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.

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