Braves Avoid Sweep Again, But Not Fate

You can't really say yesterday's result was unexpected. After all, two straight games the bullpen had been depleted, the Braves were starting Smoltz and Jose Lima, who hadn't even pitched well at Triple AAA ball, was on the mound for the Mets with three of their other starting pitchers on the DL.

Talk about a skeletal staff.

Jose The Krazy Klown Makes Sure It's a Baseball And Not A Watermelon He's Throwing

But even with these kinds of odds stacked against them, arguably, it took the additional force of a few bonehead ump calls to get the Braves rolling.

Plate umpire Angel Hernandez, according to the colourful Lima, allegedly told Lima before the inning began that he wasn't going to get the same liberal strikezone that Smoltz would get. Rather dubious that he would bother saying so, but that's the world according to Lima. Lima was then called for a balk early in the second inning which he claimed "changed everything,it changed my day and the Mets' day ... in a bad way." Hmmm. Not as badly as it changed the colour of his clown-orange hair.

I think the missing ball trick only works once a season, Mr Lo Duca...

This was followed by the tag at the plate that wasn't. Of course, if you remember Opening Day, it's rather surprising that Lo Duca thought he might get away with fooling an ump on a play at the plate again. Not after he made such a chump of the last one. Not surprisingly, whilst Lo Duca lunged back with the ball on a chopper and pretended to tag out Atlanta’s Brian McCann, McCann was called safe and Lo Duca went ballistic. Foolishly so: throwing the ball to the grass whilst arguing and allowing baserunners to advance. Well, all but Smoltz, who was ordered back to first which prompted Bobby Cox to waddle out, argue and get tossed, just so his Braves wouldn't feel left out.

So it was a bit of a crazy match yesterday - not suprising given the crazy guy on the mound for the Mets.

And how did McCann get to racing for home anyway? Another complicated, conspiracy-laden series of events: Second-base umpire Sam Holbrook called Lima for a balk, with Brian Jordan batting, the third balk against Lima in 1,550 1/3 big-league innings. Jordan hit the balk pitch to shortstop, and the Mets thought they turned a double play. Instead, McCann was on second and, after Jordan struck out, advanced to third on Ryan Langerhans soft single to right.

Of course when you lose a game to your arch rivals by double digits, any argument would seem rather weak. Personally, having Jose Lima on the mound followed by Bartolome Fortunato is reason enough. They combined to allow all of the Braves' 13 runs and both of them look like they rather belong down in Triple AAA ball instead of the Major Leagues but with the bullpen exhausted and the starting rotation decimated, there wasn't much choice. Just one of those things.

What was a nice surprise was that Carlos Beltran, no longer afraid of his own hammies, homered in all three games for the Mets. You'd be hard pressed to find three less meaningful homeruns against your arch rivals, but Beltran hit them and he hit Braves pitching this weekend 5 times in 12 at-bats whilst driving in 4.

And now the Mets will get a well-deserved day of rest to lick their wounds before turning to more important NL East business at hand, the suddenly unstoppable Phillies, who have now won 8 straight games and are only 4 games behind the Mets.

As if blowing saves wasn't enough damage to the Mets, Billy Wagner suddenly decided to become brash, bashing the Phillies two days prior to their meeting just to wratched up the pressure.

"Bring on Billy boy," is what Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said in response to Wagner's rather odd claims that the Phillies quit on him last season, that he felt like it was 24 against 1, etc. Somewhat ridiculous claims if you consider why Wagner would have even bothered contemplating a Phillies off season offer to stay with the team given the lack of support.

And of course, the Phillies now have Tom Gordon in place of Wagner which we all scoffed at from the beginning but who has been 10-for-10 in save situations for the Phillies.

And you've got to wonder why Wagner would want to heap extra pressure on himself his first time back to Philly, an unforgiving hole with notoriously evil fans.


Some hot bats to look out for: We are all well versed in Chase Utley and now consider that he is hitting .483 with 3 homers and 8 RBIs over the last seven days going into this matchup.

Consider that Aaron Rowand and Ryan Howard have both hit 3 homers and knocked in 9 runs in that same time period.

Or, you can consider that Bobby Abreu is hitting .167 over those last seven days and Pat Burrell .211. Met killahs everywhere.


Pedro opens Game One against righty Brett Myers, who has a 6-5 record and a 5.57 ERA in his career against the Mets. Advantage, Pedro but I can't say I have 100% faith in Billy Wagner securing a save in what is likely to be a tight game. I wish that were the case and perhaps if he hadn't already blown a few we'd feel a bit more comfortable but historically, Billy Wagner is not a pressure pitcher. Let's put it this way, not only did he blow two games for the Phillies in the midst of the pennant race last season against his former teammates in Houston, but his career ERA in the post season is 7.71. It's a pity Willie can't just insert the indominable Duaner Sanchez in his stead.

Game Two sees Tom Glavine, with his 1.94 ERA facing righty Corey Lidle who is 4-1 with a 2.15 career ERA against the Mets. Advantage might still be Glavine, simply because he's the new K King but Lidle will be tough.

And the last game will see the rotation bottom out with Trax facing Gavin Floyd (3-2 6.16)

This will be a tough series but I think it's safe to say that the Phillies aren't going to extend their winning streak to 11 games. However, I wouldn't bet against the Phillies taking two of three at home this time round and making things very interesting early on.

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