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...

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