Nevermind Pedro, How About Some Run Support?

Hey kids, remember when it was mid August and the Mets lost three in a row to the Phillies by a combined 27-4 margin and Pedro had been hurt, El Duque had been battered, Tom Glavine had numb fingers and the World Series hopes of the Mets were being rubbished in every quarter?

Yeah. The Mets went on to reel off a 7 game winning streak and put our minds at ease.

And now, having been twice thrashed by our arch rivals in Atlanta by an aggragate 25-1 margin and having witnessed the disturbing possibility of a Pedro-less post season it is time to remember yet again, the days of the season when it felt like the wheels were coming off the great Mets World Series bandwagon.

After getting humiliated 12-0 the Mets showed a little hopeful backbone hitting rock bottom, talking about walk up calls and farting loudly in public places to show what little fear they had.

With Pedro taking the mound for the final time in the regular season there was an eerie aura of expectation as though THIS would be the moment, the defining moment when all our petty little fears could be laid to rest, all doubts and misgivings would be bundled and burned if only Pedro would come through as only Pedro can do and pitch a brilliant little outing.

Instead fuel is added to the fire of misgivings as Pedro responded to our cries for Superman! Superman! by allowing seven runs in a mere 2 2/3 innings in what was to gradually take shape as a 13-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

We May Not see Pedro again until next Spring...

With this outing all the little excuses just went out the window. Pedro has a 16.97 ERA over his last four starts, giving up 22 hits and 20 earned runs in 11 2-3 innings and Pedro isn't Pedro any more. Whoever it is wearing number 45 for the Mets, it won't be starting Game One of the postseason.

I'm not concerned about the postseason rotation quite frankly. Ever since Pedro's teary outing a few starts ago it was clear he doesn't have it and might not have it the rest of the season although blind optimism and the lies of Willie Randolph told us otherwise. The Mets have struggled on without him all season and could well do so in the postseason, as crazy as that sounds, to move forward without your ace, without your franchise face.

What DOES concern me is the hitting and the timing of this nearly team-wide slump. Don't go on about John Smoltz and Tim Hudson for crissakes - who will the Mets be facing in the postseason, Double AA rotations and other minor league imitations? Noooo. They will be facing some of the best pitchers in baseball and hitting slumps aside, they will need to batter them if they are going to score enough runs to offset the John Maines and Steve Trachsels of the Mets postseason rotation.

So sneaking in amid all this hand-wringing for Pedro, all these tears for the season that is lost, the Mets should be quietly taking batting practice and praying Carlos Beltran snaps out of his .190 tailspin over the last month.

Believe you me if Carlos Beltran revisits the Carlos Beltran of 2004 and hits 8 homeruns in the postseason we're going to forget all about Pedro Martinez until the World Series.

And by then, just maybe, Pedro will have healed.


Curse of the NL East

“The honeymoon period’s over, and we need to get ready for the playoffs. Maybe this opened our eyes a little bit. Maybe we’re not the team we want to be.”

--David Wright, on wakeup calls and honeymoons

I think this could rather have been expected, no?

Dropping games like flies ever since clinching to the likes of the Marlins and the Nats the Mets returned to Turner and Hooch Field last night to face a Braves team which had had its birthright denounced, it's annual NL East Championship celebration negated, it's divine right thwarted.

12-0 with Oliver Perez on the mound? We got off easy!

Sure, he pitched a five-hit shutout his first time against the Braves as a Met in Shea but those were the days back when everything was going right for the Mets, when Perez Prado could have mambo'd a five hit shutout against the Braves.

Nowadays with the focus on next week rather than this one, Oliver Perez returned to the role of mere mortal, allowing 6 runs, 7 hits and 3 homers in a humiliating loss that solidified any question anyone had about Oliver Perez worming his way into the postseason rotation.

So ok, Perez pitches poorly, no surprise but good gawd, where has the hitting gone and in particular, the clutch hitting? Over the last dozen games the Mets are hitting .190 with runners in scoring position and .243 generally.

We can forgive the Mets for wanting to ease off the throttle, kick back and autopilot the team into the postseason. We can forgive losses to the Marlins and the Nats both teams difficult to feel inspired about with the NL East wrapped up.

But the Braves? Shouldn't this have been about rubbing their snouts in the fact they ARE NO LONGER NL EAST CHAMPS? Shouldn't this have been about giving our rivals and the perennial champs an emphatic kicking just to remeind them to stay down when they're down and to make way for the new kings?

There's no reason to go pointing fingers but Carlos Beltran is hitting .167 in September. Carlos Delgado is hitting .233 in that same period. And whilst no one else is slumping so noticeably, you can sense, in the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, in the lack of spunk when they're down by a few runs, that the Mets simply aren't taking this seriously.

Should they be?

Willie Randolph hasn't used the regular starting lineup, the postseason spectacular, since the Mets clinched and he's likely to be the bullseye if this all goes quickly pear-shaped and the Mets find themselves ruining a brilliant season by virtue of having taken their foot off the gas and forgetting where that pedal was when the games count.

I've maintained in the past that Art Howe, yes that stoical statue of malaise, could have managed THESE Mets to the NL East title. That wasn't the hard part. The hard part is taking them beyond where the Braves have gone, i.e. beyond merely clinching the NL East and sputtering in the postseason.

It's too early to start talking about a curse but if the Braves could only manage one title over 14 NL East Championships, perhaps the NL East winners have a little bad karma to overcome.

Perhaps the Mets will be the ones to break it or perhaps, like the Braves, they will go down in the postseason as disappointments, meek little lambs for the slaughter of the wolves who've lied in waiting all these months licking their lips for a shot at the champs.


The Sky Is Falling Down, The Sky Is Falling Down!

O misery, in what sequence do I rate thee?

Pedro's continued uncertainty: Pedro's health has been the question we've mulled ever since the winter so we should all be in perfect condition for worrying. For weeks Willie played the "Pedro Will Pitch Game One" record because sometimes just wishing things makes them come true but then, like the first cracks in Peter Brady's voice, Willie has begun to mull other possibilities.

"He might need more time and be pushed back," Willie waxed philosophically. "I said initially he might go Game 1. That's always subject to change. What I'm saying to you is depending on how he comes out of his start -- who knows? -- he might need to be pushed back."

Pushed back. Might need to be pushed back. I like the tenebrosity clinging to that statement. Who knows? Willie doesn't know. Pedro probably doesn't even know. He could be two batters short of bursting into tears at Turner Field tomorrow. Can you imagine the last laugh the Braves fans would be having then? Oh, well you might have knocked us from a 14 year perch but your ace called it a season in Our House...ugh.

Remember that SNL skit where Chevy Chase would announce, "This breaking news just in, Generalísimo Francisco Franco is still dead!"

Is Pedro's season still dead or will it be resurrected once again as it was after the Winter and after the Spring and after one previous disappearing act in the Summer or is this his last hurrah?

Glavine's Sudden Inconsistency - Well, if Pedro can't go we've got another aging Hall of Famer lined up to take his place. Although this was only his first loss since 16th August, this is not the time to have it. Or is it? Only 57 of his 107 pitches were strikes.

"I had good stuff but I had trouble locating when I wanted to," Glavine explained about his lack of pinpoint control.

Well that's the rub, isn't it Tom? Trouble locating. Might need to be pushed back. Is El Duque starting to look appealing?

Best Mr Glavine gets the yips out of his control in this meaningless regular season finale at Shea whilst he still can. Better to use that pinpoint control when it matters but I'm sure all of us would feel just a wee bit more reassured if he'd gone seven innings and shut the hapless Nats out for the duration.

Another Loss - Closing out the regular season homestand with another loss to the Nats, meaningless as the game was, is not a ringing endorsement for the postseason. You can moan all you want about how the Mets will fire up the engines once the games start to matter again but is this just whistling in the dark? Haven't they had enough games off by now? We get the message. The games don't matter. Now start playing as though they do because they will in a little more than a week and it won't just come back to you like magic. This is the fifth loss in six games, all against non-playoff teams. I find it difficult to fathom that other than the necessary positive thinking required, the Mets as a team aren't going to begin to doubt themselves if they can't pick it up a little by season's end. Hopefully the sight of Turner Field will inspire them.

Carlos Beltran Returns - In and of itself, this is good news of course.

Carlos had not played since the Mets' division-clinching win against the Florida Marlins on 18th September, having injured his leg during the club's series at Pittsburgh. He gave the thumbs up for last night's game but a dodgy quadriceps is not the way you want to enter the postseason because whilst he is strengthening it and trying to get at-bats, any simple dash to a base, any loping stride to haul in a shot to centerfield could cause a twinge and see Endy Chavez back in the lineup. Not that Chavez hasn't played brilliantly in Beltran's spot but let's face it - who would you rather have in the lineup?

Nothing To Do But Worry - They say an idle mind is the devil's workshop and this final week with little to do but rest and try and prepare for the unknown while watching the NL Wildcard race thicken, must be taking it's toll, gradually and perhaps subliminally.

On the other hand, things could be significantly worse.

Look at the Cardinals for example. Less than a week ago they had a 7 1/2 game lead in their division and were everyone's certainty for winning the NL Central. Now look at them. A four game sweep at the hands of the Astros and then another loss last night compounded by the Astros improbable win over the Phillies has shrunk their lead to 2 1/2 games. Think they aren't sick with fear by now?

So again, let's try some perspective.

Yes, things are looking less than positive for us at the moment but just think if we were rooting for the Cardinals...


September Is For Swooning

"It's not like it's the first time he's been around the block. When he gets runners on base, he knows how to handle that." Willie Randolph in the understatement of the year, on Steve "The Tortoise" Trachsel's pitching

Where has all of Steve Trachsel's run support gone?

Oh, for the heady days when the Mets would power 6, 7, 8, sometimes 10 runs in support of a Trachsel start freeing him to take his sweet time walking batters, allowing hits, giving out earned runs like a grandpa dispensing learnèd wisdoms to his grandkids.

Yes, back in July the Mets averaged 7.1 runs per Trachsel start and in August it was still 5.6 runs in support. Small wonder then, the winning streak that lasted almost as the time between Trachsel pitches.

This little pie chart shows where the majority of the runs went...

But September has seen of all that good fortune disappear. In his four September starts the Mets have scored 0, 1, 4 and 1 runs for Trachsel, hardly sufficient to protect him for an inning let alone an entire outing.

Even after three walks, eight hits and three runs allowed during an assortment of five different innings, each which rivaled the other for ugliest; a walk to the first batter of the game, second inning lead off single on a bunt ground ball etc., Trachsel still can hold his head high as his ERA, creeping steadily as it has higher, is still under the magical 5.00 mark.

But seeing as how these meaningless games are treated with all the levity of Spring Training, it's little surprise to see the Mets floundering as they did, well, in Spring Training.

Of course the million pound dollar question is once they've shut down the engines will the ignition turn over without a worry on October 3rd or 4th when they start playing meaningful games again?

Yesterday saw Jose Reyes get his 189th hit of the season and his 60th stolen base as well as Philip Humber's first-ever appearance as a Met.

But otherwise, an invalorous appearance which, with little else to worry about, might have caused some a smidget of an uncomfortable sense of dislocation.

If the Mets tumble out of the postseason in the NLDS there will be many who point to the final two weeks of the season, the early clinching, the habits of apathy picked up in playing meaningless game after meaningless game pointing to the postseason.

The Mets were 16-14 in Spring Training before tearing open the new season in April with a 16-8 start. They are 2-4 against the Marlins and Nats since clinching and 11-12 during the month of September. The Phillies meanwhile, with the wildcard in their sights, are 15-7 during September.

With all this idle time between clinching and starting the playoffs the natural inclination is to fidget and worry about all the things we didn't really have to worry much about during the five months of the season.

But with a week remaining, the creeping feeling of having lost that precious momentum is telling. Was the mad dash to the NL East title all for naught or is this merely a lull before the meaningful bit of the season returns?


Mets Win With A Round House, 12-6

The talent search for the postseason's Number Three starter continued yesterday with John Maine taking the stage before what was deemed a national audience although if you aren't a Mets fan, this was certainly not must-see tv. Not even if you are a Nats fan...

If you compare it to El Duque's performance the night before, well, five walks, two hit batsman and four earned runs over five innings pitched was not exactly a stellar performance. Then again, with El Duque's postseason saavy and his almost mystical postseason success, I rather think this is all an elaborate shell game. Starting a rookie over a seasoned veteran in the postseason would be a crazy and desperate move so in my mind anyway, this start by Maine is more to game a Doomsday scenario wherein Pedro wasn't ready for the postseason.

Putting up seven runs in the first four innings made it appear as though Steve Trachsel were on the mound instead of Maine and although Maine struggled, he managed to earn his 6th victory of the season against 5 losses.

Yes it is nice to see David Wright, with his 25th homer of the year, a double, a triple and 3 RBIs to boot, leading the attack. It was nice to see LoDuca, who was supposed to be resting his aging bones, hit a homer. It was nice to see Jose Reyes getting three hits after a night off, inching ever closer to the 200 hit mark for the season. And yes, 17 hits makes one cringe, worrying about the Mets saving some of those hits for the postseason but it was even nicer to see Lastings Milledge and Shawn Green bang out a pair of hits apiece.

Then again, the opponents were the Nats and the pitching, courtesy of Michael O'Connor, was less than how shall we say, top shelf, but it's easy to forget that back in May this same Michael O'Connor two-hit the Mets over seven innings to earn the first win of his stillborn career.

The story wasn't the victory or John Maine or the break out offence rather the story was the poignant reminder served of last season's miserable fate when Nick Johnson
suffered a fractured right femur in the 8th crashing into teammate Austin Kearns. Kearns is 6'3 235 pounds, more the size of an NFL fullback than a National League outfielder and the collision was, as they say, ugly. Weirdly reminiscent of last season's collision between Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran.

It was so ugly Willie Randolph opened his postgame press conference by saying a prayer for Johnson's quick recovery.

"It's sobering, because you realize in a blink of an eye, things can happen that can take you away from this game you love to play," David Wright observed after the game. "It puts things in perspective and you realize how fortunate we are to play this game for a living."


The Phillies, winners of nine of their last eleven games, moved into the National League wildcard lead with a stirring 8-6 victory over the Florida Marlins. Food for thought: Shane Victorino and Chase Utley both had four hits apiece for the Phillies and Ryan Howard was walked a pair of times in four at-bats, still stuck on 58 homers and 143 RBIs in what will likely be an MVP season should the Phillies qualify for the playoffs.

Meanwhile Trevor Hoffman saved his 478th game, tying him for the All-Time mark with Lee Smith as the Padres beat the Pirates 2-1 and maintained their NL West lead over the Dodgers.

The Dodgers, inexplicably, were busy losing to D-backs, 9-3.

El Duque's Audition Ends In Loss

Whilst the results hardly seem to matter with the NL East and homefield advantage in the NL postseason clinched, there is still the sticky wicket of finalising the postseason rotation.

Pedro is still making his slow return to full strength. Tom Glavine looks sharp and El Duque launched his campaign last night with a 7 inning, 8 strikeout performance which earned him a loss against the Nats.

The overall picture, since that Cosmic Debacle against the Phillies in August when he gave up 11 earned runs in 4 innings, he's allowed three earned runs or less in his last five starts and is 6-2 with three no-decisions in 11 starts since July 5.

El Duque de Angulema, son of the future Charles the 10th of France.

El Duque de Queens and hopefully LA, SD, St Louis and Philadelphia...just imagine him taking the mound against his former team in the World Series...

Ratings against potential National League playoff opponents:

v. LA Dodgers He has started 3 games against the Dodgers all season with mixed results. His sole win came in his sole outing as a Met against them - whilst with the Diamondbacks he gave up 9 earned runs and 16 hits in a little under 9 innings of work. Then again, just last week he faced them and gave up only 4 hits over 7 innings.

v. Padres: Again, 3 starts, 2 of them with the Dbacks and all of them an unqualified success. 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA. Unqualified success.

v. Phillies: Three starts, all of them as a Met. 0-1 with an 11.08 ERA. Might rather see (gulp) Trachsel or maybe even John Maine out there. Quite frankly, given the success rate of wild cards in the post season, I don't even want to see the Phillies, period.

v. Cardinals: Never faced them. Ever. Not even in Cuba as a traveling exhibition. Well, perhaps in Spring Training but...


In other developments, Pedro is keeping silent. Perhaps he's playing Petey Possum, perhaps he's secretly concerned. His next start will hopefully clarify the situation for the better because even though I'm capable of suggesting he need not be starting Game One of the postseason, the World Series looks much more reachable with Pedro in Tune.

Paul LoDuca is getting some well-deserved rest for the remainder of the regular season.

"I don't want to get an MRI, because I don't want to find out what's in there," he said of his sore left thumb.

This is precisely the sort of luxury clinching so early can afford the Mets. A chance to rest their weary bones. The fine tuning comes in not resting everyone so much they're in a hitting funk to start the postseason. A very difficult balancing act not only for Willie, but all the Mets who need and deserve a little rest. They can ease off the accelerator but they'd better still keep their foot paused over it in case they need to give a little gas in October.


The Intangibles

Normally, I'm a socially restrained guy, in spite of this blog.

I write from this hidden perch anonymously and like many people, that is the extent of it. I don't very often if ever allow my personal life to mix with blogs.

But this is a special occasion.

Since July in the back of my head I've been thinking you know, if the Mets make it to the bloody World Series, I'm going to be there. Since I left NYC three years ago, I haven't been back to America once and frankly, with the exception of being able to go to Shea and going to McSorleys down the street from my flat and eating Mexican food at will, I haven't missed America much.

And now we are closer to what I hope is the inevitable (and yet were it inevitable I wouldn't hope it, I would know it, World Series and I must hedge my bets - should I buy a ticket now, risk going back to America for no good reason if the Mets don't play in the World Series or wait until I really do KNOW they are there and go for lastminute.com?

For a real supporter there is only one answer: the ticket to NYC is already purchased.

Thus I want to say to those who come across this blog, Mets fans in all but Mets bloggers in particular, I would love to take this opportunity to get to meet some of you.

Those of you interested in meeting me in NYC should send an email. Those of you who wish to burn me in effigy in NYC, well, you can do that already, I don't have to be there.

Time To Kiss The Ace Good Bye?

It might seem implausible, perhaps even blasphemous to some that the very star that put the Mets on the map two winters ago might not be the ace you want on the mound when the playoffs start in a few weeks.

No tears this time around but no real joy either...

Granted, there was no early inning meltdown, no string of ineffectiveness or an emotional breakdown in the dugout this time around. In fact, for the first four innings last night Pedro looked, well, vintage Pedro.

Flyout, groundout, strikeout in the first, walk, groundout doubleplay, strikeout in the second, popout, groundout strikeout in the third and flyout, strikeout, strikeout in the 4th. After four innings The Mets Messiah had returned.

But the fifth inning wasn't as kind. It's down to match fitness, no doubt, which is what happens to a pitcher who is only 5'11 180, aging, coming off an injury and had thrown what, four innings in the last month and a half?

It happens and if the Mets ride this inevitable tide (shout out to the Norfolk) in the postseason and make it to the World Series Pedro will have had at least another three or four starts to get match fit and well, Game One we would want to see him out there.

But in the first game of the Divisional Series, I'm not so sure.

I wouldn't be afraid of letting Glavine and El Duque have a go, both of whom are fresh, both of whom have had more time to return to form following layoffs and both of whom have pitched well in recent starts. It's called riding the hot hand and whilst Pedro might be a hot hand by late October at the moment he still looks easily fatigued and tentative which is basically what is to be expected.

Now Willie has stuck with Pedro as his starter number one (with the occasional qualifyier like "at the moment") for the postseason and barring any major setback, that is precisely where Pedro will be once the season ends. Your ace gets those starts, presuming your ace is healthy and can pitch more than half a game effectively.

Chances are, if he's going to pitch Game One against the Dodgers, or Padres or Phillies (and hey don't discount these Marlins just yet,) he'll only get one more start before that and whilst a start in the NLDS and a start in the NLCS would be more than ample preparation for a Game One start in the World Series, it might be a little overzealous to think he's ready to rush out there in prime time when he's still coming back. Let's not forget he's auld and battered and fragile. Let's not wreck this World Series train before it pulls out of the station.

And let's not forget that since 1st of May the Mets record in Pedro's 17 starts is a distinctly unimposing 6-11.

That doesn't mean he can still be the ace or the hero but frankly, he doesn't have to be any more, he's gotten us this far and the team can take it the rest of the way if need be.


So the Mets announced that they're abandoning Norfolk next season as their AAA farm club after 37 years for the gloom and doom of New Orleans.

"...the bottom line is we also wanted to be in a warm-weather area," Mets general manager Omar Minaya explained Thursday.

Warm weather is an understatement. It gets unbearably hot and humid in New Orleans in the summer, not to mention that it is Mother Nature's most recent ground zero.

I have to admit to being a little puzzled by this move. Are they getting a great deal financially to move there? Certainly moving twice the distance from New York can't be the rationale. Certainly moving to an area devastated by flooding and economically crippled can't be the rationale.

Perhaps it's just part of a new fad.

After all, Washington is switching from New Orleans to Columbus, with the New York Yankees going from the Clippers to Scranton. Philadelphia is leaving the Red Barons for a new stadium in Allentown scheduled to open in 2008 and will affiliate with Ottawa for next year, where the Orioles had been and the Orioles are now moving to Norfolk.

Wouldn't the Triple AAA site at Rochester have made more sense? Even Columbus would have been closer than New Orleans.

Sometimes the mysteries are less profound than they appear. After all, New Orleans is a helluva lot closer to the Domincan Republic and Puerto Rico.


Just a little reminder that no matter what Pedro's struggles end up meaning in the long run at least we don't have this jackal on our side when the chips are down. Looks like the Betty Ford Clinic might be his next stop. Whatever happened to spraying champagne to celebrate clinching your division title by losing?


Dream A Little Dream of D-Train

He is 11-2 with a 2.02 ERA in his career pitching against the Mets. 3-1 this season alone and last night he knocked in as many runs as he allowed in hitting a pair of homers whilst scattering 7 hits last night for another victory, another Shea performance that left no doubt. So the natural question to everyone at Shea last night was why isn't D-Train riding the Number Seven to work?

Oliver Perez, no candidate to start in the post season but perhaps next season's reclamation project or next season's Victor Zambrano, pitched almost well enough, shutting out the Marlins for the first innings and giving up three runs and five hits over a few shades under 6 innings, but he was hardly the D-Train. He didn't hit any homers, he didn't cause any Shea fans to gasp with wonder and he lost his 12th game of the season.

No D-Train but no Victor Zambrano yet either...

Adding to his growing list of credentials, David Wright stole second base in the sixth inning, becoming the seventh Met to have 20 or more stolen bases and 20 or more home runs in a single season.

Jose Reyes needs 15 more hits to reach the plateau of 200 for the season. Another double, another homer, three stolen bases and three triples would give him an amazing 20 triple, 30 double, 20 homer and 60 stolen base season.

Carlos Beltran is one shy of tying Todd Hundley's mark of 41 home runs, set in 1996, and two runs scored away from equaling Edgardo Alfonzo's 123 from 1999.


And tonight, Pedro gets another chance to instill confidence in the postseason with a start against the Marlins.


Oh, Pshaw

I got a little irritated reading the hyperbole of this article, I have to admit.

Yeah, let's all tremble about the bloody Padres.

And whilst we're at it, let's fret about Pedro and Glavine not being sufficient. Let's forget all about this being a team, larger than the individual's that comprise it. Let's forget about how this team got here - early leads, bullpen, bullpen and late inning heroics.

My brother in-law all the way in the states had the nerve to suggest the Mets won't make the World Series because of their starting pitching. Of course, he's not a Mets fan so he's a de facto idiot but nonetheless, this seems to be the new theme song of baseball. The Mets suck, who cares if they clinched earlier than anyone or have the best record in baseball, they play in a weak league and their starting pitching is in tatters.

Yeah, it sucks. Two bloody Hall of Famers and a pitcher with one of the most impressive modern era records in post-season baseball. I've already shat myself in fear of the Padres and their like.

Get used to it, Mets fans. The media jackals love tearing down heroes and the Mets will be no exception.


Meanwhile, back at Shea, Willie gave a handful of starters a day of rest and Tom Glavine threw eight innings of four hit ball to record his 289th career victory (will the final 11 to 300 come as a Met?) as the Mets beat the Marlins 3-2.

Even though most starters were rested; Julio Franco playing third base for the first time since 1982 for example - (1982! The man he was replacing at third, David Wright hadn't even been born!) - the Mets still managed to make this yet another come-from-behind victory as Michael Tucker drove in the winning run with a bases loaded single in the 8th.

CLINCHED! Shea Celebrates

It took 91 victories, 149 games over 168 days but the New York Mets, who began the season on a Monday, clinched the NL East on a Monday with a relieving 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins.

The cornerstones of the Mets future celebrate their first championship together

The details, after three consecutive games waiting to exhale are almost irrelevant save for the fact that Steve Trachsel threw 6 1/3 shutout innings and renewed his potential claim for a place in the postseason rotation, holding an opponent scoreless for the first time in 29 starts this season.

It wasn't the first time Trachsel has pitched a clincher, either. He provided a similar 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Sept. 28, 1998 for the Chicago Cubs in a one-game Wild Card playoff against the Giants.

Following Trachsel were Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner who combined to allow only a single hit, no runs over the final, celebratory 2 2/3 innings.

Shea celebrates

The Mets won in neither of their trademark manners. It wasn't a one-run game,w hich they have won 29 of 44, a record that no other National League team can compare to. And the Mets didn't win by scoring in the first inning although they lead the league in first-inning runs, with 123.

They didn't with any of their aces starting on the mound, instead, an oft-maligned Trachsel led the way with a sharp performance.

They weren't carried in this game by any of their potential MVPs, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright or Carlos Delgado.

They were carried by Jose Valentin's pair of homers, one in the second and another in the fifth, which resulted in three of the four runs they scored.

Valentin of course, was signed in the winter in a one year deal worth a mere $912,500, yet another under-the-radar deal by Omar Minaya and a key component to the 2006 Mets.

And whilst Shea celebrates, Jose Reyes dons his champagne goggles and Queens goes wild, England is eerily quiet. You could almost hear the crickets.


It's Shea Or Never

The unused sheets of plastic hung above the Mets' lockers are beginning to remind me of the miles of duct tape and plastic sheeting the American federal government once urged its citizens to purchase to protect against a hypothetical terrorist attack.

For the third time the Mets needed only a victory over the much-maligned Pirates or a Phillies loss to the Houston Astros and for the third time, neither happened, moving the NL clinching party back where it belongs; Shea Stadium.

"It’s a little disappointing," Manager Willie Randolph was quoted as saying. But, he added comfortingly, "I’m not going to cut my wrists or anything."

Did he really need to reassure us of that?

I wouldn't say it's disappointing, I would say it bordered on the absurd. Not just losing three in a row to one of the crappiest teams in the National League. But the Phillies sweeping the Astros. The last time the Phillies swept the Astros in Houston was in May 1995 at the Astrodome. The odds on that happening must have been bloody astronomical...

But now on to the serious news, the alarming news: For the third day in a row, a Pirates left-hander beat New York. The Mets have lost 13 of their last 18 when lefties started against them and are 23-21 overall - compared to 67-37 when facing a right-hander. The horrors!

Break out the duct tape and plastic sheeting!

Really, this is nothing to be hysterical about. Have a look at the standings.

The Astros and the Colorado Rockies are the ONLY National League teams with a better record than the Mets versus lefties and look where it got them.

Sure, the Yankees are an impressive 30-16 versus lefties and the Tigers, 31-18 but that's something for Tom Glavine to worry about in the World Series, not us.

What the Mets should really be concerned about in light of a 3-0 loss to the Pirates closing out a three game sweep by those Pirates, is popping the corks on flat champagne.

"Warm, cold, warm-cold; it's not gonna have any fizz when we do open it if this goes on," Tom Glavine worried after the game.

On a more sober note, another loss and it won't be champagne being chilled in anticipation, it'll be absinthe to drown the sorrows.

Now comes the punchline: Steve Trachsel pitching for the title clincher...


Although he started Stinnett. Milledge and Woodward, it appears Willie Randolph, at his own peril, ignored my suggestion to start the entire second string against the Pirates yesterday.

With two more hits yesterday, Milledge has had five in his last nine at-bats and is hitting a more robust .294 during September.


Time To Rest The Starters

To a man, the Mets would tell you no, they aren't losing intentionally to the Pirates simply to clinch their first NL East title since 1988 at Shea.

Sure, they had the requisite large plastic sheets atop their lockers ready to be put in place to protect their stuff from spurting champagne bottles.

Sure, El Duque, who would likely be starting Game Three of any playoff, was on the mound.

If this isn't the face of Father Time, I don't know what is.

But this wasn't just any old team the Mets were facing out there. These were the Pirates, after all.

"I don't think we are pressing - we ran into a couple good left-handers and they've got a good ballclub." Paul Lo Duca, whose fly-out in the 9th with a runner in scoring position left the Mets with their 3-2 loss, second straight to the Pirates, managed to say with a straight face. "They're playing a lot better in the second half of the season, and we haven't been swinging the bats that well. We've got to go get them tomorrow."

A good ballclub? The Pittsburgh Pirates?! Well, they are better than the 60-89 Chicago Cubs but only just and in fact, they are worse than every OTHER National League club. If that makes them a good ballclub then it must also make Kelly Osbourne a fit bird and frankly, I'm just not buying that.

Ozzy's spawn is as fit as the Pirates are good...

Regardless of how you chose to examine two consecutive losses on nights when victory would have clinched the NL East, I think the animals are still a little disturbed about Pedro's tearful display in the dugout following his less-than-sublime performance Friday night.

On the bright side, the Phillies keep winning meaning the Mets can still at least win the NL East on the field rather than backing in off a Phillies loss.

But last night was a night a game the Mets would normally win. Duque kept them in the game by allowing two runs and six hits over seven solid innings whilst Met batters were continuously puzzled by the likes of Tom Gorzelanny and Shane Youman, both lefties.

And yes, it's ok, to be disturbed by the fact that the Mets lost for the 13th time in the last 18 games in which the opposing starter was left-handed.

But even with the game still 2-2, even with Lo Duca's rare failure to hit in the clutch in an otherwise remarkable season for the Mets, the 9th inning betrayed the Mets in a rare insult when Aaron Heilman allowed his first run since 3rd August.

Certainly these last two games are more a case of than a worrying concern but on the other hand, Zach Duke is ANOTHER lefty who will face the Mets on Sunday and Duke has gone 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two career starts against the Mets.

Worse still, the Mets are no longer the only best team in baseball.

Pulling up in your rear view mirrors folks, are the New York Yankees, now tied with the Mets at 90-57 for the best record in baseball.

Of course if I'd have been told in Spring Training that after 147 games the Mets would be tied with the Yankees for the best record in baseball and a mere victory over the Pirates to clinch the NL East, I'd have been pretty damned chuffed.

But in Spring Training, if you recall, the majority of us although optimistic, still had years of poor play to rinse from our memories before we were going to shed our most intimate fears of allowing the Mets to disappoint us once again.

You know what I think Willie Randolph should do?

He should tell his team that he doesn't even want to clinch in Pittsburgh. He should spit on the ground of Pittsburgh and besmirch the character of its residents and tell his team that the only way he wants to win the NL East is in Shea in front of all the supporters.

He should then replace Lo Duca with Kelly Stinnett, Delgado with Julio Franco, with Valentin, Woodward and Anderson Hernandez filling in the rest of the infield. Ricky Ledee, Lastings Milledge and Michael Tucker in the outfield.

If this is truly a "team" then why shouldn't the second string get a chance to do what the first string twice failed to do?

All the pressure would be gone, the starters would all have a day off and hell, even if the Mets clinch the NL East and deprive the starters of being on the field for it, what better motivation for the rest of the postseason than wanting to have the chance to celebrate a victory they themselves accomplished?


Many Questions, Few Answers

Ungoing rubbish monologue for what the hope is will be the Mets' clinching victory...

23:55, England -

I can feel the blood moving through my veins, I think. Or my hair growing, I can't tell.

23:58 - what does it say about baseball that the Mets theme song on the FAN employs banjos? And boy, I have to confess, I just can't wait for more commercials!

"I was buried in debt with no way of knowing how I was going to get out..."
"One call can literally save you thousands of dollars..."

00:02 - This is a Pedro warm-up to the post season, a spring training to late April.


First pitch, 65 degrees, Howie Rose. It's almost like a script from the auld Don Ho show....

00:12 - 1-2-3. Let the crescendo build slowly. I'm still so bombarded by commercials I think my head won't stop spinning until the 3rd inning.


60-80 pitches for Pedro. How do they know he'll be that efficient, ha!

Pedro wearing a wrap to protect his left calf.


Green tries a head-first slide into first to no avail, still 2-0 Pirates.


Oops, Pedro throws it wild...


I yearn for skiving work and going to a day game at Shea...


"Nobody in the world sells more real estate than ReMax" - what a comforting thought.
If the Mets clinch tonight, it'd be two days earlier than 1986.
The earliest ever for the Mets.
Almost as early as 1962.


Sanchez has his 48th double of the year. Christ, that's alot. But only second place and only in the National League. What are these kids smokin?


Fan interference, Pirates lead 3-0.


hey is this a pennsylvania thing for pedro? 4-0 Pittsburgh.


Pirates, six base hits in the first three innings.


Off Grolsch to Guinness. Gary Cohen is frightened about Pedro's calf. Imagine what Pedro's calf thinks.


For you younger fans who don't know...


Gary Cohen is out of hand tonight. I think he's taken steroids before the broadcast or something.


Hey John Goodman is doing Dunkin Donuts commericals! What's next, Gumby doing pretzel commercials?


Two hit-batsman already. It must be a conspiracy. Not hit with a breaking ball.

Pirates are outhitting the Mets 7-1.

The children are the parents. The proletariats are the governors.


yeah = here we come! Go Go Reyes! 4-1.


LoDuca goes nuts! Tossed! If this doesn't fire the Mets up to clinch tonight, nothing will.


Heath Bell, whattawetryintolose?


it's a bad omen if we don't clinch tonight.


Ok, this will be a string of streaming, uh, consciousness or something...

Pedro crying.

If he's injured again, the Mets should cry as well as they hoist the flag of death above their out houses.


Mark this down, tired 7th inning Pirate pitcher begins the Mets rally...


Baddabingbaddabang, third double play induced. Fuck the rally monkey.


Isn't there an auld saying from 1880s baseball like, if you can't beat 'em, bean 'em.


Jayson Bay makes it 5-1. Fuck it. Put away the champagne, tear down the banners, beat up the hookers, fight the police when they come and make sure you get the right hand bed in the prison cell.


4th strikeout by Heath Bell, 4th strike out by Nady.


A come-from-behind victory would make it all the sweeter and symbolic.

De Felice 1 for 21 and what happens, he gets a double. Here we go. Reyes gets his triple, score 5-2. His 17th of the year.


Delgado strikes out swinging. One more inning to get it done.


Feliciano and Heath Bell in the same game?
What is this game fixed?


Nothing but a Foxwoods slot machine greed gambling commerical and then the Mets' last at-bats.


Tying run at the plate is Shawn Green. Are we falling out of love with himself already? 1 for last 17?


He struck out you stupid fuck. You'll have to clinch the world series for me to forgive that, diamondback.

Phase Two Of Countdown To NL East Champions

The Specials cd ended so I've replaced it with Rammstein, one and a half hours before first pitch.

In the interim I've been thinking about alot of other seasons of mediocrity that smell like bad pussy on your mustache on a Saturday morning (but only when you were a freshman at Uni of course...)

Art Howe, for example.

Art Howe was to the Mets like the 70s were to the American economy. Stale, stagnant and waiting to be over. I hated Art Howe so much I made a blog called Fire Art Howe Already!

The thing about Art Howe is that he was a strong man. A Stoic. A man who let players be men blablabla and proved almost as unimaginative as the GMs who brought the mules who played for him.

Art Howe, a disease, a malaise.

Art Howe probably could have won the NL East with this team though.

He won a few for the A's, after all. It's not like he never did it.

I worry about Willie Randolph having to face post season decisions he hasn't had to face yet. The funny thing about Willie Randolph is that he has the luxury not to have to make the kind of decisions where he could look good or he could look like an idiot. Omar Minaya sorted it all out for him.

Need a name? Here, have Pedro.
Need a five tool player quiet superstar with no big head? Here, have Carlos Beltran.
Need a closer? Here, have Billy Wagner.
Need a heavy hitting first baseman? Here, have Carlos Delgado.
Need a thick bullpen to back up an aged starting rotation? Here, have Duaner Sanchez, have Roberto Hernandez back, have Guillermo Mota, have Darren Oliver.
Need a catcher who can throw to second base in less than five hops and hit over .300? Here, have Paul LoDuca.

And there's smooth Willie Randolph with his jazz DJ's velvety voice running the Mets like a raft on a river on a warm summer day.

What would poor Art Howe have done?

Oh, and by the way, the music for this session leading up to the game:

Rammstein (but I don't think the bat is for baseball.)

Prepping For The New Era

Well, over here in merry ole it's already dark and there are still three and half hours til the first pitch but since this is a special occasion, I've loaded up on Grolsch (no good champagne in England) and bong hits to see me through the wee hours of the morning to witness, even if only via internet radio, the official beginning to the New Era of Mets Winnerdom.

Pre-Game Rituals

I begin the festivities by reading The Cubicle, an inning by inning account of the misery of being a Cubs fan.

I was looking at the schedule tonight, the starting pitchers noting D Train pitching against the Braves tonight and I started remembering what it was like to be rooting for a team who have vague but unrealistic hopes of the postseason. I didn't have to think far, just last year in fact.

So I went to the way back machine and dug out last year's column on 15th September.

Quite a difference a year makes, folks.

And here's the thing:

It would be nice for the Mets to clinch at Shea or it would be nice for the Mets to clinch at Turner Field (maybe even better in a way,) but what the hell, our favourite ex-Met of 2006 can at least witness what could've been were it not for Duaner Sanchez's fateful cab ride.

But the thing that makes this really special, regardless of where it happens is that Pedro gets the chance to do it. How apropos, the man whose signing indicated the first twistings of an incredible transformation two winters ago for this franchise, now gets to help clinch the NL East title.

Not as beautiful as would be a Game 7 Pedro mowing down the Yankees on the way to a 3-2 victory over Randy Johnson or Mike Mussina perhaps, but unlike Grady Little's unfortunate world, in this one, the Mets have a thick and well-muscled bullpen. A bullpen of many options, most of which are equally efficient. The bullpen is the unsung hero of this season. And Pedro only has to play the Opponent's Blues for 5 or 6 innings rather than trying to stitch up his mango tree flesh and put on the brave face, stick it out til the bitter end. Willie won't have to make Grady Little's decision. He's got a bouncer of bullpens behind him.

And so, three hours til the first pitch, I'll leave you with my warm up music:

The Specials

Let's Go Mets!!


Mets Eliminate Marlins and Win Their 90th

Ok, it isn't as spectacular as eliminating the Braves yesterday or clinching the NL East, but for the second night in a row, a Mets victory eliminated an NL East opponent.

The Phillies can go ahead and keep sweeping the lowly Braves all they want, merely postponing the inevitable.

The Mets won another from the Marlins this time 7-4, yet another come-from-behind victory, yet another extra inning extravaganza.

And for added emphasis, the second night in a row the Marlins led in the 8th inning but couldn't hold on. Maybe Cliff Floyd is a little less over-awed by the Marlins by now.

David Wright unable to score on Julio Franco's double in the 6th

But the rather unlikely pairing of Tom Glavine and Jose Reyes scored instead.

Last night the fall came in the 11th when Dan Uggla misplayed Ricky Ledee's certain double play grounder that left runners on the corners with two outs and Jose Reyes stepping to the plate. Reyes' pop foul was just out of reach of Miquel Cabrera and he lived for another pitch. The next one was wild, allowing Jose Valetin to score and the one after that, Reyes tapped an infield single to short. Trying to get Ledee at third, Hanley Ramirez made a wild throw to Cabrera, allowing Ledee to score.

The night started with Tom Glavine pitching well, effectively in a 3 earned runs over six innings kind of way. For the first three innings he, like his opposite number on the Marlin's mound, threw scorelessly but there was the question of a pair of runs surrendered in the 4th and a two-run homer in the 6th that gave the Marlins the lead and ended in his no decision. Certainly head and shoulders above, oh, let's say Steve Trachsel but he didn't leave with the lead and thus, didn't get the win.

Once again, the Mets bullpen pitched heroically and I for one am willing to speculate that all this hoo-haaa about starting pitching winning championships is going to get turned on its head by the Mets this postseason.

The Mets are a team that can outlast a starting pitcher and a team that can rebound from a deficit and a team that has rather pronounced collection of effective bullpen assistance that can hold slim leads or keep the game close whilst the offense builds its steady late-inning momentum.

Last night the core; Roberto Hernandez, Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner, combined to throw FIVE scoreless innings during which they allowed a mere two hits and struck out six.

The Mets are now 9-5 in extra inning games.

BUT, something to think about for October: just across the water the Yankees are 9-1 in extra inning games and have surpassed the Tigers for the second-best record in baseball behind the Mets.


It shouldn't go unreported that Paul Lo Duca had another 3 RBIs last night even though oddly enough he's only had 44 on the season in spite of his glistening .312 batting average. He continues to hit much better in the day (.378) than the night (.297) but his is hitting .326 since the All Star break, quieting detractors who worried he might wear down over the course of the season.

And what about that David Wright kid? After an excruciating lull during August when he hit only .245, he's bounced back with a bang and is hitting .471 in September.

Nor should we fail to notice how Reyes keeps straddling that .300 mark, last night with three more hits, giving him 178 for the season. He needs 12 more over the next 17 games to reach the magic mark of 200 to go with his 16 (hopefully 20) triples, 19 homers (hopefully 20) and 57 stolen bases (hopefully 65) for the season and here's hoping he does it all to polish one of the finest seasons by a lead off hitting Met in recent memory and give him serious consideration for the most underrated MVP in the National League.

It's quite likely the Mets will finally clinch the NL East during their 3 day trip to Pittsburgh which although it isn't ideal (i.e. beating the Braves to clinch or clinching at Shea or clinching against an NL East opponent even,) we can rest easy knowing that we're the team no one will want to face in the playoffs.


Mets Eliminate Braves!!!!!

After six innings last night it looked like although Oliver Perez had pitched a surprisingly competent game against these upstart Marlins his run support, like the muscle contractions a constipated colon, were slow and sluggish to come. The Mets were down 4-0 and the Magic Number wasn't getting any smaller.

Did the 128 minutes of total rain delay work to the Mets advantage?

But then in the 7th, with the daunting Josh Johnson who had allowed a mere three hits over five innings icing his arm to the tune of the Florida Marlin bullpen, David Wright slapped an RBI double to narrow the margin to 4-1 and in the 8th Carlos Delgado smacked a three-run homer, his 39th of the season to straightaway centerfield off Taylor Tankersley to tie the game.

Classic bullpen meltdown by six Florida relievers who combined to allow 10 hits and six runs in four innings or mere inevitability that the Mets offensive juggernaut could not be derailed forever?

Wright's second double following Delgado was followed by yet another double by Cliff Floyd and just like that the Mets held the lead.

In a telling contrast to the Marlin bullpen Chad Bradford, Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner held the Marlins scoreless over the final four innings, allowing five hits but striking out five as well and helping the Mets to a rain-soaked and inspirational 6-4 victory.

But best news of all, in spite of a rainout in Atlanta, the Mets victory meant

The Braves Have Been Eliminated From the Postseason!!

After 14 long years of uninterrupted domination the Atlanta Braves will not have to contemplate what went wrong in the playoffs for the first time.

To put this into perspective, the last time the Braves didn't make the playoffs in a season that wasn't marred by a strike was 1990. The same year the first McDonald's in Moscow opened, the same year South African President F.W. de Klerk allowed the African National Congress to legally function again and promised to free Nelson Mandela, the same year Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, that the Hubble Telescope was launched, that East Germany and West Germany reunified into a single Germany and of course, the same year DC Mayor Marion Barry was arrested for crack in an FBI sting operation to the tune of "Bitch Set Me Up!".

Let's see, David Wright was 8 years old.

The Mets won 91 games in 1990 but not the NL East, finishing 4 games behind the Pirates. The Pirates! Talk about the world being upside down...


Applause are in order for the outing by Oliver Perez who ended a short string of porous pitching performances by starters and free-styled his way to striking out 11 Marlins over 5 innings, four runs and five hits worth, but the real heroics were the bullpen who held the Marlins scoreless and the batting order, who rallied back yet again from deficit and helped the Mets to their 89th victory of the season.

11 wins over their last 18 will give them 100 for the season.


Marlins Strike Fear Into Wounded Hearts

The selection of post-season starters is gradually thinning.

One night after Steve Trachsel continued to prove deceptive the mirage that is his winning record this season, Dave Williams, the Miracle Man from the Reds, allowed 9 runs and 11 hits in three innings of work, both season highs, before he was replaced with two on and no outs in the fourth inning.

Williams can't wipe the grime of a disappointing start from his forehead.

Sometimes you shudder thinking about the rest of the rotation.

Pedro's help is on the way, Glavine seems to have righted himself after the earlier numb finger scare and El Duque appears to be rested enough for the final push but thereafter, we're looking at the reality of what has been a smoke and mirrors rotation for the majority of the season.

Cody Ross, the man who was almost without a home this season after being dumped by both the Dodgers and the Reds, hitting .100 in 20 at-bats against the Mets this season, awoke from a life-long slumber to pound three homeruns and knock in seven all on his own to lead the Marlins to an emphatic 16-5 victory over the Mets last night. Entering last night's game he had only one homer in his last 87 at-bats.

TWENTY hits - that's how much the Marlins battered Mets pitching. Well, mostly Williams, Heath Bell and Royce Ring - Roberto Hernandez appeared to be the only Met appearing on the mound who could get a Marlin out.

To their credit the Mets tried a few brave attempts at outslugging the horrific pitching they were witnessing from their own side. They were down 4-0 after an inning, 6-2 after two, 7-2 after three and then 9-4 after four.

Cliff Floyd's two-run homer in the second gave us a brief gasp of hope, as did Carlos Beltran's solo shot in the fourth, his 40th of the season, but the underscored reality of this game was that the Mets pitching was like a porous NFL defence who can't keep the opponent out of their endzone. No matter how much the offence scores, the defence will surrender twice as much.

What do we read into this game, this battering at the hands of a team of upstarts stripped of their superstars upon the hiring of Joe Girardi and left standing naked in Spring Training with a lineup of primarily rookies and nobodies to contend with?

Well, we could take Cliff Floyd's tactic and worry about the chance we might have to face these same Marlins in the postseason.

"A lot of guys don't want to see those guys in the playoffs," the oft-injured and outspoken Floyd marveled at the Marlins. "They're feeling pretty good about themselves."

What is this statement a measure of? That Cliff Floyd is hiding in the shadows, the fear of injury translating into an overall fear of teams in general, teams which have only an outside chance of qualifying for the playoffs? A true measure of how frightening the Marlins are with their Triple AAA roster, their formidable starting rotation and their boy-genius manager?

Pshaw. Let them feel pretty good about themseles. They're still 15 1/2 games behind the Mets, a mighty two games over .500 and two games behind the Padres for the wildcard. If they're in Cliff Floyd's rear view mirror of fear already one wonders how the Mighty Mets might be trembling should they actually have to face these Marlins in the postseason.

Of course, it poses the interesting question of who DO the Mets want to face in the first round of the playoffs. The Padres, whose beloved Mike Piazza might be in essence, playing all his games at home? The Phillies, who have handed the Mets their heads on more than one occasion this season?

The Mets can't even realistically worry about their season unraveling like the Tigers. They can think about two consecutive losses, the trend of spotty pitching beyond their aces but in reality, this temporary blip is hardly concern-inducing.

Today's another day and frankly, with Oliver Perez taking the mound for the Mets tonight, prepare yourself for what perhaps might be a repeat of last night. The Mets needn't fear the possibility of facing the Marlins in the playoffs. They should only fear that their trio of legitimate starters stay healthy through the postseason and spare us the spectacle of journeymen nobodies taking their reluctant poundings from the opposition.


Mets Stumped By Another No Name

So, the Mets are no good against guys making their first major league starts, big deal. Not bloody likely they'll be facing such pitchers in the playoffs.

Two days after losing to a previously unheralded Hong-Chih Kuo and a trio of relievers teamed for a four hit 5-0 shutout, rookie Erik Stults shut down the Mets as well, limiting them to two hits over six innings in a 9-1 victory.

Eric Stults in his earlier career as the elephant man.

So while freakishly, this might mean that the Mets would be crap hitting against the Dodgers minor league pitchers, they did a pretty good tattoo job against Brad Penny and Greg Maddux so I think the worries about an early demise are a bit premature.

Perhaps the bigger story was Steve Trachsel pitching his shortest outing all season, a two and two thirds inning job that cemented the knowledge that no matter how long that pretty little streak of winning decisions lasted for him this season, once in awhile Trachsel is going to have to pitch five or six innings without giving up double digit runs.

"If you’re going to discount May, June, July and August over two starts, that’s up to you guys," Trachsel snarled at reporters who dared point out his inefficiency after allowing four runs, five hits and two walks. "I had four good months and I’ve had two bad starts. So my main focus right now is just to correct what has happened."

Four good months? Whoa, hang on. What year was that, Steve?

Or do you mean October through February?

Helloooooo Mr Trachsel, haven't you given up 36 earned runs over 51 innings in your last 10 starts? Where exactly were these four good months? Swept under the carpet to avoid scrutiny like, how many runs in support of your starts was received from your teammates?

If, harkening back to yesterday's column, this were the playoffs, the idea is that Steve Trachsel would be starting would one of these games. I know that Pedro and Glavine and El Duque are like the auldest starting trio in the history of postseason baseball (well I don't "know" it for a fact, I'm merely guessing,) but if they need rest, I'm not so sure Trachsel is going to be the guy to cover them.

Lastings Milledge? Yup. Untradeable.

Alright, let's just forget all about this little episode.

In the games that "mattered", i.e. the games in which major league pitchers pitched against the Mets and didn't have an exhibition game feel to them, the Mets were 2-0. These kinds of caveats won't be necessary in the postseason.


Since Aug. 1, the Mets are 4-11 in 15 games started by left-handed pitchers, compared to 21-2 against righties.


If Only It Were The Playoffs Already...

To add to the excitement of an otherwise clearly concluded outcome, that of the Mets on the precipice of winning the NL East and a nearly-clinched playoff berth, it was imperative, as noted in yesterday's column, to enjoy this game as though it were the playoffs.

That it, the Mets having split the first two games of the series and now with El Duque facing Greg Maddux in an experience-studded pitching duel.

Maddux has pitched in 31 post season games in his career, starting 29 of them. El Duque has pitched 19 times in the post season, 14 of those as a starter. Maddux, 3.22 post season ERA, El Duque 2.55. Maddux with a career postseason record of 11-14 and El Duque with a 9-3 mark.

It would be a postseason matchup, with the series lead on the line, worthy of what has been to date, a remarkable season for the Mets.

El Duque, after wriggling out of a spasm of lead-off double trouble, goes on to retire the next 15 battters he faced through five innings.

Shawn Green saves El Duque's skin early on.

Maddux surrendered Carlos Delgado's 37th homer of the year to give the Mets a lean 1-0 lead going into the 6th.

One of the luxuries of having El Duque as your third starter in the post season is that he is capable of figuring out whatever problems he is having on the mound on his own. The 6th tested that theory with runners on 2nd and 3rd and only one out. Kenny Lofton singled home a run, his 11th career hit off El Duque, followed shortly thereafter by JD Drew's RBI single to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Importantly though, El Duque was able to close out the inning without further damage.

And if you've been watching the Mets all season you know that they quite often answer a run spurt by the opponent with a run spurt of their own and with the top of the order coming to the plate in the bottom of the 6th, the time was ripe.

Whereas El Duque was able to wriggle free of trouble, minimising damage to escape the 6th Maddux was not as capable or perhaps as lucky. He didn't last the inning. In fact, Valentin's one out double was going to see Maddux's resolve melt shortly thereafter, intentionally walking Carlos Beltran to face Carlos Delgado who was 4 for 23 against him lifetime.

But Maddux didn't get to face Delgado. Instead lefty Tim Hamulack was waived in to face lefty Delgado. Hamulack, you'll no doubt recall, was sent by the Mets with Seo for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll.

Delgado responded with a blast that landed two steps from the wall to advance both runners and bring in more senseless numbers by seeing Grady Little bring in righty Brett Tomko to face David Wright, who was 0 for 7 against Tomko in his life.

And I'm thinking to myself Tomko has a 4.56 ERA regardless of how lucky he's been in the past and after all, how long is a hitter like Wright going to go hitless against a mutt pitcher like Tomko?

Not long as it turns out - Wright singles home two runs and the Mets pull back out in front, 3-2.

Game decided by the 6th inning, you'd think.

The Dodgers might not even make the playoffs. I know they're trendy at the moment but this isn't a dangerous team, not as they've played to date against the Mets. It's a plucky team but even if they make the playoffs they won't go far. The biggest worry for the Mets in the National League playoffs will be if the Phillies sneak in as the wild card and we have to pitch around MVP Ryan Howard all series.

And indeed, with El Duque having pitched 7 strong innings, with Aaron Heilman the subtly annointed set-up man since Duaner's late night cab disaster, pitching an easy 8th and Billy Wagner making his 63rd appearance, the game was, for all intents and purposes, over by the end of the 6th. Quite tidy. Wagner, as he is paid to do, getting the save after Grady Little was outsmarted by himself yet again with a strike em out throw em out double play to end the game.


Taiwanese Shuts Down Mets On Taiwanese Night At Shea

The National League leader with wins, Brad Penny they knock around like they were in a game of T Ball but a 25 year old rookie pitching, historically a relief pitcher at that, in his first Major League start ever holds them so tightly he has a no-hitter going into the fifth inning and wins his first game ever as a Major Leaguer.

Of course, having to face a Taiwanese pitcher when your own bloody stadium is coincidentally holding Taiwanese Night can't be a good omen.

Oh, the twists and turns, the contradictions and anomalies this season has brought upon the Mets in spite of their massively successful season, boggles the mere human mind at times.

They raved about Hong-Chih Kuo afterwards - of course they would. Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green shared their years of observations of the former reliever, Lo Duca's as a teammate, David Wright waxed poetic about Kuo's "great stuff" when he wasn't making throwing errors that put poor John Maine two runs in the hole in the first inning.

We know who you are behind that glove, kid

Certainly not to say that one play in the first inning changes a game but if the rookie is struggling by loading the bases with a lone out to start the game but then bounces back to induce a sure inning-ending double play only to see Wright muff the throw to let two runners score, well, it certainly doesn't help. Not when the Mets are facing the goofy wind up of Kuo and can't buy a hit.

And granted, Wright tried to make up for it by getting two of the Mets' five hits but frankly, as none of them were grand slams, they weren't helpful enough.

So the Mets had won the last eight games John Maine had started and that's all done and dusted.

Carlos Beltran did his best to keep things from going to bad to worst with a spectacular grab in the fifth inning after Maine had already given up homers to Rafael Furcal and Nomah but the damage done was almost predictable. Did you know that of the 33 runs Maine has allowed this season, 23 have come from homeruns?

No game-winning catch in an otherwise futile game but Carlos Beltran shows off his Mr Everything skills. Five tools? Pshaw. This guy's got 10.


The low down on this game was that the series is even - a night after getting bashed the Dodgers regained some face with a convincing 5-0 win of their own and by becoming the first first-place team to beat the Mets since the Red Sox on June 27-29.

I can't help but imagine this scenario playing out in the playoffs. You see, these meaningless games being played might be very well lulling the Mets into a false sense of security. Imagine yourself how nervous you'd be if the Mets were in this same situation, having won only one of two against the Dodgers at home - only it was the playoffs.

Granted, in all likelihood the Mets would have thrown out Pedro and Glavine for Games One and Two at home and they could be up 2 games to nil already but let's say for whatever reason, it's 1-1 and it's El Duque going against Greg Maddux like it will be this afternoon. Think you aren't going to chew fingernails all morning worrying?

Let's not forget that these laughters we are having currently are no reflection of what this is going to feel like in a month.

All the more reason to enjoy these last few weeks of the season with the illusion of greatness still intact.

Just this past June and July the Army witnessed the downfall of the allegedly mighty English side in the World Cup - about halfway through their final match a sinking feeling began to blend with the previous feelings of euphoria and confidence. And then poof! Like that, England were out of the World Cup, leaving it to the melodramaticists and head-butters to finish off.

No one envisions a first round knock out of the Mets but that doesn't mean that having become accustomed to having such an easy, pressure-free time of it for the majority of the season, they aren't going to get wound up tighter than a duck's arse when the games take on new, all-or-nothing meanings.

Luckly, the indications of a season long run are that this is a team with the perfect mixture of veteran saavy, youthful enthusiasm and a never-say-die mentality which should serve them usefully when the game begin to count again.

For now however, it's time to wash out the bitter taste of Taiwanese Night at Shea and send the Dodgers spinning back into oblivion with another pair of losses to take back with them as a consolation prize.


The Hunt For Blue and Orange October

Well there you go folks, another potential enemy turned to mush.

7-0, a very thoughtful score.

(apologies for the brevity and lack of valour in this post, the head and the wine didn't mix properly and all the game notes went Pfffft!

Tomorrow's another day.

And hopefully another smashing victory.

and for those of you also hungover, try a nice easy game like this:



Braves Are Nolle Prosequi

You think the pressure wasn't building on Shawn Green, that he hasn't been the scourge of the synagogues for the last half a month?

Since he'd arrived to this team of destiny in the August 22nd deal with the Diamondbacks, Shawn Green had been hitting .179 including a worrying 1 for 20 stretch going into yesterday's doubleheader against the hated Braves.

It could have been argued that it was only a matter of time before the Mets magic rubbed off on him but there were certainly a few skeptics remaining until yesterday's 6 for 8 doubleheader that saw him hit two homeruns, score four times and knock in three runs of his own in helping lead the Mets to a series-ending doubleheader sweep of those filthy Braves.

For now anyway we don't have to mourn the loss of Evan Maclane any more.

And if Shawn Green's awakening wasn't enough, further vindication of Omar Minaya's tactical genius was on display in the night cap when the unheralded and often-scorned Oliver Perez tossed a five-hit, six-K complete game shutout to complete the Mets humiliation of the Braves.

If only Oliver learned to wear his cap sideways he'd be halfway home to rap stardom, no doubt.

Or shall we say, proof of Rick Peterson's genius? After all, hasn't he turned Perez from a bumbling 2-10 Pirate from Culiacan, Mexico with control problems and a streak of ineffectiveness into the composed wizard we witnessed last night? Haven't we gazed with wonder at Dave Williams' metamorphosis from a bumbling 2-3 Red with a 7.20 ERA in eight starts before being traded to the Mets on May 25 into the pitcher you see before you, 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA and a reclamation project extraordinaire?

It might be hard to get excited about many games for the rest of the regular season what with the Magic Number down to single digits but any time the Mets sweep a doubleheader against the Braves, even if this is the Braves' worst season in a decade and a half, it's a joyous occasion. The Mets had not swept a doubleheader from Atlanta since July 22, 1988.

Lost in the fuss perhaps was Carlos Beltran's triumphant return to the lineup and Jose Reyes' 17th homer of the year in the nightcap and hey, what about Carlos Delgado's 36th homer and 99th and 100th RBIs of the season.

The strong, silent season of Carlos Delgado has erased all memories of being dumped for the Marlins only a season ago...

Is there anything about this team that isn't giving you goosebumps at the moment?

85 wins against 52 losses, the best record in baseball? The 16 1/2 game lead over Philly and Florida, the fact that Braves fragile wildcard hopes were slashed and burned and that they are now 55-73 on the season?

Next lamb to the slaughter, the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaders of the NL West, potential postseason opponent and the team that finished August with the best record in the month since the franchise moved west from Brooklyn, going 21-7.


Perhaps relegated to the dustbin of Mets 2006 history along with the likes of Jose Lima, Kaz Matsui and Jorge Julio, the Anderson Hernandez experiment continues to muddle along with a lack of conviction. Sure, we've got a half season lead on our nearest opponents but other than a deceptive Spring Training, Kid Hernandez is hitting .103 in two stints with the mother ship.


RHP Brad Penny (15-7, 3.97 ERA)
Penny is 1-7 with a 6.28 ERA at Shea Stadium, by far the worst record at any park for his career.


LHP Tom Glavine (12-6, 4.13 ERA)
While Glavine's record isn't up to par in his last 10 starts -- a 1-4 record and a 4.13 ERA -- his control is still there. Overall, Glavine has 108 strikeouts and 55 walks in 165 2/3 innings.


Who Are These Carlos-Less Fraudsters?

Boy, do the Mets ever miss Carlos Beltran.

He's missed two games due to an injured knee and in both of those games, the Mets managed only a single hit against starting pitching. Two nights ago it was in Houston, against Roy Oswalt and you think to yourself, ok fair enough, this sort of thing happens.

Last night however it was at Shea, against the hated Braves who'd tossed a rookie, Chuck James out there for added embarassment. This was the same Chuck James we blistered for 7 runs in one inning not so long ago. Of course, it's also the same Chuck James who has been 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA in the seven starts he's made since the Mets mauled him.

What we might have here is the beginnings of a team wide hitting slump spreading like a cruise ship Norovirus from Reyes down to...well, whatever sub happens to be batting 8th that night. It didn't help to see Michael Tucker in the lineup. We all know Michael Tucker didn't eat his carrots growing up. He's hitting .172 at night. It didn't help that Shawn Green with his .160 batting average over the last week, was in the lineup.

This is what a 2 for 13 for September face looks like.

Without "The Carlos" however (and he shall be named "The Carlos" simply in this MVP push like college university marketing campaigns coming up with new ways to promote their Heisman candidates,) the previously infallable Mets batting order suddenly seemed weak at the knees.

And if you think YOU were confused by this sudden draught, think about poor Steve Trachsel.

Trachsel seemed so confused by the lack of run support he could barely keep his feet.

He seemed to have made a happy pact with the devil: he's allowed to surrender four or five runs in half an outing and in turn, the Mets will score 10 or 12 runs in support for him allowing him to run up a ridiculously facile 12-1 record since 8th June. Well, no mas.

Those heady days of deception are over. Last night he let in four runs in less than five official innings, walking four in the fifth inning alone and there was no backup. Last night the Mets made an error backing him up for the first time all season. Hey guys, he must have been muttering to himself between the 4th and 5th innings when he was already down 2-0 and past his curfew, whose got my back? No one. He hasn't beaten the Braves all season.

Perhaps it's a bitter cruel streak on the part of the Mets who, noting the Braves are still a mere five games behind the San Diego for the NL Wildcard, would like to give them a little rope of hope to hang themselves with to make the delight in the Braves missing out in their first postseason in like, a quarter century, all the sweeter.

Either that or the baseball gods are setting Mets fans up for the worst nightmare scenario of all. As in, the Mets win the NL East by 20 games and then get knocked out by the Braves in the playoffs, a time when Atlanta traditionally disappears.

No matter, this isn't a trend any more than it was a trend that the starting pitching was gone like the vapour of a boiling ferment during distillation when we were losing by football scores to the Iggles Phillies a few weeks ago. Remember that one? Pedro and El Duque getting scorched? Mets losing three straight to the Phillies?

Mr Met is no Mr Misery. That is my mantra going into Dave Williams' start against the Braves tonight. Even if Cliff Floyd's dodgy Achilles is acting up again. Help is on the way. Carlos' MRI showed nothing worrisome AND Pedro is Back.


Prepping for the post season, the Mets will recall OF Lastings Milledge, LHP Dave Williams and RHP Brian Bannister from Triple-A Norfolk and Phillip Humber from Double AA today.


Without Beltran Mets Nearly Hitless In Houston

What a most valuable difference Carlos Beltran makes.

First he saves Game Two with a stunning catch so dangerous that it involves bodily injury and then because of The Catch of Game Two he misses Game Three and resultantly, the Mets are nearly hitless against the best Houston Astro starter who Might've Been a Met, Roy Oswalt. Oswalt started the Astros’ last no-hitter, against the New York Yankees on June 11, 2003.

The $73 million man took a perfect game into the 7th inning against the Mets last night and came out of it one moment of infamy poorer after Jose Reyes beat out a bouncer to short to lead off the inning.

El Duque, back on the mound for the first time since 20th August after a prolonged rest of his weary 50-year old bones, walked six in 5 1/3 innings and was the author of his own demise in spite of allowing only a single hit. Although he was encouraged by his outing, let's let the impact of 106 pitches have their impact on his senior cititzen frame and we'll decide how encouraged to be by it.

And in spite of none of the other members of the back up bullpen (Roberto Hernandez, Darren Oliver and Guillermo Mota) allowing a hit, the Astros still managed to score a second run, sufficient to snuff out the Mets' one at-bat rally in the 9th when Carlos Delgado homered, his 35th of the year.

“Not too many opportunities, a sacrifice fly here and there. Real strange game.” Willie puzzled after the game. Losing whilst giving up only one hit is a real sign of futility. It's only happened once before in Mets history.

Of course when Beltran, Paul LoDuca and David Wright are out of the lineup and the outfield going 0 for 11, not much can be expected in the excitement department.

And when you win the first two games against a team on the road, the third game, the sweeping gesture with a ten million game lead over your nearest rivals, is rather unnecessary, the question of motivation must certainly become a factor, as would Roy Oswalt on the mound. Then again, Oswalt was a mere mortal in eight career outings against the Mets; 3-3 with a 3.78 ERA.

So it must be down to the simple fact the Mets can't win 'em all. What would be the fun in it?


Good to see Ryan Howard making mincemeat of the rest of the league's pitching as well.

Of course, not to be outdone, Albert Pujols also smacked three homers meaning that whilst Beltran was recovering from The Catch, his two main opponents for the NL MVP were out trying desperately to make up for lost ground.

Let's see:

It's a close race.


Now comes the blood-laden gravy as the Atlanta Braves, a decade worst 65-71, come to Shea in what we all hope will be a sweet and satisfying sweep by a cumulative 20-3 margin.


Beltran Grab Saves Day

It was almost a pyrrhic victory when Carlos Beltran emerged limping from a spectacular grab in the bottom of the 9th against the chicken wire fencing in left field just in front of the Mets bullpen to save Lance Berkman's blast from extra bases and Billy Wagner's hide from a blown save to secure a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros.

Better than last year's grab...

And the one from the year before that, back in the days when the Astros had a ("full time") superstar on their team...

But not as good as this one...

Said Astros manager Phil Garner: "Carlos perhaps saved the game. Two runs probably score if he doesn't make that play, and it's certainly tied up. I didn't think it was catchable. He came out of nowhere."

Beltran is helped from the field with the booing AstroIdiot fans ringing in his ears still angry over free agency...

Another close call for the Mets' post season although Beltran isn't out of the storm just yet, the injury may not be as bad as it first appeared. X-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with a bruised left knee, listed as day-to-day with a conspicuous limp.

Because of Beltran's grab, Billy Wagner "earned" his 34th save of the season and the Mets, their 13th win in 15 games. But for the second consecutive night Wagner looked shaky and he'll have plenty to write about in his blog; the tetchy nature of a closer's existence, his fear of Houston, etc.

A healthy Beltran scoring on a wild pitch three innings earlier

Berkman had already hit a homerun in the 5th inning to end John Maine's hitless outing after retiring the first 12 Astros he faced and the 9th inning bash looked near-certain to do more damage. Little did we know, to Beltran's knee.

The game also saw the return of Cliff Floyd with a double and a pair of RBIs which is rather timely, this return, now that Beltran would be questionable. Otherwise, we'd probably see another series of round trip excursions by Mets starters to Norfolk and something hideous, like the untradeable Lastings Milledge wandering the outfield and hogging all the outs.

In any case, the Magic Number is now down to an even dozen and the NL East lead has grown to 16 1/2 games. 18 shy of 100 victories.

As the Mets go for the sweep in Houston, you might consider that the true MVP of the Mets this season is Omar Minaya.

Have a look at The Hardball Times' 10 great pickups by Omar Minaya, and no, none of them include a former Mets employee.


Ground Control To Major Tom

It was pretty for about three innings, long enough for the Mets to grab a three run lead, long enough for Carlos Beltran to hear a few golden choruses of appreciation from the Astros Idiot Patrol who obviously believe, submerged from reality as they are in their crappy little baseball world, that every player who wears their creepy little uniforms will stay on for ever like Keeping Up With The Clemens', playing in a rubbish little ballpark formally named after the bastion of American corporate greed and filth simply so they can watch their pick-up drivin, Stetson wearin, Skoal pinchin spawn warble into yet another hopeless and oppressively mindless Texas night.

Feeling his fingers, Glavine tries out a subtle goose step to please the redneck patriot rabble assembled last night at Minute Maid Park

Yes, the Met won again last night and yes, Billy Wagner nearly choked down a blown save in front of his former fans, preoccupied, one presumes, with drowning the hillbilly music from his ears whilst the faint strains of Texas, Our Texas warbled in the background of another swampy Houston night.

More importantly, Tom Glavine was pack with all five fingers and whilst the fourth inning brought a magnificent collapse, these Mets, impervious as they are to adversity managed to squeeze yet another victory from yet another inferior opponent and the only thing I can say I'm disappointed about is that the victory didn't knock the Astros from the wild card race for good because if I have to suffer another postseason of hitless unimagination at the hands of these brick red, black and sand-coloured wearing pentagram hatted somnambulists, I think baseball should revoke their pathetically mewling franchise once and for all.

And how might these Astros have expected victory throwing chum like Wandy Rodriguez to the crowd in the hopes of sparking the pity of the baseball Gods - he lasted less time than it takes a Texan to spell his name, less time than the shelf life of the last Lone Star Beer in a truck stop café along the I-45 on a hot stinking humid August Texas afternoon.

Tell it like it is, you franchise-huggin little muppet, Biggio and the Astros lose again!

So yes, 8-7. Yes another pacel of road win squeezed into the carcass of the season and now that Tom Glavine's back to enjoy the rest of the show, we've only got the return of the El Duque and Pedro Show to look forward to.