Exhale: The Mets Have Another Day To Live

Hello, God? I promise never to do another Subway commercial if you just give us a few more wins....?

Amazing that the game started very similar to the disaster the day before.

Friday night Uggla drew a one out walk in the first inning and was driven home by Hermida's two-run homer that set the tone for the rest of the game.

Saturday, Uggla again drew a one out walk in the first inning only this time was part of a strike 'em out throw 'em out as Hermida whiffed and Castro threw out Uggla trying to steal. Entirely different omen.

19 hits and 13 runs later the Mets had held up their end of the bargain breaking their free-fall losing streak and waiting to learn their fate, unaccustomed as they are this season to needing some help from the Phillies.

As though all the suffering had reached it's climax the Mets came out hard and fast scoring a pair in the 1st inning, three in the 2nd and three more in the 3rd to give the Mets a daring 8-0 lead.

Despite a 8.24 ERA over his last 4 starts John Maine was a virtuoso on the mound, striking out 14 Marlins whilst allowing only one 8th inning hit and no runs.

And yet despite it all, despite the Phillies playing their part by losing to the Nats, you are left to wonder what this powerful 13-0 victory means.

Starting in RF in place of Shawn Green, Lastings powered two homers and the chance to interview Kevin Burkhardt.

Have they shot their final wad of the season, ready to surrender meakly on Sunday?

Did such a massive onslaught finally shake the monkey off their back and will they now begin that run that takes them to the World Series?

Was it all simply a matter of beating up a struggling young left hander named Seddon, followed by an strugglinger pitcher with an 11.68 ERA named Mr Wolf, and then just letting the momentum take them home from there?

Of course with the Mets having blown three games with leads of 4 or more runs, you couldn't be certain until perhaps the first three innings had ended and the dancing could commence in the stands.

The Mets Feisty For the First Time All Season...(well everyone bar Reyes, who was busy fraternising and yucking it up with Lindstrom - when he wasn't busy quitting on choppers and failing to run to first - funny thing is, when the dust-up continued with Reyes at the centre, Reyes appeared to push Sandy Alomar in front of the Olivo punch...)

Showing some fight for the first time in 161 games, the Mets might have finally awoken.

Savour it. Enjoy it whilst you can because this might just have been the final happy moment of the Met season.


O Miseria! Mets Out of FIrst

And to herself she cries,
"Oh misery! Oh misery!
"Oh woe is me! oh misery!"

It was about as close as the Mets have come this season to a "must win" game and as in the 7 preceding games, they didn't.

The renewed vibrancy at Shea didn't prevent a first inning homerbomb by Jeremy Hermida out the Mets two runs in the hole before Oliver Perez had gotten the second out of the game.

No more smiling now...

The common consensus was that Jose Reyes had to get the Mets started and started early, especially down 2-0. Instead, Reyes went down on strikes watching a slider leading off the bottom of the 1st.

Two bad omens for a team that had gone 14 innings without a run, even if they were going against, in B.Y. Kim, a mug who had gone 0-4 in 4 starts against the Mets, giving up 21 runs in less than 20 innnings.

Not enough jersey to hide your face in humiliation.

Perez wasn't much better the rest of his brief outing either, puking up six runs in only 3 2/3 innings, a humiliating performance considering the circumstances and the opponent which included a hideous third inning where the world came crashing down around both him and the Mets.

WHAAAAAT were you thinkin?

Perez wasn't helped by a positively idiotic failure by David Wright to force out the runner at third to get a rally-killing double play which put even more pressure on him but hitting three batters, two of which forced runs in, was equally inexcusable.

Precisely the kind of Met-Ugly Baseball that had seen their lead shrink from 7 games to none and now, to one game behind the Phillies. The collapse is complete.

Rightly, Wright confessed later "Personally, I'm embarrassed" as well he should be. As well they all should be to fold so meekly in their moment of truth.

The only question remaining is whether or not the obituary should be written already with two painful games left to play.

In Philly anyway, they've already loaded up the clubhouse with champagne.

With John Maine prepared to take his 2-5 record with a 7.06 ERA in his last 10 starts on the Mets Biggest Game of the Year, we can only hope the delivery was premature.


Don't Look Now But It's All Tied Up!

Well, if you’re desperate for silver linings in clouds take solace. At least you won’t have to root for the Braves anymore.

And whilst the 10th loss in 14 games, the 7th consecutive loss at Shea Stadium was the worst of the 159 game old season, by far the most humiliating and worrying of the season, whilst the Mets have surrendered a 7-game NL Least lead and now stand empty-handed, tied with the dreaded Phillies for Phirst, there are still at least three games left in the season. Three games to redeem themselves. Three games to wake up from their collective nightmare. Three games to salvage what is at the moment, potentially the most degrading and demoralising collapse in baseball history.

Bring on the Marlins?

Don't Cry For Me Mister Met Fans...

Perhaps Pedro is the only blameless Met given how well Pedro pitched, how good he looked throwing 105 pitches giving up two earned runs.

But even the Myth of the Mighty Mr Pedro is depleted because the reality was, Pedro was outpitched at home by a guy named Joel Piñeiro.

Shut out by the team that eliminated them from the NLCS last season.
Shut out by the team fielding what closely resembled a minor league lineup.
Shut out by the team the Mets opened the season against by sweeping.
Shut out by the team that had been 1-9 on the road in September.

"We're gonna win this thing," Willie was alleged to have muttered to reporters after the most disasterous game of the Mets season.

Are we?

Well goddamn! Alright!

I sure want to see you win this thing!

Question now is, can you beat the Marlins?

And yes, even if you can, the position now is there is now guarantee it's enough any more. Now you've got to hope the Nats put up the kind of phight against the Phillies as they did in sweeping the Mets earlier this week.


So forget about losing with Pedro on the mound. Forget about losing a 7 game lead in the NL Least? Forget about the trajectory of the Phillies, who appear to finally be on the verge of Baseball God Repayment for their 1964 collapse? and have finally reached phirst place and finally appear to be the team to beat. Forget about how poorly the starting pitching fared against the Nats. Forget about how wretched the bullpen has pitched, how many winnable games were lost. Forget about how many months the Mets struggled at the plate and how they only woke up for the final month and now, with a game they needed to win against the Cardinals, yet again the bats fell silent.

Forget about how many months the lead should have been in double digits with how poorly the Phillies and Braves were playing by comparison and the Mets simply allowed these teams to stay alive by not putting together an impressive run all season.

Forget everything because it all comes down to three games at Shea to put things right.

This weekend is the Mets season.

I only wish I could be in New York and in Shea this weekend to scream my throat bloody and watch these Mets redeem themselves. Those of you who are, I sure hope you will be.

Ya gotta believe.

Don't let the Mets season end up looking like this!


Amazin Agony!

Looks like University of Illinois!


Six straight games lost at home.

9 losses in their last 13 games.

57 runs for Nats in their last 6 games against the Mets, 22 in their last 3.

Thankful for the early 5-0 lead or Praying For A Win?

But hey, good news Willie! The Mets pitching held the Nats to under double digits tonight!

So let's see, with the Mets in the middle of a Massive Collapse, struggling to maintain a rapidly dwindling lead in the NL East, on the verge of an historic collapse and who comes out to the mound for the Mets?



Cy Young?


Phillip Humber.

Phillip Humber, you decide, better or worse than Tom Glavine? Four innings, six hits, five runs and two walks. Should El Duque should have started? Of course not! Let's save him for the 7th inning...

The lead is down to one tiny little game.

The Death Watch Continues...

Against the Nats, the Nats mind you, a 5-0 lead, a 6-2 lead...pfffffft.

Air out of the tire and the next thing you know, Humber, Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano combining to give away the lead.

When you see Smith allowing consecutive RBI singles, bringing Washington to within 6-5 and getting booed off the mound is it impossible to remember that scoreless streak he started the season off with?

It didn't really matter that Billy Wagner (who one caller on WFAN said couldn't close an umbrella let alone a game,) allowed a few more runs in. With the Mets bats falling silent against who? The Nats bullpen, that's who, did it really matter that Wagner gave up a few runs or a hundred runs? The Mets were already deflated after surrendering what they were certain was the winning lead and weren't going to be heard from again, bar two infield hits the rest of the game...

And there's Willie dreaming aloud in the postgame conference closing out the season with 4 straight victories. Ha! Of course you are. So are the rest of us.

but winning ONE game of the next four, in the setting of this Demetropolitaning the NL East lead, is beginning to seem like somebody's sick joke.

Perhaps the worst is sitting up at 4 am in England watching the Phillies-Braves games on tv rooting for the bloody Braves to rally. No fancy chopping mind you but before I knew it there I found myself secretly hoping Chipper would pull them through like he does so often against the Mets. It won't get uglier the rest of the season.

And coming up fast on the inside...here come the Phillies....Kyle Lohse became the third pitcher to last seven innings since Aug. 30, joining Kyle Kendrick (Aug. 31) and Jamie Moyer (Sept. 14). Just imagine saying that ONCE about the Mets starting rotation....

And now for a night, we'll be waiting for Pedro to Save The Day.

Is it too much to ask too late?

If it is, there'll be an entire winter of bashing to follow...

(and don't be suprised when you start hearing about another former Yankee being whispered as a Willie replacement...Joe Girardi? Shhhhhhh.)


Tonight's Loser's Theme: Encouraged By Comeback

Most night's the whipping boy can be the bullpen. Sure, they're overtaxed in some spots, simply incompetent for the job in others but by and large, the bullpen is the expert in being The Goat.

Oh well, now that I think about it, sometimes it's the inexperienced or incapable starting pitching; the Unmechanical Maine, the Pitched-Well-In-Spots Pelfrey, the Oliver Perez who occasionally channels the Ghost of Zambrano.

And yes, come to think of it, sometimes it's fielding buffoonery, sloppy baserunning, sometimes it's a lack of clutch hitting.

In fact, the Mets seem capable of losing for just about any reason, under any set of circumstances.

And if they're weren't enough excuses already, on the tail end of losing two in a row to the lowly Nats they will throw untested Phillip Humber on to the mound in the middle of a heated pennant race with a steadily dwindled NL Least lead at stake!

Well when you think of it, why not Humber?

After all, what did future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine do on the mound tonight?

He got hit early and he got hit hard.

No, not a bad dream, all too terribly true. In the middle of a pennant race with our Hall of Fame pitcher on the mound, the Nationals scored four runs in the first inning alone. Yes, that was the second worst team in the NL Least handing Glavine his first loss in two and a half months, smacking 16 hits off of 4 Mets pitchers.

That was the Nats running up a humiliating 10-3 lead in the 9th inning threatening to demoralise the lowly Mets even further.


But aha, this time the Mets stage a furious rally, this time even in falling short the Mets are grasping at straws, this time although they were the laughingstocks for 8 innings, they did manage that bottom of the 9th near-comeback and they did manage somehow, to hold on to their trepid 2-game lead whilst the Phillies were busy getting punched out by the Braves.


Clearly there were no real heroes pitching off the mound for the Mets but at the plate the Mets were once again demonstrating this often hoped-for offensive power that had appeared hamstrung most of the season led dramatically and nearly-heroically by Moises Alou, on one leg; extending his Mets-record 29 game hitting streak with four hits, including that three-run double in the 9th.

Or for that matter, Jose Reyes' 3-run homer in the 9th which was yet another of those wasted moments of maddening encouragement, like Chavez's miraculous Game 7 catch in the NLCS last season, that ultimately went for naught.

But for that minor flicker of hope was there the Delgado and Reyes and Sosa episode, the comedic equivilent of Tinkers to Evers to Chance, an episode that did not add to the mounting Met error count for the season but certainly did not harnass any kind of deep-rooted confidence for even the most simply batted balls.


So what we have is another excruciating loss albeit one day closer to backing into clinching the NL Least. Another day to bemoan these horrible Mets, a team one simply cannot yet be proud of, a day when Mets fans were reduced to rooting for the Braves, doing the chop at Shea! (Just as did the fans at Wrigley Field when the Braves, 2007's ultimate NL spoilers, were beating up on the Brewers).


So hang tight.

This isn't the post season just yet but the Mets are still one step closer to getting there and as they say, once they are there, anything can happen.


Time Is Now, Urgent Urgent BlahBlahBlah

I fully expected to return home from yet another four or five day hiatus into the void catching up on all the stories of the Mets having risen to the challenge, the bullpen righting itself, the Phillies squashed and Willie setting up his postseason rotation.

Instead I rub my hands together, turn on the computer and start reading one rotten story after another; Willie can't manage, the rotation is in shreds, the bullpen still sucks, and Reyes continues to be mired in a deep slump.

The Phillies are not only NOT dead but sit on the precipice of knocking the Mets from the top of the NL East with another pair of crap Met performances.

Shall I sit on my hands like Willie and talk about urgency and how the time is now?

Of course this was cute a week ago, like a baby belching, this little swoon was charming in its own silly little way. Sure, the Mets were playing like mugs but the NL East had been a long competition of out-mediocre'ing each other all season long and a few more days of one miserable outing after another wasn't going to suddenly upset that balance.

So whilst we could pseudo-scare ourselves into thinking the NL East was at stake most of us were quietly laughing in the back of our minds thinking to ourselves, sure - it's all been done before: The White Sox a few years back nearly losing it all to the Indians, the Tigers and Cardinals making a mockery of the last several weeks of their regular seasons - this sort of precident was exactly what we were looking for: the reasoning why it was ok the Mets were playing like they sucked.

This was the lull before the storm.


Bullpen over the last 30 days:

Guillermo Mota 1-2 5.02 ERA
Pedro Feliciano 0-0 4.85 ERA
Jorge Sosa 0-2 6.92 ERA
Scott Schoeneweiss 0-0 5.91 ERA
Aaron Sele 0-1 8.10 ERA
Billy Wagner 0-1 4.82 ERA

You might be happy to see a postseason Mets starting rotation of Glavine, Pedro and El Duque (and Oliver Perez if a series went that far) but you can't escape realising that bar Perez, none of these guys are likely to pitch more than 5 innings and you have to wonder just what the hell will happen to the Mets every night from the 7th inning on....


IsThe Blood-Letting Over?

Well, one 8-4 victory over the hapless Nats and the world seems a little rosier.

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again,
So let's sing a song of cheer again,
Happy days are here again.
All together, shout it now!
There's no one who can doubt it now.
So let's tell the world about it now,
Happy days are here again.
Your cares and troubles are gone,
There'll be no more from now on!


Just one Jorge Sosa relief performance that didn't mimic the last month's 6.75 ERA (worse even than Guillermo Mota's 6.35 ERA over the same period).

Just one Mike Pelfrey victory, the man who looked like he'd never win in a Met's uniform this season on his way to an 0-7 start, gutting out an ugly performance with a little run support after the Mets had scored more than five runs only once in his 11 previous starts.

Just one victory after 5 losses in a row, combined with the end to the Phillies winning streak and for one day anyway, all the derisive chatter about the Mets faltering dreams, all the Gene Mauch and '64 Phillie comparisons, all the maddening fear glazing over in the eyes of Flushing, poof, gone for a day.

In the interim, let's forget about ANOTHER three errors committed, the fact that Moises Alou is gimping about on one 41-year old leg, that Lo Duca's knuckles are swollen to the size of watermelons, that El Duque is out until the post-season, that Jose Reyes, despite a pair of hits and a pair of runs, still does not appear back to mid-season form and that the bullpen, having redeemed itself for a night, still has at least 11 and perhaps as many as 30 more games to drive us mad.

For one day, the pressure is off and as those looking on the ambitiously optimistic side of things might recount: this is the struggle the Mets needed, the pressure to prepare for the post-season run.

The Magic Number is Down To 9 but the D-Train is up next...


Bet he's not disappointed about lining his bloody pockets though

"I'm disappointed with the way the team is performing overall, and that's everyone, top to bottom,'' Mets COO Jeff Wilpon told SI.com


Magic Number, Ha! Let The Chokedown Begin

Hey, let's hear it for the Mets! They finally made it through 9 innings without an error!

Ok, enough of the good news. Let's resume our death watch of the New York Mets, once the indominable force of the NL East now a patient etherised upon a table.

So, did you hear the one about the Nats scoring scoring 8 earned runs and getting 11 hits in less than 5 innings against John Maine? A real bloody knee-slapper, that one. Almost as funny as the one about those same Nats scoring 12 runs on 13 hits the night before that. Stop! You're making me piss myself with laughter! I mean let's be realistic, you're talking about a team that lost 83 out of 149 games they'd played up until they met the Mets. Not even the Phillies...well, nevermind.

And Maine performed his characteristic Unmechanical Maine Meltdown in the 5th yet again for all his adoring fans; you can almost set your bloody watch by it by now, I give it a 75, Mr Clark, I like the lyrics but it is hard to dance to...

Classic Unmechanical Maine Meltdown...

"I thought he was throwing the ball pretty good, actually," the typically delusional Willie Randolph said of Maine's near-meltdown the inning before that and exploring his rationale for leaving Maine in the Game. "I didn't think he was losing it." Of course you didn't, Willie. But then again, you keep summoning Guillermo Mota, Public Enemy Number One, game after game as if one of these nights the residue of auld steroid use is going to kick back in.

But if you really want to have a larf, consider this:

"Moises Alou, who's missed a significant chunk of the season because of a severely strained left quadricep, was removed from the game on Tuesday night because of what the Mets termed as "tightness" in the same muscle."

No, this is Comedy Central folks because just when you thought you'd enough funny stories for one day, you realise that the Mets new number one nemesis not only won AGAIN but won it in the 14th inning, their 6th in a row, coupled with the Mets enemic 5-game losing streak means the LEAD IS DOWN TO ONE AND A HALF GAMES.

For those keeping score at home:

Countdown to Chokedown.


Who Stole The Mets?


One baseball team, based out of Flushing, Queens and answers to the name of "NY Mets"

Last seen on Wednesday, 12 September at Shea Stadium defeating their arch-rivals, the Atlanta Braves.

If you live in the vicinty of Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, Queens, PLEASE check your garage, shed or basement for my team. Ask your neighbors to do the same.
They have a tendancy to disappear for several days at a time but are otherwise usually ruling the National League East. They love to explore new ways of losing, breaking hearts and get dirty. They are generally clad in blue and orange colors and come in all shapes, sizes and colours, some fast, some slow, some young, some auld.

If you thought it was a stray team, and took them home, PLEASE bring them back.
I cannot sleep thinking they are lost or hurt or afraid!

Reward: The National League East title and a place in the post season.


Ugly, Uglier, Ugliest

There have been some truly ugly moments in this season for the Mets so far. Several of them have already come against the Phillies in series' past. But Sunday's loss included not only ANOTHER sweep of the Mets by the Phillies but certainly one of the ugliest games the Mets have played all season.

Good-bye, Blue Skies...

Being truthful, surrendering 11 walks and making SIX errors in what is arguably your biggest game of the season to date is not just ugly, it stinks of choke.

The Phillies didn't really beat the Mets on Sunday, the Mets beat themselves. The Mets beat themselves so hard they may have knocked themselves into a coma.

And what was once a very, very comfortable lead is now three games smaller and the Phillies, having swept two series' in a row, home and away from the Mets, might finally have their vindication for all the mockery they withstood earlier this season for claiming to be the team to beat in the East.

And you might just begin to believe that perhaps they deserve this NL East title more than the Mets, given how the Mets have played against them.

Does it really matter that David Wright reached the 30/30 plateau when his team is choking worse than Mama Cass on a chicken bone?

Please don't give me no mo' Phillies to eat!

Yes, they could moan that a pinch-hit grand slam by Greg Dobbs in the sixth inning did them in but they'd be kidding themselves with that performance. Greg Dobbs didn't give up 11 walks or make 6 errors in Mets uniform in one game. The Mets did.

On the other hand, one need only recall what happened to the St Louis Cardinals last season, how they almost blew a substantial lead in the NL Central, were then everyone's dogs to kick in the post-season when they finally managed to clinch and then turned it all around once the game began to mean something again.

Aye, it's called whistling in the dark.

The big boogeyman is waiting around the corner in the hall, in the dark and that boogeyman is the idea that the Phillies might just be the team to beat in the NL East after all....


Not Even Pedro Is Enough

"You don't want this carrying over,"
--Marlon Anderson. the 2nd Met ejected in 2 games, on the string of losses to the Phillies.

All sorts of evil theories could spring up following Saturday's brutal 5-3 loss to the Phillies, the 7th loss in a row for the Mets against their closest rivals.

The primary one, that The Bullpen Sucks was never in more evidence than Saturday: well, perhaps that's a bit hyperbolic - so many nights the bullpen has seemed ineffective that the competition for the more demoralising or worst example is simply too numerous to narrow down.

In Philly they're getting so cocky they're calling us The NY Pets.

The normally steady Pedro Feliciano allowed a leadoff double and an unearned run in the seventh inning, and he gave up a leadoff home run to Aaron Rowand in the eighth that tied the score. Striking out the side the inning before was exciting but one wonders what Willie was thinking leaving Feliciano out there for an unusual second inning of work.

Jorge Sosa, (taking Heilman's usual set-up spot because Heilman was going to do the closing since Willie had declared Billy Wagner needed the night off (during an important series against your closest rivals? Is this smoke to cover a more serious fire?), was even worse than Feliciano. Sosa walked his first batter, pinch-hitter Wes Helms, retired two batters -- one on a sacrifice bunt -- and walked Pete Laforest with Rollins, author of The Team To Beat phrase and a primary MVP candidate for the Phillies, on deck.

The galling thing about the lack of success of the Mets bullpen in blowing their second game in a row is how good and scoreless the Phillies bullpen has been by comparison.

If you recall earlier this season, the bullpen was thought to be the Phillies' achilles heel, the reason they really weren't the team to beat.

But the Mets are also exceedingly good at beating themselves against the Phillies. It comes in the form of misplays in the field, (witness Beltran's misplay of the line drive to left-center field in the eighth inning hit by Jimmy Rollins that cracked the game open and a crucial thrown-out-stealing against Reyes to kill a 6th inning rally.)

By the 8th you just knew there was no comeback remaining...

The craziest thing of all was that even with the Mets leading 3-1, that "here we go again" moment was never very far away. And this kind of failure breeds and feeds upon itself to the point of being self-prophesising. Against the Phillies, unlike the rest of the league, the Mets just don't seem as sure they can do the job.

Not suprisingly, the Phillies lead the majors with 45 come-from-behind wins.

Lost in another loss was a Pedro-esque performance which would raise hopes for the post-season, provided of course, the Phillies don't make it in as a wild card...

The Team The Mets Can't Beat

For all the feigned bravado, for all the innings of seemingly unhittable Tom Glavine pitching, for all the momentum and anger and pride, the Mets didn't, by the 10th inning look any more like the favourites to win the NL East.

They looked like a team that can't beat their closest competitors. That's five straight losses to the Phillies and say what you like, five straight losses to the Phillies is an ugly thing.

Perhaps not as ugly as five straight losses to the Braves but these Phillies look like they may well be replacing the Braves as the proverbial thorn in the side of the Mets.

Alou and Mets Can't Avoid The Unrelenting Phillies

What else could explain losing a game with your number one fully healthy pitcher on the mound, with a lead held from the 1st inning, with homefield advantage with more than a half dozen games of success under your belt following the last humiliating sweep by the Phillies?

Well for one, having your backup catcher in the 10th inning drop what should have been out number one with a man on base. Instead, with a second life, Carlos Ruiz successfully sacrificed Jayson Werth and put him in scoring position.

Of course, if hot head Lo Duca hadn't gotten himself ejected, this might never have happened in the first place but nonetheless you've got to be able to rely on your bench to help, not hinder you.

Or maybe we should talk about Aaron Heilman who has a habit of late of not doing his job. Sure, the first single was bad enough but giving up the game winning run because you let a mug like Greg Dobbs smack such a deep sacrifice fly is simply inexcusable.

"We gave them the game tonight," said manager Willie Randolph, rightly enough. "It seems like lately, when we've played these guys, we've made mistakes."

We could also blame umpire Paul Emmel whose management on the strikezone last night bordered on anarchistic in its inconsistency. But you can't really blame the ump. Not unless you're Tom Glavine. Even if his clear 3rd inning misjudgement of the strikezone with Jose Reyes at the plate was enough to send people fuming.

And if we're going to blame the ump, there's a handful of others we can blame as well:

The usual suspect, Chase Utley, whose two-run homer came on one of Glavine's rare mistakes and tied the game.

The bullpen, or Heilman in particular for obvious reasons, this fear that keeps rearing its ugly head, the no lead less than a half dozen is safe with these boys any more, even if Billy Wagner did manage to strike out the side in an amazing inning of work before giving way to Heilman.

The one person you can't blame is David Wright who homered in the 1st to give the Mets their original lead and then made a diving catch in the 8th and doubled the runner off first to extinguish a mini-rally by the Phillies.

And whilst the division isn't lost the Phillies are slowly attempting to prove they are not the team to beat but the team the Mets Can't Beat.


Magic Number 12

The Mets looked to be cruising again going into the 8th before some of the auld familiar bullpen ugliness reared it's collective head.

See If You Can Guess Which One Is Guillermo Mota...

Yes, Aaron Heilman, going into the game with 8 consecutive scoreless appearances having allowed only one earned run over his last 14 1/3 innings, after getting the 1st and 2nd outs of the inning without a struggle, suddenly lost the plot, allowing a walk and a single. Inexplicable as it was unacceptable as we shutter now when thinking of the post-season.

Then Jose Feliciano, brought in specifically to face the lefty Brian McCann with lefties hitting only .169 against him, brought it and to get one teeny, tiny little out and what? He failed, walking McCann on 5 pitches.

But now to compound matters, ohhh, here came Guillermo Mota to the House of Boos, bases "juiced" and you know, just know with a gut-wretching certainty what's going to happen next.

And sure enough, Mota comes through. There were two near-escapes; the foul ball grounder David Wright gamely attempted to turn into out number 3 and the foul tick that was almost strike three on Jeff Francoeur before the predictable crack of the bat and the two-run single tied the game.

And it could have gotten much worse.

Thanks in large part to Bruce Froemming, who suddenly expanded the strike zone down to the ankles and 3 feet to the left of the plate, before he could choke it down any further, Mota already had two strikes on Andruw Jones before nailing down the third an ending the inning with the score tied.

And then of course, doing what winning teams do, the Mets came back straight away to answer the call and pull back into the lead after Beltran led off with a single and eventually scored on Shawn Green's clutch RBI single to make it 4-3.

Billy Wags held them, just and that was it, two out of three from the Braves and with the Phillies getting crushed by the Rockies, the magic number reduced to 12.

Positives: No doubt the bullpen is the Mets postseason Achilles Heel but the versatility and the bench of the Mets is impressive. There you had the Mets playing either their arch or their Arch-arch rivals with Ruben Gotay playing 2nd (and making a gem of a defensive, diving play in the 9th), Marlon Anderson playing 1st base and Shawn Green in right field. Not the strongest starting trio but one which went a combined 4 for 11 with a homer and two RBIs at the plate.

Gotay Learns To Fly

And then late innings, Green slides down to first base, Endy Chavez is the defensive diamond in right field and Lastings Milledge, left off the field, smacks a pinch hit triple in the 7th which led to the go-ahead run.

Also enchanting, for most of the time anyway, was John Maine stepping up to pitch brilliantly against Braves ace John Smoltz.

We now recognise what might be called The Unmechanical Maine which, when unleashed, leads to Maine Meltdown, but with two out in the 4th, the game was nearly lost when he walked three men in a row and gave the Braves their only run of the game that wasn't bullpen incompetency-induced.

You could chart the demise like the sinking of a ship. 7-pitch walk to McCann, 6-pitch walk to Francoeur, 5-pitch walk to Andruw Jones.

Fortunately the bullpen visit did him good, got the mechanics and the head back into the game and the damage was thereby limited.


Think we've forgotten about El Duque's Rotten Return?

Nah, we just didn't want to comment on it. A 13-5 loss amid all this winning just isn't worth sweating.

Nor is Duque facing 19 batters in three-plus innings, allowing six hits and four walks. After all, he did hit a Brave, Andruw Jones, so it wasn't a complete wash.

More worrying perhaps was that he said the strained ligament in his right foot, which had originally caused him to go 10 games without a start, had regressed a bit the morning after his return.

Let's hope for a quick and stable recovery. Gawd knows with the bullpen the Mets have they need all the good starts they can get.


Oliver The Brave Killer Does It Again

He has faced the Braves four times this season and three of those starts have resulted in victories.

Bring Me Some Post Season Braves...

In those 3 victories, Oliver Perez has thrown a total of 23 innings, allowed 8 hits and 5 earned runs, a 1.95 ERA. He has also walked only 2 whilst striking out 22.

But you know all this perhaps as well as you know in that one loss, he sucked, a mirage, a once-in-a-lifetime blip wherein 10 hits and 6 earned runs were allowed in a mere 5 innings.

Precedent set however, Oliver continued with the trends and once again, the Braves were left gasping, this time in a 3-2 loss that further cemented their DEMISE.

And yes, this means in all likelihood and probability, both mathematical and philosophical not only that the Braves Suck but that they won't win the NL East for the second year running!

Of course don't tell that to Gary Cohen. He and Darling and Keef were up to their usual chicanery by the top of the 3rd waxing nostalgic about White Castle.

In fact, Cohen's 5-minute rant about the blasphemy of the induction of ketchup on the White Castle burgers was classically in tune with the game at hand.

And despite not being in the booth myself, it all reminded me of the classic Butthole Surfers song, Movin' To Florida


(gracias, Wrightoholics....)

It's difficult to say that David Wright's 2-run homer in the 6th off Tim Hudson was the final nail in da coffin. Especially since the Braves went on and scored a pair of their own in reply at the top of the 7th. But Wright also has the highest batting average in the NL since the All-Star game. Perhaps further cementing nominations for MVP.

Careful you don't throw out that Most Valuable Elbow, son...

3 of the 9 homers Hudson has given up this season have been to the Mets. Hohoho.

Moises Alou added to his noow-15-game hitting streak with his first triple of the season. Imagine the kind of cock up an OF has to make to allow enough time for Alou's ageing quads to motor 'round to third....

A sweet night indeed all around. Think it passed by anyone's notice that even the slumping Reyes managed to get on base twice, score twice and steal his 75th base of the season? Or how close Wright is now inching to a 30-30 season with his 31st steal, 28th homer?


Unfortunately, my prediction remains that the Mets will lose two of three to the Braves and then sweep the Phillies to keep perfect symmetry to the season.

Welcome Back Pedro

Yes, we know, it wasn't his first start back from rehab.

But whose not excited by now, back-to-back starts, the second more fluid and seemingly flawless than the first?

Five innings pitched, the count up to 92 and counting...well tomorrow, or the day after will be the test, as it will be for every start Pedro takes for the rest of the season still, impressive, even against the likes of the lowly Astros.

Even at the plate, following a double, Pedro is miraculous...

But rejoice for a minute anyway! Pedro's second victory in as many starts bodes well for the Mets postseason hopes, especially on the heels of Tom Glavine's nearly perfect start on Saturday, shutting them down for seven innings, another victory over the hopeless Astros, a sweep completed.

5 shutout innings and this wasn't some Single A debut, this was a Major League team after all, even if was only the Astros.

How many did those Astros leave on base against Pedro? Every time they seemed ready to rally, they sputtered and faded, the last in the 5th when following Berkman's double they had Biggio on 3rd with only 1 out and failed to score, or even that one walk later with the bases loaded and two outs, Pedro's tiring arm dropping still getting that last Astro out to end the inning, end the outing and lead more hope to the resurgence.

Things were so garddamned giddy in the broadcast booth, the overkill of Cohen, Darling and Keef overflowed with Welcome Back Kotter jokes, the trio of muppets distracted by their joy into running through the rollcall of nicknames and expressions.

And all this without two Mets at the corners. Delgado still nursing his final injury of the season, getting his last bit of R&R before the postseason and Wright getting a rare day off, the Mets started Shawn Green and Ruben Gotay at the corners instead. And how sweet was it to spy Endy Chavez manning right field?

Not only are the Mets loaded, but they are deep. Everywhere.

Aye, but the bullpen. That debacle in Philly is still etched in the mind and nightmare scenarios won't go away any time soon.

Still, with the Braves and the Phillies coming to Shea next this may be just the time for the Mets to begin their emphatic roll for the rest of the season, the beginning of the jets kicking in (not getting their heads kicked in by the bloody Pats, ugh, o miseria!)

Ok, there's one worry that isn't bullpen related - the yips Jose Reyes is experiencing at the plate of late.

Is this a new pattern setting in or merely a lull, the quiet before the postseason strom when nobody can keep Jose off the bases, stealing second and getting driven in by Castillo all October?


The Big Borkowski

It was a reasonably close game prior to the insertion of reliever Dave Borkowski. Well, reasonably being a relative term - the Astros had started off gaining entry to a 2-0 lead, had threatened to explode with the bases loaded in the top of the 2nd until Reyes booted the double play straight into Castillo's hands and Mike Pelfrey was winning few hearts and minds with his mound performance, like hitting his 8th batter of the season, either a headhunter or, as Keith coined it, effectively wild.

In fact, Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez was not much better. The man who had tossed a 9-inning, 8 strikeout out, 4 hit shutout in his last go against the Mets essentially gifted the game away with 4 walks and 6 hits in less than 5 innings of work. His walking of 2 batters in the bottom of the 3rd created a near-certainty that the Mets would make him pay. The 24-46 record on the road the Astros have makes that almost fact before it happens.

The Face of The Man Striking Out An Astro With The Bases Drunk In The 6th...

That Borkowski worried through a 21.94 ERA in 2000 and possessed a disappointing 5.85 lifetime ERA anyway, should have indicated a potential explosion point. That he is in the MLB despite those numbers speaks volumes, one would imagine, about the Astros' bullpen. But be that as it may, he was still incredibly awful, beyond Borkowskiesque in allowing 6 earned runs in less than an innning of work and allowing the Mets to blow the game WIDE open. Or perhaps fledgling manager Cecil Cooper was even more awful for leaving him in there that long to begin with. Regardless, the Mets took full advantage on the way to the 11-3 laughter.

Semi-Chronological Chains Of Thought

1. First there was the fake-catch of Lance Berkman's homer by Carlos Beltran in the first inning and then Carlos airmailing a throw over home plate when Berkman was scoring in the 3rd. Two semi-gaffes, although the fake-catch was at least entertaining for a half a second, made one wonder what the lad would do offensively later on to even the performance out.

2. If Pelfrey starts a World Series game (god forbid) just imagine how much chatter will go on about his bloody mouthpiece by the network nitwits. Can you just imagine a Joe Buck 15 minute monologue on it and Tim McCarver spinning yarns and waxing hillbilly poetic about it til the 5th inning spending every dead air moment chuckling to himself over and over about it like a dog with a bone?

3. Tom Seaver's top of the 3rd soliloquy on the legacy of Gil Hodges was fascinating in a creepy, voyeuristic sort of way. Not for what it said about Gil Hodges but for what it said about Tom Seaver's personality and mindset. Seaver was a great pitcher but listening to him reaching for superlatives from the shelves of a relatively empty repertoire was painful at times. Ok, we got it. No-nonsense, ex-marine. I think you're in the booth to add the colour of personal history, not point out the obvious in the that excruciating Fresnonian nasal twang. Oh, alright, Tom Seaver's a hero and a Hall of Fame pitcher, not a Hall of Fame announcer, we should point out in all fairness. Still, must be all those lonely hours amid the cabernet sauvignon vines...

Is this Anna Chakvetadze celebrating the end of Seaver's pensées on Gil Hodges?

4. Quick calculations on Moises "Despite the Injuries" Alou numbers had he played in 132 rather than 66 of the Mets' games this season: still only 20 homers and 66 RBIs. I was rather shocked by that. He seems as though he'd be on pace for alot more and he seems to be ready with clutch hits when needed. He will be a tough out in the post-season I think.

5. Beltran's 28th homer of the year harkens me to The Idiot's Guide To The Mets I had the misfortune of reading earlier in the week, wherein it was whinged: that the Mets could become the fourth team since division play started in 1969 to win the division without having a 15-game winner or a 30-homer slugger...

6. Beltran's 28th homer also made me think inevitably, about the Dunkin Donuts cup and how sorely England needs a Dunkin Donuts franchise and then further made me wonder why there even IS a Dunkin Donuts cup to hit a homer beyond. Is it a baseball stadium or a bloody amusement park? And if there's that many sponsor's propaganda NOW, just wait til the new stadium opens..."there's a ground ball just beyond the Citigroup cash machine where Reyes used to stand..."

7. Waving Alou home in the 5th on Jeff Conine's hit: I was cringing at the thought of him suddenly pulling up lame, the hammies you could almost hear tigthening...is it necessary to make Moises exert his agèd muscles like that in such a relatively meaningless game? Game 7 of the NLCS, yes. This instant? No.

8. Ty Wigginton v David Wright is all it takes to harken back the miseries of a few seasons ago. This is no knock on Wigginton, before I knew any better, I loved watching him play. If it weren't for Wigginton, in a way, there would be no John Maine. (Since Wiggy was traded for Mrs Benson in turn for Maine, of course...) But what ever happened to him? What twists did his life take that saw him end up playing out the string for the Astros? I did a little catching up on the Man That Was Ty and discovered a line which I thought was certainly someone taking the piss with the auld Wiki:

"Wigginton was forced to handle the delivery of his son Cannon, whom he named after his right arm, at home when his wife Angela went into labor unexpectedly. Following the instructions of an operator on 9-1-1, he delivered the baby in a bedroom closet of their North Carolina home and tied off the umbilical cord with one of his shoelaces"

But then I saw this story and I realised no one was taking the piss.

Ty Wigginton continues to amaze...

9. Lastings, Lastings, Lastings. And to think he was trade bait 6 months ago...

10. The lead, with the Phillies' loss, is now nearly officially insurmountable. Unless they have an 8-game series in Philly next week...


The Rest of the Week

Ok, not Asleep at the Wheel thinking about the Astros but yes indeed, the Sunday through Thursday stretch was missed and with it, some Best News of The Week, ranked thusly:

1. The Return of Pedro The Toe: Oh how long we waited for this. Well, not just us, certainly his teammates as well and quite probably, the baseball world generally. It was less than a brilliant beginning, to be sure. Months of rust, the creaking Pedro Mothership, a rubbish rolling single for Josh Hamilton, Gonzalez' double over Alou's head misplayed in left field, Junior coming to the plate and things looking like they could go horribly pear-shaped quicker than the months of waiting expectation.

Are happy days here again for Mr and Mrs Franchise?

But Junior flew out to Beltran and Beltran quite nearly completed a great double play by throwing Hamilton out at the plate and after yet another base hit, the cleanest of the game, by Brandon Phillips, the damage was limited to the two runs.

Of course, he joined the 3000 K Club and finished after 5 innings, 76 pitches, 5 hits, 2 earned runs and 4 Ks including his 1st win of 2007. Given the fragility of the moment it was amazing that by the 3rd or 4th inning it was almost as though Pedro had never left.

The Mets put up 16 hits and 10 runs in support to make sure Pedro's return was a successful one.

2. Glavine Tops Smoltz Mets Sweep: Anytime the Mets sweep the Braves at Turner Dump, it's news. Sweeping the Braves anywhere is news. Doing it in September, in Atlanta and on the heels of having just been swept by the miserable Phillies four straight games was simply fantastically unexpected. Just when you thought hope was a whore and you could cash in your ducats for another season of disappointment, faith reappeared and the Mets season redeemed. Not to mention, Glavine finally beating fellow future HOFer John Smoltz for the first time in 4 outings.

3. Phillies Collapse Against Braves: Actually, this is what we came to expect from the Team To Beat, that four game mirage not withstanding; a crap bullpen losing games over and over. This wasn't even the first time. Oh no. When Glavine was topping Smoltzy for the first time, the Phillies were busy even then, blowing a five-run lead in a 7-6 loss to the Marlins.

No, for bragging rights for the most gutting performance all season, the Phillies blew an 8-2 lead and lost the series finale to the Braves, 9-8. Happy Daze.

Consider This:

During a six-game winning streak that included the Mets series, Phillies pitchers posted a 3.27 ERA. The starters made it through the sixth inning four times, and the relievers didn't yield a run in four of six games.

In losing four of their next five games and erasing any delusions of grandeur, Phillies pitchers posted a 7.56 ERA. The starters made it through the sixth just twice, and the relievers allowed 15 runs in 18 1/3 innings.

The Team To Beat, indeed. Bye, bye losers.

Well, maybe not so fast. The Mets will host the Braves and Phillies again next week so perhaps in this up and down season the Mets suffer through, there will be more twists and turns remaining...let's hope not.


Pelfrey Gets Some Runs For A Change

We shant belabour the point for long. After all, Manager Willie told everyone who was still willing to listen that the Ship Is Steady and maybe we should have listened. Panic is slowly receding.

But c'mon. Two in a row against the Braves? A 12-2 aggragate margin? Coming after four straight humiliations in Philly?

What's next, David Newhan hitting for the cycle?

Game's low point another DUMB UMP blown call that cost the Mets a run but fortunately not the game...

All season long they've said that Mike Pelfrey's primary problem was lack of run support from his teammates in New York and frankly, I have never really bought that argument for a guy with an ERA that is STILL 5.33 after this miraculous outing. Not unless he was expected a dozen runs in support every outing. Yes, the 2.78 runs per game was the worst support of any NL pitcher but oddly enough it would have been more than enough to see Pelfrey through.

Because Saturday, brill. Pelfrey had some extra juice in his mouthpiece apparently. Seven Ks, only one hit allowed, hitting Jeff Francoeur with a pitch, all adding up to one of the more successful outings he could have hoped for, all leading to his inaugural and long-awaited victory of the season. Ok, a beanball to Larry's head would have been funnier and more enjoyable but Francoeur is not a bad mark. He disagreed, of course. Despite all the bat-tossing and whingeing, Francoeur said afterwards he knew Pelfrey didn't hit him intentionally.

"To be honest, I was just trying to fire us up," he said.

No fire.

But then again, these aren't really the Braves of auld. The Braves of auld wouldn't have suffered their 11th loss in 16 games. They wouldn't have hit .171 over their last 6 games at the Turner Dump. These are the Braves Not To Be Feared, their ugly step-cousins from further on down South.

Of course, two or three days ago you might not have thought that. Two days or three ago you might have been bracing yourself for the killer tomahawk chop.

Now for a day anyway, you can look at the Phillies losing a game in the standings and giving up seven runs in the 1st inning against the Marlins and you can see some of the overcast of the future clearing. A sweep of the Braves in Atlanta followed by an inaugural Pedro start on Monday would send the message to the rest of the National League that the ugliness of earlier in the week was a Phillie Phluke, a mirage, a once-in-a-lifetime delusion of grandeur for The Team To Beat.

But we've still got to survive another Glavine v Smoltz HOF matchup. The pair have faced each other three times already this season. Smoltz is 2-0 in the head-to-head matchups and the Braves have won all three previous meetings.


Nothing Like Victory

Dear Jesus H Christ,

Many thanks for the rollercoaster ride.

Yes, getting swept 4 straight by the Arkadelphia Swillies whilst I was away at an indisclosable location south of Zagreb, north of Split, east of Ljubliana and west of free hugs in Kiev, was indeed a funny joke - an optical illusion, almost.

If you thought I was going to panic, you were mistaken. Croatian birds are the fittest on Earth and not even four straight losses against The Team To Beat is enough of a distraction.


Aye, a tough choice but....not.

So thanks for getting all those losses out of the way so I could enjoy something delicious like The Mets crushing their archrival, Hillybilly Scumbags of the Universe by a decidedly lopsided 6-run margin...

Yes, victory is sweet, especially over the Braves....

What this means in the larger scheme of things of course is uncertain.

Was that really John Maine out there getting through his first pitching performance in a month that didn't involve a scatter-brained meltdown and 5 runs surrendered in an inning.

And what about Mr Not Having A Good Season But Always Dangerous hitting the three-titted woman over the centerfield wall and dispelling the rumours about the shift?

No, the Mets are not going to roll over and surrender the NL East that easy...

I just know some sadistic bastid is going to pinch me in the middle of reading the sportspage this morning and say aha! The Mets always win one out of three against the Braves, now the suspense as to which game of the three it will be is lost!

And as Friday night's game was, so is Saturday's.

It's the team's collective shit or get off the pot moment. And the Phillies are pounding on the outhouse door, their intestines in a twirl, waiting to take our place and release their bowels into first place.

So another victory to prove Friday night's was no fluke is necessary. And it should come within 24 hours, doctor's orders.

Otherwise the fit birds in Croatia are calling, Mr Met and they ent gowanna be calling for you.

Not unless Pedro really IS pitching on Monday.