Momentary Kings Of The Major Leagues

It was 5-0 after an inning, 8-0 after two and 10-1 after three.

After Jose Reyes' ground out to first in the first, Lo Duca's single and a pair of walks to Beltran and Delgado to load the bases, David Wright strolled up to the plate prepared to declare a full cessation of an annoyingly lengthy slump and put to rest one of the more lasting post-All Star themes for the Mets as in: What's wrong with David Wright?

A few nights removed from being handed a break by an ump who saw his hit get knocked foul by third base, David Wright, I believe we can say with certainty, is finally back. And with him, the Mets, who won again by a convincing margin in the thin air, this time 11-3.

Sweet swing back in form...

Ah yes, nothing like a first-inning grand slam to ease the worries. Nothing like breaking a homerless slump that has lasted since 28th July in Atlanta. Nothing like knocking in FIVE runs to push your season total over 100 to declare a cessation of slumping. And all of this of course coming on the heels of a 3 for 4 performance the night before. The slump is over and now David Wright renews his chase on his potential MVP season. He has a little over a month to redeem himself.

Williams, in mere mortal's clothes, pre-Mets

Hey, how about this? The Mets throw Dave Williams on the mound making only his third start for them this season after a debilitating run with the Reds and he tosses 7 fully eaten innings and allows only three runs within them whilst getting a pair of hits at the plate on his own and scoring twice once after a base-running gaffe, (like uh, missing third base when coming home)prevented him from almost scoring more runs than he allowed.

In part, this is the story of the success of the Mets' season. Really - how many of you were very chuffed back in May when the Mets announced they acquired Williams from the Reds for Robert Manuel, a 22-year-old right-hander? How many stifled a yawn and thought perhaps we've strengthen the Norfolk rotation a modicum?

Williams has pitched 3 games for the Mets now and has won two of them cruising along with a 3.79 ERA. A poor man's Steve Trachsel, if you like.

In the meantime, Manuel continues to struggle down in the bowels of the Reds farm system, 0-3 by last count filling in as a reliever. A masterful trade by Omar.

Lost in all this was Jose Valentin's two homers and Roberto Hernandez and Mr Mota's scoreless bullpen outings.

So after winning 11 times in their last dozen games the Mets have finally pulled ahead for a day anyway, of the Detroit Tigers for best record in baseball. It ent the World Championship but it's certainly a sign that the Mets, seemingly growing stronger in spite of the absence of Pedro and Glavine, the lions of the starting rotation, are moving steadily in the right direction.

The Fall of The Diaz

Adios, Víctor Díaz.

After hitting .224 with 99 strikeouts in 103 games with Norfolk and after being designated for assignment on 22nd August, the Mets traded the former future star to the Texas Rangers for minor-league catcher Mike Nickeas. In 39 games for Double AA Frisco, he hit .248 with two home runs and 15 RBI.

Seems like a trade of one man's rubbish for another's but then again, so did the trade for Dave Williams. Who knows?


Bang Bang, We Shoot Them Down

Steve Trachsel won his 14th game of the season against only 5 losses. I think that information, more than the Mets' 15 hits, more than Carlos Beltran's career highest 39th homer and career highest 109 RBIs, more than Kaz Matsui getting three hits and stealing a pair of bases in the Mets 10-5 pounding of the lowly Colorado Rockies last night is the most intriguing information of the evening. Trachsel is a phenomenon, number one with a bullet, the "ace" of the Mets new motley starting rotation.

Beltran gives thanks for a handful of career-highs.

And by motley starting rotation I mean without Pedro, without Glavine, without El Duque; losses which would have crippled most teams but only present the Mets with more young and more journeyman arms to hurl with. Trachsel, Cy Young? John Maine? Mike Pelfrey? Dave Williams? Oliver bloody Perez? Do you SEE what they're doing here with this smoke and these mirrors?!

Trachsel doing the crab pose...

By giving up only 3 runs in 6 innings of work, Trachsel lowered his ERA below 5.00 and raised his record to an unbelievable 12-1 in 15 starts since June 9, his 5th in a row. The Mets are now 26-7 in Trachsel's starts. As usual the Mets provided plenty of support and as usual, Trachsel did his best to give back the lead but the offensive outburst by his teammates was simply too overwhelming for a man of Mr Kim's stature to handle.

Better news still came the confirmation that the ump's reversal the other night against the Phillies and for David Wright was sufficient to send the wheels of efficiency spinning back in the right direction. Wright had three hits in four at-bats last night including a triple and a trio of RBIs and as predicted by Willie Randolph, the decision appears to have righted the young Mr Wright.

It is possible the Mets could average double digit runs the rest of the season. Would you want to face this batting order? Jose Reyes hitting .448 over the last week. Lo Duca hitting a quiet .370 in that same period. Endy Chavez .435, Carlos Delgado .429 (and 10 RBIs in 7 games) Carlos Beltran a trepid .279 yet 3 homers and 7 RBIs, Shawn Green hitting .316 and David Wright warming up to getting hotter than them all.

Eight extra base hits; two homers, two triples, four doubles. To hell with Tinkers to Evers to Chance. This is double to triple to four run smash. This is a juggernaut. This is...well, not the World Series yet but the excitement is certainly, tangibly building.

Is it good or bad that it feels as though the Mets are playing with house money?

On the one hand, no worries in any of these games. Even if the Mets were to go on a prolonged losing streak before season's end we are still virtually guaranteed the postseason and have only the results in the postseason to worry about. That's a massive step in the right direction after all these season being counted out by August.

On the other hand, because there are no worries, because we hold such a gargantuan lead, none of these games "really" matter. Were you "really" concerned when Trachsel gave up two singles sandwiched around a walk to load the bases in the bottom of the third with no outs and the Mets clinging to a 4-1 lead? Were you biting your nails when Aaron Heilman made an appearance in the 9th that opened with a walk and then a double to Matsui? Did you become frantic an out later when Garrett Atkins doubled in two runs to narrow the lead from 10-3? Of course not. Two run scoring double in the bottom of the 9th? Hahaha. No worries. You see? We're becoming almost casual simply by virtue of our 15 1/2 game cushion over the Phillies.

So it's time to set some NEW GOALS FOR THE REGULAR SEASON:

1. There are 32 games left in the regular season. The Mets should set their target at 100 victories, possible 103 if they win 70% of the remaining games fielding their Norfolk starting 8.

2. Build their NL East lead to 20 games.

3. Consider, for the purposes of Pedro, Glavine and El Duque that these remaining 32 games are mere warm ups for the post season, like Spring Training to the regular season. Just enough appearances and just enough innings to pronounce them fit to crush the National League opponents on the motorway to the World Series.

4. Give Paul Lo Duca a rest for crissakes. Granted, he's only played in 100 games but he's 34 years old and he deserves some time to play the ponies and pull some more fit bachelorhood birds before the serious part of the season begins.

5. Get Trachsel enough starts to have a shot at 20 wins on the season. That might means skipping a turn or two for Maine or Dave Williams or Mike Pelfrey but this guy has a chance for a record. In 1938 Bobo Newsom won 20 games with a 5.07 ERA for the St Louis Browns. And before that, in 1930, Ray Kremer won 20 games with a 5.02 ERA for the Pirates, highest ever in the National League.



NL East Lead Expanding Like The Universe

In 1929 an astronomer named Edwin Hubble announced> a remarkable observation that changed our view of the world more than almost any other single discovery made this century. In every direction he looked, every galaxy in the sky was moving away from us. The nearby ones were moving relatively slowly, but the farther away a galaxy was the faster it was heading out.

In 2006, in every direction we look, every NL opponent is moving further away from the Mets. Back on 28th June, a mere two months ago, the Mets were 47-30 and held a 12 game lead over the Phillies. The team nearest them in all the National League was the St Louis Cardinals, who at 43-34, were four games behind. In the American League, three teams; the Tigers at 54-25, the White Sox (51-26) and the Boston Red Sox (47-28) all had better records than the Mets.

As of today the Mets actually have a better winning percentage than they did then, at 80-49. The NL East lead has expanded to a staggering 15 1/2 games and their nearest competition in the National League is still the Cardinals who with a 69-60 record are now 11 games behind the Mets for the best record in the National League.

In two months, the Mets have improved from being 4 games ahead of ALL their competition in the NL to 11 games ahead.

And guess what, with the Tigers struggling of late the Mets aren't even that far off from having the best record in all of baseball. The Tigers are currently 82-49, a mere game ahead of the Mets, down from 6 games, for the best record in baseball.

What it means is that in a season where the Mets have consistently been the best team in the National League, they are actually getting better.

After yesterday's laughable 8-3 victory over the Phillies closed out the most recent homestand having won 9 of their last 10 games and seeing their magic number down to 18.

John Maine was solid albeit occasional distracted, according to the manager. Nonetheless, facing the Phillies yet again he lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed five hits and two runs -- both earned -- with two walks and two strikeouts. 3 of his 4 wins this season have come against the Phillies. He improved to 4-0 with four no-decisions in his last eight starts. His last loss was July 8 against the Marlins.

David Wright, mired in a slump of massive proportion since the All-Star game, hitless in his last 24 at-bats, got the aid of an ump for a controversial single in the third inning which was first called foul and then called fair. Or perhaps it was the aid of several umpires who assisted the blind man in seeing that the ball had been knocked foul by the bloody base.

But it's a sign that things are all going the Mets way. How often is a call like that overturned?

In any event, the Mets laughed through 6 runs in that inning, destroyed any semblance of a competetive game and reasserted yet again their dominance in an otherwise watered down NL season.

Reyes, LoDuca, Delgado and Endy Chavez all had a pair of hits. LoDuca, Delgado and David Wright all had a pair of RBIs.

Roberto Hernandez had a nifty two-out outing to drop his ERA to 2.89 with the Mets.

Billy Wagner ended the ninth with three consecutive strikeouts and in between, Guillermo Mota surrendered yet another Ryan Howard homerun yet still has an impressive 1.80 ERA with the Mets.

Tonight the Mets travel to Colorado to face Kaz Matsui and the Rockies.

Steve Trachsel gets the mile high start because the Mets record in Trachsel's 25 starts is 18-7.


Rain Dogs

--Tom Waits

Inside a broken clock, splashing the wine with all the rain dogs
Taxi, we'd rather walk, huddle a doorway with the rain dogs
For I am a rain dog, too

Oh, how we danced and we swallowed the night
For it was all ripe for dreaming
Oh, how we danced away all of the lights
We've always been out of our minds

The rum pours strong and thin, beat out the dustman with the rain dogs
Aboard a shipwreck train, give my umbrella to the rain dogs
For I am a rain dog, too

Oh, how we danced with the Rose of Tralee
Her long hair black as a raven
Oh, how we danced and you whispered to me
You'll never be going back home
Oh, how we danced with the Rose of Tralee
Her long hair black as a raven
Oh, how we danced and you whispered to me
You'll never be going back home


Back To Regularly Scheduled Programming

Ok, so the Phillies had their fun one night at Brian Bannister's expense.

They threatened, as early as the first inning when starter Oliver Perez required a a mound visit just three batters into the game having put two on board to set up Ryan Howard.

If you recall, the other MVP candidate thrives on these situations and I don't know about you but I was certain the Mets were going to be down 3-0 with this a mere whiff of the futher pillaging to come. I mean this was Oliver Perez, after all. 2-10 with the Pirates and pitching in the minors before we traded for him. A casual throw-in in the Nady for Hernandez desperation deal. An Roseanne Barrish ERA.

But he got Howard to ground out, struck out Burrell to get out of the inning and cruised for several innings thereafter. Out of nowhere, right? Oliver Perez, the punch line to the Xavier Nady joke.

And similar perhaps to Bannister, Perez wasn't lucky twice against Howard. He faced him again in the 5th inning with an ineviable bases loaded situation and Howard, as one would have imagined, smashed a grand slam to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead.

So this is what we were looking at: a repeat of the night before.

Ryan Howard taking on our starting pitcher. Ryan Howard homering. Phillies winning. Ryan Howard gaining more MVP momentum. Carlos Beltran hitting a two run homer in a loss.

But not last night. Not in Carlos Beltran's career year.

Instead of submitting meekly to an inexplicably effective Philly bullpen, every position player except David Wright had at least one hit and every position player scored at least not to mention a thorough pummeling of that bullpen in the 7th inning when the Mets scored seven runs and cracked the game wide open.

Shawn Green, who has been hitting the ball hard without result in his first two games with the Mets, doubled two runs in during that eventful 7th inning and officially gave everyone goosebumps thinking about the batting order that will eat the postseason in one bite. Even Shawn Green is impressed.

"This lineup is so impressive, from top to bottom," he gushed after the game. "Someone's always on. There's hitters who hit from gap-to-gap like Delgado and Beltran, a lead-off batter who gets on, someone like Chavez in the eight-hole. It's pretty special."

Endy Chavez has been absolutely irreplaceable in replacing Cliff Floyd. Last night he went 4-for-4 and tied a career high with four hits in a game. He had three singles, including a bunt, and a two-run double of his own. He's hitting .307 for the season. He's hitting .367 in August, picking up the slack created by David Wright's recent struggles.

The difference between the Phillies and the Mets last night is that the Phillies are Ryan Howard and a cloud of dust whereas the Mets are a team hitting from top to bottom and chockablock with people with no business pitching in the Major Leagues filling in the holes of the Mets starting rotation whilst the auld timer first string takes a rest for the postseason. The Mets are a team of destiny, the Phillies are a one-man gang.

I think we should take notice of something else quirky on as well, a subplot involving the birth of the second string bullpen:

Darren Oliver, Pedro Feliciano and Guillermo Mota, held the Phillies with two hits the rest of the way after Perez was finished and bloodied. Feliciano earned his sixth win of the season. Suddenly the Heilman to Sanchez to Wagner troika is put into perspective.

The Mets bullpen has allowed only two earned runs in its last 23 2/3 innings.


This MVP thing is intriguing, especially considering we're getting to see the cream of the race every night. Pujols was banging around town only a few days ago and despite two homers and a grand slam in Game One, was outshone by Carlos Delgado. And now we are haunted by Ryan Howard.

The thing is whereas the Mets just might survive without Carlos Beltran simply because of the depth of the bench and Omar's quiet cunning ways, the Phillies and the Cardinals would both be meandering the National League boulevards like homeless alchoholics looking for another drink if they didn't have Howard and Pujols respectively.

In fact it's difficult to make a good argument for any Met being the Most Valuable Player in the National League.

I know, not a very fanatical comment for a Mets fan but the reality is, a team which is truly a "team" in the sense that the Mets are, can do without one of their stars and still keep rolling. Not that I want to see that happen of course but look, David Wright's been sleep walking for a month, as did Carlos Delgado before him and yet the Mets weren't any the worse for it. The Mets lose Pedro and Glavine and gutterballs like Oliver Perez come up with unspectacular but workmanlike performances to pick up the slack. The Mets lose their set-up man in a car crash and seemingly have four or five candidates to take his place. If Carlos Beltran went down we'd be sad but we wouldn't be banging our heads against the wall bemoaning the fact that our season was effectively over. Not like if Pedro was gone for the year.

So although Carlos Beltran is having his first career year in a Mets uniform and we can gush about his 200 career homers, his 38 this season to date, his 108 RBIs, his 103 runs scored, the .390 on base percentage all we want but does anyone really believe that were he out injured the Mets juggernaut would suddenly come to a halt?

Ryan Howard knocked in 3 of the Phillies 4 runs two nights ago and 4 of their 5 runs yesterday and whilst there are no other great Phillies in the lineup to diminish his numbers and importance as in Beltran's case, his dominance is precisely the reason the Phillies are even IN the wild card race to begin with. Not because they traded away two of their stars to the Yankees and created some sort of magical mystery season as they would like you to believe.


Speaking of Carlos Beltran, it might appear to the casual eye that although he's having himself a memorable season, it isn't happening at Shea. Beltran is hitting .347 on the road and .224 at Shea. 71 of his 108 RBIs have come outside of Shea as have 23 of his 38 homers. Should we really be rooting for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs?


Bannister Loses First

Brian Bannister appears to have become a bit delusional in his four months away from the Mets.

"I got beat by the best hitter on their team and one of the best hitters in the league this year," Bannister dreamed after losing his first game of the season, "If you take him out of the equation, it might have been a different game."

A different game? Like the game Kellen Clemens was playing last night?

Bannister is likely to prefer he's place on the mound rather than on a gridiron but the place he's going now to soothe those dreams of Ryan Howard-less worlds is Norfolk. Four months away, one night back. And a first loss to take with him as a souvenir.

It started badly. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley began the game with singles, with Utley's scoring Rollins and sending Victorino to third. I dunno about you but this was a throbbing reminder of the back-to-back massacres we suffered in Philly last time around.

Ryan Howard then nearly broke the back of the game with a three-run homer that died at the warning track. It was only postponing the inevitable for Bannister because three innings later, Howard got it right with a two-run shot, his 45th of the season.

Howard's MVP competition, Carlos Beltran upped the ante with a two-run homer of his own in the 5th inning that brought the Mets within a run. It was Beltran's 37th of the season, one short of his career high achieved in a combination season with the Royals and Astros. His next will be his 200th.


Wake Me Up When The Post Season Begins

Maybe this wasn't a postseason preview after all.

Maybe the Cardinals, losers of 18 of their last 26 games and victims of a simple sweep at Shea, are not destined to even make it to the postseason. As it is, following this loss they are barely holding on to a half game lead over the Cincinnati Reds who were in action against the Giants.

But hey, that's the Cardinals' problem, we have our own headaches, like who to rest and who to play now that the games are essentially meaningless.

Ok, were we fighting for the NL East or battling for a wild card spot, a sweep over the once-mighty Cardinals would have been a massive catharsis, a sweet nectar, a spicy bromide to placate our ulcers and inspire us through the dog days of the season.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. This is certainly better than ticking off game after meaningless game, twenty games back from the pack, watching professionals go through the motions, dreaming up new insults, finding new ways to describe mediocrity.

It's nice to be able to focus on other things this time of year; giving El Duque a chance to rest his 50 year old bones, a stretch of calf rehabilitation for Pedro, the return of Brian Bannister, the roster shuffling of numbers.

Shawn Green made his debut for us last night, 1 for 3 from right field. Hitting 6th in the order, Green lined into a double play in the bottom of the second after David Wright had singled. But he redeemed himself the following inning with an RBI single as the Mets burst forward with a 3-0 lead.

Shawn Green, the new hero of New York Jews?

The next time up he walked and the time after that he struck out, a little bit of everything. But there's little doubt this is an improvement to the batting order with Lastings Milledge going back down that dusty road to Norfolk after an underwhelming return to Shea.

The only question about Green is will he be available on religious holidays? In 2004, Green sat out a pennant race game for the Los Angeles Dodgers in observance of Kol Nidre, the start of Yom Kippur. Then again, the Mets aren't really IN a pennant race so it's a moot point in an otherwise optimistic haze.

And although it was not his Mets debut, how about a hand for lefty Dave Williams anyway, replacing Pedro without a blink, allowing a mere two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings to earn the win, his first for the Mets after a dismal stint with the Reds. Can you imagine how huge this would have been in a pennant race? Lose your ace and a journeyman outpitches his history for a key victory?

And if that's not enough excitement, how about the return of Brian Bannister? This guy was our John Maine before John Maine had even arrived in our collective subconscious with scoreless streaks and precision pitching. This guy was 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA in five starts before disappearing for the season with a torn hamstring in April. Remember him? More walks than strikeouts? He will start against the Phillies on Friday night.

The conga line of replacement pitchers is almost endless. I mean, look who is starting in this weekend series against our nearest NL East rivals; Bannister, then Oliver Perez, then John Maine. If you were told of this scenario in March, you'd probably have been sure the season was already in tatters.

Yea! I'm not pitching for the Pirates any more!

And if that's not surprising enough for you, two more additions, Roberto Hernandez and Guillermo Mota pitched perfect innings in relief. Two more faces we'd never imagined seeing back in March.

That isn't to say of course that the Mets' expected stars don't continue to produce. Carlos Delgado had another homerun and is making a late season chase for a stat-packed MVP race. Just think about how this series played out - Delgado and Pujols both had a pair of homers and a grand slam in the first game, Delgado continued bashing and Pujols had only one hit in four at-bats last night.

Jose Reyes, adding further to his coming-out season, became the first National League player since Andy Van Slyke in 1988 to hit 15 home runs and 15 triples in a season. Reyes joins Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League as the most recent players to have accomplished that feat.

So here we have the balance of defence, pitching and hitting. Equilibrium between the superstars we expected to perform performing and all the other additions from this season who have made surprising contributions.

When you consider the success and the chemistry, when you consider how uncertain people were about the Mets in spite of the second consecutive splashy off season signings, you might suddenly begin to realise that Willie Randolph deserves serious consideration for Manager of the Year in the National League.


Trachsel Gets Lucky 13th

It must be nice to be Steve Trachsel.

Oh sure, he labours like a shotputter on the mound.

His face opens into a canvass of painful concentration when attempting to bunt.

He gives up runs like a paedophile handing out candy to children and yet, somehow, in spite of the hours in between pitches, in spite of being the houseboy of Wine Spectator, in spite of surrendering Mark McGwire's record-breaking steroid-slathered 62nd homerun of the season back in 1998, in spite of last year's discectomy, in spite of 18 losses in 1999, all conspiring against him in an apocalyptic painting of chaos, bewildering inefficiency and guile, in spite of ALL OF THIS, Steve Trachsel is tied for the National League lead in victories with his 13th.

Who else but Steve Trachsel could give up six hits, six runs and three walks in a mere five innings of work and still win with only the slightest tremor of uncertainty, backed by a massive 10-2 lead and winning his fourth consecutive decision, his 11th of 12? Do we understand that opponents have a .361 on base percentage against him?

Amongst his colleagues in the 13 win club in the National League only Cardinals starter Jason Marquis has a more daunting ERA, having surrendered 30 homers and hit 11 batters in a magical and equally inexplicable ride to the top.

And yet Steve Trachsel keeps winning or at least, not losing. He has suffered only one loss (and we all remember THAT one against the Cubbies on 24th July don't we, wringing our hands, aneurysm-inducing incomprehensibility?) in his past 17 starts.

His formula is simple. Let your teammates score. Serve them wine in the dugout during batting practice to loosen them up. And it works. Well, I have no factual evidence of the wine tastings in the dugout during batting practice but nonetheless, his teammates score an average of 6.38 runs, the most in the N.L, when he starts. It's either that or something in the water. What inspires them when he's on the mound? Fear that they'll be down 13-0 before they get their first turn at bat?

With his lucky 13th, Trachsel is now just 3 away from his career-high in victories but even the 10-2 lead almost wasn't enough. He gave up homers to Scott Rolen, the Met that will never be, Preston Wilson and absurdly enough, Jose Vizcaino.

The Cardinals chipped away at it 2 runs in the 5th and 6th innings, another pair in the 8th before Aaron Heilman came in to stop the bleeding, show the kids how it's done after Chad Bradford was done trying to give the game away.

And what if I had fallen asleep in March? Would I have been more shocked by the Mets being 29 games over .500 with an NL-best record of 77-48, Steve Trachsel's 13 victories or Jose Reyes' 15th homerun of the season, a three-run job in the third that gave the Mets and Trachsel a 7-2 lead?

15 homeruns?! I thought this kid with the dodgy hammies was all about speed, getting on base and running like a holy terror, striking fear into the hearts of catchers and pitchers alike and here he is hitting .294, driving in his 65th run, stealing bases number 51 and 52 and a career-high 43 walks under his belt. All obscured in a fascinating way by the talk of MVP for Carlos Beltran, the spiralling wunderkindness of David Wright, the sudden surge from Carlos Delgado.

And since July 25, shortly before Duaner Sanchez's fateful cab ride, Heilman has excelled as the setup man, going 3-1 with a 1.72 earned run average.

The season has been full of surprises and with the Mets taking their 10th in a row at Shea, taking another from the Cardinals, the homefield advantage in the NL Playoffs is looking more formidable by the day. But if we want to worry, we can keep the Phillies in our rear view mirrors as they inch closer to the wild card lead.


Worth a read even if it is months late, Mets composite which I either missed entirely or simply forgot about reading.


The Best Day Of The Year (so far)

Where to begin?

Firstly, the question of the importance of a massive come-from-behind victory over St Louis Cardinals in a season where the playoff race for the Mets is no longer a question.

THIS is what we paid for!

Carlos Beltran's two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th off Jason Isringhausen might hardly be news. After all, Izzy is slumping, having been scored on in three straight appearances and four of his past five. He now has nine blown saves and his ERA has risen over three-quarters of a run to 3.54 since August 5. That's Braden Looper territory. Not good news for our postseason competition.

But forget about Izzy, this is the Mets' forté, the late inning come from behind resurgence, the one-run victories that have marked this season like an animal marking its territory with a pungeant piss. This was our 11th walk off win and 27th one-run victory of the season.

And how about this, Albert Pujols hits two homers, including a grand slam to go with a career-high 7 RBIs and the Mets STILL win despite being down 7-1. Parenthetically, John Maine was charged with seven runs on six hits, striking out five and walking two, a far cry from the scoreless streak that had us all salivating only a month ago.

Secondly, the Mets acquisition of Shawn Green. To make room for Green on the roster, the Mets designated Victor Diaz for assignment and I'm thinking to myself Victor Diaz? I must not be paying attention, I thought he was still in Norfolk.

Although he is hardly the star of yore, Green was batting .283 with 22 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 471 at-bats with the D-Backs this season. A clear upgrade over the puzzlingly underwhelming Lastings Milledge.

Of course, not necessarily an upgrade over former Met Xavier Nady who is hitting .329 with 10 RBIs in 19 games with the Pirates but we can thank Duaner Sanchez's late night hunger pangs for that.

Bye, bye Number 400

Thirdly, Carlos Delgado ALSO hit two homers including a grand slam last night, numbers 30 and 31, the second of which brought him to the 400 career homer bench mark and past Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga into 42nd place on the career list. That 90 percent of those homers were hit for other teams is hardly relevant. Cheers to Carlos.

And lastly of course, but not leastly, the relieving news that Tom Glavine's season isn't over just yet.

And so today was a day for the Mets where all the news was good news, all the fears and insecurities dissipating for the moment and we can all wallow in the joy of having the best record in the National League, the return of Tom Glavine, the arrival of another bat for the outfield, and of course, the victory and the manner of the victory over the Cardinals.

"The rich did get richer," Carlos Delgado said not of his 400th homer but of the Mets fling with destiny. "It's been a good day to be a Met."

"We may have to mark down this day," general manager Omar Minaya said. "It's a good one in so many ways."

*****What Can We Worry About Now?*****

Ramon Castro suffered a strained ligament in his left knee during a rehab assignment with the Brooklyn Cyclones. Castro was already on the 15-day DL with a sore left rib cage muscle. There is no timetable set for his return.

This gives us an opportunity in light of all the good news to fret over the back up for Paul LoDuca. Mike DeFelice is hitting .071 and Eli Marrero is hitting .203. Quick, Omar! Back up catcher! Where is Todd Pratt when you need him? In Atlanta of course, hitting a stealthy .190 for the season.

How about Maine's shaky performance bringing him back to earth? A blip? A trend? A warning that the National League has figured him out?

What will happen to Royce Ring's career now that he's been sent down AGAIN? 2.25 ERA just doesn't cut it in the Mets bullpen any more.

How about Bartolome Fortunato with his 1-0 with a 27.00 ERA?


Another Bullet Dodged

For a season that began after a winter's long lament about Pedro's toe that went well into Spring Training it seems perhaps appropriate that the Mets have dodged another bullet to their starting rotation when it was revealed that Tom Glavine will not need season-ending surgery after all.

How do YOU spell relief Tom? (hint: not J-o-r-g-e J-u-l-i-o)

Glavine might be back starting as early as 1st September, long enough for him to pound a few stiff drinks and say a few silent prayers of thanks along with millions of Mets fans. (do we really number in the millions? Has a study ever been done?)

What it means is that the post season hasn't been torpedoed before it even begins, as swiftly as the Mets took their strangle-hold of the NL East in April.

What it means that in a season of minor injury tribulations that the team has overcome, we can focus once again on clinching homefield advantage in the NL playoffs.

Or prattle on about the lack of threatening bats in the outfield short of Carlos Beltran or worry about who is going to set up Billy Wagner's post season saves.


The season lives on again.


El Duque In Post Season Form

Naturally with a double digit lead in their division, a 2-0 victory to complete a late season sweep over the lowly Colorado Rockies is hardly nerve-shattering news.

What is nerve-shattering news is Tom Glavine's potential blood clot.

Coldness in the finger of throwing hand is sufficient to stifle our delusions of grandeur.

We won't know until later this week what affect this will have on the Mets' postseason. The possibilities are said to range from undergoing an angiogram and seeing that this is just an isolated incident and there is no problem OR he might need surgery which would finish him for the year.

With Pedro already on the DL this means the Mets' postseason could be over almost as fast as the NL East race was this season. Steve Trachsel, in theory anyway, might become the de facto number one starter, hardly meant to strike fear in the hearts of opponents.

Not surprisingly in the light of the news the Mets countered with the announcement that they'd somehow gotten ahold of former Met and Piazza-hater, Guillermo Moto to reinforce the bullpen. Mota was 1-3 with a 6.21 E.R.A. in 34 games this season with the Cleveland Indians but didn't start any games in place of Tom Glavine.

Mota and Piazza in days of yore.

Duque pitched 6 scoreless innings giving up only 5 hits and striking out 8. That makes him 6-1 since July and notwithstanding that embarassing outing against the Phillies recently, the best starter outside of John Maine remaining in the Mets rotation.

Going, going....gone

Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltrán hit home runs, and Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for his 31st save. All the superstars accounted for.

Maine (3-3, 2.68 ERA) makes his ninth start of the season as the Mets host the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Jeff Weaver (2-3, 5.54 ERA) takes the mound for the Cardinals.

Maine has gone six straight starts without a loss.



Stark poignancy thinking back 20 years and realising it seemed more like 200 until you see that alhough rapidly ageing, most of the gang from 1886 is holding up, more or less.

I won't bother you with another nostalgic waxing of the good auld days - I'm quite content with this year's version of events and although the lads of 1986 are inspirational, let's not forget that the the following year they didn't even make the playoffs. So fleeting these momentary illusions of greatness.

This year's version won their throwback polyester uniforms

Dave Williams, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to start in place of injured ace Pedro Martinez.

Right-hander Aaron Heilman picked up the victory with two innings of scoreless relief before Billy Wagner finished off the Rockies for his 30th save of the season.

Fot those intent on living the past, this refletion will keep you busy thinking about all the things you've already forgotten.


Mets Back on Trachsel

Yeah, that's it, go right for the cornball obvious headline because dames en heren, this is just what baseball is all about in August with a 14 game lead over your nearest rivals.

Just a few days ago, kicking the tires on the Mets model which is to be unveiled in the post season some were gleefully clucking about the deep sleep that had overcome the middle of the lineup and bemoaning the paucity of quality starters. That's what happens when you lose three games by a combined 27-3 margin against your nearest divisional rivals. You start looking for cracks in the masterpiece, you start hearing an orchestra that lapses into occasional off-key variations.

But no, this was just a thunderstorm in the mind. Glavine appears to have regained form, John Maine followed him with another steady outing and Steve Trachsel, historically the weak link in this chain goes out and wins his third bloody game of August to tie him with Glavine for the team lead in victories at 12.

It isn't easy getting excited about a victory over the Colorado Rockies but Trachsel is now 3-0 in August with a reasonable if unspectacular 3.24 ERA.

And Pedro's having himself a breather, getting fitted for all sorts of foam cushions in his shoes for his calf and his toe whilst the Mets' lead in the NL East expands like the bladder of a lager gulping punter in the middle of a night of binge drinking.

And as for the slump in the middle of the batting order like a big gob of phlegm in the back of the throat well, two nights ago Beltran and Delgado coughed it out with 7 hits in 9 at-bats and last night David Wright returned to form with a pair of hits and RBIs.

10-7 for August.

Hardly eye-opening but when you consider the rest of the National League is floundering in it's own collective futility (note that the even Cardinals, who have the second best record in the NL, are 8 games behind the Mets,) it becomes clear that the only excitement remaining before the postseason are these momentary hiccups that cause the henny pennies to fall from the sky like acid rain and make, for a day or two at least, a little excitement in an otherwise spectacularly unspectacular run the Mets have been on.

Will we miss this game in the throes of next winter whether we are bemoaning an October collapse or celebrating a new ticker tape pinnacle that puts the hated Yankees to shame in their own city? Probably not. A forgettable game for all save for those 35,325 lucky enough to be there in person.

Isn't it remarkable how smooth Willie Randolph's time here as been thus far?

Last season, although we bemoaned his frequently questionable tactical decisions, he had what amounted to a free pass. We had a gimp Piazza, an ineffective closer, little power in the lineup, a slumping Carlos Beltran and an unwalkable Jose Reyes among other problems so Willie could just play it cool until the jackal cacophony faded in the distance.

This season he's still making questionable tactical decisions although these, like dips in a flat and otherwise uneventful Midwest American interstate highway road, are barely discernable and cause no commotion. It remains to be seen how he will perform in the spotlight with the forensic examinations of the nation conducted in the postseason - he may lose control of the wheel and veer sharply into a ditch or get stuck in traffic. But something about the steadiness of this Mets squad, their inner confidence, their unflappability and indominable progressions makes you almost believe that no matter what, this team will be in the World Series and some other unlucky franchise will be the sacrificial goat.

All tiny speculations on a morning following a game which typifies the Mets' resolve. Steady, productive and other than those infrequent dips, reliable.

How lucky we are to be Mets fans this season.



Call off the hounds! We've found the Missing Mets!

Jose Reyes rides the dirt to redemption.

Who shall we thank for this resumption of our regularly scheduled Mets, Scott Mathieson? John Maine? Carlos Beltan or the return of Carlos Delgado from batting obscurity?

Delgado, 1 for his last 24 and 4 of his last 41, 7 games on the trot without an RBI going into this afternoon's game awoke like the proverbial Van Winkle Boy with 2 solo homers, an RBI triple and four RBIs and the Carlos Boys combined, waking up the middle of the lineup, went a combined 7 hits and 7 RBIs in 9 at-bats with three homers.

It's amazing what a dose of Scott Mathieson can do for a beleaguered side who had been bashed and humiliated for three straight games to a 27-3 tune.

Scott Mathieson, a man without a mission.

And after Pedro's scare, El Duque's11-run debunking, Tom Glavine's heroic yet futile return from the bowels of rapidly sinking hopes, it was The Man We Got For Mr Anna Benson who yet again resuscitated the dwindling starting rotation and this time allowed the Mets to avoid a disconcerting four game sweep in South Philly.

It's safe to come back out from under the bed.

At least until the post season.

Mets Move Closer To Philly's Broom

"I’m not Dr. Seuss," the pitching coach, Rick Peterson, said earlier this week about diagnosing Pedro. "I’m not even Dr. Phil."

For the first night in three, a Mets starter wasn't pounded immediately into oblivion by the ferocity of the Phillies batting attack.

Although he didn't earn a win because the Mets didn't provide him any run support, Tom Glavine eased, at least momentarily, the worry that the entirety of the Met starting rotation had been kidnapped and undergone some sort of ritualistic xenotransplantation.

Ok, maybe not everyone was worried about that. Maybe they were more worried about Pedro's trip to the DL, or the fact that they've lost three on the trot to the Phillies and have been outscored by a 27-4 margin.

"I can't be a whole lot more pleased with the way I've felt and how I've thrown," Glavine said 114 pitches later, clearly relieved that his career wasn't down the pisser just yet.

And Willie Randolph didn't seem to bothered about Pedro's unexpected holiday. "I didn't expect it to be worse," he said. "But it could have been. I wasn't that worried. I don't think it's a big thing. I'm not going to cry. I don't sing the blues. I like jazz."

Be that as it may, the Mets lost again. It's to be expected when Jon Lieber pitches his first shutout in five years, the Mets batting attack musters a mere 5 hits and David Wright makes a pair of errors. But there are no goats tonight, there was no magical story to divert our attention, no Pedro injury, no Jose Reyes homer hattrick tonight, just the facts:

Third loss in a row. Massive double digit lead remains a double digit lead although even a dozen game lead in the wake of this outpouring of humility seems a tetch dodgy. Is this the moment of fragility we have all secretly been dreading?

Not bloody likely.

The reality is this is still a massive lead and the Phillies still have a marathon to run if they are to even entertain thoughts about making the greatest comeback in the history of baseball. The Mets have remained too balanced, have played with too much confidence and have dominated the NL for too long to be worried about an historic collapse at this point in the season.

This blip on the radar is not a torpedo heading for the Mets postseason hopes any more than than it was for the Detroit Tigers to lose five games in a row in what the fatalists were all calling the choke waiting to happen. Just think about what the Marlboro chain-smoking Tiger manager said about those waiting for the other shoe to drop:

"You're going to hear everything. From a manager's standpoint, you're going to hear, `Oh the Tigers are going to hang on, they're going to win.' `The Tigers are choking,' blah, blah, blah. `They don't know what to do, they got too many young guys who haven't been in this situation.'

"You're going to hear all this, and what does it mean? It doesn't mean anything. What it means is that these guys have to go out, between the lines, play the games, and see if we're good enough."


Just the kind of steady umpiring you like to see - observe how closely he is watching this play at second base.

Oh tonight John Maine could be our hero. He goes up against Scott Mathieson who has given up 13 runs in his last two starts.

Or Mathieson could bedevil the Mets lineup, Maine could get pounded and we'll all be sitting here on Friday morning wondering where it all went wrong.

It's just a little intrigue to make these last two months more exciting.

Lastly, if you hadn't heard, good news lads: Heath Bell was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Martinez's spot on the roster. If that doesn't strike fear into the hearts of our opponents, nothing will.


Another Day, Another Beating

It was if they never stopped playing Game One last night.

A night after Pedro and the Mets were ripped by the suddenly-hungry Phillies 13-0, the Phillies kept ringing in runs against Met starting pitching like it they were running up points in a pinball machine. This time it was El Duque's turn to suffer humiliation and scorn as the Phillies won again, 11-4.

If Only El Duque had a calf to blame

The primary difference between A and B was that Pedro had an excuse - he's had an MRI on a dodgy calf/ El Duque was simply pounded.

Pounded to the tune of 11 runs which is more than in any other of his 176 previous starts and more than a Mets pitcher had allowed on all but two occasions in the team's 45-season history. They had allowed 10-plus runs in two consecutive games once -- previously -- 16 against the Yankees on July 2 and 11 against the Pirates in those games, both losses. The 24 runs scored by the Phillies in the past two games matched their output from Aug. 2-3 against St. Louis, and vaulted them past the Mets as the NL's highest-scoring team.

So does it all mean?!

It means the Phillies are hitting the hell out of the ball for one.

Since the start of August, Jimmy Rollins is hitting .406, has 6 homers and 17 RBIs. Ryan Howard is hitting .390 with 6 homers and 19 RBIs. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino (who I still propose has the coolest name in baseball,) .302 and .310 respectively. Mike Lieberthal is hitting .310. Even David Delucci, a career nowhere man, is hitting .421 with 5 homers and 12 RBIs. They swept the Cardinals and took two of three in Atlanta already, foiled so far only by the resurgent Cincinnati Reds this month and the Mets themselves at Shea. 11-6 since trading Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees on July 30.

None of this makes the 24-4 margin of the first two games any clearer, any more palatable for Mets supporters who are now scratching their collective heads with renewed worry and concern about the starting rotation in the postseason.

Should we be concerned?

Neverfear. The Army is staunch in its confidence that this temporary blip, this illusion of Phillie domination, this sudden collapse of the starting rotation will happily resolve itself by week's end.

Pedro's MRI will come clean and require him only to miss a start or two of meaningless games, better for him and the Mets since it will leave him fresher for the postseason.

El Duque will bounce back in his next start, Glavine will slowly regain confidence and location, John Maine will continue surprising and Steve Trachsel will get blown out again at least one out of three starts as he has most of the season.

You are getting veeeeeeery sleepy.


Ok, just because the Mets were humiliated two nights in a row doesn't mean we can't celebrate the growing enormity of the Jose Reyes star.

It's a pity that the homerun hattrick by Jose Reyes was lost in all the running around the bases the Phillies were doing. He hit two batting right-handed and one left-handed for the second time in his career. Three for three with four RBIs.

"We lost, so I can't get too excited," Reyes said with no trace of a Milledgesque need to boast and strut. "If we would've won, it would've been more exciting."

Well we're excited for him. He might still outshadow David Wright as the best Met yet.

Is there still hope to solve the outfield juggle?

Now tonight, the ritual lamb to slaughter, Tom Glavine takes the mound for the Mets.

The Army is making a stand here. Glavine will not be poached like Pedro and Duque before him. He will pitch well enough to bring a modicum of relief to the bullpen. He will pitch well enough that we begin to believe there is at least ONE Met starter out there who can be counted on.


The Fatted Calf Damns Mets, 13-0

This must have been the ugliest game of the year in a season which has been otherwise beautiful.

But there's no point in worrying about this collective bad hair day. Not when you consider that even the Mighty Mets of 1986 were blasted by the Phillies once, giving up 27 hits and 26 runs and losing by a 26-7 margin.

Is it any wonder, looking at this delivery, that it resulted in a thirty pitch, four hit, six earned run, two hit batsmen, a walk, and a bases loaded balk swoon.

This was a laughter - you hear that, kids? A laughter. A procession of unalleviated psychasthenias, misfortune and setbacks. A once-in-a-lifetime sort of chance to recall all those early years of mediocrity and frustration, all those moments of bile building in the course of season after season, all those Pre-Pedro years flashing back with a suddenness that set the teeth grinding against each other.

It all started with Pedro feeling a "twinge" in his calf warming up.

For you and I, a twinge is a sharp, sudden pain, like the first inning of this game. For Pedro of course, his advanced age, the necessary sensitivity of his artistry, the fragility of his every movement, muscle and bone, makes a twinge in the calf seem something like a shot gun going off next to your ear.

From there, Pedro went on to give up six runs in an opening inning for the first time in his career yet it wasn't even his shortest outing ever. Oh no, on June 20, 1995, he gave up five runs in the first inning against the Astros, getting only two outs before exiting. On that same day, the Mets lost to the Phillies 8-2.

Looking oddly as if he were taking a dump on the mound rather than in the game, Pedro tries to work out the kinks.

The real worry of course is how serious the calf strain really is.

According to the sports injury clinic,

If you have damaged the Soleus muscle you might get pain lower in the leg and also pain when you contract the muscle against resistance with the knee bent. The Gastrocnemius muscle originates above the knee and inserts via the Achilles tendon into the heal. The Soleus originates below the knee and also inserts via the Achilles tendon.

What can the athlete do?
R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is essential. The sooner you do this the better.

See a sports injury professional who can advise on treatment and rehabilitation.

Wear a heel pad to raise the heel and shorten the calf muscle hence taking some of the strain off it. It is a good idea to put heel pads in both shoes or one leg will be longer than the other creating an imbalance and possibly leading to other injuries including back injuries.

It has potential to get worse but chances are, worst case scenario he has to skip a start or two. We're not in the middle of a pennant race so this is not earth-shattering. Chances are the Mets will not have to shoot Pedro because of a bad leg.

According to the somewhat more hysterical version, Pedro had been nursing a sore right calf since his Aug. 3 start in Miami when he was seen icing his leg in the clubhouse after the game.

Martinez denied there was a problem then but clearly, according to this version anyway, this was a disaster waiting to happen. Oh horrors! Pedro has minimised his calf injury and now look! Our season is in tatters!

Rest easy. There's always time for hysterics after his meeting with team physician Struan Coleman at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

As for the game itself, let's leave the dire dissection, the forensic examination of futility to others. Here are three things worth noting other than Pedro's meltdown:

Cole Hamels could afford to hand bats back to Mets hitters last night.

1. The 13-pitch at-bat of Carlos Delgado against Cole Hamels who in his last for starts has now posted a 3-1 record with a 1.59 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings allowing only 18 hits and five walks.

2. Lasting Milledge’s two hits Monday night raised his average 12 points, to .231. Take that, Shawn Green.

3. The only other Mets to get a hit last night were Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Now THAT is futility.

On the bright side, Ryan Howard didn't hit a homerun and struck out four times.


Not that he didn't try hard against Hamels but in his last 23 at-bats, Carlos Delgado has only one hit.

Hats of to nice output by phrustrated but hopeful Phillie phan, A Citizen's Blog who thinks the Phillies have a chance in this series...

"Why are the Mets winning? They are, simply put, the most balanced team in the NL right now. They lead the NL in scoring at 5.39 runs per game and they allow the third-fewest, at 4.54, just behind the Pads (4.49) and Rockies (4.41). Nearly every contender in the NL was serious flaws: the Dodgers are streaky, the Reds are getting by with a lot of offense and little defense or pitching, the Cardinals have the second-worst pitching in the NL (4.87 FIP, as compared with the Phillies much-maligned staff and their 4.71), the Astros, Pads and Rockies have no offense, and the Giants have Barry Bonds. The Phillies have the Reds problem: they are all offense and no defense. The Mets excel at offense, they have the fourth-best fielding team in the majors, and their pitching staff is sixth, but they are much, much better than the league average (4.42 vs. 4.55 FIP ERA). The Mets are, essentially, the deepest and most balanced team that the NL has to offer. The chances of a replay of the 2000 World Series, the subway series between the Mets and Yankees that made the NY-obsessed sports media giddy way back, is a possibility."

Not last night. Not last night at all.

Even Nobodies Help Mets Win

What's next, the Mets sign Damon Berryhilland he hits 20 homers in the last two months of the season?

In the latest Midas touch moment, Michael Tucker, cut by Washington four days before the season opener after hitting .158 in exhibition games-- hits the game-winning homer off Jon Rauch in the top of the eighth, a solo shot that was Tucker's first major league homer in more than a year.

Michael Tucker, shocked as everyone else by his game-winner hitting .300 with 3 RBIs and a homer in his first 4 games with the Mets.

Of course, the Nats helped the Mets complete this series with some pretty bush league fielding - 3 errors yesterday, general sloppy play overall leading one to realise why the Nats are 20 1/2 games behind the Mets and losing altitude.

It ruined a perfectly brilliant pitching performance by Nats pitcher Tony Armas, who pitching better than he had in a month, didn't give up a single earned run to the Mets for seven innings and allowed only two hits.

The Nats-Mets game was the only major league game yesterday that pitted two starters with ERAs over 5.00 against each other, yet the two combined to allow seven hits and one earned run in 13 2/3 innings. You got some 'splain' to do Lucy.

Once again the Mets closed out the game efficiently. Down 1-0 after 6 innings they scored a lone run in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings to secure the 3-1 victory and two of three from the Nats.

The bullpen, save for Royce Ring's 4 pitch, 4 ball and out appearance in the 7th which only added fuel to the fire, was flawless again; scoreless innings from Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver and Billy Wagner in order, save number 28 affirmed.

Not to obscure the outing Steve Trachsel had. Mr Inconsistency Deluxe pitched nearly seven innings gave up only a run and and five hits and lowered his booming ERA to 4.84 on the season. A steady diet of Nats would improve anyone's well-being. Well, a steady diet of the Nats without Alfonso Soriano, of course. Soriano's 38th homer of the season and 200th of his career came off of Trachsel in the 4th, Trachsel's lone blemish.


Now we're off to Philly, where there's a team still harbouring vague playoff hopes as a wid card even though they're 15 games behind the Mets in the East.

Pedro against Cole Hamels, who was groomed for stardom at the season's onset and currently has a 4.97 ERA with his 4-6 record.


Win 70 Sees Maine's Scoreless Habit Shrugged Off

With the NL East virtually sewn up and the postseason still nearly two months away, we turned to our wunderkind's scoreless streak for excitement last night and the kid nearly didn't disappoint.

As you will have all read by now, John Maine went into last night hoping to increase a 23 inning scoreless streak and left last night's game having seen it ended but more importantly, having pitched brilliantly again before the bottom fell out.

The first culprit was Nick Johnson, who blasted a shot in the 4th with two outs, Maine cruising with 26 scoreless innings to shave the Mets' lead to 3-1. Maine recovered to keep the Nats scoreless in the 5th but then in the 6th, Alfonso Soriano hit a 2-run shot with none out, his 37th of the season, to bring the score to 4-3 and after allowing another single, Maine was done for the night after 90 pitches. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits -- two of them home runs -- and a walk. He struck out six.

Perhaps a storyline might have been found had the Mets turned around and lost this game, a second straight to the Nats, but they didn't. Steady as they've been all season, the Mets continued to push runs across the plate with the deciding pair coming on consecutive RBIs in the 7th by Jose Valentin and Michael Tucker and the bullpen was efficient in 3 2/3 innings of scoreless work between Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman, Billy Wagner and 4 strikeouts.

There really isn't much of a story to tell. No pressing controversies, no growing discontent with a particular player, nothing about the team, clicking away in top form, to worry about frankly. Yes, the postseason will bring plenty of worry in due course but for now it would appear the rest of the summer is going to feel like vacation, like those summers when you were a kid yourself and there were endless days of doing absolutely nothing on the horizon until school started up again.


A few weeks ago, probably the night after a Steve Trachsel drubbing, the mood had become different - the starting pitching had grown inconsistent and with the trade deadline looming like a speed gun radar trap down the road, all sorts of names were tossed about. Time to see what a few of them are doing over the last 30 days along with a few others.

Dontrelle Willis 1-2 4.58 ERA
Barry Zito 4-2 5.30 ERA
Tom Glavine 1-3 5.45 ERA
El Duque 3-0 4.25 ERA
Pedro 2-0 3.26 ERA
John Maine 2-0 1.28 ERA
Kris Benson 0-2 4.29 ERA
Scott Kazmir 0-2 4.50 ERA
Steve Trachsel 3-1 6.39 ERA

Not many saviours in that bunch, are there?


In a sign that mebbe neither Lastings Milledge or Michael Tucker is who we want out there starting in the outfield with Endy Chavez and Carlos Beltran in the postseason the latest rumour has the Mets trading for Shawn Green.

Not sure why though - Shawn Green fanned all three times he was up on Friday and is 5-for-29 with no extra-base hits this month. Surely Milledge or Tucker could do that. They both had an RBI last night.

Aren't you glad you don't have to pray for wildcard scenarios to get through the rest of the season?


According to MLB.COM, in his 7 1/2 seasons with Mets, Mike Piazza appeared in 972 games, the exact equivalent of six 162-game seasons, and he grounded into 132 double plays, the second-highest figure in the National League during that time. Only Vinny Castilla (135) had more, and he had almost 500 more at-bats than Piazza.

Through Friday, when Julio Franco grounded into a double play, the Mets had grounded into 69 double plays, the fewest in the National League. Every other team had at least 78 GIDP, and the league average, excluding the Mets' total, was 94.



The Legend of Billy Traber

William Henry Traber Height: 6-5 Weight: 205

"For starters I should probably introduce myself. My name is Billy Traber and I'm about to start my professional this season with the New York Mets organization. I'm a left-handed pitcher, and spent three years playing college baseball at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles California." - Billy Traber from At The Yard 8th March 2001. Traber had been drafted in the first round and 16th overall of the 2001 draft by the New York Mets

He moves from A+ to AA to the AAA in the course of a season, shooting through the Mets' system like a roman candle.

December 11, 2001: The Mets obtain 12-time All-Star Roberto Alomar in an 8-player deal with the Indians. In addition to Alomar, New York also receives P Mike Bacsik and OF-1B Danny Peoples. Cleveland gets OFs Matt Lawton and "bluechip prospect" Alex Escobar, P Jerrod Riggan, and of course, Billy Traber.

In 2002 he goes 13-2 with a 2.86 ERA with Akron Aeros of AA Eastern League and moves up to AAA Buffalo where he's 4-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 9 starts and it's all looking peachy. He earned runner-up Pitcher of the Year honors in the Eastern League and a spot on the league’s post-season All-Star team despite his July 11 promotion to Triple-A.

The next season he starts 18 games for a Cleveland Indians team that finishes 68-94, 4th in AL Central Division. He's tied for fourth among American League rookies with 88 strikeouts, ranked fifth with a 5.24 ERA, sixth with 111.2 innings and eighth with six wins. His season includes a one hit complete game shutout of the Yankees in July.

From the 25th September 2003 diary entry: "Well, there is a full week left in the season, but unfortunately mine is done. I discovered that my elbow needed to be surgically repaired this off-season, therefore rendering my services next year to a minimum. It's a well known surgery(Tommy John Surgery), and thankfully there is a high success ratio."

After missing all of 2004, he took the long road back last season, working his way up from single-A Kinston to double-A Akron and triple-A Buffalo. Between the three levels he went 8-11 with a 4.83 ERA.

"When you sit out a year and a half, you forget how to play, your body has to be re-trained," Traber at the time. "Coming back strong right away? Honestly, that rarely ever happens."

"I don't think we can project right now when Billy will be ready," manager Eric Wedge said. Source: Akron Beacon Journal Apr. 29 2005.

Never, basically. He is signed by the Nats last winter, hope still lingering.

6th August, 2006

Traber recalled by the Nats from New Orleans for another shot at the big leagues.

Nats' manager Frank Robinson says at the time that there was nothing "scientific" in promoting Traber. The organization doesn't have many Minor League starters who are ready to pitch in the big leagues.

"It's not coming down to who is pitching good. It comes down to what you have down there. There isn't much left. If he was burning it up, he would have been up here," Robinson said. "I'm not knocking Traber. It's no big secret going into it or big formula to figure out who's coming."

Now that's the kind of endorsement I want from a manager when I'm coming up for my cup of coffee.

Traber was 7-7 with a 4.05 ERA in 21 starts for New Orleans.


And last night, he outduels Tom Glavine, allowing only a run and 4 hits in 7 innings work and a 2-1 Nats victory which was not very significant. Not the full circle but perhaps he will make the most of his stint with the Nats for the next two months and perhaps he will be back on the road to full recovery. I hope so.


It must be disappointing to Glavine when he pitches as decently as he did only to find himself still stuck at 13 victories shy of the magical 300 career victories mark. He threw a season-high 123 pitches in hopes the Mets would storm back and allowed two runs and seven hits, striking out seven. He is now 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA in his last nine starts.

But perhaps this is an encouraging sign that like El Duque and Pedro, he is slowly bouncing back in preparation for postseason fitness.

"That's probably as good as I've thrown since the Boston game [on June 29]," Glavine said. "I saw the action on my pitches I've been struggling to get back. There was some consistency in what I did. I'm encouraged. ... Losing stinks. But I'm happy with the way I threw. This was even better than last time. So it's a step forward. And a bad result."

What an odd game. Coming off a 5 game winning streak and a presumably insurmountable NL East lead, this loss was almost meaningless other than for Glavine. Lastings Milledge had a hit which qualifies as news these days, Michael Tucker had a hit. Paul Lo Duca had his first homerun since May.

The Duke, in Negro League New York Cubans attire.

After the game, a reporter started a question by saying, "It's certainly been a trying week for you," and Lo Doca cut him off.

"Stay away from that. Stay away from that, OK? Stay away from that. Enough," Lo Doca said.

But his strikeout in the 8th ending a rally with two men on.

Going into the game, he'd been the top hitter in the majors since July 1 _ the day after his wife filed for divorce.

Darren Oliver and Roberto Hernandez had identically flawless relief appearances, both pitching perfect 2 of 3 outs coming as strikeouts.

Otherwise, a real ball-grabber.


The story of tonight's game of course is the scoreless streak posted by John Maine. Will he or won't he?


My favourite sports writer keeps churning them out - Philly's Daily News' Bill Conlin examines two phenomenal young baseball stars, Billy Rowell in the Philly's system, and the Mets' own future superstar, Jesus Fernando Martinez:

"When I clicked on my minor league site last week, Martinez suddenly was leading off for the St. Lucie Mets against the Clearwater Threshers in the advanced Class A Florida State League. Folks, this is Lebron James stuff. The kid homered and doubled in that Bright House Networks Field series and stole a base. Tuesday night, he homered and tripled against the Dunedin Blue Jays. Four games into his FSL career, Martinez is hitting .350 with conspicuous power."


PiazzaFest Ends In Sweep And Second Stringers

It's amazing what a day game following a night game can do.

Instead of a familiar lineup worthy of the NL East Champs, the batting order was liberally sprinkled with bench players - Day-Game-Following-Night- Game bench players like Michael Tucker, Ricky Ledee and Mike DeFelice. All players you've heard of somewhere, somehow. All players who moved like shadows in the late innings, like transluscent ghosts of unrequited ambition.

Michael Tucker relays the ball from left field and plunged himself into our collective subconscious with a nice assist in the 3rd inning

Tucker only arrived at Shea Stadium in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game and for some of us anyway, the idea that Michael Tucker, who hadn't had had an at-bat in the Major Leagues all season made one reflexively flinch inwards. Is the outfield really that thin?

The biggest absentee of all was the Golden Boy, Mike Piazza, another victim of the day-game-following-night-game phenomenon.

Mets fans were stuck with their own players to cheer rather than giving encores to the enemy and sweet irony that on the day that Piazza finally disappeared, the fans who returned, (sniffing the parametres of Shea like mice in search of cheese for a crumb of Piazza's lingering contrails, just one more curtain call, just one more homer for auld time's sake,) were stuck with the Mets "B" team.

Well, it wasn't the "B" team exactly. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Delgado still started. El Duque was still making his audition for third starter in the postseason rotation. Three good Mets were all it took to beat these hapless Padres who looked about as formidable as a runway model with a broken heel. Pity the NL West. This was the division leader.

Reyes tripled home two runs in the second inning and then started the backbreaking four-run outpouring in the seventh that erasd the 3-3 tie and sent the Padres down the terlet. Wright had a pair of doubles including the hit that scored Reyes with the go-ahead run and El Duque, who after allowing a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning, faced the minimum until Brian Giles doubled leading off the seventh.

Even Endy Chavez, who technically is no longer a bench player since he's the second best healthy Met outfielder after Carlos Beltran, joined Reyes and Wright as Mets elitists with a pair of hits, at least a run scored and at least a run batted in yesterday.

He's no Mike Piazza but then again, he doesn't have to be.

There was no curtain call for Piazza. That didn't stop the Mets revisionist and delusional section of the stadium from cheering him. All it took was a little scoreboard camera catching him at the top of the dugout in the seventh inning to elicit further girlish shivers from the adoring crowd and hopeful applause. Piazza tipped his hat to the fans but their chanting wasn't loud enough for the Padres manager to remove Josh Bard in favour of Piazza as a pinch hitter in the 9th and the manager was heavily booed for his insouciance.

It doesn't escape notice that El Duque is warming up for the post season having now gone 4-0 with a 3.34 ERA since July 5th. In fact, over the last six games, Mets starters including Pedro, Glavine, Maine, Trachsel and El Duque have pitched 39 innings, allowed 27 hits and 13 earned runs (6 of which came from El Duque's two starts.) - a collective 3.00 ERA. Either the National League is giving up or the Mets starting rotation isn't as disheartening as we've been led to believe.

So here we are in the dog days of August with a bulging 14 game lead, dwarfing the competition. Think back to March and all the questions. Many of them have already been answered.


Traitorous, Treacherous At Shea

What's this?

Mike Piazza hits two solo shots in Shea Stadium off Pedro Martinez and the Shea partisans are not going crazy with joy, Piazza is not leaping into the stands to celebrate with his groupies?

Maybe three years ago.

But in 2006, those two homers, damaging but not deadly, were sufficient to finally silence the jackals who spent the game before worshipping his every fart, his every gesture, his every facial tic.

Well, not precisely silence and certainly not until the second homer.

The first homer filled the stands with euphoric festivity sufficient to cause an unprecedented curtain call for Piazza by his addicts who might have uprooted themselves and moved to the West Coast just to have been closer to him had the precedent of 1958 not been such a bitter taste in their collective misguided mouths.

Imagine how Pedro felt watching an opposing player given a curtain call by Pedro's own alleged supporters after homering off of him. Sure, Pedro tipped his hat to Piazza prior to striking him out, the gentlemanly thing to do but you couldn't help but wonder what might have happened had it been Roger Clemens on the mound instead of the playful Pedro.

The second homer produced a slightly different reaction, a kind of ok douchebag, you've had your fun now go back to being the selfish, unproductive roster liability that you were for the Mets the last three seasons sort of support - cheers mixed with a smattering of boos. It was also Piazza's sixth homer off Pedro in 26 at-bats against whom he is hitting .386 lifetime.

I can only imagine that it is the bulging NL East lead and the lack of fear in Mets fans about the season, being 24 games over .500, having won 9 of their last 12, that would prompt such an absurd spectacle.

It wasn't until the 8th inning that Shea supporters finally began to regain their senses and with Pedro out of the game, Piazza came to the plate to face Aaron Heilman and heard jeers instead of cheers by the 49,979-strong crowd.

Fortunately for the Mets, if not the Mets fans themselves, (some of whom may have been traitorously disappointed not to see a hat trick of homers from their hero,) Piazza's next blow settled into Carlos Beltran's glove after a long, gut-twisting flight to the warning track but without further ado and the Mets in spite of yet another shaky performance by Billy Wagner, 4-3.


For the second night on the trot Piazza was almost a bigger story than the game itself. The proof that some kind of benevolent Mike Piazza Shea God was hovering over last night's spectacle came not in the form of those two homeruns but in the unimaginable throw by Piazza to second base which caught Endy Chavez stealing.

Endy me boy, didn't anyone ever tell you that getting thrown out by Mike Piazza trying to steal second is like suddenly discovering before a crowd of nearly 50,000 that you've put your pants on before your underwear?

And were the cheers for Jose Reyes as loud as those for Piazza? Did Jose Reyes get a curtain call after he started the bottom of the first with a double and scored the game's first run? Did he get a curtain call after he singled Lastings Milledge home in the second inning to give the Mets a 2-0 lead?

Fortunately for the Mets, a performance from the Shea crowd which bordered on blasphemy, wasn't enough to derail this efficient machine.

Better still, Pedro, in spite of those two homeruns surrendered to Piazza, had a very promising outing throwing into the 8th inning before tiring after 108 pitches and being removed with 3 hits and 2 runs surrendered in 7 1/3 innings. He earned a win that was not skewered by the bullpen or a paucity of run support, his 9th win of the season and perhaps that's why he could afford to be so generous to Piazza:

"It was well deserved, well earned, well done by the fans," Pedro said reluctantly of the curtain call. "I think players of Mike Piazza's category that have done what they've done deserve the credit."

This giving up gopherball business is getting to be auld hat for Pedro. Piazza's second homer was the 17th homer Pedro has given up all season, just 9 from his career high of 26 homers surrendered in 1998 and 2004. It's far off of Jose Beckett's ridiculous 31 homers surrendered and frankly doesn't even lead the Mets (that distinction goes to Tom Glavine, who with 19, is only 5 off his own career high of 24 set in 2000 and 2001.)


At least now with Cliff Floyd hitting the 15 day disabled list we know the motivation of signing Ricky Ledee.

The Elias Sports Bureau determined that before Tuesday night, the Mets and Padres hadn't played each other as first-place teams since 1985 -- May 20-22 at Shea and May 31-June 2 in San Diego.

Piazza became the fifth player to have a multihomer game off Martinez. Philadelphia's Chase Utley was the last to do it, last Aug. 31, Elias said.

Today El Duque pitches and Piazza will likely make only a cameo appearance (you know the drill, auld catcher, day game following night game, etc.,) and wouldn't you know it, a rare day game which would allow the Army to listen to the game at a more sane 5:10 UK afternoon time comes at the same time the Army's favourite football team, Newcastle United are scheduled to face the dreaded if unknown FK Ventspils in a UEFA Cup qualifying match in Latvia.


Open Letter To Paul Lo Duca

Dear Paul,

There are hundreds of us out here, bloggers who blog about the Mets.

We are of common consensus that you're getting an unnecessary bullocking from the media about things that have absolutely nothing to do with your performance as a Met, your character as a man.

As far as we have counted, all of us like horses too.

Not all of us bet on them, but that's your business. Michael Jordan probably loses more gambling on a hole of golf than you do in a year of playing the ponies.

But the important thing is that in the midst of this media tsunami during which every jackal with a job to sell papers is selling them sullying your good name, you have the full and unmitigated support of every single one of the Mets bloggers signed via html below.

We wish you good luck in weathering the storm and look forward to further heroics from you in the 2006 World Series.

All the best,

Mets bloggers

PS- Where have they hidden Victor Diaz?

(a daft draft but if anyone has suggestions, feel free to let them fly here.)

Mets Win In Spite Of Distractions

Piazza, befuddled as always in his catcher's garb, lost without his bat.

The partisans at Shea must have run out of worry and concern about the conclusion of this season for the Mets. What else could have explained the intense distraction fans appeared to feel about the return of Mike Piazza after his exile to San Diego in February?

But more befuddling than cheering on an ex-Met now playing on the other side, their sentimentality appears to have gotten the best of them in the most delusional of ways.

Was it only last season that Mike Piazza started a roadtrip by getting an autograph from Rush Limbaugh, (his main political influence), then compared the experience of meeting Rush Limbaugh to meeting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or the pope. Bad enough, but then Piazza went on a 0 for 9 tear with six strikeouts and hit into a double play.

Instead of showering the field with Rosh Limbaugh bobbleheads and booing a suspect selfishness, Shea fans clapped and screamed his name like schoolgirl rock groupies during a pregame highlight montage and then stood in unison for his first at-bat, which quite naturally, was a strikeout. Three times he stepped from the box and then tipped his hat to the crowd. Typical Piazza. His team locked in a race for the postseason and he's tipping his cap to opponents' fans.


Have these loathsome years of mediocrity and selfishness been forgotten?

Have all those three-hop throws to second base been repressed in the memory? The candid selfish refusal to try and learn first base properly and instead stick stubbornly to being the worst defensive catcher in baseball regardless of what it meant to the team?

Who could ever forget one of baseball's All-Time Worst Hairstyles?

Piazza, forever playing with hairstyles and shaping facial hair in a frightening, Mariah Careyish sort of way, returned to New York with a newly shaped goatee for the occasion. "New York is New York and I'll always cherish what it meant to me," said Piazza of the slavish outpouring of Shea emotion. That's bloody brilliant. New York is New York.

I'll grant that back in '98 when we got him for Preston Wilson, Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnall it felt like a franchise-changing moment - finally a superstar who wasn't past his prime by the time we got him.

And I'll grant that he finished behind only the polemical Darryl Strawberry in careet Met homers, that he hit .296 in 972 games for us with the highest slugging percentage of any Met ever.

Perhaps that merited a few desultory chants his way by subversive fans but this massive, unrequited infatuation for a man who put his record for homeruns for a catcher above the good of his team should not be forgotten because the Army's memory is short. The euphoria of 1998 is a long way away and what's left is the bitter taste of so very many miscues, is the final three years of his Met career, the three years too long that soured so many of us on him and perhaps had he left back in 2003 before it all went pear-shaped, it might be said that Piazza deserved last night's outpouring. But not any longer.

And besides, there was a game on after all.

The Game Face of the season - Trachsel winning ugly.

There was Steve Trachsel pitching with a coherency that bordered on mellifluous at times; 5 2/3 innings, 97 pitches, 5 hits, a pair of runs surrendered via homerun to Geoff Blum, etc. What is truly amazing about Trachsel's season is that in spite of an ERA that currently stands at a bloated 5.03, his record is a deceptive 11-5.

After Trachsel's second inning gopherball put the Mets in the hole 2-0, they loaded the bases in the bottom half of the frame with none out for wunderkind Lastings Milledge.

I know David Wright is the new poster boy of the Mets and Milledge appears more likely chum for trade bait but here was Lastings' chance to set the record straight. Instead, he hit into a double play that still managed to score a run and went 0-4 on the night with a pair of strikeouts. He is hitting .217 for the season and .150 since being called up to the team after the Nady trade. Nady meanwhile, is hitting a healthy .308 for the Pirates.

And then of course, Wright himself stepping into the limelight with three hits and two runs driven in. Carlos Beltran, who must have been envious of Piazza's ovations for all the cat calls he's heard in his brief spell here, hit three doubles on the night.

Royce Ring continued to yearn for Norfolk, surrendering a walk and a hit in a third of an inning. Meanwhile everyone save for Heilman seemed to make an appearance out of the bullpen that finally concluded with Billy Wagner recording his 25th save of the season. And please note I wrote "recorded" rather than "earned" his save for by giving up a walk and a hit in the 9th hanging on to a one-run lead, Wagner did none of the elderly fans with rough tickers any favours by making it an easy close. He never does.

And lost in all the hoopla over Piazza was Mike Cameron's return to Shea as well. Cameron, patrolling his beloved centerfield, is hitting .262 on the season and appears to have satisfactorily recovered from last season's collision with Beltran.


Count me out of the plauditing masses over the signing of Rickie Ledee off the waiver wire. Ledee appeared in 43 games with the Dodgers this season, batting .245 with five doubles, a home run and eight RBIs in a mere 53 at-bats. He's a former Yankee and a former Phillie and his inclusion might mean the debarcation of belovd Eli Marrero from the squad. Boooo.

Paul Lo Duca is swathed in controversy now - wife filing for divorce in June over cries of infidelity (what, a baseball player being unfaithful to his wife?!) and more ominous still, a rumoured gambling debt.

"I have no gambling debts," he pandered to the thirsty media whores. "I like horses. I own horses. I own thoroughbreds. I breed them. It's something I want to do. It's my love."

Lo Duca did admit betting on horses, but therein lies no crime. "I do bet on horses, legally," he said. "I have an online account, legally. I have no gambling debts, no past debts that were paid. All those allegations are false. That's all I have to say."

Good enough for me. But looking at his output since the All Star game, I'm rather liking how much these distractions off field have appeared to help his performance on field. And speaking of distractions, how do you cheat on a bird that looks like this?
(via The Wade Blogs) - forget Anna Benson indeed.

Forza Lo Duca!



courtesy of The Museum of Anti-Alchohol Posters

The Mets are ploughing through the season on steady pace not only to win the National League East, but to win it with the best record in the National League.

Currently, at 66-44 they sit atop the NL East by a comfortable 12 1/2 games over their nearest rivals and stand 5 1/2 games ahead of the St Louis Cardinals for the best record and homefield advantage leading up to the World Series.

Now have a look at the defending World Champion Chicago White Sox.

They are 65-45, one game worse than the Mets.

They sit in the American League Central 10 games behind the shockingly efficient Detroit Tigers who hold the best record in baseball with a 76-36 record.

If the Mets were in the American League Central instead of the National League East, they'd be 9 games behind the Tigers for the lead.

Not only that, if they were in the American League Central, they'd be a game ahead of the Red Sox and White Sox for the wildcard spot and a mere game and a half ahead of the Minnesota Twins.

And think if the Mets weren't in the East, against whom they are 29-15, a .659 winning percentage. Against the NL Central they are a mere 18-13 (or .580) and against the NL West 13-7 (.650). In other words, they thrive strongest against their own divisional opponents. Of course, this is rather moot. Even a .580 pace (a schedule of nothing but NL Central opponents,) they would still have a better record than anyone in the National League, presuming of course, that someone else wouldn't beat up on the NL East in their place.#

So, having established that in the AL Central the Mets would be in a dog fight for the wildcard but little more and regardless of the division, the Mets would probably be riding high in the National League, we turn reluctantly to Interleague play.

The Mets are 6-9 in Interleague play, the only visible flaw in an otherwise flawless season.

This isn't necessarily a cause for pause in that the Mets still have to get through the shabby likes of their National League postseason competition before they would even have to contemplate another Subway World Series, a replay of 1986 against the Red Sox or the formidable Detroit Tigers, returning Champ White Sox or hard-charging Twins (and for argument's sake, let's confirm that the team that wins the AL West is going nowhere.)

The Twins are 16-2 in Interleague play, as are the Red Sox. The Detroit Tigers are 15-3, as are the White Sox. Only the Yankees, with their injection of Bobby Abreu and the bitter Cory Lidle to fire their August charge to stomp out the Red Sox, have a middling Interleague record at 10-8.

What does any of this mean?

Sweet feck all, as we like to say on the island. Last season the Cleveland Indians, who executed a late season choke job of the AL Central held the best Interleague record at 15-3.

Then again, the White Sox were 12-6 and their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, were a mere 7-8, one game better than the Mets this season.


Not nearly as much so as a dodgy bullpen and a gasping starting rotation.

Even if we do have a sunny and well locked-up future.