Trade Winds NL East

So the Mets fattened up their number two hole in the batting order and their defense in the middle by trading for Luis Castillo "for a future back-up catcher and no-hit centerfielder as form of concession."

Of course the Twins never gave that much up for Castillo to begin with: chump change in the form of Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler, both of whom could probably one-hit the Mets...

Anyway, the trade is great for Mets fans but bad for Twins fans and Ruben Gotay fans.

Of course no one worth their salt gives a toss about Twins fans but hey, I was getting rather fond of Gotay. I mean what did this poor bastid have to do beyond hitting .350, slugging .504, and hitting .433 with RISP to keep his job? He was unfairly labeled as a mediocre fielder. Ok, he only hit .235 against lefties but I was happy watching him, another young steal courtesy of Omar.

Sure, Castillo is a natural #2 hitter but the Mets already had the second-highest production out of the #2 slot in the National League. And I was rather liking Lastings Milledge sitting there. And sure, none of them can give the Mets what they have with Castillo; three switch-hitters at the top of their lineup (provided Beltran ever stops letting every nagging little injury distract him from being the MVP he was hired to be...)but damn, I sure hope he's exciting. I hate to see players I've grown to like over the course of the season tossed aside for the latest fad in switch hitting, Gold Glove, All Star second basemen...

And let's correct something. Castillo won't be "filling a hole" in second base. He will be "augmenting" what is already a sound, albeit inexperienced Gotay. Filling a hole implies Gotay was a hole. Gotay was more an object exiting a seam in the universe.

But the tears for Gotay have dried, remarkably, in the time it took to write that. Facts is da facts, m'am. Castillo is a 3-time All Star and Gold Glove winner. And yes, a remarkable upgrade in the field which only helps strengthen the Mets. And you can't even really whinge about what they gave up in return for him.

So, yes for the Mets, good move, bold move, brilliant move. Sorry for Gotay and sorry even more because I think the bullpen is an area the Mets need to address even more than this mysterious hole at second base but far be it from me to criticise the wisdom of Omar.

Yes, if ever a hole was needing to be filled it would be the bullpen. Schoenweiss, Sele, Mota and the other embers of the dying fire of mediocrity back there aren't going to propel the Mets into the World Series. Nor will Castillo unless even more moves are made.

Which I'm sure Omar is sorting out even as we speak.

Braves and Phillies Make Moves As Well

I know it feels as though the NL East is all but won by the Mets already but you can't really convince the Braves or the Phillies just yet.

The Braves made a bit of a blockbuster by trading, or nearly having completed a trade for Mark Teixeira, arguably the most sought-after player available at the trade deadline.

It strengthens their order this season, softens the potential blow of Andruw Jones leaving via free agency next season but this isn't going to push them past the Mets this season. Lefty reliever Ron Mahay was included in the deal and is someone the Mets could have used but hey, the Braves have him. We don't need a rent-a-body like Teixeira. Who wants to spend all that time trying to figure out or remember how to spell his bloody name? Delgado is much easier.

And I know, I know, teammates are supposed to be enthusiastic but jesus christ, Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur, the perennial pain in the arse, was a little over the top when he said: "I think especially in the National League, we now have the best lineup. One through eight, we have hitters that can jack it out of the park and rack up RBIs."

The best lineup in the National League? Pshaw. Ding, ding. Calling Mr Beanball for Francoeur's next appearance with a Met on the mound...Was that his Jimmy Rollins impression?

And the Phillies, speaking of the Phillies, ha!

Kyle Lohse?

Go ahead, the NL East is trembling for a man with a 6-12 record and a 4.58 ERA.

I won't say with definity that the Phillies' hopes were crushed by the loss of Chase Utley but I wonder if they wouldn't have rather had Castillo over a muppet like Tadahito Iguchi.

Last night they couldn't seem to stop hurting themselves despite the victory over the Cubs. First Shane Victorino strained his calf trying to beat out a double play in the fourth and will have an MRI on Tuesday. His replacement, Michael Bourn, stumbled over the bullpen mound in the fifth and sprained his ankle. He'll get an X-ray on Tuesday.

You go girls.

PS- Wouldn't it suck if Glavine gets number 300 tonight only to be upstaged by Mr Bean The Steroid Head That Ate Baseball hitting the homer that finally surpasses Hammerin' Hank?


5 Innings Enough To Snuff Nats, 5-0

Maine and Rain - this combination spoilt any hope the Nats had of taking three of four from the NL East leaders.

No, this isn't the official burial of the Washington Nats, just a chat about the rain...

The Mets needed only their first two batters, Jose Reyes and Lastings Milledge to give them all the runs they would need in the rain-shortened shutout; a leadoff double and an rbi single.

Neither rain, nor sleet nor snow can stop Mr Wright from driving Mets home...

They had the added boost of Ramon Castro's two-run homer in the 4th and RBI singles from David Wright in the 3rd and 4th innings and that just about sums it all up.

The Mets had their 11th win in 18 games since the All-Star break, salvaged a split with the lost boys of the NL East.

Homers Know Best

Couldn't help but ponder what effect hitting that homerun in the 4th inning against the Pirates last week has had on John Maine. Since then he's pitched a total of 8 scoreless innings and looks as dominant as he has all season. Of course that's against the Pirates and the Nats but it might also mean at 12-5 on the season, he's turned the corner into the team's ace the rest of the way.

You wonder, as odd as it sounds - are the Mets going to miss Lo Duca all that much when Castro has been hitting .475 with 4 homers and 12 RBIs in his last 11 starts? When Lo Duca is struggling with a .245 average since the All-Star break and even more fatefully, and only .182 against right handers. Castro is hitting .298 against righties (oh yeah, and .471against lefties this season)

Oh yeah, and pssst...let's not forget about this fella...


Day Night Jekyll and Hyde

Game One: Mets 3 Nats 1
Opener Hits Right Notes

For six innings we were looking at a sort of Bascik Redux; the going-nowhere-fast pitcher making an every-dog-has-his-day comeback at the expense of the Mets batting order. Saturday afternoon it was Tim Redding making fools of Mets for 6 long and drawn out innings, striking out 8 and allowing only a run and it wasn't until they could feast on the Nats bullpen, Saul Rivera in particular, that they looked like they might pull this one out.

Nearly another low-scoring no-decision but saved by his teammates in the end...

Indeed, it was helpful that El Duque had a good outing of his own, albeit against the offensive laughingstocks of the National League, putting on a pitching performance so lacking in that of Jorge Sosa the night before.

And with Beltran out another day, teetering on the brink of the DL and Moises Alou having a day off because, well, two games in a row is a bit of a stretch apparently, Lastings Milledge got to be the hero of the outfield again - his RBI double in the 4th kept him lodged as the team RBI leader since the All-Star break and increased his hitting streak to 7 games, a surprise in many pleasant ways without the baggage of fan disillusionment or hotdog rumours like last season's stint in the bigs for Lastings.

The Opener was the sort of game you want for an opener in a day/night doubleheader; colourless, insipid yet indisputably successful even whilst the catcher with the cannon arm, Jesus Flores, a former Met farmhand no less, threw out Reyes AND Milledge trying to steal second in this game.

Might also mention Carlos Delgado's rare clutch hit, an RBI single that increased the Mets' lead to 3-1 in the 7th even though his average with RISP hovers around the .208 area.

And yes of course, no 9th inning is safe - Reyes and Gotay completed two nightmare tosses to first for Delgado, who handled neither of them, needlessly extending the inning and Billy Wagner's pitch count with another game to be played a few hours later...and yet, success. Nothing much to bitch about, their 58th win of the season.

Game 2 Nats 5 Mets 4
Feliciano Meltdown

It might be a rare occurence this season; Pedro Feliciano choking down a poor performance like Mama Cass on a ham sandwich, but there it was for all to see: the Mets had made a quasi-dramatic comeback on the back of an improbable Carlos Delgado two-run homer that tied the game at 3 in the 6th and it seemed a matter of time before the Mets superior bullpen outlasted that of the Nats.

In fact, the odds seem to grow proportionately with the belly of the likes of Roly Poly Ray King waddling out from the pen.

Instead it was Feliciano and in turn at the bottom of the 8th, Jon Rausch for the Nats who were coughing up the deadly runs. Felciano was positively buggered by throwing too high over and over, three runs, two walks and two hits worth in a disasterous 8th that gave the Nats a formidable 6-3 lead.

Signs of life from the 35 year old?

And damned if those Mets, showing every sign of life despite a few boneheaded late-inning moves by Willie Randolph, didn't almost come back again getting the first two runners on in the bottom of the 8th for Carlos Delgado. Delgado knocked in another run, an encouraging sign that perhaps his RISP hat is finally twisted properly atop his head and he's ready to carry the club for the second half of the season, redeeming that first half's nauseating ride through the bowels of ineptitude.

And when Schneider threw the throw to second trying to toss out Shawn Green beyond Belliard to put Green on 3rd, one got the unmistakable impression that this was indeed going to be the Mets night for a sweep. But it was not to be.

And it was not to be for most of the first half of the game with the man named Hanrahan stumping the Mets batters for five scoreless innings that netted a mere hit. And that doesn't even mention the humiliation he piled on Mike Pelfrey by hitting a triple in his first ever Major League at-bat which precipitated a 3-run onslaught that had Pelfrey on the ropes yet again - all in all, a similar scenario the Nats threw at the Mets all series - Baszik followed by Redding followed by Hanrahan, three reasonably uncertain starters making the Mets look like bush leaguers at the plate.

But these little encouraging signs (I'm not talking about Pelfrey even though eventually he pitched a grudgingly decent game and escaped getting chalked with the loss thanks to Delgado) like Lastings Milledge airmailing that moonshot throw home over everyone's head in the 3rd only to impress by charging and throwing out the runner at 3rd base in the 5th.

Of Willie's shoddy management of the bench and batting order, well the simple fact of Tom Glavine up there at the plate in the 9th inning proves he's no Bobby Valentine but Willie's allowed a bad day or two with his head in a sling rather than his shoulder and perhaps he was thrown into uncertainty by having in effect, only three guys to choose from on the bench during an exciting, see-saw game.

A doubleheader split was not as good as it could have gotten as they have now taken only one of three from the Nats at home but there's still Sunday left to redeem themselves with and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies.


Sosa Hands Nats The Opener

Jorge Sosa, pack yer bags.

Was the tag hanging out of the collar the final blow for Sosa?

This was the ever-struggling Nats, dead last in the National League in runs scored, dead last in homers hit, a sinking ship to be torpedo'd to the bottom of the sea of franchises running on fumes.

This was Sosa, 1-4 with a 6.90 ERA in his last 6 starts, surrendering one double after another as though he were pitching batting practice rather than the opening game of a home series against the Nats.

The 4th double of the inning was off the bat of Nook Logan, a Nat who had struggled so much this season he'd recently given up switch-hitting to concentrate on right-handed batting and gave the Nats a 3-0 2nd inning lead for his troubles.

Adding insult to injury, Sosa walked the opposing pitcher before Rick Peterson finally came out to the mound for a visit. Sosa's arm continued to drop on his pitches, the slider continued to flatten out, and it was just barely that he made it out of the inning at all, 34 pitches long.

An additional highlight of the nearly disasterous top-of-the-2nd was Moises Alou making a diving stab on a fly ball to left field in his return. A collective silent, holding of the breath in Shea watching and waiting as Alou stood back up, seemingly unscathed. A gust of wind did not send him back to the DL? A sliding dive did not permanently incapacitate his 41 year old bones?

(Encouraging as well, in his first at-bat after missing 66 games, Alou doubled off the left field wall and scored the Mets' first run to bring it back to 3-1.)

But the question of the number five starter for the Mets continues unanswered thanks to yet another lamentable outing from Sosa.

Looks like Mike Pelfrey will get another shot to break his winless streak and perhaps replace Sosa as the fifth starter, in the day-night doubleheader against the Nats tomorrow. But if we have to see another "encouraging" start, which is like a puking bolimic telling you how much they enjoyed the meal, from Pelfrey which results in another loss, let's just say he's jinxed this season and leave him down in New Orleans.

Of course Pedro had another encouraging simulated game but he hasn't even reached the minor leagues and what to do with Sosa in the month-long interim before Pedro returns?

I wouldn't waste talent trading for another starter.

Then again, when Ryan Church blasted his first homer in 116 at-bats in the 3rd inning to bring the lead back up to 4-1 you begin to realise that there really isn't anyone to fill out this rotation, not even down on the Zephyr roster where obviated ERAs are worn like a badge of pride amonst the pitching staff.

4-game winner over 2 years for the Mets, Cy Bloody Young agin' them.

You have to wonder if it was more luck than talent that got Mike Bacsik through this game to victory? When you consider for example, Ryan Zimmerman's ridiculously lucky grab of of a lined shot that might have narrowed the margin to 4-3 and considering how Bascik was getting stung that inning, might have blown the game open and fed Met hitters into a vulnerable and tired Nats bullpen.

But it's all conjecture - Zimmerman made that grab, the rally was virtually snuffed (as much as it was on Milledge's rally-killing double play grounder in the second inning) and the final was a decidedly underwhelming 5-2 loss to a team the Mets really had no business losing at home to.

What this game did bring was the news that the once-indominable Joe Smith has worn out his welcome and was replaced by Jon Adkins who was part of the infamous deal with the Padres involving Heath Bell and Royce Ring.

(Ring you may recall, surrendered a homer to Carlos Delgado in that series in San Diego not long ago and was recently optioned to Portland whilst Heath Bell is 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA, thanks to a cookie diet and prospering in San Diego - you might say this was a deal that Omar got burnt on)

Adkins managed a scoreless inning of relief in his debut for the Mets. Not Heath Bell, but not the Merengue Night highlight either.

All in all, a game to forget. Uninspired and raising questions - Sosa did finish with 6 innings pitched under his belt, perhaps owed more to Willie's desire to preserve the pen for the day/night doubleheader tomorrow than a semblance of competence on Sosa's part, but it was yet another in a deadly string of twitchy, uncertain and frankly, inept outings that have plagued him since he returned from the DL and perhaps began even earlier than that.


Ollie v Nady Not Always Pretty

With Roberto Hernandez off in Los Angeles blowing leads, last season deadline trade between the Pirates and the Mets boils down to a swap of one solid outfielder, Xavier Nady and one solid but formerly-troubled pitcher, Oliver Perez.

Last night they faced each other for the first time at Shea and for the first five innings the margin was decidedly in Perez's favour. Perez was outstanding those first five innings, allowing only a hit and retiring Nady both times he faced him, first on a fly out to Shawn Green and then looking at strike three.

3-Ribby Nady

Ruinous Error Perez

In the interim the Mets were not exactly pouring down the run support. Of course with Lastings Milledge playing centerfield in place of Carlos Beltran, with Damon Easley patrolling the land in left field long ago vacated by Moises Alou and with Ruben Gotay starting at second base, the Mets were lucky to have fielded a team at all, let alone a team of immense power and run-scoring ferocity.

As it was they managed a lone run in the first inning, a small ball sort of run precipitated by Jose Reyes' 7-pitch single against Mets-Killah Paul Maholm (3 victories in his last 4 starts against the Mets), a stolen base, a fielder's choice from Milledge, and an RBI sac fly from David Wright. Thereafter, the wheels came off.

Consecutive singles as Perez seemed to lose his steam or the Pirates batters decided to be determined (law of averages is that both were likely to happen at some point in this series) - followed by what should have been an innocent sac bunt which Perez turned into the game's turning point by throwing it away, giving the Pirates a 1-1 tie and putting men on second and third with none out, all in one motion.

He induced two Pirates into harmless outs, seeming to reclaim the inning when Nady strolled to the plate with his chance for revenge spat-shined and polished, ready for the trophy case.

Nady ripped a 2-2 slider off of David Wright's knee, knocking the Pirate pitcher and Cezar Itzuris home for a 3-1 lead.

Of course, such a result was to be expected considering Nady's batting average with two men out and runners in scoring position is a robust .411 - the larf is, of course that high-paid team leaders like Beltran and the floundering Carlos Delgado aren't getting the job done in that respect. Unlike Nady, Delgado is hitting a pathetic .162 in a similar situation and the injured Beltran, a puny .111.

The Mets could have used Nady's timely hitting last night but equally, a season without Perez would have been damaging so at the end of the day the debate on who won the trade can continue.

As it stands, Perez completed the meltdown in a deadly inning, Scott Schoenweiss had his typically-embarassing outing (2 runs allowed in 2/3 of an inning to raise his ERA back to an appalling 5.59) and Joe Smith wasn't any antedote allowing three hits of his own in a mere 1/3 of an inning's work. It was actually Joe Smith who allowed Schoenweiss' runners to score so the pair of them were like Spy versus Spy trying to anti-hero each other and see who could surrender or cause to surrender the most runs.

On the bright side, Guillermo Mota pitched another meaningless run of two shutout innings in a game long-lost. Milledge hit a homer to join Reyes in a futile endeavour to score some runs for the Mets and the Pirates avoided getting swept.

Never fear however. Taking two of three every series will mean the Mets would likely have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and even the Pirates have their day on occasion.


Glavine Only One Away

It wasn't a pretty beginning. After striking out the .238-hitting Nate McLouth, 12 of Tom Glavine's next 19 pitches were called balls as he walked the less-than-formidable trio of Sanchez, LaRoche and Bay to load the bases with Xavier Nady coming to the plate.

The future Hall of Famer looking frazzled early on...

The night before of course, the former Met smacked an RBI double in the first inning of his homecoming and quite frankly you began to sense after Glavine's miserable outing with a six-run lead against the Dodgers the last time he was on the mound was no fluke, but a pattern.

Glavine induced Nady into grounding into a double play however and by doing so, deflating Pirate hopes early on in the game.

Thereafter, Glavine was reasonably effective, allowing a lone single in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings.

HeeHeeHeeHoHoHoHaHaHa, It's Only the Pirates...

By then, thanks in large part to the suddenly inspired Paul Lo Duca, who until last night had been hitting a highly uninspired .190 with runners in scoring position and .207 overall since June, drove a bases-loaded double to left field for two runs in the first inning, the Mets' and Glavine's worries appeared to be few as they opened 6-0 lead. Lo Duca doubled home two runs again in the third inning - a sign that his summer-long struggles at the plate have ended or a mere hiccup of success in an otherwise hot-headed and dissatisfying season?

Jason Bay's three-run homer in the 5th, his third homer in two nights off Met pitching, halved the lead and again sent many wondering if Glavine were in for a repeat, another 6-run lead fed to the pigs.

But instead of disaster, Glavine earned victory 299 in a less-than-inspired outing of 6 innings wherein he allowed 3 runs, those 3 walks and 8 hits - sufficient pitching was about the best you could say for it and even as he nears immortality as he nears victory number 300 you really have to wonder why or how Glavine could be considered the staff ace any longer.

With the Pirates deflated, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner teamed to throw the final three innings in hitless and scoreless fashion - Heilman has now retired the last 16 batters he's faced and Wagner has now earned his 23rd save in 24 opportunities.

Of note, the batting order was juggled with Carlos Beltran sitting this one out. The versatile and ever-exciting Lastings Milledge
more than adequate filling the millionaire's shoes with a pair of hits to lift his batting average up to .283 on the season and starting two rallies from the number two hole in the order.

His spot in left field, the near-permanent abyss left in Moises Alou's permanent injury wake, was filled by second baseman Marlon Anderson, who responded with a walk and an RBI single.

Overall, the kind of game you might expect against the Pirates near the end of July: unexciting by and large, plodding almost, and victorious as the Mets stand on the doorstep of sweeping the Pirates. The game's high point of excitement was generated by the Pirate's manager Jim Tracey for getting ejected in the third inning for throwing his hat and making futile arguments against his Jason Bay trapping Shawn Green's fly ball. Losing 10 out of 11 does that to a manager.

Looking older by the hour waiting for next Tuesday in Milwaukee...


Met Bats Spell Snell Hell

Sure, it was Xavier Nady's grand return to Shea and sure, he doubled home a run his first time up.

How fragile and alone was Ian Snell feeling at that moment?

Pity it wasn't Oliver Perez out there dazzling from the mound and hitting homers from the plate like the other steal-deal by Omar, John Maine, was last night But it didn't matter much anyway. The rapidly-fading Ian Snell was there to hand out the runs like candy to children from a paedo and the Mets were rolling to an 8-4 victory, their 8th in the first 12 games since the All Star break.

Maine Has Joined The Homer Club, Finally Cracks A Smile At Home

Following Maine's improbable, hell, incalculable two-run homerun in the 4th inning that gave the Mets a 6-2 lead, Maine seemed to gain an almost zen-like aura, tossing shutout innings the rest of his outing before ceding control to the bullpen. Most incredible perhaps of all was that despite smacking his first career homer, his first career hit for extra bases even, his face was a complete blank, stoic and calm as ever rather than effusive and exploding with joy. Perhaps he was as shocked as everyone else in Shea, everyone else listening and watching to the game.

It was the same stunned feeling one might getting seeing Rey Ordonez hit a grand slam.

Did that ever really happen?


Most of the game was a laughter bar the appearance of Guillermo Mota
which sent children screaming in terror everywhere. Eager not to disappoint, Mota promptly surrendered Jason Bay's second homer of the night, this time a two-run job in the 9th that narrowed the margin to the final score.

Green did his tortoise impression around third base only to redeem himself with a daring slide around a tag at home plate...

Another somber note was the predictable news that Moises Alou is hurt again. This time he didn't even make it to one game for the Mets.

This Moises Alou is STILL hurt skit reminds me of the SNL skit many, many years ago called Generalissimo Fransisco Franco is still dead.

Only the SNL skit was funny. Alou? Well, we don't have to care now do we? Not when we've got Lastings Milledge collecting three hits in his stead.

However there was still more disturbing news out of the Mets and that was the ominous explanation from Omar about Pedro's pitching prospects:

"He worked so hard and advanced so much, we had to pull him back,"

He made us so much money we had to get rid of him? What?

I dunno, it doesn't sound good. Will Glavine, Maine, Duque, Perez and Sosa suffice if Pedro Is A No Show for the post season again? Aye. They will.


Chip Shot Makes Mets Winners

Bring on the Braves...

There will be more downs in this 2007 season but they won't be as low as June's and they won't stop the Mets from repeating as NL East champs. That's what it feels like anyway after the Mets completed their 4 game series in Chavez Ravine, winning 3, the finale on an RBI single by Met a no-name named Chip Ambres who got his first (and perhaps only) hit as a Met, and avenged a three game sweep suffered at the hands of these once-formidable-looking Dodgers only a month ago.

Having missed all but the final game of this series due to more floods inundating the lands around me, it was heartening to see the series closed out in glorious, victorious fashion.

To recap for anyone else who like The Army, was stuck in the hometown of Tricky, Massive Attack and Portishead, I've assembled a little Winners and Losers compilation.

Team Winners: Mets: Momentum reaffirmed with a post-All Star break push towards defending their title.

Kemp Says Oops in 9th...

Team Losers: Dodgers: A depleted rotation and bullpen with their closer Takashi Saito nursing muscles in his neck and shoulders and an uncertain rotation compounded by a shoddy defensive outfield which was highlighted by Matt Kemp a defensive replacement dropping Shawn Green's fly ball in the 9th to allow the Mets to tie the game Sunday night, does not spell a happy ending to their season unless they get some deadline help. Oh alright, we can't allow a series against the Dodgers to pass without a comment about the comments on Touch 'Em All - joy of joys, the ever-popular Ask Alyssa is back. (and you will be happy to note your least favourite Dodger Stalker will be making an appearance at Shea, it appears...) Peace, Love and Breastball, baby.

2nd Baseman Winner: Ruben Gotay, back in the lineup after being superceded upon Jose Valentin's return, reached 35 hits in his first 100 at-bats this season which is surpassed only by infamous former Mets Derek Bell, Rico Brogna and Darryl Hamilton. Gotay's hitting overshadowed a major gaffe in the 6th inning of Game 3 which cost the Mets two runs and perhaps a chance to win that game. Honourable mention: Anderson Hernandez who made it back to the bigs despite starting the season hitting .208 in April for the Zephyrs. He hit .350 since June. We won't mention his .131 lifetime batting average for the Mets, guess it can only go up from here and if not, well...there's always the promise of career-rejuvenation for former Met banjo-hitting second baseman over in Colorado.

2nd Baseman Loser: Jose Valentin, fractured tibia and perhaps the end of his era as a Met. Adios muchacho, don't go punching any more walls in Puerto Rico.

Ex-Teammate Winner: Marlon Anderson released by the Dodgers earlier this month, got his chance for revenge thanks to Willie's hunch about performance against former teammates with the sour taste of rejection in your mouth. Anderson had a pair of singles and a pair of RBIs in Game 1 and scored a pair of runs in Game 2, both Met victories.

Ex-Teammate Loser: Former Met Roberto Hernandez single-handedly handed the Mets their victory in Game 2 on Friday by throwing wildly in the 8th to allow the tie-breaking run to score and then throwing a fastball that Carlos Beltran blasted for a two-run homer. Lights out, Roberto.

The only problem with Hernandez's hand is that it is attached to his pitching arm...

Winner's Pen - Over the four game series the Mets bullpen was called upon to pitch 16 2/3 innings, allowed 13 hits and gave up 5 runs, only 4 earned for a 2.16 ERA.

Loser's Pen - Sans Saito, the pitching mismanager Grady Little was forced to improvise and the results were by and large, atrocious. Pitching a third of an inning of relief less than the Mets bullpen (16 1/3) the Dodgers pen gave up 17 hits and 12 runs, 10 of which were earned, a hideous 5.51 ERA. In fact, if you dared, you might even say it was the difference in the pens that gave this series to the Mets.

The kind of monster you could see dominating the post-season...if the Dodgers make it that far...

Jonathon Broxton Winner AND Loser - An impressive 6'4 290 set-up man filling in as closer for Saito, Broxton awed on Saturday night in earning his second save of the season striking out 3 Mets over 1 2/3 innings.

On Sunday night however he notched his third blown save of the season, threw two wild pitches whilst giving up a hit and a run in a disasterous 9th inning of work.

Carlos Beltran Award - The inaugural winner is...Carlos Beltran, for hitting a homerun in the 8th inning of the first three games of the series. Let's see anyone do that again this season. He had 7 hits in 17 at-bats against the Dodgers, tying David Wright for most RBIs in the four-game series. with 6.

Pedro's Looming Over Your Shoulder Award: With Pedro's likely return next month there is going to be a glut of qualified starting pitching hanging around which inevitably means, someone is either going to the long relief pen or getting a demotion. We'll give you a little hint: Jorge Sosa is 1-4 with a 6.90 ERA over his last 6 starts.

Overall, a feel-good feeling, a touchy-feely series.

Game 1: Mets 13, Dodgers 9
Game 2: Mets 4, Dodgers 1
Game 3: Dodgers 8 Mets 6
Game 4: Mets 5, Dodgers 4.


Furious Rally Insufficient, Mets Lose Padre Series

Ok, everyone. Feel free to break out your Joe Smith Piñata.

Helloooo Keeeeeds. My name eeees Yo Esmiff. Please beat me repeatedly with a stick...

The Mets came aaaaaall the way back from deficit, rallied hard to tie the bloody game in the 8th, really - the whole team felt this was the Mets' game by now - only to see Joe Smith enter the game in the 8th (why? we're still checking on that) and walked a guy on four pitches with one out, allowed a ground ball single (to be fair with David Wright protecting the line at 3rd and widening the infield gap) and then, after a mound visit, after he convinced Rick Peterson he was man enough to get the job done, allowed a single to Geoff Blum that gave the Padres the lead right back and well, BLEEEEEEEEEEW the game.

How did Smith feel about this hideous act? "It's horrible."

Yes, indeed it is.

On the other hand, a night after the Mets underwent what we all thought was a revitalisation at the plate, they were steamed by the artwork of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux who faced only 19 batters over five innings, struck out six and retired another seven on weak ground balls.

I mean imagine that - one night the Mets face the NL starter of the All-Star game and the next night they face a Hall of Famer. No wonder they only took one out of three in this series.

But once the Padres bullpen was allowed to grind, the Mets began to chip away at the 4-0 lead the Padres had accumulated.

First it was former Met Royce Ring surrendering a lead off homer to Carlos Delgado in the 7th which just barely cleared the glove of Mike Cameron in centerfield. Then David Wright hit his game-tying three-run homer in the 8th, santa maria!

Cha-Ching! Wright's Wake Up Call in the 8th

Of course there was no slouch going on the mound for the Mets in John Maine who allowed seven hits, two of which unfortunately, were homeruns.

Is the Delgado finally out of the box? After his horrifc beginning he is still continuing to hit as if he means it this month, at a .375 clip to raise his batting average all the way up to .251. By gawd, he might hit his weight yet this season.

Unfortunately, his fielding got in the way of the fun last night - it might have been slowness of foot which saw that ground ball hit to his left in the first inning carry on for a double which was in essence, the key stroke of an early two-run Padre lead.

Although the loss feels demoralising when after the comeback the victory felt in hand, even in losing the Mets are not looking too bad.

With the hated Dodgers looming - are they really "hated" or does the embarassment of that last road trip sweep still sting? - the Mets return to the scene of the earlier crime for some vengeance at Chavez Ravine.


El Duque Outduels El All Star

Whose the All Star now?

King of the Hill For A Night

The guy who threw six innings, gave up six hits, walked more batters than he walked himself, allowed 3 earned runs and went hitless at the plate?

Or the guy who threw 7 beautifully pitched, 2-hit shutout innings, had a hit, scored and even stole a base?

That's right, El Duque.

The other guy, Jake Peavy, the one who started the All Star game only a week ago on the other hand, earned his 4th loss against 9 victories. Shall we mention that the All Star is now winless with two losses in his last four starts whilst Duque improved to 6-4 and lowered his ERA to 2.90?

It wasn't just the pitching that earned the Mets this rare West Coast victory but the fact that with 8 hits they managed to score 7 runs.

Of course this could be immediately attributed to the effect of HoJo re-introducing early batting practice. Or perhaps mere coincidence? Hardly.

And just one night removed looking like somnambulists, they were led by the likes of those who were meant to have been leading them all season:

Beltran had a pair of doubles. Delgado had a pair of singles but drove in two runs. And Paul Lo Duca drove in two runs.

Of course, early BP or not, perhaps more importantly (is this patient Mets plate-work or erratic Padre pitching, the Mets drew EIGHT walks. We needn't bother mentioning that despite this virtual barrage, the Mets left 20 runners on base, an indication of precisely the kind of blow out this could have been. Shhhhh. It's the extra BP.

But the victory slows the momentum of what had started off as yet another hum-drum or perhaps even humiliating West Coast trip. It staved off the wolves for a night and the best part is, the Mets did it against the best pitcher in the National League.


The Fat Man Commeth

It takes more than another round of gout to keep the Fat Man down.

If the Mets were looking for something to blame for Monday night's tepid 5-1 loss to the Padres they needed look no further than the East-West coast trip they underwent collectively to get to San Diego in the first place.

Was it merely a dream sequence in the midst of somnambulism that brought the game to 2-1 after six innings?

And when violently shaken awake in the 7th by Joe Smith's perturbed two batter-two hit-one run sequence or worse still, Aaron Heilman's embittering three hit-two run pasting over 2/3 of the 8th inning which included a humiliating homer by former Met Mike Cameron, was this the latent sign of jet lag we were all hoping they could forstall until after the 9th inning when they were asleep in their hotel chambers?

Nontheless, Jo Sosa, like Oliver Perez before him, performed admirably in his return from the DL, tossing 6 reasonably quiet innings of two-run baseball before succumbing to fatigue demons in the 7th.

Lastings Milledge, moved cleverly into the #2 slot in the order, had as quiet a night as Carlos Beltran, both of whom were handcuffed through 8 at-bats collectively.

David Wright nearly made up for a rally-killer in the first when he was picked off of first, by finishing with 3 hits, a third of the Mets total collectively.

All in all, a snooze of a game in many respects, a hideous return to the mundane by the bullpen who had previously sparkled, a return to the nearly-scoreless depths of West Coast trips (including last night's game and those debacles in Los Angeles last month, the Mets have scored 3 runs over their last 27 innings on the West Coast) and yes, perhaps facing the league's best pitching staff on a jet-lagged night was a good enough excuse for now.

Let the Mets sleep this one off and hope they are awake again by Tuesday night.


It's Not Recovery Yet, It Was Only The Reds

I know, I know.

Taking three out of your first four after the All Star game is enough to get the heart racing again following the break but not so fast - these were the Cincinnati Reds, after all.

We're hungry - bring us some more NL Central Division lambs to slaughter - that's 15-6 now against this meagre little division.

Now if we take two of three from the Padres on the West Coast it might start feeling like reality, we'll see.

Nice to see Oliver Perez fresh rested off the DL coming back to toss 6 reasonable innings, allowing 2 runs and 6 hits whilst striking out 6. Worrisome were the 3 k's, perhaps but shake off the rust and this was nearly a very encouraging return.

I dunno, it's difficult to maintain concentration with Mr Met dressed in combat fatigues and Keith Hernandez cracking jokes about Mr Met needing some war paint on his baseball head because otherwise he's such an easy target. And the two of them in the booth just guffawing acting generally goofy as if they'd never seen a giant baseball with arms and legs dressed in combat fatigues before. How unprofessional is that?

Of course I realise that cruising along with a 5-2 lead in the 7th inning, on the verge of taking three out of four from the miserable Reds, the mind does tend to wander. I mean a few Mets batters even managed hits with runners in scoring position!

Jose Jero!

Or wondering what does it mean that the Mets' attendance over this miserable four-game series was the highest of any four game series in Shea history - is there some giant contigent of wanna-be-clowns who came to watch Adam Dunn bounce fly balls off his head in left field?

Is that Milledge wearing Henry Aaron's number?!

In any event, kudos to Lastings Milledge for scratching out some noise in every game of this four game series. Was there anyone louder with a .222 batting average out there? It seemed like every time a lift was needed, Lastings was there where the big money men like Beltran and Delgado, weren't. (3-4-5 hitters 2 for 9, no RBIs...)

Wonder if Moises Alou is thinkin' Wally Pipp just yet. Maybe he's thinking about how much better Ruben Gotay and his .337 batting average looks with Jose Valentin taking his spot on the bench.

And a few words of advice for the bullpen: Keep it up. 1 earned run in their last 29 innings is the kind of work that will be needed when they're scoring one or two runs a night in San Diego.


Glavine Hits 298 On Ralph Kiner Night

Matt Belisle was tailor-made for the plate-befuddled Mets, or so you thought prior to the game.

7.44 ERA over his last 8 starts and an NL-worst .386 average for hitters against him with runners in scoring position, the fatted calf for anxious Mets batters who can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag with runners in scoring position this season.

So, with one out in 7th, men on first and second and the game tied 1-1 with Belisle on the mound and Carlos Beltran and David Wright coming to the plate, you had the feeling this should be the Mets' moment.

But it wasn't.

Instead you had the pair of them striking out like buffoons against a second-rate pitcher who hasn't shined in months, making one wonder yet again, where is this sudden satori at the plate now that the Mets have juggled hitting coaches?

Forunately for Tom Glavine, a superb 8 inning, 2 hit 1 run performance didn't end in misery and regret owed to Mets meat and potatoes hitters turning into sour mash and rancid, rotting flesh with runners in scoring position.

No, fortunately for Tom Glavine they didn't have to rely on Beltran or Delgado or Wright to save his wonderfully pitched game with a few well-timed hits that were never coming.

Lastings Milledge, whose wild run in Game 1 and homer in Game 2 (off of Mike Stanton)has added an unexpected spark to the team, singled up the middle in the 8th off Stanton to drive Shawn Green home and give the Mets a 2-1 victory, deserved or not.

Clown impersonation in left field by Dunn gave the Mets the chance to win the game.

Green, by the way, knocked in his first run in 16 games and got himself in scoring position in the 8th thanks to Adam Dunn's ridiculously stupid fielding mistake turning what should have been a single into a double.

But even though this was a victory, you can't feel too pleased with the Mets continuing to struggle at key moments at the plate. Glavine will be pleased with a good outing and win number 298 in the books but to struggle this mightily against heretofore unheralded Reds pitching staff for the third night in a row gives was an eerie feeling.


In preparation of seeing the Mets steal 1,000 bases this season on the wisdom of Rickey Henderson's return to the Mets, here are the greatest 25 stories of Rickey's career via 100 percent injury rate.


Mets No Match For First Inning Reds

Official Assignment of Blame:

"I didn't feel good at all," Maine said. "I didn't prepare myself normally like I would every five starts, and it's just bad."

1. John Maine who was absolutely and uncharacteristically miserable against the first 4 batters he faced in the game, all of whom scored on a Brandon Phillips grand slam homer to give the Reds a 4-0 lead with none out to start the game.

2. Paul Lo Duca for the weak double play grounder with the bases loaded to end a potential rally in the 3rd. The Mets were only down 4-1 at that point. Lo Duca is looking down the barrel of an 0 for 17 slump.
HoJo anybody? Is there a HoJo in the house? Two games against the stinkin' Reds, 7 runs...

3. To a lesser degree, David Wright for striking out standing there, unswinging with men on first and second, none out just before Lo Duca killed the rally off for good. Anything but a strikeout looking might have broken the game back for the Mets. What do we expect from a Wright who has crept up to 10th in the league in strikeouts? Big problem of the first half, hitting with RISP. Where is that HoJo Magic and when is it going to start working? Personally, I don't think HoJo is going to make any difference. They say that because he has been with the team and seen the hittest himself all season it'll give him an advantage at looking at what the Mets are doing wrong at the plate but frankly, if he knew that, wouldn't he have said something long ago? I think a new set of eyes or hell, maybe even Keith Hernandez, just so I don't have to listen to his droning, nasal twang in the broadcast booth, would have been a better choice.

4. 5th inning, defensively: Gotay, simple mishandling of a simple lead off grounder. At that point Maine had recovered from his initial battering, had retired 12 of the last 13 batters he'd faced and had struck out the side in the 4th. And Maine still could have gotten out of the inning with ease since he induced the next batter into grounding to Gotay again which should have been a simple double play or at worse, a force-out at second. Instead, Reyes tried to bare-hand the toss to save time and predictably perhaps, dropped the ball. Instead of getting out of trouble, they shoved Maine into a miserable hole no men out and two men on. Thereafter, the game was rubbish.

A Pair of Kudos On A Miserable Night

1. Carlos Delgado, three for two with an RBI double is continuing to show signs of waking out of a season-long slumber. His average is now all the way up to .246 and he's raised his batting average in July to a sizzling .357.

2. Lastings Milledge: 2nd game, 2nd show. This time in the form of a homer and 2 RBIs - the homer coming off former Met Mike Stanton who, at age 40 and toiling away the tail end of his career with a mutt of a team like the Reds, is not to be envied.


2nd Half House Cleaning And Victory

To their credit, knowing that their position is precarious, the Mets didn't sit on their hands during the All-Star break even though they own a 2-game lead in the NL East.

Whilst a night without Rick Down as hitting coach didn't appear to have any magic, restorative powers for the Mets (8 hits, 3 runs against the lowly Cincinnati Reds) his removal and the arrival of Rickey Henderson, who will serve as hitting coach, first base coach or some sort of super duper double secret base stealing team guru, depending on who you talk to.

The change that DID matter, for a night anyway, was the replacement on the roster of the 48 year old Julio Franco with the controversial Lastings "Mr Misunderstood" Milledge.

Very difficult to imagine Franco churning around those basepaths at lightning speed, scoring from first base on a single and executing that sort of slide at home plate.

You don't make slides like this using a walker or leaping from a wheelchair...

I've decided I'm going to root for Lastings and all his fist-pumping, hip-hopping, game-turning ways although I cannot help but wonder what kind of effect the presence of Rickey Henderson in the clubhouse is going to have on Lastings' mid-game card-playing prowess.


Is there a faster start in Mets history to a second half than the back-to-back homers by Jose Reyes and Ruben Gotay to lead off the bottom of the 1st inning last night? Was it HoJo Magic or simply Bronson Arroyo forgetting the All-Star break was over when he returned to the mound?

He had a 6.50 first-inning ERA in the first half of the season. Slow starter.

In any case, it was Reyes' 9th lead-off homer, a franchise record, and Rickey Henderson hasn't even arrived yet.

Meanwhile, El Duque allowed 3 hits over six innings, stole a base and earned the win. True, he surrendered the lead in the 2nd inning, loading the bases by walking the bloody pitcher and then giving up a two-run single to Scott Hatteberg (the moment where we all in unison smacked ourselves on the forehead thinking here we bloody go again!) but a win is a win, regardless of how precariously it was achieved.


If you were wondering why Gotay was even in the lineup to begin with, asking yourself where is Jose Valentin, take comfort in knowing it was reported that he slammed his hand into a wall during an altercation involving the sale of a local team he owns down in Puerto Rico. Valentin said he didn't purposely punch the wall and didn't take part in a fight, instead bruising his hand against the wall out of frustration.

Oh, that's ok then.

Anyway, ponder for a moment the three phrases of that news item: "the sale of a local team he owns", "Puerto Rico" and "altercation".


Not Baseball, Just Jokes

I'm taking the last day of the All Star break to relax. In the interim, I leave you with a couple of Louis CK videos to enjoy:

And here's more american,funniest of all.


Mid-Season Report Card

Perhaps inevitable in all but style, its time to join the legions of bloggers looking back on the first half of the season, grading out the key players and results. As it turns out, this has been much more long-winded than I expected so to ease the eyes at times I will, in true Archie Bunker's Army tradition, give the eyeballs a well-deserved break here and there for what one might call a Fit Bird Break.


Catcher: Paul Lo Duca - Hopefully there is no foreshadowing in his having finished the first half with an 0 for 8 night in the Mets' 17-inning victory over the Astros. That came on the heels of his two game suspension for an outburst the month before and for which he must earn at least a few bonus points for passion, however misguided. Hitting under his career average thus far this season owed in part to his horrific .217 average at Shea and his overall .150 batting average for July. He's hitting a meagre .194 with RISP although to his credit, he is hitting .414 against the Braves. His defence is still better than passable (ranked 7th amongst NL catchers) and although his arm is still light years better than Piazza's, he's thrown out a little more than 25% of runners attempting to steal, ranked 9th in NL. By comparison, Ramon Castro has failed to throw out a single baserunner attempting to steal, 0 for 18 thus far this season.(consider if we were left to the devices of Ramon Castro and 40 somethings the rest of the season...)My biggest concern is durability going into the dog days of the season but to date, I'd rate him: Grade: B (minus)

First Base, Carlos Delgado - Yes, we all know how much Carlos has disappointed this first half of the season. We also might bemoan this All Star break as given his .375 batting average in July it might appear that he is finally hitting his stride after a long wait. One would hope, if the Mets are to have a reasonable chance at defending their NL East title that his .202 average with RISP will greatly improve in the coming months. However, there's always a chance that his disappointing black hole act in the middle of the order may continue on after the break. If that's the case, I don't expect the Mets to be able to limp into the World Series sans their power hitter. Imagine, for example, what the Mets record might look like if Delgado had Prince Fielder's numbers by now...He continues to field respectably although one might point out that he has 4 errors this season, the same as Easley and Valentin have with about the same number of chances but whilst having a somewhat easier fielding job. Grade: D


Second Base, Jose Valentin, Damon Easley and Ruben Gotay - Over the last few years this has been a fill-in-the-gap sort of position and the first half of 2007 is no different. Valentin has appeared at second in 40 games, Easley 37 and Gotay, 13. Their range and fielding is remarkably similar despite the oft-repeated if somewhat unfounded rumours of Valentin's glove superiority. At the plate they are all more less functional, Easley demonstrated power (his 8 homers in about half as many at-bats s the troika of Beltran, Delgado and Wright ahead of him is a remarkable achievement). Valentin, gimping through his season as he is in fairness, has hit .080 in July. This trio has been as functional as it has meant to be. Grade: C

Shortstop, Jose Reyes - Whilst his lack of movement for one moment on one evening earned him a one game suspension there is little fault you can find with this kid's usual non-stop pace, joie de jouer and game-scrabbling efforts on the basepaths. Three years ago his hammies seemed to be crippling, two years ago we didn't think he'd ever learn any plate discipline and since last year we have simply counted the games watching him improve almost day by day. Whilst my pre-season prediction of NL MVP for him was probably a wee over-zealous, he's 1st in stolen bases, 6th in runs scored, and is tied for 9th in the NL in walks!, to name a few accomplishments. He's still got a ways to go but really, finding fault with his season to date is difficult. Ok, despite his speed his range at shortstop is a bit dodgy at times but he still ranks 4th among shortstops in the NL in fielding percentage. Grade: A

Third Base, David Wright - It's hard to knock David Wright; steady, positive and always there. Despite hitting safely in his first 14 games of the season, he was hitting just .239 on May 6 and I seem to recall a few worry warts wondering what was wrong with Wright(how's THAT for alliteration?!) Since then, he's hitting .321 and shows every sign of continued improvement going from .244 in April to .294 for May, .323 in June and .324 thus far in July. I do believe you can say he's hitting his stride. One caveat is his .132 batting average in 9 games against Atlanta. Considering his .270 average against the Braves lifetime in addition to his career number improvement post-All Star game, I expect that to improve. In the field we may wince at times or say ouch at his 10 errors (only four regular starting third baseman in the Majors have committed more,) but overall this guy is as steady as they come. Grade: B


CF, Carlos Beltran - Like Reyes, a few moments against Houston recently linger most - in particular that spectacular game-saving grab in the 14th inning of last Saturday's marathon. I will say, bordering the controversial, that I don't think his season to date really merits a starting All-Star selection and whether that is down to high expectations or simply his numbers I'll leave you to decide. He is certainly an asset in the field with great range, speed and an occasionally uncanny ability for producing marvelous grabs although his pair of outfield assists is hardly earth-shattering, especially when considering Aaron Rowand has nine this season. And that expectation thing, especially at the plate, can get a little bit dodgy at times. He started the season on fire, hitting .356 in April but since then, well, bar a few homers in bunches, his plate work has left alot to be desired. A .253 with RISP for starters, is not what you expect from a guy of his talents. I guess the best to expect is a continued, occasional outburst of the spectacular with a vague semblance of steadiness in between. Grade: C (plus)

Right Field, Shawn Green - Shawn most definately gets a few pity votes for those Dumbo ears of his being so brutally exposed after the head-shaving debacle earlier this season. He also gets points for his .371 average against the Braves so far this season. At the plate he is pretty much on target with last season's combined numbers split between Arizona and the Mets (although better whilst with the D'Backs than the Mets..) His .200 average against lefties is worrisome. And let's face it, he's no Shane Victorino out there in right field although I don't close my eyes every time a ball is hit out to him any more. I didn't expect much out of Shawn Green this season and considering how much exposure Lastings Milledge got in Spring Training, nor did many others it would seem. And yes, to be honest, if Endy Chavez were healthy (and not having to play left field,) considering Chavez's .333 average against lefties, I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Green sit more often against lefties. That's my lukewarm endorsement for the day. Grade: C

Left Field, Anybody but Moises Alou - If you've read this far I'd imagined you'd like to read something funny by now so I'll show you what I wrote back on November 11th after the Mets announced the Moises Alou signing. (Well perhaps "funny" only in an ironic sense...)

"Yes, I unnerstan' - a bat against the lefties, something the Mets were alleged to sorely need late last season, is what Alou stands for. In fact, a .349 average against lefties last season. I see the logic in that sense. Another saavy veteran on the bench, I see that, yes. 98 games played last season due to injury. I see that too. On the heels of 123 games the season before that and 155 the year before that. At the current rate of decline that means Alou will play about 62 games for the Mets next season."

Considering he's played all of 30 games so far this season I'd say that was perhaps overly optimistic.

But let's hope this position resolves itself before season's end. I'd like to see Moises in there cracking away as another live bat in the Mets batting order but I'm not holding my breath. Grade: Much like Daniel Simpson Day in Animal House... HAS no grade point average.


Starting pitching: Like many others I had my doubts about the starting rotation going into this season. Although I didn't care to see the Mets spend untold billions on Barry Zero, (oh, gowon, have yourself a collective larf at Mr Zero's expense for his 4.90 ERA and sparkling 6-9 record!), I have to admit to being well nervous about the starting rotation Omar was prepared to stand pat with. I admit to also being jealous of the Phillies' seemingly ominous offseason trade for Freddy Garcia, but look at him as well: 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA and looking like he'll be lucky to last the season. So kudos firstly to Omar for not flinching.

This rotation has been one surprise after another. First you had John Maine winning NL Pitcher of the Month for April. Then you had Oliver Perez and Jorge Sosa combining to go 8-2 during May. Yes, there was a bit of a swan dive in June but even then, Maine went 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA. (And for the record, John Maine was robbed off the All-Star team this season: 10-4 and a 2.71 ERA is about as good as it gets for any National League pitcher not based on the West Coast.)

There are currently three starters on DL but Maine, Sosa and Perez have been three very pleasant surprises. In the coming months we are likely to see the return of Pedro and if we're lucky, watch Tom Glavine earn his 300th victory.

The starting rotation is ranked third in the National League in ERA thus far (Atlanta 10th and Philly, 14th), and has allowed opposing hitters a mere .241 batting average against them (virtually tied with the Cubs for the best in the National League). The lone caveat, if we're looking for flaws is their 201 free passes, 4th worst in the National League. But all things considered, good job lads, keep it up! Grade: A

Bullpen leading to closer - There are plenty of miserable mutts in this lot. Guillermo Mota (6.65 ERA), Scott Schoeneweis (5.24 ERA) and Aaron Sele (4.41 ERA), if we're naming and shaming here. Joe Smith was shocking early with his scoreless streak that lasted until May 12th. Since then he's touched bsae with reality(7.36 ERA for June) but appears to have recovered with a 1.80 ERA in July. And hey, let's not leave him out there with the bases loaded any more, Willie. Batters are hitting .500 against him with the bases juiced! Aaron Heilman (3.00 ERA in April, 3.77 May, 4.40 June) has been about what you'd expect from a guy who wants to be a starter not a bridge. This is the weakest area (providing there isn't another injury to the outfield) to worry over in the coming months and would would naturally expect this issue to be addressed by Omar in the not-so-distant future. Grade: C plus

Closer, Billy Wagner: There isn't much that 17 saves in 18 chances, a 1.64 ERA, 51 k's 10 bbs over 38 1/3 innings of work doesn't say already. Grade: A


Bench - Having to fill the thre outfield positions at times in addition to second base over and over this season is difficult but the overall play of the bench in filling those gaps has been admirable. In pinch hitting situations, the Mets are hitting .220 which is 8th in the National League. Given Old Man River's fall from grace, like the bullpen, I expect this is an area that needs strengthening for the second half run for glory. Grade: B

Manager, Willie - He hasn't done much about pulling them out of these sudden, painful lulls although the continuing positive message combined with a fierce refusal to deal with any complacency spells good in the long run even if he is essentially powerless and uninspirational in stopping losing streaks by mere stoicism. His style isn't Lou Piniella however so you hope the steadiness holds serve over the instability. I could see him becoming scapegoat number two after Carlos Beltran real fast if things go sour. To date however, he's steadied our expectations. Grade: B

Team - 2 games above the rest of the NL East is not as good as last season going into the break but at times I have the feeling the Mets are merely gathering themselves for an explosive month that puts them over the top once and for all. It's fortunate for the Mets that the NL East has been pitiful for large gaps in the season to date and no one has really been able to muster an extended run on the Mets' hold on the lead. Injuries are never a valid argument but you'd have to expect a serious upswing if they get healthy later in the season. Something to consider - the three top-hitting Mets with runners in scoring position this season are in order, Rickey Ledee, Ruben Gotay and El Duque. They'll need stronger clutch hitting from more reliable sources if the Mets are going to continue answering the bell. Grade: B


Losing Road Trip Concludes First Half

Since the 34th game of the season the Mets have played .500 ball.

Sunday's miserable 8-3 beating saw them split their series against the Astros but finished the road trip on a 5-6 note.

Incredibly, or perhaps thanks to the mediocrity of the NL East, the Mets still maintain a two-game lead over the Braves going into the All Star break.

The first 33 games were outstanding, the final 54, well, so-so, filled with more downs than ups and yet again, the NL East lead is maintained.

On Sunday, with three of their starting pitchers on the DL (Pedro, Sosa and Perez) they enlisted the assistance of Dave Williams fresh from his own stint on the DL following surgery for a herniated disc in his neck.

"Fresh" might be too strong a word. He lasted all of 3 1/3 miserable innings in allowing 10 hits and 8 earned runs, departing with a 21.60 ERA.

Offensively, with replacements like David Newhan (who raised his average "all the way up" to .218 with a pair of hits) and the 40 year old catcher Sandy Alomar, they were stuck in neutral whilst facing All-Star pitcher Roy Oswalt and kept relatively quiet in falling behind quickly by an 8-0 margin.

You could point out that Aaron Sele and Scott Schoeneweis had uncharacteristic outings, tossing a combined 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief, but let's face it, with a lead like the Astros had you have to wonder what their motivation was like to continue pounding as the All Star break loomed. After all, they aren't the Colorado Rockies and this wasn't Coors Field.

Overall, the kind of game you grind your teeth over.

Question is, do you keep grinding your teeth during the break, pondering how long big names will remain on the DL, how long a slender lead in the NL East can be held.

The Mets will open lightly with a four game homestand against the Reds before taking off for a 6-game West Coast to San Diego and Los Angeles. The rest of the month, at home against the Pirates and the Nats, may swing the momentum in time for Pedro's long-awaited return in August.

August of course will likely be the month the Mets either prove their mettle or slide into oblivion considering that along with a series against the NL Central leading Brewers, followed by the Cubs, they will host the Braves for a three-game series. There is a mild break midway through August before the do-or-die moment comes:

Hosting first the Padres then the Dodgers, then traveling to Philly for a 4-game series and concluding the last day of the month opening a series in Atlanta.

If we still hold that fragile lead by August's end, perhaps we can continue to dream but if August mirrors that miserable June or the unfulfilling July, well...


17 Innings: Everything Comes Up Beltran

Lots of things to remark upon over 17 innings, a five hour 19 minute marathon most of which gets forgotten in the wee hours of the morning or as, for example, the first inning fades into the fifth which fades into the ninth and thus into the twelfth and thirteenth innings.

There were two primary game-changing moments in the latter stages; Carlos Beltran's stunning catch in the 14th inning, the twisting, spinning, stumbling uphill grab of Luke Scott's smash on Tal's Hill that would have won the game for the Astros under most any other circumstances.

"You've got to change the way you run. If you run the way you normally run, you're going to hit it and fall down. As soon as I hit the warning track I started doing kind of like high knees, and when I felt like I was on top of the hill the only thing I needed to do was look for the ball. The ball was going to the right side, and I saw it all the way."

Of course he doesn't mention that Joe Smith, making his longest outing of the season, hitting two batters and having his skin saved by the catch, had had also saved the Mets from a 12th inning jam.

Nor is the gamesmanship of Willie in the 9th revisited, when Willie countered pinch hitter Lance Berkman by replacing Heilman with Feliciano and forcing Berkman to his weaker hitting side. Feliciano struck out Berkman to end the inning and whilst it wasn't necessarily a game-turning moment, had Willie guessed wrong, that would have been the day's headline. (Or perhaps that Beltran had been hitless in his 6 at-bats leading up to the 17th...

And despite it's length the game was not suspiciously similar to Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS. 17 innings rather than 16, no championship on the line. 4 minutes, 42 seconds versus over 5 hours. Both in Houston, however and held in the Astrodome rather than this goofy ball park with it's Tal's Hill.

The pernt is however, the game ended for the Mets on a happy note and after 17 innings, exhausting the bullpen, players and the patience of the fans, it was a reward well worth waiting.


Is Losing Fun?

With nothing very positive to take from an uninspiring 4-0 shutout loss, the 5th loss in 6 games for the Mets, (another spin on the merry-go-round of losing) it is time to examine Mike Pelfrey's growing proximity to Anthony Young.

Is this the inner soul of Michael Alan Pelfrey, the 2001 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year?

You might consider it absurd to compare Pelfrey's "slow start" to Young's fantastic journey down the motorway of 27 consecutive losses, an infamous mark of descent into the depths of sleazy inferiority.

To whit:

"Young made five starts in June. He lost all of them. (During one start, he burst into tears on the mound -- a problem that Young attributed to an allergic reaction.)"

Following his 1-16 performance in 1993, Young was eventually delivered to the Chicago Cubs for a slap hitter by the name of Jose Vizcaino. Vizcaino went on to become the Mets Player of the Year in 1995.

Vizcaino also went on to stab the Mets in the heart with a game-winning 12th inning single in Game One of the 2000 World Series.

What does all this have to do with Pelfrey? Sweet feck all but at least for a few seconds anyway I was able to forget an ugly and disappointing loss.

And the truth is, despite his remarkable streak of losing, Young's ERA was 3.77 in 1993, his 1-16 season. Pelfrey on the other hand, lumbers along with a flatulent ERA of 6.11 and whilst he is still perhaps years from Young's record, let's face it, 0-7 after 8 starts is pretty goddamned ugly, no matter how you dress it:

On the other hand, Cy Young pitcher of pitchers, the most celebrated moundsman of All-Time, lost 316 games in his career.

Hey, Mike. Look on the bright side. Even counting last season you're still 308 behind Cy.


Booing Beltran

It seems a bit trite, petty even that three years gone from Carlos Beltran's free agent move to the Mets from Houston, Astros fans still boo his plate arrivals.

It seemed even more ridiculous when he struck out his first THREE at-bats in last night's game, the second strikeout coming with two outs and the bases loaded, the Mets fostering a narrow 2-0 lead.

But Beltran got his redemption in the 9th, homering for the first time in his career against the Astros, adding another run to the Mets first victory in 5 games, a welcomed victory out of the confines of Coors Field, far from the pitching embarassments of the last half of the week.

Is this the official staff ace?

Not only did the Mets win but they did so with a brilliant spot of pithing courtesy of John Maine who, in winning his 10th game of the season and 4th in a row, should have caused further embarassment to the muppets in charge of the All Star Game who left him off the squad.

Maine struck out the side in the 1st inning sending a positive message for a team whose pitching staff has been somewhat of a running joke over the last three games.

Not only was Maine outstanding but 4 of the Mets 13 hits on the night came from an unexpected source, Carlos Delgado, who raised his batting average all the way up to .242. Despite his rather pitiable struggles at the plate Delgado has still managed productivity as 47 RBIs on the season and third best on the team, would attest to.

With the announcement that Carlos Gomez became the latest Met outfielder to suffer misfortune this season, it is clear that the adversity has not often abandoned us this season.

Imagine that at the moment, Moises Alou, Endy Chavez, Jorge Sosa, Oliver Perez, Gomez and Pedro Martinez are all members of the current Met DL and you begin to get an idea that the Mets' 47-37 record, their lead in the NL East and the fact that they haven't wilted entirely in a Fleurs du Mal flight of fancy, is all quite fascinating.

Reyes scores early and quickly...

And yes, the series in Colorado was indeed an embarassment and yet, given all that has come to pass, not the lowest point of the season to date. Eventually, the Mets pick themselves up, dust themselves off, glance quickly at their lead in the NL East despite such adversity, and carry on, like a team of destiny.


Fireworks Explode In Mets' Face

So you've got El Duque on the mound, David Wright, who went into this game hitting .447 at Coors Field, hits a 3-run homer in the first inning and basically you feel almost comfortable in thinking, ok, losing streak ends tonight, right? Bzzzz. Wrong.

One Man Does Not A Victory Make...

Well, not immediately wrong of course. For an inning at least you could entertain such thoughts.

But by the second, the leaking started. Brad Hawpe, 375 feet to right center field made it 3-2. Ok, it's Coors Field, it's 4th of July, homers flying out like illegal aliens from the back of a lorry at the border...anything's possible in a hitter's ball park.

Not for the Mets hitters. Not even against a strawman like Josh Fogg.

By the bottom of the 3rd the Rockies had tied it up after Sullivan stole his first base of the season, advanced to third on El Duque's wild pitch and scored on a long fly to right.

Ok, tie game after 3 innings, still liking the chances. Sure, the Mets had taken the lead in the first inning the night before and lost but you aren't going to do that two nights in a row, are you?

Apparently, yes.

El Puqué lets a .242 hitter double to lead off the 4th and now we know, kids. Now we know this is not a night for Cuban defectors. Will we be slowly bled, inning by inning, run by run? After all, these Rockies had put up 6 runs in the 3rd against Glavine, didn't they?

For the second inning a row, bases are loaded and there are two outs for the Rockies with Todd Helton up. Helton, by the way, that bush around his face masquerading as facial hair, hiding god knows what, almost gets juked by the Eephus pitch. And the 9th pitch of the at-bat, he throws another Eephus pitch, walking a run home. Is this a game or a joke? Two eephus pitches to one batter?

Sure, El Puqué hasn't got his stuff and is thus the author of his own misfortune however it didn't help when Jose Reyes takes what pretends to be an inning-ending grounder in the hole and instead of going for the force at third or second to end the inning, he sends a Daryl Lamonica over Carlos Delgado's head to let two more runs score. Only Valentin's saving grab prevented the damage worse than a 6-3 hole.

Must we go on? Hernandez, who was pre-game the man you wanted out there on the mound to stop a losing streak threw what, 70 or 71 pitches over the 3rd and 4th innings, the Mets lose their early lead, blablabla.

Well whaddaya know - the Mets battle back for a run in the 5th to narrow the lead to 2 and hell, there's still 4 innings to go and hey, these are the Mets, leaders of the NL East, conquerors of the puny, there's nothing they can't do!

But instead of opting to keep the game in reach, Willie summons post-steroid Guillermo Mota.

Bye, bye game.

You think El Duque's outing was El Stinko?

What you need son, is a few deep injections...

Just stick Mota in there and watch the runs, like numbers on a pinball machine, accumulate faster than you can count.

Now I suppose Willie meant well. I mean somebody from this beleaguered bullpen has got to start pitching like they mean it and Mota had gone two whole games without surrendering an earned run and whilst that doesn't mean he's the same Steroid Star of yesteryear, Willie's go-to man of 2006, I suppose his guess is as good as mine or yours. Why not stretch the lead to irretrievable proportions?

But say hey Willie, let's face it. Mota was shit before steroids, great during steroids and shit after steroids. It's time to set Guillermo free. And it's time for Omar to commence the search for a reasonable replacement.

By the time the dust settled, by the time this batter-by-batter bloodletting had concluded it was 12-4 and think what you want, even the most optimistic of fans must have been sitting there in front of that television wondering are you feckin kidding me?

So Three Losses all involving eruptions: Glavine's in the 3rd inning of Game One, Vargas' entire outing in Game Two and Duque and Mota tag-team sabotage in Game Three.

We won't even bother marking down the rest of the bullpen's tepid performance because by then nobody really cared any more anyway. Not when you're looking at a 17-7 football finale.

But hey, it wasn't just us. The Rockies completed an historic sweep of New York, both the Mets and Yankees. Of course, the Yankees are floundering in the bile of their own mediocrity, a contemptible team with a losing record, nothing to compare the Mets to. Still, this Rocky Mountain Nightmare is over and it's going to be time to move on to Houston.


As you will note with shock and perhaps horror, the Army has been reorganised, modified, emboldened, well, changed.

Not to break July's losing streak although if it does, I'm taking immediate credit.

Just because we're nearing the All-Star break and there's a little free time left since I'm not stuck living Guillermo Mota's nightmare.

Links have been added where possible although I may have inadvertently left off a few readers/writers - if that is the case, let me know and I'll, oh, I dunno, give up six earned runs in two thirds of an inning?


July Starting Uglier Than June

Three games and three losses for July 2007.

No amount of mound chatter was going to turn this into a successful outing

Last night even more hideous than Tom Glavine's miserable 3rd inning the night before, was Zephyr Jason Vargas' pitching for the Mets.

Now we can cut the kid a little slack. After all, I seem to recall 7 innings on May 17th against the Cubbies that ended with a walk-off homer by Carlos Delgado where Vargas threw a reasonable 7 innings of six-hit, five-run pitching (two homers and a 6.43 ERA to show for it).

But there, kid. You've been cut your slack and then you go and hang yourself with the kind of atrocious outing that should make you happy to take the next bus back to New Orleans. I mean, wild pitch, balk, intentional base on balls, unintentional base on balls, 11 bloody hits, two of which were homers and 9 earned runs surrendered and you didn't even make it out of the 4th goddamned inning?

What was this? Justin Vargas' impression of German neo-expressionist painter Anton Henning? (Henning's Composition with Meatballs, Gherkins, Beetroot, Potatoes, Watermelon, Lemon Juice, Riesling, and Large Brownie,having disgourged a painting using his own faeces rather than oils...not so far from giving up 11 hits and two walks in less than four innings of work...)

And hey, if 9 runs aren't enough for you, let's have Joe Smith and Aaron Sele combine to give up another pair because lord knows, 9 runs for the likes of Aaron Cook (0-3 for June with a plus 5 ERA)is far too small a lead to hold against the venerable Mets batting order.

Cook did throw 7 shutout innings at Shea earlier this season but yes, the Rockies bullpen is the worst in the MLB with 18 blown saves, so you do the maths - did we really need to see the bullpen choke down another pair of runs?

It wasn't all hideous.

In fact, the game began nicely enough before Vargas took the mound.

Night of the Living Jason Vargas'

A first pitch bunt single from Jose Reyes, about 15 nervous tosses to first by Cook before Reyes stole his 41st of the year anyway. Gotay chopping a ball to Cook, who threw it a third to try and get Reyes but ended up seeing the ball get away and Reyes scoring the first run of the game.

Wright's 45th RBI scored Gotay to make it 2-0 and you could almost sense, wow, small ball might smoke 'em tonight. Delgado followed with a single to put runners on first and third with only one out but well, Shawn Green ended that potential moment of beauty prematurely with his double play grounder.

Still, you'd think But sadly, no. That 2-0 lead did not hold up with Vargas on the mound. Not at all.

The lead off bunt single king Taveras worked a 9-pitch bloop single. Former Met hero Kaz Matsui, reborn in Colorado, singled to Gomez in left who bobbled the ball and put runners on second and third with none out. Smelled trouble? Matui had FIVE HITS last night against the Mets.

Halladay had a two-run single, perhaps not unexpectedly, to tie the game with the greatest of ease and then a batter later, Garrett Atkins had a two-run homer to give the Rockies a lead they wouldn't lose.

The Mets could have brought up Brian Lawrence (5-2 3.78 ERA) instead of Vargas, I mean, why not? But all that kind of hindsight isn't going to erase a loss as ugly as this one. But this is Colorado facing a New York team. Strangely enough the Rockies have won 5 in a row against the Yanks and Mets, outscoring them by a 32-10 margin.

And yet again, fortunately for the Mets, both the Phillies AND the Braves shot themselves in the foot and instead of closing the gap, remained behind the Mets in the NL East.


In an effort to avoid a humiliating sweep, the Mets use El Duque to try and offset Josh Fogg, who has given up 12 runs in 9 2/3 innings over his last two appearances.

And not all the news was bad last night.

Pedro Warming Up

Pedro threw a second simulated game without his arm detaching from his shoulder giving us all wild hopes about an August return.


Nightmares, recurring nightmares

As pretty as a loss is ever going to be...

Well, at least we've still got Jorge Julio to kick around.

He gave us our only two runs whilst on the mound for the Rockies in the 8th and perhaps in somewhat typical fashion, even if they did come sans walks, there was that wild pitch that scored Ruben Gotay.

Otherwise, not much good can be said after the comedown from that somewhat euphoric grind over the Phillies on the weekend.

Someone tell me again, why the fuck am I pitching in Colorado?

And hey, let's face it, since the Mets were facing in Jason Hirsh, a rookie with one victory in his previous 12 starts, it was perhaps inevitable that they would twist him into the team ace - let's have a show of hands indicating the number of Mets victories against no-name, nowhere pitchers this season.

And hey, let's add insult to injury because not only did Hirsh pitch the wind out of the Mets' sails, he added an improbable two-out, two-run single in that dreadful third inning, his first RBIs of the season and only his 2nd hit in 42 at-bats. He went on to add another hit to raise his season's batting average all the way up to .103.

Despite past success at Coors, Tom Glavine suffered through a nightmarish 3rd inning: With one out he allowed consecutive singles to Willie Taveras and Jamey Carroll (right, and if you're like me you're wondering who the fuck is Jamey Carroll kidding with his flowery girl's name and his .213 batting average) before two-time All-Star Matt Holliday crunched a three-run homer to make it an easy math, 3-0 lead.

But whilst even that was enough to doom the Mets, Glavine wasn't done. He got Todd Helton to line out and you could almost breath your sigh of relief before another questionable major leaguer, Garrett Atkins singled to start a second-gasp rally.

Glavine then walked Troy Tulowitzki (his dismay at having done so is registered in the photo above) before Brad Hawpe, yet another in a seemingly unending supply of no-name batters the Rockies had to torture Glavine with when he wasn't torturing himself, dropped a bloop single center to score another run. After intentionally walking the .205 hitting catcher Chris Iannetta to pitch to the pitching who hadn't had a hit since high school, the pitcher of course, this being Glavine's nightmare inning, singles home the final two runs.

Just ugly, ugly, ugly.


Now that the All-Star selections are public news we can all scratch our heads as to why the drink-driving, reptilian manager Tony La Russa named the Rockies' demoted closer to the All Star team.

We can also be thankful the break is coming considering that Oliver Pérez is joining Jorge Sosa for a little midseason party aboard the SS Disabled List.

This leaves Jason Vargas to throw to the lions on Tuesday. 6-4 with a 4.35 ERA for New Orleans is nothing impressive. Especially when you consider that in his last three outings he's pitched six innings and given up seven hits in each yet won two of them.