even a Victor Zambrano off-day, where the runs and hits mount like points on a pinball machine with a manic flipper. He surrendered five runs in five innings of work, his shortest outing since gracing the Mets starting rotation. He also gave up nine hits, including two home runs, three doubles and a triple. The result of course, the Padres paying back the Mets to an 8-3 tune.

How unexpected was this though when you consider the Mets are 11 games under .500 on the road and have fewer road wins than everyone in the league except Colorado and Cincinnati.

Worse still, they have 29 road games remaining -- more than everybody in the league except the Phillies (30), Cardinals (30) and Reds (32). And once they finish up here and have their next homestand, they'll be back out west again on Aug. 22, when they begin a seven-game trip to Arizona and San Francisco.

You might say this is the death knell and of course, the only possible method of getting to the postseason will be winning on the road so its up to Manager Willie to solve this little rubric and figure out just what it is the Mets dislike so much about being away from home. Are they missing the noise of the flights flying over Shea from La Guardia?

"The road's been our weak spot, of course. Everybody knows it," left fielder Cliff Floyd points out uselessly. "When we go on the road, we've got to start playing right. It's too late in the season to start having meltdowns and stuff like that just because we're on the road."

I love this kind of insight. If these guys weren't getting paid millions to play baseball just imagine their potential as arm chair philosophers.

The news was bad, ok, we admit it. But on the bright side, Met pinch hitters are still on a record-setting pace. The two pinch hits last night increased their pinch-hitting average by nine points to .353, the highest in the Major Leagues and seven points higher than the big-league record.

The pinch-hitters of the 1927 Cardinals batted .346. They had 36 hits in 104 at-bats. The Mets began play Wednesday with 47 hits, the most in the game, in 133 pinch-hit at-bats.

The single-season team record for pinch-hits is 81, established by the 1992 Dodgers, who had Dave Hansen, Lenny Harris and Mike Sharperson coming off the bench. The most pinch-hits by a Mets team are the 75 produced by the 1993 team that lost 103 games and had merely three regular players -- Bobby Bonilla (502 at-bats), Jeff Kent (496) and Eddie Murray (610). That team had to pinch-hit. It had 271 pinch-hit at-bats.

But there just weren't enough pinch hitters early on in the lineup as the Chan Ho Park, the pitcher that time forgot who entered with a 5.84 earned run average, nearly as repulsive as his $70 million contract, struck out eight batters and allowed only two runs in five and two-thirds innings.


The highlight of the evening for the Mets was the staggaring, barehand catch David Wright made in shallow left field in the seventh inning to take a bloop hit away from Brian Giles. With the bases empty, Giles lofted a soft fly to the opposite field, and Wright caught the ball with the opposite hand.

"I told him, 'Go play defense without your glove,'" Doug Mientkiewicz said. "'You'll probably do a better job.'" Wise advise coming from a man on the disabled list.

Wright made the catch some 20 feet onto the outfield grass for the second out of the inning, prompting prolonged and loud applause from a sellout crowd. A dive into the stands in Seattle in June had earned him an ovation as well.


Three Game Sweep, Omen Of the Future Or Harbinger of Doom?

Although Victor Zambrano's 8 strong innings coupled with David Wright's 3 RBIs helped lead the Mets to a 6-1 victory to complete an unlikely sweep over the Chicago Cubs Sunday night, it's been well documented that the one consistent aspect of the Mets season has been their inconsistency so not even this hopeful tic is an indication of where this seasons future lies.

How many times have they sunken into what we all begin to believe is an irratractable abyss only to see them pop back out like tassle-nippled coeds from a bachelor party cake?

Remember the spastic misery of five losses to start the season? Remember the humiliating three game sweep in Atlanta, two of which were shutouts, just on the tail of losing two of three to the hated Yankees and then with the Marlins looming forebodingly on the horizan?

And just as equally, in the few sputtering moments of daylight when the Mets appear to be generating some kind of momentum, some precious modicum of team chemistry that would propel them into the type of winning streak that can make a team's season and send them flying into the postseason, they have just as equally disappointed, sputtering, whiffing, giving up back-breaking homeruns in 9th innings that send the
team reeling back into uncertainty and confusion.

So here we are on the precipice again.

On the heels of a frustrating and heart-breaking performance against the Brewers the Mets have bounced back to sweep three straight from the Chicago Cubs and are now a mere three games from the coveted wildcard, still 6 1/2 behind the Braves for the NL East lead but only a game out of second place.

Are these the first rumblings of a massive winning streak carried on to the West Coast that will lock up the wildcard or lead them on their first legitimate run for the NL East title this season?

Or is it merely the final muscle twitch from the corpse before the first incision of the coroner's scalpel?

Tonight the Mets begin a six game Western roadtrip against the Padres and the Dodgers, who collectively, are 10 games below .500. Thereafter they return home to face the less-than-imposing Pirates and the quickly fading Nationals. This is followed by another seven game Western roadtrip (mercifully breaking in two what could have been a 13 game trip) at the Diamondbacks and Giants, two more teams that have floundered for the better part of the season and finally, they will end
August at home against the Phillies, whose number we've had all season.

It's been pointed out by far wiser men that August is the month for the Mets historically to make their move. The World Series teams of '69, '86 and 2000 all performed spectacularly in August and for each, it was the beginnings of the final push forward. These Mets, who have squandered every brief sunrise of potential this season in favour of watching the sunsets on spectacular disappointments, have their chance now to seize control of their season, astound us by surpassing their
potential and recording a Met season that will go down as the year the franchise turned the corner. They've only got to keep winning to do it.

We will all begin to find out tonight when Pedro (12-3, 2.81 ERA) takes on the recently-traded Chan Ho Park (0-0, 10.38 ERA / 8-5, 5.66 ERA in AL in 2005) in San Diego.


Who's Laughing Now?

Scott Kazmir: 6-7 4.22 ERA 22 GS 128.0 IP 117 Hits 67 Runs 60 Earned Runs 9 HRs 7 HBP 70 walks 112 strikeouts

Victor Zambrano: 6-9 4.00 ERA 21 GS 126.0 IP 123 Hits 62 Runs 56 Earned Runs 10 HRS 10 HBPs 59 walks 77 strikeouts.


The Mets are first in the National League in stolen bases with 102, far ahead of the second-fastest team in the National League, the Astros, with 85. Unfortunately, they are 5th in the NL in team ERA, behind the Astros, Cardinals, Nationals and Braves in that order, proving their run for the NL Wildcard is going to be a tough one.


Jose Reyes' left field single in the 4th inning of Sunday night's game increased his current hitting streak to 20 games, four behind the Mets team record of 24 held jointly by Mike Piazza and Hubie Brooks. Cliff Floyd has already had a 20 game hitting streak this season.


Following Pedro v Park on Tuesday night will be Kris Benson, who is 1-1 record in his three starts against the Padres since the beginning of last season. Benson has allowed 11 runs in his last 10 1/3 innings and perhaps more foreboding, has a 1-2 record in his last eight starts, which the Mets have split evenly.

His opponent will be Brian Lawrence (6-11 4.43 ERA).

In the final game of the series, someone yet announced, perhaps Seo, will face Woody Williams (5-8 5.16).


Seo Another Victory Onto 2005's Lapel

You've got to figure that any game that Kaz Ishii isn't taking the mound for the Mets is a good game, regardless of the outcome.

As though to emphasise the mistake the Mets front office made shipping him down to Norfolk following his last start on May 4th, (a scoreless 1 hitter over 7 innings against the Phillies,) Jae Seo returned to the Mets mound and did it again, this time, shutting out the Cubs through 7 1/3 innings and leading the Mets to their second victory in a row, this time by a 2-0 margin.

Only the Seo Knows

Ironically, with Steve Trachsel throwing seven strong innings for AA Binghamton last night and predicted to need only two more rehab starts before joining the team, Seo's stint in the starting rotation may be a brief one, even if we never have to see another Hideous Ishii performance the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Greg Maddux (8-9), winless since July 10, was bidding for his 314th win to tie Gaylord Perry for 16th place on the career list. He allowed four hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking two, an impressive performance that quieted loud Met bats but simply wasn't enough because quieter still were Cub bats aganst Seo: Chicago's first six hitters were 0-for-22, including 0-for-18 against Seo, who retired the side in order four times.

"I got beat, I got outpitched," the future Hall of Famer Maddux said. "Tip your hat to the other guy. They threw a shutout and it's tough to do here."

With a day's rest to heal his wounded ego after three sloppy performances in a row, Roberto Hernandez returned for use in the 8th, striking out Derek Lee with two men on to keep the lid on the victory. Bradon Looper was even able to chip in with his 23rd save in 27 opportunities, momentarily quieting the disquiet of seeing the bullpen blow two games in a row to the Milwaukee Brewers.

What was also impressive was that even though they cooled off significantly at the plate in comparison to their last 4 games, the Mets were able to earn a victory despite scoring only 2 runs. Both teams managed only four hits apiece.

Quietly, the Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first on David Wright's RBI double, and picked up another run in the third on a Carlos Beltran's RBI single. Jose Reyes set up Beltran's RBI when he tagged up from first on a fly to medium-center field and beat the throw from center fielder Jose Macias, then stole third, his 37th stolen bases of the season.

Reyes also stretched his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games, the longest current streak in the majors. During the streak, Reyes has gone 33-for-87 (.379) with 24 runs scored, four doubles, two triples and nine stolen bases.

"The most important thing is that I started to hit the ball the other way. Sometimes when they throw it to me away, I hit a weak ground ball to second base, and now I've started to hit that ball to left field. I see the ball a lot better now." Reyes said on what's changed during his recent hit streak.


In the NL East, the Braves beat the Cards to keep the Mets 7 1/2 games from first however, the Houston Astros lost to the SF Giants again which means the Mets are a mere three games from the wildcard slot.

The Washington Nationals fell to 6-16 since the All-Star break with another loss although they are still only a game behind the Astros, the Phillies won to move within 1 1/2 and the Marlins lost to stay two full games behind in the wildcard chase.

Tonight as the Mets endeavor to complete an unlikely sweep of the Cubs, Carlos will face Victor in a new episode of the dueling Zambranos. Carlos Zambrano has won four straight decisions and was dominant in his last outing. He pitched eight shutout innings against the Phillies on Aug. 2, allowing four hits and striking out four.


Glavine Saves Pen For Last, Mets 9 Cubbies 5

With the bullpen having been heavily involved in all three games against the Brewers, two of which resulted in last inning meltdown losses, it was up to Tom Glavine to give the arms a rest.

Last night he pitched 8 innings of better-than-average-Glavine, allowing 10 hits and 5 runs, but more importantly, lasting 8 long innings on 105 pitches and giving the bullpen a very needed rest. In addition, he earned victory No. 270, moving him into a tie with famous spitballer Burleigh Grimes for 30th place on the all-time list. Over his last 5 starts, Glavine is 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA.

Alleviating the pressure, KooKooKachoog pitched a perfect 9th inning.

It wasn't just Glavine lasting 8 innings but the continued Met offensive which controlled late inning usage. The batting order jumped on Cub rookie starter Rich Hill early, scoring 7 runs in the first 1 1/3 innings, six of which came in the second inning and loosened up alot of breathing room early on. On the night, the Mets finished with 14 hits, a far cry from their impoverished batting displays earlier this season. The Mets are hitting .290 and are averaging five and a half runs since the All-Star break, more than a run better per game than the first half.

Not even the return off the disabled list by Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood (making his first career bullpen appearance) and Scott Williamson could propel the Cubs who, like the Mets have struggled to keep their heads above water all season and fell below .500 for the first time since 10 July. Unlike the Mets, the Cubs came into the season with high expectations and have floundered in a miserable puddle of disappointment.

But like many times this season when preparations were being made to issue last rites to the Mets season, they have bounced back relaxed as though their season weren't on the verge of collapse and they had been merely playing possum.

Jose Reyes extended his hitting streak to 18 games with three hits and added 2 runs and 2 stolen bases to his collection. Over his last 25 games, Reyes is hitting .363 with a .390 OBP and 12 stolen bases, a key to the recent offensive resurgence.

Carlos Beltran also had three hits, a stolen base and a run batted in whilst we await the expected second half surge from the resident superstar to propel the Mets into the postseason as he did the Astros last season.

David Wright walked twice more last night and has an OBP of .500 along with seven walks so far this month. Selectivity is becoming the key to the Mets success at the plate.


The victory allowed the Mets to gain back a game in the NL East as the Braves were pounded by the St Louis Cardinals 11-3 in an unexpectedly poor start from John Smoltz. Florida won but both Washington and Philadelphia lost, as did the wildcard leading Houston Astros. A night of good news for the Mets all around.

This afternoon, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will face the just-recalled Jae Seo instead of the miserably ineffective Kaz Ishii, another unexpected break for the Mets.


Brewers The Victors, 21 Hits and 12 Runs Later...

Similar to a few innocent little picnic embers growing into a massive forest fire that takes a week and hundreds of fireman from five different states to battle, the incompetence of the Mets bullpen is beginning to rage out of control and is now thoroughly threatening the 2005 season.

Ringing as familiar as the phrase "I did not have sex with that woman..." from a former president a few years back, the rapidly aging set-up man Roberto Hernandez continues to insist that he is not tired, nor is his arm and that he's having no problems despite now having allowed 9 hits and 7 earned runs over 4 innings of work in three games against the Milwaukee Brewers including a blown save, a blown game and a nearly blown game in three outings.

Last night of course, with closer Bradon Looper having already pitched three nights in a row and having enough common sense to know he was fatigued, Roberto Hernandez, eager to return, appeared to be the only option in Willie Randolph's seemingly stunted vision of bullpen possibilities. With a healthy 9-7 lead going into the 9th however, Hernandez needed only 27 pitches to blow the game wide open, allow 5 runs and watch the Mets bullpen blow their second consecutive victory, this time by a 12-9 margin.

It's hard to imagine a season of hope when your set up man is an over-used 40 year old and your manager doesn't trust anyone else to make it through. He even pinch hit for Danny Graves in the 8th inning whilst the Mets held a two run lead, just so he could stick Hernandez in for a third night in a row. Manager Willie hasn't been often criticised this season but one flaw he appears to have is that he relies to heavily on too few arms in the bullpen, goes to the same well too often and even now, when the well appears to have temporarily run dry.

It was a demoralising loss, let's make no bones about it. A demoralising loss atop the previous night's demoralising loss and both coming to the Milwaukee Brewers of all teams. Granted the Brewers are not the patsies and laughingstocks this season as is their tradition but the Milwaukee Brewers are certainly the kind of team you do not lose two straight games to in the final inning if you entertain any modicum of realistic hope for the postseason. And let's not forget, the losses came with Ace Pedro and the second best starter in the rotation, Kris Benson pitching. To whom are they to turn now? The venerable Mr Seo?

Kris Benson suffered a second straight poor start. After giving up 5 runs in 5 1/3 innings with a busload of excuses against the Astros in Houston, Benson allowed 6 runs and 11 hits in 5 innings last night at home against the Brewers. Changeup was flat. Breaking stuff not working. Ok. Coincidence or trend? Too many hours of listening to the numbing prattle of Anna Benson beginning to wear on his nerves like the constant scrawl of fingernails across a chalkboard?

Predictably, just as the pathetic mewl of diminutive Met bats have begun to clear their collective throats and show some ooomph for the first time all season, the once-reliable Met bullpen and Met starting rotation (sans Ishii) has begun to wane like an August heat wave in the face of a cold Autumn rain.

Day by day, more and more air is being released from the balloon and it might not be long now that hope for the 2005 season lies shriveled on the kerbside, a forgotten souvenir of the carnival that just passed through.

Is it ironic that Mike Piazza, after over a half-season of waning skills, after his 5 RBIs last night, has finally seemed to have found his elusive bat and in his last 11 starts is hitting .385 (11 for 39) with 3 doubles, 4 homers and 14 RBIs? Perhaps a late season audition for a DH slot with an AL contender? If nothing else, his defensive gaffe in the 3rd inning when he fumbled a perfect throw from Woodard that would have caught Chad Moeller at the plate, underscored his liabilities as anything other than an aging bat destined for early retirement or another year or two of fickle hitting as a DH.

And what of our future hero Carlos Beltran? He hit a bases-empty homer, had two hits and scored three runs yet in the bottom of the 9th, when it really mattered with the tying run on base, he could only manage a fly out that quite nearly snuffed the last morsels of a potential Met rally. Sound familiar? The jury is still out on Beltran and although the acrid taste in my mouth after these two devastating losses leaves me yearning to point out all that he has NOT done this season, the lack of clutch hits, the quiet, religious voice in the clubhouse when the Mets clearly need a swaggering leader and his failure to take control of this team and lead it through the darker hours, this isn't the time to start bashing the cornerstone of the future Mets. He may yet wake up out of this season long somambulism and lead the Mets but he hasn't been up to it yet.

We could be happy that Cameron blasted a 460 foot solo homer in the 6th. We could find joy in Jose Reyes' hit which extended his hitting streak to 17 games. His batting average stands at .277 on the season and he has finally crept up over the .300 mark for on-base-percentage.

So what we are left with is a series against the once-laughable Milwaukee Brewers lost AT home with two demoralising losses in the 9th innning, two blown leads, two blown chances at victory that could have seen the Mets running on a 4 game winning streak and ready to burst. Dreaming, like fools of the what-could-have-beens instead of staring down the toilet bowl of the current reality.


Next up are the Chicago Cubs, another bruising NL Central team with potential to beat up on Met pitching.

Tom Glavine (7-0 4.50) will start against Rich Hill (0-0 3.78) in Game One. Glavine hasn't beaten the Cubs since September 8, 2001. Alot has changed in the world since then but not Glavine's victory total against the Cubs.

In Game Two, Greg Maddux (8-8 4.67 with a 5.43 ERA over his last 10 starts) will face either Kaz Ishii, who is well-rumoured to be on the down and outs and headed for oblivion in the unforgiving bullpen to gather dust, or Jae Seo who has muddled around in AAA purgatory most of the season after several promising starts for the Mets earlier in the season. For whatever it's worth, Ishii is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 3 career starts against the Cubs.

The Series Finale will see a matchup of the Famous Zambrano Boys: Carlos, for the Cubs (8-4 3.24) against Victor for the Mets (5-9 4.19). This game is scheduled to be broadcast here in England very very early Monday morning so we hope those caffeinated hours will be worth it.


Pedro Does His Part But Bullpen Doesn't -- Mets Give One Away To Brewers

Two nights ago, Roberto Hernandez and Bradon Looper played a large role to enable the Mets to stage their 11th inning comeback and win the game against the Brewers but two inning outings from the both of them to do it so perhaps when called upon again last night they were a little too fatigued for a repeat performance.

So when Pedro left the game after 7 innings with a 4-3 lead after a less-than-stellar performance, or perhaps a less-than-Pedro performance, it was up to Hernandez and Looper to save the game and they couldn't do it.

The result was the Brewers scoring 3 runs in two innings, one after Hernandez surrendered a homer in the 8th to tie the game, which was his second costly homer surrendered in two days. In fact, over the last 7 days, Hernandez has made four appearances, has pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowed 5 hits and three earned runs for a chunky 6.23 ERA which makes you wonder if his old body isn't finally beginning to tire.

The 9th inning was a bit of a rollercoaster ride from the beginning when David Wright's throwing error let the first man on board. Typical of Wright's play all season: a two-run single one minute, a devastating error the next. One hopes he spends the offseason fielding grounders and throwing cleanly to first.

Then, quite amazingly in fact, after a bunt advanced the lead runner, Trent Durrington to 2nd, none other than the rapidly aged Mike Piazza shocked the stadium by throwing out Durrington at 3rd on an attempted steal to give the Mets their second out and seemingly choke the rally before it could get started. Mike Piazza throwing out a runner, granted, even if it was to third instead of a three hop to second, is a rare and almost miraculous event and as such, should have been a bright portent to the Mets chances.

But instead, more sturm und drang lay ahead on the Mets horizan. Instead of taking advantage of the Piazza miracle and getting the final out, Looper allowed two-out singles by Wes Helms and Brady Clark before walking Richie Weeks and letting Lyle Overbay hit what turned out to be the game-winning single in a 6-4 Brewer victory. It was Looper's fifth loss of the season which is quite an accomplishment considering that out of 26 save opportunities, he's blown only 4. (Last night, the save opportunity was blown by Hernandez leaving Looper free to earn his 5th victory or his 5th loss and the later rather than the former appeared more appealing.)

In addition to the tiring performance by the bullpen, the Mets future, Carlos Beltran, continued to be booed last night and his game-ending out with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the bottom of the 9th was particularly painful. Especially when you consider he left so many runners on base the night before whilst going 0 for 6.

To be fair, Beltran hit only .267 last season whilst earning his coveted superstar status and is hitting .263 this season but he isn't hitting homers in bunches and isn't driving in the runs, two things the Mets sorely need. 3 homeruns and 15 RBIs over the last 30 days isn't going to chase away the boos and no matter how much Beltran professes to love god, the boos are going to get to him eventually if he doesn't start hitting in key situations.

On a happier note, Cliff Floyd's 25th homerun of the season bounced off the apple in top hat in centerfield some 420 feet away to pull them within one. Further still, Mike Piazza, dropped all the way down to 7th in the order, his lowest spot of the season, hit a redeeming homerun to tie the game in the 4th. As is becoming the trend, rightly or not, his homer spawned a curtain call from fans who seem unbearably capable of forgiving his selfish obsession with catching over playing first base and seem willing to appear grateful instead, for the several years of success he helped bring the Mets when he was not the mere shadow of his former self that he is now. Curtain calls would be more appropriate if the Mets were in the heat of the race for the NL East, not floundering in this sea of mediocrity and consistent inconsistency that sees them still only one game above .500.

Nevertheless, the Mets lost a game that Pedro pitched which is never a good thing for the Mets. Instead of following up their dramatic 11th inning win with another victory and being three games over .500, they sputtered and choked again and are only one game above water. Instead of making ground against their competitors for the wildcard spot, they gave ground.

In all, typical of the 2005 Mets. Just when you want to let hope saunter into the room like an unbearably beautiful woman, the dream ends, the sheets are wet and reality rears its ugly head.


Tonight it will be Kris Benson's turn at the wheel. Benson is 4-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 10 starts at Shea and in addition, was 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA against the Brewers whilst with the Pirates last season. Good omens, one would suspect but then again, Pedro pitching last night was a good omen as well and look at where that got us.


Better news still is that barring any major injury to the starting rotation we may well have seen the last of Kaz Ishii taking the mound for the Mets. There are ugly rumours going round that Jae Seo will take his place until Steve Trachsel is ready to begin his long road back to Shea.

What has been perhaps well painful this season is not that the Mets traded for Ishii and that Ishii for the greater majority of the time has sucked far worse than could have been imagined, but that to get him the Mets surrendered a very talented back-up catcher who could have easily taken over for Piazza next year. Granted, it was a panic move following Trachsel's move to the DL, but a costly lesson learned by the management.

That they have not made any earth-shattering moves prior to the deadline means that barring a miracle, the Mets will be stuck fighting for the wildcard with the team they have. This doesn't mean they aren't capable, it just means that someone on the team, be it Piazza, Beltran or someone else we haven't yet dreamt of, will have to seize the reigns of the team, take charge and start hitting the hell out of the ball. We won't hold our breath.