Mets Back On Top!

Now that I have returned from my secret mission I can advise that I am finally back from a brief sejour a Paris, the first thing to be unveiled was how the Mets did in my absence.

Question One: Are the Mets In First Place?

Indeed they are! Sure, it's only a half game over the bloody Braves, who also lost to the Rockies, but it's still a tender, precious lead, bound to grow in the weeks to come.

Question Two: Any surprises?

The Mets were to have faced the Rockies at Shea three times and then travel to DC to beat the pulp from the Nats over the course of three games. It not even mildly suprising that they did not sweep both series' but four out of six was sufficient pace to keep the Mets ahead of the Braves.

Moises Alou leading the Major Leagues with a .397 batting average whilst leading the NL with a .434 average at night and tied for first in the NL with 11 multi-hit games?

But in my book, the best surprise was Willie Randolph losing his cool on Saturday and the Mets going on to win.

It's rather dire when you lose two games in a row to the likes of the Rockies and Nats (as the Mets did on Wednesday and Friday) and rightly, the pressure was building - the indignity of such losses a slap in the face to expectations. The 12th inning rally was just the sort of comeback the Mets were renowned for last season and just the tonic to wipe the smile off Brave faces.

By the way, if the Mets hit a losing streak this season, a flat liner moment - will there be calls for Jerry Manuel as the no-brainer replacement? A bit of style and substance during his fill-in for Randolph, right? Blasphemy to even consider such a thing? Well trust me, nothing is certain in baseball. Not if we can lose a game to the Nats for crissakes. Even if it's just one. And look, if it weren't for John Maine pitching the daylights out of their Triple-A batting order, where might the Mets be today with their three hits and lone run pulled like lyposuction from Sunday's tepid 1-0 victory?

Question Three: The Losses

Well, technically not a question. But losing second baseman Jose Valentin to a knee injury weakens the team. I mean this if this is the kind of injury that causes us to summon the likes of Anderson Hernandez it must be a bad scenario. Hernandez not only hits like a goyle at the plate but a still-more damning mark against his character as a Met is that he allegedly doesn't sign baseball cards that fans send him.

You'd think he'd be bloody well grateful that anyone would want his autograph what with his miserable and enfeebled .208 batting average against minor league pitching (oddly about on par with his hitting against MLB pitching) but perhaps the problem is illiteracy. Perhaps he cannot sign his own name and is simply embarassed. Or perhaps he believes the images of himself are pieces of his stolen soul. What do you think?

More troubling and more predictable is the potential loss of El Duque and his right shoulder discomfort. Yes, John Maine has probably been the Surprise of April and we should be grateful there is more depth in April's performances than we could have expected but Chan Ho Park and his Triple-A ERA of 7.29 is no answer. And beyond the short term, neither is Aaron Sele.

Still, what with Jorge Sosa winning four games in five starts and a 1.13 ERA (not to mention a 29-4 strikeout to walk ratio over 32 innings) perhaps we might later this season welcome the dodgy right arm of El Duque.

Question Four: What About the Pen?

Well the rage was swallowed by the hype about the starting rotation but there were plenty of squeaks and wriggling about the bullpen. So far Wagner's only had two saves but oddly, he's only had two chances.

For the bullpen as a whole it's good news: 16 "late" innings in close games pitched, 13 hits and 3 runs surrendered. That's a 1.68 ERA, lads. And quite frankly, if you take away Aaron Heilman who continues to give people their fair share of late inning agita, it's even more impressive.

Question Five: Where are we headed?

Not far. Home for a three game series against the Marlins (are we playing out the entire NL East rival schedule in the first month of the season or does it just seem that way?) before embarking on a 7-game West Coast trip.

Meanwhile the Atlanta Braves will host their next 10 games in a row! They will open a three game series against the Phillies followed in order by the Dodgers and Padres.

And the Phillies, well they aren't quite the laughingstocks of a fortnight ago having won 7 of their last 10 but the NL East is still a two team race. Did you really expect them to continue on in the bottom of the division all season? With the Nats and Marlins ahead of them?

I didn't think so.


Another Series Lost To The Braves

If they aren't careful the Mets are going to set a precedent.

First they lose two of three in Atlanta, fair enough, on the road.

Now they lose two of three at Shea.

Not only that but in both third games, the one on Hillbilly Hill in Atlanta and the one at Shea, the Mets bullpen uncharacteristically blew a lead.

That boils down to losing four out of six against your top rivals for the NL East and no matter how you'd like to sugar coat it to make the swallow a little easier, (like the fact that it's still early in the season, blabla...) the issue remains uncomfortably familiar.

A losing series against the Braves.

Oh, they had us fooloed in the sixth inning alright. Mebbe even had the Braves fooled for a few minutes.

Looks like I'm not the only one feeling frustrated...

Down 3-1 in the bottom 6th and looking all the world like they wouldn't see light at the end of the John Smoltz the Mets bats suddenly awoke from their collective slumber which culminated with a bases-loaded (what else but?) triple from Jose Reyes to give them what felt like an unshakeable 6-3 heading into the 7th with the award-winning bullpen warmed up and ready to close out the game.

This is the bullpen of course that before yesterday's game, had not allowed an earned run in 25 2/3 innings, a streak dating to April 11, and the bullpen's 1.31 ERA was the best in the majors.

Not Sunday, not the best. 3 innings of damage. They only surrendered 4 hits, mind you, but Schoeneweis and Aaron Heilman surrendered three-run home runs in the seventh and eighth innings and that was the damage done.

Won't face the Braves at Shea again until August.

And look on the bright side:



Dr Perez and Mr Zambrano

The intriguing case of Dr Perez and Mr Zambrano continued in delightful fashion on Saturday as the strike-throwing Oliver Perez showed up to yet again dispose of the Evil Braves, this time by throwing 6 2/3 innings of nine-strikeout, no-walk pitching that moved the Mets past Atlanta, 7-2, at Shea Stadium and back into first place.

Against the Braves over the last two seasons has started four games against the Braves and is now 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. Braves Killah.

And then against the Rest of the League over the last two seasons he is 2-14 7.04.

Not only were we shocked and amazed by this Braves Killah taking the mound but guess who showed up to play at Shea last night?

That's right Carlos Beltran!

As previously documented herein Carlos has been well, withholding performances from Shea and battering opposing pitching on the road much to the bafflement and dismay of Mets fans.

On Saturday however, he tied a career high with his four hits, which included a double and a triple. It was the second time in three games that he's had four hits, and he is batting .536 (15-for-28) over his last six games.


Of course we mustn't forget to include Jose Reyes, who went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and continues to haunt NL Pitchers.

Or perhaps the Chuck James Runs Experience, which allowed six earned runs on a career-worst 10 hits.


The Great Flashlight Caper has Braves players blinded and the hyperactive judge said he had "recklessly endangered the lives of players and spectators and caused a temporary delay to the game."


This off the official Mets site regarding the Bark in the Park:

Whatever, the dogs prompted some dog questions of the Mets players, including this one:

"If the Mets, this 25-player team, were a dog, what species would it be?" It's something akin to Barbara Walters' question of President Jimmy Carter -- "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"

The Mets responses were these:

Maine: "A bulldog, because we're so handsome."

Tom Glavine: "Wouldn't we have to be a mutt?"

Castro: "A pit bull. We're a tough team."

Shawn Green: "A golden retriever. Some big, loving, family dog."

Julio Franco: "We're smart, aggressive and fearsome. We're a Rottweiler."

Lo Duca: "We'd have to be a Doberman. Fierce and tough, but we look good doing it."

And Aaron Heilman (after careful thought): "A Shar Pei ... that dog with the wrinkled face, because people think we're old."

At least nobody's comparing the team to a chihuhua.

It leaves me to wonder though, about this early-season obsession with canines and what the message is behind it.

I mean, is this what you want to take the nippers to see at Shea?


Yesterday Is Here

"well today is grey skies
tomorrow is tears
you'll have to wait til yesterday is here"

--Tom Waits, Yesterday Is Here

I'm not going to go on some wild tangent, pissing on the season and its dreams simply because the Mets have lost three out of their first four games against the Braves this season.

I could do that, mind you.

I could piss and moan about Larry hitting a two-run homer in the first bloody inning before the indigestion of the hotdogs had even settled in, barking up the bile before the Mighty Mets batting order had even had their swings.

I could whinge on and on about where the bloody 'ell were all those hits gone now that those bats were facing Braves pitching?

And of course, I could harken back all the dark memories of years past when the Braves would toy with the Mets like Tomokawa teasing Sukemasa, the policeman mocking the retarded boy, and the Mets couldn't buy a victory that was meaningful when the Braves were in town.

But I won't. Nor will David Wright, whose season-long hitting streak was brought to a screeching halt by the Braves.

"I'm disappointed we lost, I'm not one bit disappointed that the streak ended," The Boy Wonder explained.

That's how I felt. Hitting streaks are distractions. Winning streaks are euphoric.


Jesus, Mike. Are you going to use any lubricant for that thing you're screwing us with?

To be honest, this sort of blow-out loss is hardly shocking. The Braves had Tim Hudson and his 0.62 ERA on the mound, the Tim Hudson of yesteryear, the A's Tim Hudson the Braves thought they were getting in that massive trade in the winter of 2004.

Conversely, the Mets had the kid who began last season with Single-A St Lucie and in a meteoric rise, was starting only his, what, 6th game ever in the Big Leagues?

So in a way, you could see where this was going from the onset.

From Kelly Johnson's game-opening single to Larry's first-pitch two-run shot.

But this is one of those games you ball up and bin. You forget about this and think about Jackie Robinson instead.

I'm not even sure you think about Saturday wot with Zambrano Perez
attempting to redeem last start's worrisome disaster and Chuck James bringing his svelte 2.25 ERA to Shea.

Sure, there was that wonderous day last July when James lasted just one inning against the Mets, giving up seven runs. But that was last year. If that yesterday comes here, all the better.

Otherwise we might have to start feeling queasy.


Take Note: Mets Take First Place

Shall we mark this day down in the calendar as the day the NL East race ended?

Premature, it is argued by the trepid souls. Atlanta could in theory anyway, bash us in Shea right back down into second. After all, we'll be playing without Carlos Beltran.

Right, the Road Beltran will morph into the Shea Beltran.

The Road Beltran hit a homer in last night's winning effort against the Marlins. Fitted into the coveted number two slot in the batting order what with Paul Lo Duca giving his grapefruit finger a rest, the Road Beltran had four hits, including two doubles to add to his homer, two runs and two RBIs. For some men, that's a week's work.

Home Cookin' Not So Good?

The Road Beltran hits .385, smacks 4 homers and knocks in 14 runs in a mere 9 games.

The Shea Beltran limps along with a .278 mark, powerless without a single homerun and 3 measely RBIs to its credit.

Certainly this phenomenon cannot be explained by a disappointed and booing crowd at Shea, additional pressure or even the fact of Shea not being a renowned hitter's paradise. That was yesterday's news. Mr B is running on his third year in the comfy confines of Shea and any kinks to have been worked out should have long ago been worked out.

Methinks it is perhaps the constant overhead reminder flying out of Shea of the massive carbon footprint left in his wake. The subconscious guilt of all those domestic flights reminding him of emininent global ecological disasters...


So, the Mets filleted the Marlins another night, a 5th consecutive loss for the emergent bottom-dwellers and perhaps fresh reason to hope that a bottomed-out season for the Marlins will spell a D-Train to Mets scenario someday.

This is what happens when you counter what is arguably the best team in baseball with a starting pitcher going by the unique tag of Vanden Hurk (and oh wait, he has a first name as well!).

Hardly Hurk The Invincible Warrior last night. Spotted a first inning 2-1 lead he, similar to D-Train before him, gave up 8 earned runs in a brief and uncompelling 4 innings of work.

The Mets exploded with 6 runs in the third and the game was essentially, over.

Thanks go out to Ramon Castro in another brilliant cameo role behind the plate knocking in 3 and raising his season's average to .357.

But hey, it was a 16-hit attack. What are you going to say in the face of that? Good God Almighty! Head for the Hills! It's the Mets Run Producing Monster!

And speaking of hits, David Wright is now on 26 games in a row over two seasons although throwing the ball into the crowd in the bottom of the first did nothing to bolster any Gold Glove ambitions.


But perhaps happiest of all, El Duque, hammering down the memories of his previous start's ejection, he surrendered only 3 hits and a lone earned run over seven innings whilst striking out 10 Marlins.

Closing out the game, Ambiorix Burgos, a third straight semi-flawless appearance; (that's only 1 hit allowed over his last 4 innings of relief)and Billy Wagner made the obligatory one hit, one walk and striking out the side appearance which was alas, in a game too far gone to earn another save.


The Mets have won 23 of their last 38 against the Marlins, and seven of the last 11 at Dolphin Stadium.

There goes my preseason NL MVP 'round the bases yet again...his 4th triple of the season...


So indeed, the Braves were shut out by the Cubs last night which dropped them to a half game behind the Mets for the NL East lead.

Conveniently they now travel to Shea to see if they can fall back even further what with their star closer suffering left elbow discomfort already.

Tim Hudson (2-0, 0.86) opens the series against Mike Pelfrey (0-0, 3.18).


Maine Objective: D Train Derailment

Who do you think was more shocked by last night's 9-2 battery of the Florida Marlins, John Maine, the almost throw-away afterthought in the Kris Benson-Jorge Julio trade or Dontrelle Willis, who was probably just a wee bit distracted by his wife's imminent child birth.

"She said, `This baby is kicking my butt,'" D-Train said of his conversation with his pregnant wife prior to last night's game. "You will have a lot more starts that I can see. She is a tough lady. She understands. She told me to just go have fun."

Fun as in what? Giving up four runs before you even retire a batter?

As in losing your first game of the year and watching your ERA shoot up to Charlie Manuel blood-pressure levels; seven earned runs and 10 hits in 5 meagre innings?

As in your 11-3 career record and 2.20 ERA in 17 starts against the Mets taking a bruising?

As in watching the pitcher facing you no-hit your teammates for six innings?

That's right - John Maine, poster boy for the near no-no having already
no-hit the World Chump Cardinals in his first start of the season through the first five innings before it too was broken up.

Of course, Jorge Julio has since been happily jettisoned by the Mets and although a Marlin who might have faced his former teammates last night, is currently vacationing on the DL.

Come to think of it, the other main event in that trade, Kris Benson, underwent surgery to repair a partially torn right rotator cuff and likely will miss the entire 2007 season.

Turns out Maine is the only live arm in the bunch.


And again, the bullpen picked up where the starting pitching left off. Aaron Sele and Aaron Heilman completed a three-hitter.


It's taken him two years but congrats are in order for David Wright who has hit in 13 straight games this season and 12 straight from last season. That's 25 for you Phillies Phans and out there. 25 games in a row with a hit. 13 without a homer.

Wright set the Mets' hitting streak record with a soft single to left-center.


The Mets have turned a Major League-high 21 double plays through 12 games, five ahead of the closest team, the Phillies. Either that's an utterly meaningless stat considering the Phillies' record or it means the Phillies would have lost EVERY game they've played this season were it not for the double play balls.


And yes, the Team To Beat did indeed get beaten by the Nats last night and have in fact moved deeper still into the bowels of the NL East basement


Heeheehee Hohoho Hahaha, 8-1

The long anticipated debut of the much heralded Fatty Garcia, the saviour of the Team To Beat pitching staff and pitching piñata to Mets hitters last night ended to the sour tune of 8 hits and 3 runs over a meagre 4 2/3 innings.

Team to Beat or Beaten Team, one must wonder given the Phillies 3-9 start, worst since 1997 when they finished with a mere 68 victories - Last night at home they managed as many hits (8) as the Mets did runs.

But good news, sportsfans. Not all the starting pitching was bad last night.

Tom Glavine managed a nearly impermeable 6 innings of 6 hit, one run pitching albeit to the choppy tune of 5 walks surrendered on the way to gaining his 293rd career victory.

Plucky. If Glavine pitches like this (4 starts, 3 victories, 2.73 ERA) when it's 46 degrees or colder and with a relentless 25 mph gusting wind in his gob, just imagine what he's going to pitch like in the humid summer months when he can firmly grip the ball without his fingers freezing to it. And for that matter, with victory 293 in hand can we peek 7 starts ahead and guess which team he will handcuff for number 300? Dare we suggest in Atlanta on 24th May? Oh my, we are getting giddy. However, that's probably unrealistic. How about against Barry Zero and the Giants at Shea on the last day of May?

Aye but funnier still is the collective romp through the Philly subconscious.

Four games played, three victories and having outscored the Team To Beat (to a shell-shocked and stumbling, perhaps even bloodied, pulp) by a collective 26-14 margin it would be hilarious if not a bit premature to suggest the Phillies are already in the rearview mirror because look 5 ½ games behind despite having played only 12 is hardly insurmountable. Just pathetic.

You like that Phillies Phunny Boyz? Team To Bloody Beat? Is that the tune you like to sing? (sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice...)

Team To Beat,
Team To Beat,
See how they lose,
See how they lose!

They all ran after
The first place spot
The Phillies blew it
from the very start
Did you ever see
Such a sight in your life
The Team To Beat?

(admittedly not as funny as Phillies manager challenging a radio "personality" to fight but then again, I'm not the one losing 9 out of my first 12 games of the season, am I then?)


And how about auldman Moises last night, eh? His first two homers of the season and a fantastic stab at Jayson Werth's fly ball to end the 6th and final inning for Tom Glavine. Three runs and three RBIs in three at-bats. Batting average up to .341, tops among regulars.

"The length of my contract does not really matter at this point in my career," Alou said this winter after signing the one-year deal with the Mets. "I wanted to come here because this year I wanted to win."


But those were only headliners. More intricate pieces in the team to beat puzzle was the Mets' bullpen act, growing headier by the day.

Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith remain unscored upon this season, 13 scoreless innings combined after last night's 7th and 8th zero spinning. 13 scoreless innings and a grand total of 7 hits surrendered.

And who was that closing the 9th with a scoreless caper of his own?

Ambiorix Burgos, that's who. And no, I'm not going to reduce myself to reducing him, due to his name, to some cheap second-rate McDonald's character. I will make the effort, for he is my Met, to learn the 8 simple letters of his forename: Ambio Rex Burgos Burgos, the new secretary of late batting plate disfunction, author of the Triple Digit Express, Bullpen Cheese Burgos, Number 40, Ambiorix "Wayne" Burgos...

statue of Ambiorix in Tongeren

"Ambiorix became a Belgian national hero because of his resistance against Julius Caesar, as written down in Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico."

no kidding.


Paul LoDuca took a nasty Chase Muttley foul tip off the auld digitus secundus last night but the good news is it's "only" a bone bruise.


Rain: Will It Ever End?

And I don't understand why I sleep all day
And I start to complain that there's no rain
And all I can do is read a book to stay awake
And it rips my life away, but it's a great escape

-Blind Melon - No Rain

Another day, another city, another rain out.

Hell, they didn't even wait for the game to be delayed before postponing this one in Philly. Just one of those days you pull back the curtain, look out the window and mutter, fuck that, I'm not leaving the house today, and then curl back into bed.

Just last week there was an outcry about baseball and weather when snow postponed a few bloody games over in Cleveland.

So what are the jackals going to say about all these postponements due to rain? Is it ok, part of the bloody plan, everything right as rain if games are postponed due to massive rainstorms but god help us all if it bloody well snows at the start of the season?


Do you realise that if the rest of the season is rained out in their current position the Mets would miss out on any hypothetical post-monsoon playoff?

That's right. Currently they are a half game behind the Dodgers for the hypothetical post-monsoon wild card.

In Philly they got as much rain in one day as it usually gets in the entire month of April.

The storm dropped 3.33 inches in Philadelphia by 5 p.m., breaking the April 15 record of 1 inch set in 1906, according to the National Weather Service. Allentown's 2.23 inches broke the 1922 record of 1.36 inches and Trenton's 3.08 inches shattered the 1906 record of 1.3 inches.

Normal rainfall for April in Philadelphia is 3.49 inches.

Small potatoes compared to, oh I dunno, Mumbai, where once a few years ago the commercial capital of India came to a standstill as non-stop rain resulted in the cancellation of suburban train services and massive flooding of roads. The airport was virtually closed, several flights were diverted and water entered the airport lounge. Phone lines stopped working and electricity went off in the suburbs.

"Although the day began with strong winds and little rain, by mid-afternoon there were reports of flooding in the city as it rained non-stop. As several million office-goers and school and college students began their journey home, they found all ways virtually closed. The railway tracks had four to eight inches of water in some places and there was knee-deep water on many roads."

So think about that whilst you're worrying about a few drops of rain postponing a few April games and backloading the schedule with beloved doubleheaders later in the season.


Rainy America

Six games were postponed on Sunday due to rain but not in Atlanta.

Not all Rain is Bad Rain...

Whilst the Mets' rubber match against the Nats was rained out the Braves were busy beating the Marlins and extending their lead in the NL East to a full game.

It also prevented The Team To Beat from losing another game and falling further out of the NL East race before it really starts.

Of course with the Braves playing the Nats and the Phillies hosting the Mets, this could all change very quickly.

John Maine opens this series taking the hill against the winter acquisition, Freddy Garcia. This is Garcia's long-awaited Phillies debut having begged out of his first scheduled start because of soreness in his right biceps.

Maine, as we know, had the frigid cold to blame for his Home Opener performance that left bystanders less than overwhelmed by walking 6 batters. However, he has a 3-0 career record and 2.35 career ERA against the Phillies.


Meanwhile in the City of Brotherly Lust that beloved Team To Beat has fizzled, even in the rain, hitting the skids to the tune of 3-8 a mere half game ahead of the Nats.

This isn't news really. What is news is that one of their starting pitchers, Brett Myers, has apologised for pitching like a "scared dog".

"I'm pitching like a scared dog. If you pitch like a Chihuahua, you're going to be eaten by a Rottweiler."


Batting 9th and pitching for the Phillies...

Ok, fair enough. You feel bad because you've started three games this season and you've got two losses and a 9.39 ERA to show for it but is that chihuahua-level pitching?

What does that make John Lieber coming out of the bullpen with his 11.57 ERA?

Mets Lose To Nats!!!!!

Improbable as it seems the Washington Nationals have now beaten the Atlanta Braves AND the Mets over the course of the last three days. Although hell might have felt as though it had frozen over in Shea on Friday night, this illusion of NL East reality does not mark a change in the NL East hierarchy nor does it provide the opening A of the Apocalypse. Call it beginner's luck, if you like.

Or, El Duque pitching his age.

Duque was not only beaten, not only did he surrender three homers to the woeful Nats lineup BUT he was ejected from the game entirely after he hit Nats winning pitcher Chris Hill.

The decision by umpire Mike Winters was of course, absolute rubbish - did he really believe El Duque would intentionally plunk a fellow pitcher over a trio of homers?

"It wasn't like it was going to graze him," Winters said, squirming through another session of Idiot's Logic. "If it doesn't hit his hand, it hits him right in the chest. And to me, because of the way the inning had been going, and right after the home run, in my judgment, he had to be ejected."

In my opinion, El Duque's ejection should have been immediately followed by a self-ejection from Winters for being such a reactionary twat instead of using common sense but umpires don't have a habit of ejecting themselves otherwise there wouldn't be any left to ump the game.

Not that it really mattered anyway with the performance Duque cashed in yesterday.

Eight hits, six runs and three homers over the course of five innings is not generally the way to win a game, not even if you're pitching against the Nats. The way, the Nats had hit 4 homers in their first 11 games combined before last night's debaucherie. I mean look at what the Mets vaunted bullpen did following the ejection:

Burgos, Schoeneweis and Joe Smith combined to toss 4 innings of no-hit relief which is the kind of pitching you would expect in a game against the Nats' no-hit lineup. Not gift-wrapping a trio of homers and losing the bloody game by a 6-2 margin.

And where does the loss leave us in the NL East?

Sleepwalking, that's where.

A full game behind the bloody Braves and worse still, allowing the Nats to win meant the Phillies were able to stay out of the NL East cellar for another day. Just imagine: the Nats almost ahead of the Phillies in the NL East. Hohoho.

Almost funny enough to make you forget this loss.


Mets Overcome Friday the 13th And Nats, 3-2

With less verve and ease than they dispatched The Team To Beat the Mets fended off the bottom-dwelling (well at this point, watch out Phillies!) Nats by 3-2 in a game started by minor league recall and temporary 5th starter Mike Pelfrey whose arrival marked the departure of the highly anticipated Lastings Milledge.

With the Phillies flushed down the terlet the Mets set their sights on first place and the Nats who were coming off a surprise (indeed, rare) victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Wags' save makes him 10th All-Time

Julio Franco's two-out grounder which ran virtually between the legs of Nats pitcher Ryan (I'm Not Billy) Wagner in the 7th, scored David Wright from second and made Aaron Heilman the game winner all in one swing.

Jose Reyes, who had a hit and a stolen base but scored twice, has now batted 48 times and scored 13 times.

The worrisome number five starter Pelfrey was effective against this Triple AAA lineup throwing 5 2/3 innings but walking 4, allowing a pair of earned runs and surrendering 6 hits. 57 of his 97 pitches were for strikes.

The bigger story than Pelfrey's anticipated debut, Wagner's record save and a one-run win by the Mets was the weather which may result in yet another new Mets song like Freeze With The Mets.

Whilst the UK was enjoying some of the balmiest weather in its history, warmer even than the Costa del Espana, at Shea the game began at 7:13 p.m., the temperature was 45 degrees and the wind was gusting at 26-miles-an-hour.

Brrrrr, Mets. Brrrrr.


Mets Beat Team To Beat, 5-3

If the Phillies are the Team To Beat, what happens now that the Mets have taken the opening series two games out of three?

Well for one they are still not in first place in the National League East even though mysteriously the Atlanta Braves with John Smoltz on the mound, lost to the Triple AAA Washington Nationals to allow the Mets to inch a game closer to the lead.

But it also probably means that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is one loss closer to an early sacking. This does not give me pleasure because sacking Charlie Manuel and replacing him with a good manager might make the Phillies a decent team again despite their bullpen. You've gotta want the Team To Beat to be beatable but not horrible. 2-7, well that's a sackable offence, I believe.

"We need to win some series," manager Charlie Manuel said beginning his infamous Art Howe impression. "We need to take two out of three. We need to play better." Need to play better. I like that one.

Meanwhile Tom Glavine was busy allowing nemesis Mr Team To Beat to nearly beat him single-handledly. Rollins had a homer off Glavine in the first two innings as the Phillies crawled to an early 3-2 lead.

We do all wonder of course how it is Rollins owns a Hall of Fame pitcher so oroughly. Going into the game he had been hitting .345 (20-for-58) with four homers and 10 RBIs lifetime against Glavine.

Of course Glavine was almost Oliver Perez-like in the opening frames as he struggled with his control in the cold. After surrendering the leadoff homer to Rollins, he went on to walk three of the next four batters and had it not been for Paul LoDuca gunning down the foolishly stealing Shane Victorino in a rally-killah.

In fact, other than another Rollins hiccup in the 2nd,a screamer that cleared the fence so quickly Aaron Rowand alleged he had raced home from second without ever noticing it was a homer, Glavine was back to Hall Form, retirning 12 of the next 13 Phillies in his six innings and pulled to within eight wins of 300.

Offensively the Mets took over the lead for good in the 4th behind Jose Reyes' two-run single after Glavine helped his own cause with a sacrifice bunt which moved Moises Alou to third and Damion Easley, starting his first game for the Mets at second this season.

And of course the storyline was the combined ages of the starting pitchers; 85. Harharhar. Let's all have a good larf. Two old men. Two baseball senior citizens combining to pitch 12 innings, allow 11 hits and 6 earned runs. Of course only one of them is going to the Hall of Fame.

Billy Wagner got three outs for his second save and the 326th of his career, tying Roberto Hernandez for 10th on the career list. Of course he did it with the usual flair and drama, allowing a one-out double to Ryan Howard and then three a wild pitch with two outs and the mighty Wes Helms at the plate.


The Return of The Ghost of Victor Zambrano

"I'm withholding judgement on his Cy Young candidacy just yet. The potential to suddenly morph into Victor Zambrano is always looming on the horizan, the suddenly wild and uncontrollable Oliver Perez...remember him?"

--Archie Bunker's Army, 11 April 07

Victor Zambrano returned to the Mets last night.

Technically his name is Oliver Perez and he wears the Number 46 Mets uniform rather than the Number 31 Blue Jays rags but we all know deep down that a pitching display like last night's from Oliver Perez can only mean that the erratic pitching soul of Victor Zambrano has entered the body of Oliver Perez and seized the controls.

Like in the second inning.

Our heretofore impressive Oliver Perez is cruising along with one down in the second having struck out Mr Team To Beat to start off the game and retired the next 3 batters in order. Then suddenly the ghost of Victor Zambrano enters his body. He then walks Pat Burrell on four pitches. He walks Wes Helms on five pitches. And yes, for a few pitches you can almost see the Perez's own inner cavalry to the rescue, beating back the evil forces as Oliver struggles with this battle of souls between his own and Zambrano's and for three pitches, he is victorious, striking out Aaron Rowand.

But then the battle is lost once again and Rod Barajas, hitless for the season, is walked on five pitches to load the bases.

Fortunately for Perez and the Mets, the Phillies pitcher Adam Eaton was coming to the plate. And I say fortunately because had it been Ryan Howard rolling up there with his jelly belly stride, Manager Willie most certainly would have been summoning Ambiorix Burgos for an encore performance...

But this is still the second inning and Oliver Perez is still on the mound with his inner turmoil and fortunately for the Mets, Adam Eaton is not walked on four straight pitches. Instead of waiting, with two strikes he grounds into a force play and the Phillies inning is miraculously over.

But hey!

There were still more tricks in the bag of Oliver Perez as this battle, like Mickey Mantle's with alcoholism or Darryl Strawberry's with crack, ensued between his soul and the soul of Victor Zambrano.

Paul Lo Duca and Jose Reyes join Pitching Coach Rick Peterson in reminding Oliver Perez that in America, only four balls make a walk, not eight...

In the third inning, the dam burst.

Oh, you'd not have known it was due to burst. Not the way Oliver Perez set down Mr Team To Beat and Shane Victorino in order. But then Chase Utley arrived to single a line drive to Shawn Green who miraculously did not bobble it into a triple or an in-the-park homerun. No, Shawn Green fielded that line drive single like he was a Major League outfielder because there was more green puss to spew from this pitching fountain of erratic performances called Oliver Perez and Shawn Green, comsumate professional that he is, was more than happy to let someone else wear the goat's head for a day.

Exhale the evil spirit of Victor Zambrano...

With two outs and one man on, Perez walked Ryan Howard on five pitches, this after the first was a swinging strike and you caught yourself thinking, oh yeah, the fat man is going down!

He made Burrell work through six pitches before issuing the free pass to load the bases, still with two outs and a chance of a miracle right around the corner.

But by now Oliver Perez had been entirely taken over by Victor Zambrano. This is what we call the Victor Zambrano Meltdown Stage where everything but the most rudimentary pitching skills fizzle into a jelly of incompetence.

So with the Phillies now leading 1-0 and the bases STILL loaded, Aaron Rowand, not suprisingly perhaps, walks on six pitches to make the score 2-0.

Hey Willie! How fast can a bullpen warm up, anyway?

And although I wasn't there at Shea I can only imagine the words of rage being shouted down from the stands. I can only imagine the sort of you-had-to-be-there bile erupting into the aisles from faithful supporters who only a few days before had cheered Oliver Perez on to a masterful performance over the Braves.

And Rod Barajas came to the plate promptly drawing two quick balls. Oh sweet jesus Willie, go out there and pitch the goddamned ball yourself if you have to! Just get this Victor Zambrano pitch-alike off the goddamned mound already before the damage is irrevocable!

But then, poised over the button of ultimate disaster, Perez temporarily defeats the evil soul of Victor Zambrano and throws two called strikes. Perhaps they were actually two balls as well but the umpire, showing a modicum of mercy or perhaps simply embarassed for Oliver Perez, has decided to give the kid a break.

And to repay him, Oliver Perez plunks Rod Barajas to make the score 3-0 in favour of the Phillies.

Now you can write all you want about the Mets' offensive juggernaut and the great skill of the bullpen but believe me sportsfans, when the game starts off with our starting pitching handing a goddamned 3-0 lead to the Team To Beat, you can bet your sweet arse that they aren't coming back from this one. You might as well change the channel or shut off your radio. This was a nightmare we wouldn't wake from.

And sure enough, with the Phillies pitcher coming to the plate the pen is finally warmed up enough and Aaron Sele waddles in to save the inning from complete humiliation.


Just so you know this isn't merely a bad dream, consider this:

Outing one, Victor Zambrano Oliver Perez spins seven glorious innings of five-hit ball against the mighty Atlanta Braves (who yes, beat the Triple AAA Nats again to go up 1 1/2 games over the Mets...) Outing two, absolute meltdown.

Meanwhile the real Victor Zambrano has had two outings of his own for the Blue Jays. Against the Royals he threw a hitless inning of relief, striking out two along the way. Against the Tigers, he threw an inning as well but instead of relief, it was an inning of debauch; two hits and three walks on 31 pitches.

The theory is of course that because Victor Zambrano is only pitching for the Jays out of the pen (damage control?) he has plenty of energy to enter the body of Oliver Perez on his off days.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time for an exorcism!


Predictably, the Mets lost this one.

Yeah, they sorta made a game out of it for awhile. In the 4th they loaded the bases with no outs for Moises Alou who promptly pissed on those chances by grounding into a double play that scored Carlos Beltran.

Then Jose Reyes hit an RBI single to narrow the margin to 3-2 in the 5th and there were the faintest hopes that despite this horrific outing by Perez the Mets just might storm back, emasculate the Phillies bullpen in the late innings and win again.

But Sele, being human, allowed a triple to Mr Team To Beat and allowed a sac fly to make it 4-2 in the 6th and then an Aaron Rowand RBI double scored Rollo Howard to make it 5-2 and you begin to consider that not even the rubbish Phillies pen can blow a three run lead...

And they don't.

Inexplicably, with only a three run lead, the Phillies manager, fighting daily to keep his job, allows Flash Gordon into the game to try and blow save it.

Carlos Delgado and Moises Alou sandwich their strikeouts around a David Wright single but Shawn Green grounds out like a meek little lamb to Ryan Howard and the Phillies win the game, surviving yet another day.

Hereinafter the Army is introducing a new concept to this blog and that will be the awarding after each game of either a HERO or a GOAT, depending on the outcome.

Tonight's inaugural GOAT is of course, Victor Zambrano.

Despite walking seven and throwing 41 out of 73 pitches for balls, I don't blame Oliver Perez for this loss. The exorcism of evil spirits is not an easy effort. We'll give Ollie the benefit of the doubt tonight in the hopes that this exorcism can take place between now and his next start.


The Mets left 10 men on base last night.

Adam Eaton left 8 men on base last night all by himself and the Phillies in general, 23 LOB!

23 runners left on base.

They were bloody lucky to win this one I tell you. They haven't improved. One victory means nothing when you are leaving 23 men on base.

This is just a minor blip in the ongoing saga of the Sacking of the Phillies, coming soon to a theatre near you.


Another Early April Off Day And Time To Kill

Whilst the debate continues as to whether Whipping Boy Rollins should be castigated and mocked for his ridiculous "team to beat" observation of his Phillies and the Mets had the day off, I spent time glancing through the minor leagues to catch up on what's going on with the affiliates.

I had to do a minor double take when reviewing the box score of the Mets' Triple AAA New Orleans Zephyrs game the other day. It's easily lost in the focus on the Majors but have you seen the New Orleans batting order lately?

Batting 6th and playing left field, Ricky Ledee, former Yankee, Indian, Ranger, Philly, Giant, Dodger and last season, Met. 838 career games in the Major Leagues. .244 liftime hitter at age 33. Two time member of the World Champions. Ok, no Mel Ott to be sure but certainly a Lou Clinton, at least...

Batting 7th and playing third base, Fernando Tatis, former Ranger, Cardinal, Expo and Oriole. 691 career games in the Major Leagues. .260 lifetime hitter. And wow, just 8 years ago he was having that killer season with the Cardinals: 34 homers, 107 RBIs, .298 batting average. What a fall from grace...32 years old.

Batting 8th and catching, Sandy Alomar Jr. of the Alomar Brothers fame. Minor League player of the year in 1989. American League Gold Glove at catcher and AL Rookie of the Year in 1990, All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1997. Six time All Star. Veteran of two World Series'. Former Padre, Indian, White Sock, Rockie, Ranger and Angel, Junior is 40 and has played 1,369 games in the Major Leagues punctuated by 1997 when for the Indians he hit 21 homers, knocked in 83 runs and hit .324. He's hitting .429 this season so far.

And it isn't just former Mets flowering in this batting order.

There is the likes of the never-to-hit-again Anderson Hernandez leading off and playing shortstuff, a lifetime .131 hitter with a current Triple AAA batting average of .200.

There's the Royal refugee, Ruben Gotay, batting second and playing second but hitting .071.

Carlos Gomez, 33 year old 3B and former Expo and Rockie, Andy Tracy and The Ben Johnson Project all fill out the batting order which appears to be more an emergency restocking centre for the Mets than a developmental squad for the future.

It didn't help them much at all last night when they were pounded by Memphis, the Cardinals affiliate, 14-3 in a game in which former Cardinal pitcher and Rick Ankiel had three hits, including a homer and drove in four runs. Rick Ankiel, mate. The crazy guy who forgot how to pitch is now pounding Zephyr pitching waiting his big break to return to the Majors as a hitting hero...

And hey, the Zephyrs' starting rotation of Chan Ho Park, Phillip Humber, Jorge Sosa and Jason Vargas has to be at least as good as the starting rotation of the Nats.


Rumour has it wunderkind Lastings Milledge may be joining that lineup if Shawn Green continues hitting as he has, even if Shawn struggles with catching fly balls so much he almost reminds me of good ole Victor Diaz. Remember Victor? He's off malingering with the Texas Rangers this season.


Tonight's rematch against the Phillies will feature another start from the enigmatic Oliver Perez, who shocked us all last time out by allowing only one run and five hits against the Braves in his first 2007 start. I'm withholding judgement on his Cy Young candidacy just yet. The potential to suddenly morph into Victor Zambrano is always looming on the horizan, the suddenly wild and uncontrollable Oliver Perez...remember him?

He faces Adam Eaton, the righty the Phillies signed this offseason as a free-agent, one of the muppets Mr Team To Beatwas no doubt relying upon to help win the NL East. Eaton was not so impressive in his Phillies debut, 7 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Braves.


And the Braves of course, won their game against the Triple AAA Nats with ease last night increasing their NL East lead over the Mets to 1 1/2 games. For now.


"Jim-my Roll-ins" Day At Shea

Dear Mr Team To Beat!

Thanks for that crucial flub of Jose Reyes' certain inning-ending double play ball in the 8th inning before the largest home-opening crowd in Mets history (56,227), yeah, you remember. The one that opened the floodgates not only to a big phat phillies loss but a massive win for the Mets on Opening Day at Shea.

Manager Willie gives thanks for Jimmy Rollins

You've now replaced the infamous Pat Burrell on the Boo-O-Meter at Shea and your January words oozing with over-confidence, inappropriate foot-in-mouth-moment considering the Phillies' typically malfunctioning 1-6 start, nearly-out-of-the-NL East-race-before-mid-April, is certainly coming back to haunt you, Mr Rollins, Mr Team To Beat. (ha! Team to beat indeed. A team to beat again and again and again!)

Nice one, Mr Team To Beat!

And oh, what a sweet 8th inning rally it was!

Not every moment was a bundle of laughs for David Wright...

Following consecutive singles by Alou and Shawn Green and a Julio Franco walk to load the bases, the Jimmy Rollins Flub allowed the tying run to score and was followed in quick order, in the midst of a massive Philly Bullpen Meltdown, by Geoff Geary's wild pitch that gave the Mets the lead, a two-run double by David Wright and a two-run single by Alou.

Although Ambiorix Burgos did become the second Met out of the bullpen to allow a run thanks to a Ryan Howard 3-run homer that gave the Phillies the lead in the 6th, he did in fact win a massive 12 pitch strikeout battle against Chase Utley just a batter before.

The rest of the bullpen, unlike that of the Phillies however, was flawless in relief of John Maine as Joe Smith, Pedro Feliciano and Billy Wagner combined to pitch three hitless innings of relief to seal the victory. Ah yes, a bullpen that doesn't choke and squirm under pressure. A bullpen you can reasonably count on to hold a lead. Not the Phillies bullpen. A true Achilles Heel.

The Opening Day victory overshadowed the fact that the battle of the young arms was won by Cole Hamels who held the Mets to two earned runs and six hits over six innings whilst John Maine walked six batters over 4 2/3 innings and gave up five hits over 104 struggling pitches.

Delgado scores one the hard way...

Carlos Delgado, singled out yesterday for a lack of hitting against the Braves generally and the early days of the season in particular, welcomed himself back to Shea with three hits, two runs and a pair of ribbies to highlight a Mets attack that included 12 runs, "only" 7 of which were earned.

The Phillies went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, leaving nine men on base to help the cause of the Mets victory. You can attribute that to crappy clutch hitting, as one might have done had the shoe been on the other foot, or you can credit the clutch Mets pitching which often let the Phillies wriggle on but not off the hook.

Out at second but safe in the crotch!


Mets Out Of First For First Time In A Year

The Braves have knocked the Mets from first place in the NL East for the first time since 5th April 2006.

And the bullpens, it would appear, have made all the difference.

wonder what bird David Wright is scoping out over the first base line?

Whilst Aaron Heilman was busy blowing the 13 consecutive scoreless inning perfect record of the pen this season by giving up two runs in the 8th to ruin El Duque's second straight masterful performance, the Braves bullpen, the scourge of the NL last season having blown a league-worst 29 saves in 68 chances, is now a league-leading 5-for-5 in save opportunities.

On the other hand, rather than handing out accolades to the Braves bullpen we could ask of the batting order why they went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position on Sunday after leaving 14 baserunners on the Saturday? Or hey, what's up with the 9 strikeouts? Carlos Delgado, are you listening? 3 K's and 3 men left on base all by yourself! Yeah, you with the .165 batting average. Thinking again about taking that time off from Spring Training just for the birth of a child? For shame. Where's the team spirit?

less dropped balls still means a loss...

But let's remember only six games have been played so far and the Mets have won four of them, all on the road. I believe if you'd been offered that scenario to start the season on the road against the Cards and Braves and win four of six, well, you'd be quite satisfied, wouldn't you?

What we can be satisfied by is the outstanding starting pitching to date because even in these two losses both Glavine and El Duque were outstanding. Duque threw six strong innings yesterday and save for the leadoff homer, gave up only one other hit and no runs.

In fact, in the six games to date the starting pitchers for the Mets have tossed 38 1/3 innings and given up only 23 hits. A 2.11 ERA to date. How's that for an Achilles Heel? And you want to know something else funny? Save for Heilman's obese 7.71 ERA, the rest of the bullpen is still on a scoreless streak. 11 2/3 scoreless innings outside of Heilman.

Now if the hitting will get in order, well perhaps the Phillies bullpen will solve that problem...


Thanks, Shawn

A perfectly good start to a perfectly good season was inexcusably ruined by a sacrifice fly dropped by Shawn Green in the 6th that directly led to two important Brave runs in a 5-3 loss, the first Mets loss this season.

Oh, we could go ahead and blame the run scored as a result of the Mets' first recorded error this season, a first inning Carlos Delgado mishandling of an otherwise routine throw to first. We could blame the lack of timely hitting, the 13 men left stranded on base without scoring or even David Wright, who chose an inopportune game to strike out three times. Oddly enough, the authors of both fielding gaffes were the only two Mets to have a multiple hit game. Delgado had a pair of singles and Green had three hits, one of which was a double.

Green almost made up for his gaffe, sending a Bob Wickman offering with runners on second and third screaming towards first base, seemingly headed into right field and an image-rectifying two run rally to tie the game when fate stepped in and Craig Wilson's glove found the ball without further ado, third out, game over.

What it all means is not only that the string of victories to start the season has ended at four but so has the streak of starting pitchers getting the win, also at four. Meanwhile the Braves are now tied with the Mets for first place in the NL East.

Oh yeah, remember those Philadelphia Phillies, the self-proclaimed NL East favourites? Where are they standing after five games this season? Right. One victory and four losses, the inverse of the Braves and Mets, just about where everyone outside of Philly figured they'd be with a rubbish bullpen and twat like Flash Gordon acting as the team's "closer"

For the second game in a row the game time temperature was more akin to Montreal than Atlanta and Tom Glavine was quick to find his scapegoat: "When you've got a cold day and it's windy, it's hard to get any perspiration on your hands. It's hard to hold on to the ball." Indeed. The sweat-less Glavine was charged with five runs (only two of them earned) in 5 1/3 innings, hardly the righteous path to victory 292 he'd been looking for.

And what of his rival and former teammate, fellow future Hall of Famer John Smoltz? Two earned runs and seven hits over six innings. The primary difference of course was that the Braves didn't field like clowns on Saturday. They were able to catch the ball despite the weather conditions.

The wind was to blame for Shawn Green's muffed, twisting misplay of Matt Diaz' sacrifice fly in the 6th. "I got turned around," Green said of the error which to his chagrin was not recorded as a wind-aided error. "I thought the ball was going to break towards the line and got spun around. The wind pushed it the other way. Still thought I had it until the last second."

On the bright side the Mets bullpen continued in flawless fashion as the trio of Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith and Scott Schoeneweiss combined to throw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. What that means is that the bullpen has now pitched 11 2/3 shutout innings this season and even with today's loss, the ENTIRE Mets pitching staff has allowed only 5 earned runs over five games.


Sunday afternoon El Duque takes the mound against Kyle Davies. In the two starts he made against the Mets last September, Davies pitched a total of 8 1/3 innings and allowed 10 earned runs. The appropriate segway into a three game home opening sweep of the mouthy Phillies would be a suitable dismantling of the Atlanta Braves in the 6th game of the season.

Simple Math: 4 Games, 4 Victories

Starting pitching, that which was to be the downfall of the Mets this season, has proven the 4th game in a row to be a decided strength.

Coming on the heels of auld men Glavine and El Duque, followed by the youthful exploits of Omar Minaya steal John Maine, the incalculable Oliver Perez allowed one run and five hits in seven innings to soil the Atlanta Braves' home opener with a humiliating 11-1 victory. It was Perez's first game with six or more innings pitched without a walk since Sept. 29, 2002. No control issues for one night anyway. Since June 1, he's 2-0 with an 0.56 ERA in two starts against the Braves, and 0-8 with an 8.82 ERA in 11 starts against everyone else.

Those long dark years of Brave dominance are over. The queasy feeling in the stomach of Mets fans every time the Mets travelled to Atlanta has resolved itself into an anticipatory zeal; another chance to bury those scandalous memories and pile another shovelful of dirt atop them.

"If you're going to get beat, you might as well get the snot blown out of you," said Jeff Francoeur, who produced the Braves' only run with a fourth-inning homer off Perez.

The sweet justice was in embarassing the Braves like that in their home opener. It won't make up for 13 some odd years of perpetual futility but victories, it appears, helps erase the uneasy memories of humiliating losses and the more of them you have, the less memory remains.

Better still, these Braves had swept the laughable Philadelphia Phillies, the self-annointed "favourites" to win the NL East.

Friday night it was the continued plate dominance of the rapidly emerging superstar Jose Reyes with a triple both left handed and right handed along with a single in six plate appearances, a wrecking ball-like 4 RBIs and two runs scored on his own driving this offensive engine which has humiliated the pitching of the World Champions and ever-lasting rivals over the past 4 games.

That the Mets are 4-0 for the first time since 1985 coming on the heels of their worst Spring Training record in history proves to be well, ironic.

Manager Willie said all along that the spring record meant nothing but you thought he was busy blowing smoke up his own arse, didn't you? You were worried like the rest of us that the backroom rumours were true, the Mets were going to struggle and struggle big this season.

Well they weren't even this good last season when they opened up against divisional muppets like the Marlins (who allowed the Phillies their first win of the season last night) and the Nats (who might be the fastest team to 100 losses this season.)

Overall the Mets pounded 15 hits of Braves pitching. In addition to Reyes' 3 hits which raised his batting average to .368, Paul Lo Duca scattered 3 singles of his own to raise his average this season to .444.

Wright, Beltran and Alou are all hitting .333 to date and all three had doubles last night - Wright had a pair.

And Perez gave the starting rotation another feather in it's cap. That's four starts and four victories. Four starting pitching victories. A collective starting ERA of 1.00. Look around you lads. What other starting rotation in MLB is doing this? No sloppy mop ups for the bullpen. Last night the final two innings were left to Ambiorix Burgos and Joe Smith, who gave up only one hit between them.


On Saturday Tom Glavine faces auld teammate John Smoltz in what is likely to be a tight pitching duel as the Braves attempt to end the Mets unbeaten streak to the start of the season.


World Chimps Swept, 20-2

Either the Mets are flawless and incredible or...

the Defending World Chimps have started playing baseball as though they were drunk and fell asleep at a stoplight with the keys in the ignition.

In either scenario the Mets came away with their first opening series sweep in 13 years and with their 10-0 emphatic plucking of the Cardinals, have perhaps reestablished themselves as the early team to beat this season.

Following the reassuring performances of Glavine and El Duque, John Maine, in the midst of setting down the first 12 batters he faced, held the Cardinals to a lone hit through seven shutout innings which means the oft-ridiculed starting rotation has surrendered just 12 hits and 2 runs over their first 20 innings pitched.

And the bullpen hasn't fared much worse combining to pitch 7 innings of relief by giving up NO runs on six hits.

The prevailing wisdom is that neither the rotation nor the bullpen is as good as they have appeared against the Cardinals yet it must also prove that certainly they are not as bad as was bemoaned this winter. Hell, even Ambiorix Burgos managed a hitless shutout inning of work against this feeble Cardinals batting order.

“I think if you get two runs in three games, we’re better than that, and I don’t care how good the pitching is,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wheezed through layers of sleepy white wine spritzers. “No. 1, we are better than that, and No. 2, we have to be better than that if we expect to have a season in contention."

And of course if fantastic pitching isn't enough to bring you out of your late Spring Training bed with excitement, the hitting has been spot on as well. 20 runs scored over three games is a sign that the Mets batting order will be as potent as expected.

Reyes looks more excited than Beltran about Beltran's sudden gust of power
Oye, hermano: choo see wot choo keng do when choo take the bat off you choulders meng?

Last night it was homer night. After the first two games yielded none, the Mets hit three of them, two by Carlos Beltran and another by Jose Reyes. In fact, between the two of them they drove in 7 runs sandwiched as they were around Paul LoDuca who has started the season at a .385 clip. Overall the Mets outhit the Cards in this series 29-18.

But more than anything else last night was about giving the Birds a kicking, or as they put in St Louis, a complete pounding.

The Cardinals become the first defending world champions to start a season 0-3 since the 1984 Baltimore Orioles.

Of course one set of patsies does not a season make and even though the Mets gave the Cards a sort of baseball enema to start the season they shouldn't believe the ease with which they dispensed with the Cardinals will have any bearing on the series coming up at Turner Field this weekend.

The Braves of course, have been doing what everyone suspected teams would be doing against the Phillies this season: battering their bullpen and if all goes according to plan this early showdown in Atlanta might pit two undefeated NL East teams against each other.

But not so fast yet.

After six months of digesting the unmasticatable Game Seven loss to these very same Cardinals let's linger a day longer in the warmth of the Mets' battering of the Defending World Chimps, another 24 hours to enjoy the best start by the Mets in 13 years.


Make That A Pair

For the first few days of the infant season anyway, GM Omar Minaya is looking like a genius first of all for standing pat with the rotation and secondly for not fawning over Barry Zito like a drunken yob with a fistful of dollar bills at a lap dance academy.

Either that or these defending World Champion St Louis Cardinals are slooooooow starters.

For the second night in a row a Mets starter, (the starting rotation of course, bemoaned by all humanity as the Achilles Heel of the Mets team this season) had a superb outing on the road against the Champs. This time, El Duque stuck it to them tossing seven innings of one-run, five-hit pitching and holding them down until the rescue squad of Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner could come in to nail it down. Not only that but Wagner managed to end the game on an easy peasy 1-2-3 note. How often does that happen?

And of course, for good measure El Duque, as if pitching brilliantly when it is most hoped for but least expected, threw in a bases-loaded double, his second hit of the night and the 11th of his career.

So for those of you keeping score at home, this is the first time since 1994, and yes, we'll probably hear this for the next 24 hours, but the first time in 13 years the Mets won the first two games of the season. In fact the Mets' record in the second game of the season now stands at 23-23. The way back machine hasn't finished the calculations but 7 double plays turned in two games must be nearing some sort of Mets benchmark as well.

Archie Bunker's Army's preseason shoe-in for NL MVP, Jose Reyes did the damage on the basepaths and provided the offensive catalyst in quiet times, scoring a pair of runs and stealing his first base of the season.

And yes, a second victory in a row over the defending World Champions provides a modicum of satisfaction considering we've all decided to forget about Game 7 and move on to 2007 whilst the Cardinals have as many outfield errors (two) as runs thus far. Oh yeah, ring night for the Cardinals. Rub it in, nice and smooth.


And who amongst you wasn't anxiously awaiting the debut of Barry Zero last night after the winter in which he rebuffed the casual Met advances and signed with the Giants instead of the Mets, a move much maligned by those Henny Pennies who spent so much time bemoaning the Mets starting rotation?

Actually, it wasn't as bad as the Giants bullpen made it look: five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and four hits. But it counts for losing, something the Mets haven't done yet this season.


And next, for those of you with oft-chewed fingernails, comes the true litmus test of the this Mets rotation, the 3 and 4 starters, John Maine and the ever-unpredictable Oliver Perez.

A special treat in Game Three of course will be facing former Mets blown save machine closer, Braden Looper, a starter for the first time since 1997. Let's face it, he can't do much worse as a starter than he did coming out of the pen.


Killing Time Between Days

Enjoy the 24 hours of perfection while it lasts. 1-0 is hardly the cause for careless optimism. Not when you've played what, .006 percent of the season?

But having waited these last six months or so people are already frothing at the mouth, particularly in ungrateful St Louis where after a mere loss, the fickle supporters of the defending World Champions are already moaning.:

"But let's be candid here: In the recent history of baseball, has any defending champion ever started an outfield as bad as the one sent into the first game by the Cardinals on Sunday? I wrote last month that my biggest concern for the team was the outfield.

An alignment of Taguchi in left, a recuperating Jim Edmonds in center and Preston Wilson in right is downright feeble. Taguchi hit .266 with 31 RBIs last season, Wilson struck out 121 times in 2006, and Edmonds still is playing himself into baseball shape after surgeries in the offseason to his shoulder and toe."

This isn't to say that Manager Willie wouldn't have been moidah'd in the press if his use of Joe Smith in a key point of Game One hadn't panned out. Oh yes, we'd be reading plenty already about questionable bullpen moves with the season tottering on the precipice of success and failure after a mere game. That's the sliver difference between the perception of winning and the perception of losing.


But we're on to Game Two this evening and now it's time to test the inherent weakness of this alleged Mets starting rotation with El Duque taking his creaking bones to the mound.

What I'm thinking about in the interim wot with his dubious age and his endless series of ailments is a new nickname more apropros for a man of his stature. Something along the lines of El Geriátrico or El Viejo Cuello Artrítico(that's the old arthritic neck to you knuckle-dragging monolinguists out there...)

Well maybe none of it's very funny. Not when your number two pitcher is just a simple muscle twitch away from a lifetime of DLitude and unearned paychecks.

Or maybe we should feel good because the Cards number two starter is a former Pirate washout named Kip Wells.

Not so fast, actually. Dave Duncan, the Cardinals pitching coach is a bit of a reclamation guru himself if you look at his track record and Wells is just the sort of lifetime nothing Duncan might be able to turn around for a season. Wells has unleashed a sinking fastball this Spring so potent that he held an imposing 1.16 ERA over 23 1/3 Spring innings.

It's only Game Two. Seemingly meaningless in this string of the next five or six months. But after six months of dormancy, six months of sitting around waiting for Omar to pull the trigger, waiting to sit listening or watching these Mets day in, day out, night after night, early morning England after early morning England, the sense of importance, however overstated, is inevitable.

So Why Couldn't You Have Done This In Game 7?

Let's see...all the ingredients for an abysmal failure were in place:

1. Rotten Spring Training which saw the Mets lose more games than any other Spring Training in their history and left us all with a vague sort of stomach queasiness that usually comes just prior to public speaking engagements or first dates.

2. Open Season Against Defending World Champions: granted, this was one of those two-sided coins or half-empty, half-full glass conundrums. The defending World Champions, yes but also a chance for revenge. Yes, it's no true measure of revenge, to win an Opening Day/Night game compared to winning that Game 7 of the NLCS but as we've all been told, that was six months ago, another season and no longer matters...that same team kicking you out of your chance for the World Series and thereby your chance at being the Defending World Champions...well Carlos Beltran, just don't stand there with the bat on your shoulders!

3. Open Season Against Defending World Champions On The Road: A slightly worse scenario than merely opening against the Defending World Champions but on the other hand the NLCS ended at Shea, not in Bird Feather Stadium and it's just as well to start with a clean slate in a different state even if it is against the same auld team.


With all the questions about pitching rumbling through the minds of so many Mets supporters, Tom Glavine's ace performance was a welcomed break in this cloudy Spring of disappointment. Perhaps his outing shouldn't have been suprising given his 19-6 against the Cardinals but still, I can recall nightmares against the Cubs a few years back, Tom's initial season as a Met getting rattled and humbled by an offensive onslaught and blaming things like the cold weather and his grip on the ball. Not this night though. Not with his 291st career victory on the line.

A 6-1 Mets victory over the St Louis Cardinals, some six months too late at least gives some meaning and hope to the commencement of the Mets efforts to defend their NL East title.

Out you Go!

Defensively, unusually sharp for this time of year, were they not? Give them kudos, in all. Four double plays, was it? Beltran throwing out Chimp Eckstein at the plate in the sixth after Eckstein had driven in the Cardinals' run with a double into the left-field corner. Chaaa-Ching!

And yes, this is the formula sing about: solid starting pitching followed by solid relief pitching from the pen, mixed with a little timely hitting and some solid, occasionally great fielding.

Glavine goes 6, the pen goes 3 and yes, Billy Wagner gives up a pair of hits before snaking the final out...apropros.

Heilman with Aaron Miles miles from home on third base, stops the Cardinals feeble rally-cry.

What does it all mean? That's the question to ponder this Monday morning.

Does this mean the Mets have re-established themselves as the team to beat not only in the NL East but in the National League as a whole?

Does this mean absolutely nothing, a mere hiccup of success in what is surely to follow as a miserable and disappointing season?

An insignificant defeat of a team driven to distraction by their defending champion pregame ceremonies?

That the Mets are going to stomp the blood and guts out of the entire league of baseball in revenge for going belly up when it counted most last season?

Stay tuned because there's a 161 more games at least to go and whilst this first one doesn't prove much it sure makes a better start to the week than a sour and bitter pill loss against the goddamned Cardinals to start the season the same way it ended!