Mets Drop Out Of First Place...For Now (We Hope)

Logically, the Mets are not going to win every series they play the rest of the season and valid or not, Jerry Manuel seems pretty upbeat:

“You know what?” he crooned after the 7-5 loss and dropping out of first. “I feel good about the way we’re playing, I feel good about the way we fought back. I think we’ve got a good team, a good group of men, and I think we’re going to be fine.”

Does he need smelling salts? Is he trying to overcome the dread and fear of what lies ahead with a little well-intentioned enthusiasm?

Uggla Out at the plate in the 2nd

Hmmmm. Let's see we've got John Maine with some sort of strange (and probably misdiagnosed) "mild strain" of his right rotator cuff. One starter on the ropes.

We've got Mike Pelfrey, last night's pitcher, suffering a rare bit of mortality after a long and successful winning streak. Pelfrey is about 26 innings from his career high in innings-pitched meaning that whlst he has been hot we may have seen him already reach this season's peak before fatigue sets in right around the time the pennant race gets hottest.

We've got no true set up man to the closer and Duaner Sanchez's drop in pitch speed combined with the Mets having allowed him to get fat again under the guise of nursing a knee allegedly sore from being hit by a batted ball earlier this month means his chances of a quick recovery are slim. (ha, no pun intended)

You've got these very same Marlins, division rivals tied with the Mets for second place a half game behind the Phillies, right in the thick of some very serious and sustained Manny-For-Hire rumours which theoretically anyway, could shift the balance of power in the NL East.

Plus, the Phillies may or may not be on the verge of a face-changing trade, you never know. The Mets on the other hand, have accepted that they are not going to be a player at the trade deadline. I can't say as I disagree with that because given the paucity of tradeable prospects plus the Mets' collective age at the moment, they will need all the future help they can get and trading it all away for some muppet like Raul Ibanez is not the answer.

On the other hand, Pedro is coming back Friday. You could look at that information either as something to be hopeful about or as grasping at straws with a rapidly-dwindling starting rotation revealing itself. Injury follows injury follows every ache and pain and Pedro even introduced another nuance he hasn't seen probably since he first broke into pitching; a wavering confidence.

Heilman, for all his warts, might just rise to the occasion, as he showed briefly the other night and fill the set-up spot whilst the Mets get Sanchez back on an emergency conditioning programme.

Ryan Church, like Pedro, is coming back although like Pedro we have no idea if this will be a fully flourishing player or a half-talent floundering with indecision and uncertainty. If Church stays healthy (IF, the magic word) and IF he hits as well as he so inexplicably did for the Mets earlier this season then there's right field sorted.

You might even say that Marlon Anderson, much like Carlos Delgado, has regained his rather uncertain footing during July and will be ready for the remaining 57 game push. Anderson went 2 for 3 last night and hit .303 for the month although because of the gruesome first half of the season he is still hitting only .224 on the season and has had his head called for on many occasions.

Last night, the bullpen, bar Joe Smith, was perfect. They do that sometimes, just like sometimes they can't get an out to save themselves.

Any one else but Uggla for crissakes, Joe.

Joe Smith, on the other hand, is consistently bad. I mean hell, even Duaner Sanchez had a scoreless outing last night but Smith? Last three outings, 1 2/3 innings, five earned runs. Last night, the ultimate sin, giving up a two-run homer to the Dan Uggla so the douchebags in the Marlins broadcast booth could chant "His name is Dan Uggla", and 1-2 for July with a 5.25 ERA. You might want to consider that, like Pelfrey, he has nearly approached his career high in innings pitched. He's only been a major leaguer for one other year and last year he threw 44 1/3 innings. He's already got 43 1/3 innings logged on that skinny arm this season.

Last night the Mets couldn't put up any numbers against JJ Josh Johnson. Not surprising considering he has owned the Mets for all his brief career. Prior to last night he hadn't given up an earned run against the Mets in three previous starts which netted him two victories. So you had to sort of expect this sort of offensive sputtering from the Mets, despite a clutch pinch hit three run homer from Damion Easley that threw the game briefly back into question. That's meant to be a game-changing moment, but as it turns out it wasn't. The Mets ground into three double plays. Wright, Delgado and Beltran all went hitless on the night.

But hey, you can't win every single series the rest of the season (well you COULD but let's just say it wasn't ever "likely" that the Mets were going to do that.)

The rest of the week, the Phillies have to go to St Louis. The Mets will be in Houston against the less-than-auspicious Astros and the Marlins will host the Rockies. Advantage: Marlins.

Next week the Marlins play at Philly and the Mets will be hosting the miserable Padres. Advantage: Mets

Thereafter, the Mets host the Marlins and the Phillies host the Pirates. Advantage: Phillies.

The following week, whilst the Mets host the Pirates, the Phillies begin a West Coast trip to face the Dodgers. The Marlins host the Cardinals. Advantage: Mets.

After that, we get to play the Nats, the Phillies remain out on the West Coast, albeit only against the Padres, and the Marlins host the Cubs. Advantage: Mets.

And so on and so forth.

So, like Jerry, not going to worry about last night's lost, losing the series and losing our hold on first place.

Keeping breathing in and out. Unless of course, the Marlins complete their blockbuster trade for Manny and the Phillies land Brian Fuentes or some other player the Mets are unable to consider adding because the price is too high.

In that case, ole Jerry will probably be sharpening his shiv and foaming at the month rather than exuding calm, cool and collected.


Looking For Heroes? Try Last Month's Gutter

Show of hands:

Back in May or even June, who amongst you thought you'd be mentioning Carlos Delgado and Aaron Heilman in the same breath as victory and heroes?

Thought so, yet there they were last night, leading the Mets on to a key 4-1 victory ovder the Marlins to hold serve on a slim first place lead in the face of a Phillies victory.

It was Delgado's 2-run homer, his like what, 100th homer in July already to go with his .367 batting average for the month and Heilman's unexpectedly clutch four strikeouts in two innings of set-up work to Hillbilly Wagner, who earned save number 27.

And in addition to that pair, another candidate for the annual Laughingstock to Lazarus Award, Oliver Perez wowed 'em again with with a solid, albeit somewhat abbreviated performance and knocks his ERA down to 1.36 over his last 6 starts.

And frankly, the emergence of Perez, Pelfrey and Delgado form a solid nucleus for explaining why the Mets suddenly look like NL East favourites instead of mutts.

In any event, nice rebound from a frustrating loss the night before. If we'd known we'd might take 6 of 9 from the Phillies, Cardinals and Marlins following the All Star break, I think we'd have known we'd be looking pretty damned good heading into what is expected to be a watered-down August schedule which has the earmarks of sending the Mets skyrocketing into a bulging NL East lead by September. Even if the Phillies get Manny Ramirez.


Mainely Worried About Another Rotation Loss

Letting the Florida Marlins abuse the Mets bullpen is bad enough but not in and of itself a tragedy - the bullpen has performed admirably over the last month and there will always be the occasional hiccup.

In this case it was primarily down to Joe Smith and Scott Schoeneweis, who combined to allow the Marlins to score 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th to take what turned out to be an insurmountable 7-3 lead, driving half of the stadium's occupants, estimated to be Mets fans, from the stadium early.

No pitching with pain

More troubling than the bullpen's inauspicious outing, perhaps as they were still feeling overworked from their long stints on Saturday night (Smith having pitched 1 1/3 innings and Schoeneweis having pitched a mere inning and perhaps having no excuse after all for giving up 4 hits and 3 earned runs in a lone inning), was the fact that the bullpen was required as early as the 5th inning when starter John Maine was removed against his will with shoulder pain after only 75 pitches and a 2-0 lead.

"You get soreness," Maine said ominously, "but it's never felt like this before."

Maine didn't appear quite as diplomatic when Jerry Manuel came out to remove him in the 5th, petitioning long and loud to remain in the game against everyone's better judgement.

The victory moved the Marlins to within a game of the Mets and helped push the idle Phillies to within a half game and arguably, the removal of Maine was the turning point.

Joining Smith and Schoeneweiss as bullpen disappointments was Carlos Muniz, who has yet to prove he belongs in the majors. Without much ado Muniz surrendered the run that tied the game in the 6th despite David Wright's fantastic 3 row dive into the seats to pluck a fly ball out of nowhere. Actually, come to think of it, with a 13.50 ERA in his last five outings, one might wonder if Smith still deserves a spot in the pen any more euther.

But with no help forthcoming from deadline trades it appears, the Mets will simply have to make do with the mugs they've got in their at the moment.

More worrisome at the moment of course, is Maine's condition. Yes, Pedro is officially rejoining the rotation on Friday but frankly, relying on the rapidly ageing, oft-injured and struggling Pedro during the final season push might be asking too much.


Mets Take 2nd of 3 Against Cards, Santana Shines

For all he was roundly rubbished for failing to come out for the 9th innning in his last outing which the bullpen blew, with the bullpen exhausted, an even fatter lead at his disposal and perhaps his ears burning, Johan Santana pitched his complete game, finally, his first as a Met and the first place lead is still a full game over the Phillies.

Finally made it to 9!

Following Saturday night's epic loss which saw the entirety of the bullpen stretched to capacity and Aaron Heilman surrender the game-losing homerun to Pujols in the 14th in his third inning of relief, there was good reason to see Santana stretch it out all the way for a change.

Saturday night's 5 hour 9 minute marathon temporarily derailed an otherwise wonderous Met run but, considering they started a battery consisting of Brandon Knight, in essence, a minor league relief pitcher and Robinson Cancel, who last started a game behind the plate in the Majors when Jose Reyes was getting his lunch money stolen from him in a Dominican shakedown back at Liceoi Delia Reyes High School, it's rather amazing that it took the once-wonderous Cards 14 innings to finally put the Mets away and even then, not until Heilman was on the mound.

In any event the losing streak lasted only a game, the NL East is still the Mets' for the moment and the Marlins are coming up. That the Phillies have only to face the Nats could be bothersome but as frustrating as the Mets play was earlier this season, they have been even better at convincing the league and their fans that the bad times are dead and buried once and for all.

Plus we ent going to forget this unbelievable catch from the plate-challenged Carlos Beltran any time soon...

Besides Beltran's catch and Santana's pitching the Mets offense was also prolific with 17 hits, three of which were homers.

Not only that, they did it against Kyle Lohse, the Cards ace, who hadn't lost since May 8th.


Two Game Lead In The NL East And Counting...

Don't look now but with 5 consecutive games wherein Met starters have gone at least 7 innings, the rotation is looking like it's already gearing up for the post season.

A tip of the hat to the new gangsta of the rotation.

Last night, it was Mike Pelfrey's turn, now 7-0 with a 2.57 ERA in his last 11 starts, the most remarkable transformation of mutt to star since, I dunno, Carlos Delgado.

Kaboom! The right time to find himself...

Delgado of course, had another home run last night, his 9th in his last 25 games combined with 28 RBIs in that period.

Although many minor heroes, these were the two keys to the Mets' 7-2 win over what looks like a highly over-rated Cardinals team choking on fumes which, combined with the Braves' beating of the Phillies, increased the Mets' new lead to two games in the NL East.

Two disappointing notes. Do-Wanner Sanchez had his second consecutive miserable outing, loading the bases with none out in the 9th, similar to the opening game against the Phillies earlier this week which resulted in the Mets' only loss in their last 11 home games. Even with a big lead this is dispiriting news and brings a further sense of urgency to the need for fresh, new arm in the bullpen.

The other disappointing note is of course, that Xavier Nady and reliever Damaso Marte went from the Pirates to the Yankees. Trade deadline concerns would have been resolved then and there had they been moved to Queens in lieu of the Bronx. Bastids.

On the other hand, Mets and baseball aside...what about the rumours of Brett Favre to the Jets!

Mets and Jets World Champions!

My how giddy a little success will make one.


Finally: Sole Possession of First Place!

Holy Heilman, coming into the game in the 8th, game tied 1-1, two out with the bases loaded after Oliver Perez's brilliantly pitched game, facing Jason Werth, who homered for the Phillies lone run a few innings before, and what do you know, Heilman saves the day (and eventually earns his first win of the season.)

Has our once-favourite whipping boy finally graduated to consistency?

Not enough can be said about Perez's performance, continued dominance over the Phillies. 12 strikeouts. Nearly 8 innings pitched giving up only 1 run, dominating in large part. In reality he should have had the win for this game but that is his hard luck - 4 great starts against the Phillies, no victories to show for it. More importantly, not just against the Phillies, Perez has five consecutive stunning starts under his belt - is this nearly the end of the now you're brilliant, now you're not mound schitzophrenia he has demonstrated most of his career?

But the Mets had been held by Jamie Moyer to only two hits leading into their bottom half of the frame and given the strength of the Phillies bullpen this season they had to have the advantage in this situation. Especially knowing a 6-run outburst might be forthcoming any inning...

No shiv in Jerry's hand tonight...

Hail Carlos Delgado, 2 for 17 in his career against JC Romero, two men on, two outs, 1-1 game in the bottom of the 8th, 0 for 3 on the night, who hit that two-run double to give the Mets the commanding lead. Sure, Delgado was tossed at third trying to stretch it into a triple with a head-first slide, but who cares, it was a clutch hit in a key moment, something we aren't necessarily used to seeing from Delgado but further evidence he has awoken from his 1 1/2 year hitting slumber. All is forgiven, Carlos. As for JC Romero's run against lefties (they had only 5 hits in 68 at bats all season) well, glad you're a Philly, mate. This time anyway.

(and thank Christ Delgado didn't draw a walk instead because we'd probably have seen Carlos Beltran attempt to bunt the lead run home with the bases loaded.)

The Billygoat seals the win.

And from there of course, the question of the closer, Hillbilly Wagner, broken and sore, coming in at the top of the 9th to do the business. But with two out and a man on, Jimmy Rollins rolls up to the plate ready to do his typical damage and add a little drama, but like the batters before him, he swung at the first pitch (no patience at the plate a new Philly's achilles heel?) and just like that, 3-1 victory, the Mets have finally climbed back to their rightful place in first after having been as far back as 7 1/2 games. In a way, not as dramatic, but sweet just for the evaporation of a similar lead they held last September. Well done, boys.

And now come the St Louis Cardinals on the heels of being swept three straight by the Brewers. Trouble on the horizan.

But they've answered the call strong. After that horrific 6-run 9th inning rally by the Phillies in Game One, the Mets took the next two games from the Phillies completely eliminating any momentum the Phillies might have tried to claim from sucha dramatic victory and reasserting the character of this side.

Wonder what, if anything Jerry Manuel was alluding to in his pre-game interview discussing who would pitch on Sunday against the Cards with Pedro still out mourning the loss of his father, when he said they'd be calling up someone from the minors unless we obtain a starter in a trade...of course on the basis of Maine, Perez, Pelfrey and Santana, the Mets could pull a candidate a week from the minors. They'd be better served picking up an outfielder with a little pop in his bat.


Reyes and Mets Redeem Themselves

So the Mets pen blows a three run lead one night, saves a three run lead the following night.

There was a lot of chatter after Tuesday's game about goats.

Third base coach Luis Aguayo for twice getting Endy Chavez thrown out at the plate by a mile. Both Jerry Manuel and Johan Santana for going to the pen in the 9th to watch a three run lead and certain victory disintegrate. And of course, Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano for failing to do their jobs.

But to me, Jose Reyes' bonehead brain freeze in the 9th that sustained the Phillies' rally and ultimately led to victory was the biggest offence of all because we've seen this kind of molasses on-the-field thinking from him before cost the Mets a game.

Mets are back in first place

Last night, different story.

Reyes popped a three run homer in the 6th that proved decisive. John Maine, who has pitched with great disappointment over his last four starts showed some of his 2007 form and continued his domination of the Phillies (5-0 in 9 career starts) and instead of bemoaning a gutting loss from the night before, the Mets rolled on to a 6-3 victory and erased all those bad memories, derailed the Phillies momentum, and proved that at least for a night, the pen can hold a three run lead.

Of course, the Phillies, or specifically, Phillies starter Brett Myers derailed themselves from the beginning last night. Myers put the Phillies in an early hole by walking four batters in the 1st inning and allowing two runs without a hit to give the Mets the early lead. That the Mets were only able to score a pair of runs despite four walks was a bad omen from the start but these lingering fears of doom proved unfounded.

True to form, the Phillies battled back from deficits in both the 2nd and 5th innings before Reyes' demoralising blast in the 6th smoked the Phillies for good.

This old man, unlike the rest of the pen, able to preserve a 3-run lead

And after all the fretting and worrying, Hillbilly Wagner came out in the 9th to prove he wasn't as broken down as feared and to secure the victory with his 25th save of the year.

All in all, a nice recovery. A brilliant response to Tuesday night's demoralising loss.

Another sign that the Phillies will not hold on to first place much longer this season?

Wishful thinking.



I suppose we should be more honest than dramatic.

The Mets bleeeeeeeeeeew a golden opportunity to get the first punch in of this three game series and simultaneously knock the Phillies out of first.

Jose Bonehead

There, I've said it. Don't feel any better for it, but it's said.

Surely by now you've heard that the Mets, cruising along with a three run lead going into the 9th allowed the Phillies to score SIX RUNS and subsequently bleeeeeeeew the game, a sure victory.

Did I mention Jose, Bonehead?

Now, Jose's brain freeze didn't necessarily cost the Mets the game. After all, there was the matter of a few horrific bullpen performances from Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano to contend with, but jesus Jose, how about a little help from the infield? With the bases loaded Joe Smith comes in, does his job,induces a chopper, everybody's going to look smart and whisper relief but NO. Jose Reyes what? Unable to choose which out to take there were so many staring him in the face? Gets NO outs instead of two AND lets a run score?

Is this an early Reyes choke job a la September 2007?

Ok, maybe the kid bounces back tonight and gets three triples and scores four times and is the motor behind a bouncing offence but last night, Game One, the Mets bleeeeeeew a massive opportunity.

No telling what the clubhouse is feeling like right now but let's see how Jerry Manuel fares in the face of adversity now that Willie Randolph's strong silent type isn't shadowing around to punch at any more.

Hey Pedro, how about another double? Over 13.00 ERA for July?

But forgetting this gutting loss for one second, let's consider that Carlos Delgado is still going strong, Johan Santana pitched the kind of game he is on the Mets to pitch. (and please no, don't piss and moan that he should have thrown a complete game - there's absolutely nothing wrong with asking the bullpen, even sans choke artist Hillbilly Wagner available to embarass himself, to hold a three goddamned run lead.

So pick your goat of the night: Reyes, Sanchez or Feliciano and know that no matter who you choose, it is the team collectively that is going to have to stand up for an 8 count after this 9th inning haymaker by the Phillies.


The Final Push

Well, it might not be the "final" push in what is yet to be a long season of ups and downs but the All Star game is finally over. The 10 game hitting streak is over. Hush, don't say it, but the seasons of Pedro Martinez, Hillbilly Wagner and Ryan Church could be over. The losses are not confirmed yet and in fact Wagner's MRI turned out not to be an atomic bomb of bad news but be wary.

Looking on the bright side, at least now Wagner will have a built-in excuse for blowing key leads in tight, important, pressure-filled games...

In the interim, it's time to get down to the real business: Game 100 of the season: The Philadelphia Phillies with whom the Mets are still tied for first despite managing a mere split in Cincinnati following the All Star game against the Reds.

Johan Santana, the oft-bemoaned ace of the squad will start in the opening and says "That's what I'm here for, these kind of games. We put ourselves in this situation and that's where we want to be." Of course, the Twins whom he used to pitch for his entire career leading up to this season, are only a half game behind the White Sox in the AL Central race and face a tough series at Yankee Stadium which, arguably, could be one of "those kinds of games" albeit for considerably less money.

Making tonight's game even more interesting is the showcasing of Joe Blanton, whom the Phillies acquired from the Oakland Athletics last week. In 15 previous innings against the Mets in two interleague games, Blanton did not allow a run and gave up eight hits. But never in a Phillies kit. 10 things to know about Joe Blow Blanton (whether you wanted to or not)

Meanwhile in Jersey they're reporting that Mets fans bloggers are anxious. Wow. Real news. What I like best is the implication by omission that Phillies bloggers don't care about the series at all. Can this be true?

But wait! My favourite American sportswriter whinges forth with a subtle reminder of abusive Mets fans and bemoaning the absence of Boy Hero, Cole Hamels.

Worse still, no mention of the Invisible Army. Shocking.

So here's my take:

Game One
Santana will start strong before surrendering mammoth homers to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Blanton, rusty after a long layoff but eager to impress his teammates will hold the Mets scoreless through 5 innings which see the Phillies maintain a 4-0 lead. The Mets rally late but in the end, the bullpen shutters and collapses and Phillies take the opener 7-3.

Game Two: The Mets smash minor leaguer graduate Brett Myers early and hard led by Ramon Castro and Carlos Delgado. Maine pitches his usual 5 innings, walking 5 and striking out 9 and leaves the game with a 6-3 lead. The bullpen finally carry out a reasonable proximation of competency and the Mets go on to win 6-4.

Game Three
: This is Oliver Perez's bread and butter, the crucial game, a real pressure pitcher against tough opponents. Delgado and David Wright both hit homers to give the Mets and early 2-0 lead and it looks to be in the bag but Jamie Moyer pitches his usual annoyingly efficient game and by the 6th inning, Perez is out and the Mets bullpen takes over. Billy Wagner melts down to a chorus of boos before descending on to the disabled list. Phillies win the series with a 3-2 victory.

Bahhhh. Want me to say the Mets take 2 of 3? Isn't that what all the other bloggers are saying?

Truth is, it ent possible to know.

Let's just hope the Mets can continue the success they've had against the Phillies so far this season and not revert back to an atrocious 2007 form against them.


Bats, Not Arms Get Mets 10th In A Row & First Place

10 games in a row and tied for first place.

Against the Giants and Rockies, dregs of the NL West, Met pitching was impeccable and they outscored their opponents during a 6 game stretch by a 27-4 margin.

Against the Reds, a team that ranked near the bottom of the league in team batting average, runs scored, hitting with runners in scoring position or the bases loaded, and during two-out scoring chances, Met pitching allowed an unfortunate 8 runs but fortunately, Met bats were wild enough to produce 10 runs of their own.

Kaboom! David Wright's 2-run boomer ties game in 9th

The burning question apparently, is not a 10-game winning streak, is not being tied with the Phillies for first base, is not a massive turn around for what was a sad sack and inconsistent Mets team. It is what the hell is wrong with Johan Santana?

Ace pitcher?

Santana who makes about $632,352 per appearance, should have been paying his teammates after giving up 5 runs in a mere 4 innings. Whilst he wasn't earning his salary as team ace he sure was an ace in excuse-making. Never pitched the game following the All Star game (his own fault of course, for an unsavoury first half) he couldn't throw his normal bullpen session because Shea Stadium was occupied by the Billy Joel concert, blablabla.

Fair play, you sucked Johan. Let's just leave it at that. If it's true, that this meticulous man had his meticulousness pulled out from underneath him and caused this pathetic outing then we'll expect to see a Cy Young second half hereafter because after all, the Mets aren't paying Mike Pelfrey, the current staff ace £21.5 million a season, they're paying Santana that sum. So start pitching like it.

Can you hear the homerun drums, Fernando? Another 2-run blast, how many blows does he left?

Fortunately for the Mets, 14 hits and 10 runs were enough to offset Santana's habitual homer fetish as well as Aaron Heilman's repulsive 3 run outing that lasted 2/3 of an inning.

Thanks to three two-run homers from the bats of Carlos Delgado, Tatis and Wright. In fact, that trio combined to drive in all 10 runs.

And perhaps more importantly, it was the Mets collective coming from behind in the 5th and 6th innings to take a 6-5 lead in the wake of Santana's ugly outing. It was their collective coming from behind in the 9th after Heilman and Schoeneweis messed up the bullpen's incredible first-half-ending streak And of course, the improbability of the Amazin' 4 run outburst in the 9th off of Francisco Cordero, who had saved 19 out of his 23 save opportunities leading up to last night.

It's precisely the kind of game the Mets would most certainly have lost a month or two ago.

Then again, how often was Delgado getting three hits and knocking in three runs? Bear with me but I'm almost ready to begin believing in Carlos again. A .396 batting average for July will do that to you.

Of course, same goes for Tatis who is hitting .432 in July.

Of course, Ryan Howard is hitting .340 with twice as many homers and 16 RBIs in 13 games in July so far.

And why do I mention the most powerful Phillie of all?

Because although the combination of the Phillies' night off and the Mets victory moved them into a tie for first, the Phillies were not completely silent last night.

They bolstered their Achilles Heel, the rotation, by trading for the average Joe Blanton and despite losing a fat 7 1/2 game lead over the Mets, the Phillies are not dead yet. Not even close.

But let's not let even a 10 game winning streak go to our heads.

One cannot envision Tatis hitting the way he has for the rest of the season. Alou is gone, Ryan Church might be gone. Yes, Delgado might have finally recovered but will a third of your starting outfield be sufficient in the dog days of September or does Minaya need to conjure up another bat?

As for pitching, keep your fingers crossed on Santana. He probably won't pitch as badly the rest of the second half as he did last night. Then again, Pedro doesn't look like he'll last the season, John Maine can't pitch beyond the 5th with any success and does anyone really believe that Pelfrey is out in the clear and Cy Young ready already?

Just a few goosebumps, a few hairs raised on the back of the neck. A 10 game winning streak is great. Being tied for 1st is great.

But what happens when this streak ends? What happens later next week against the Cardinals and the Phillies?

You see, a season of inconsistency is not erased in the span of a 10 game winning streak, no matter how good it feels like right now. There's still a very long road to haul.


All Stars, Report Cards And The Future

So the "halfway" mark is here - well, the "more-than-halfway" mark to be accurate given that some 59% of the season is already behind us.

The Mets have improved but they still aren't fit.

The norm is a halfway mark report card but as bizarre as this beginning and midway point has been for the Mets, it's really quite impossible to bother trying to figure out if the Mets of the first three months or the last month are the team to be graded.

Do we grade them on their ability to be inconsistent? They certainly merit an A for inconsistency.

Do we grade them during the Willie months, certainly an F, given that Willie got the sack and didn't guide the Mets to 9 game winning streaks.

Do we grade them on the Jerry month? A so-so beginning building to this All-Star break climax.

Do we grade our belief or faith in these Mets team? Does a 9 game winning streak really make the Mets the favourite of the division?

Ugly, quasi-developed Mets

There have been two different teams wearing Mets uniforms this season. Most of this season the two teams, the Ugly Mets and the Competent Mets have changed kits seemingly day by day. Over the last 9 games, the Competent Mets, indeed perhaps even the superior Mets, have put on the uniform and have not taken it off.

Mets of the last 9 victories...

So a mid season report card doesn't really have any merit. Either that, or the Army is just plain lazy. Let's just say if it wasn't for the sudden surge of Pelfrey along with timely appearances of Chavez, Argenis Reyes and Fernando Tatis, the Mets would still be floundering. That's four key players nobody really expected to play key roles back in Spring Training.

Instead, a look at the second half in the NL East.

The Mets are a half game behind the Phillies. The Marlins are a game and a half behind the Phillies. It is a three team race but reality dictates it's really going to come down to the Mets and the Phillies. And note this: the Braves are not even involved. Let's do a little dance for that first off.

The Mets, as we are well aware, have already played all their tough West coast games, have already done their deadly road trips. From the 22nd of July to the end of the month they will face in order, the Phillies and Cards at Shea and the Marlins in Florida.

Most of August should be a breeze until the end of August when they go to Philly for a pair of games and then host Florida. August is when the Mets have a good chance to put another good month together.

In September it gets a bit dodgier. First, a three game series in Milwaukee who will no doubt be fighting for the wild card slot. Then three games at Shea against the Phillies. And keep in mind the season ends fairly brutally: three games in Atlanta followed by four games against the Cubs before closing out the season with three games against the Marlins. The last seven games of the season will be at home.

The defending NL East champions have a key run in July as well. They'll open post-All Star break with a 6 game road run against the Marlins and then the Mets. Then they host the Braves for three games before closing with a whimper against the Nats.

In August, the Phillies start at the Cards then host the Marlins. They get a slight break against the Pirates before hitting the road for 7 game west coast trip against the Dodgers and Padres. They also close out the month in Chicago for a 4 game series against the Cubs. Bearing in mind the ease of the Mets' August schedule, this could prove to be the difference in this race.

In September, they will face the Braves 6 times, the Mets 3 times, the Marlins 6 times and the Brewers three times.

The schedule favours the Mets.

The Mets' clear problems are the outfield corners (unless you expect Chavez and Tatis to carry on as they have lately or Church to make a miraculous return). They don't seem to need Castillo back at second. Whilst Schneider has waned as the season has gone on, Castro has been there to pick up the slack. Delgado appears to finally be making a comeback.

The starting pitching has been great of late but Pedro has not been Pedro and might be injured again. Santana has been no true ace, although I expect he will finish with a flourish. Maine has been inconsistent and disappointing for his failure to pitch deep into his outings. Oliver Perez has been what you would expect from him. If Pelfrey truly has "found" himself this might be sufficient to carry the rotation.

The bullpen - Billy Wagner showed again in the All Star game that he likes to choke when the game matters most. Not a good thing for a closer. He isn't on the level of Armando Benitez but he isn't many steps above him. It's a real problem. And will Schoeneweis and Heilman continue their run or return to their previous inconsistencies? The bullpen is a real question mark, especially in light of how good the Phillies bullpen is by comparison.

Of course, the Phillies starting rotation is rubbish. If they don't get another pitcher before the deadline, you can't realistically expect they will be able to stay in the race.

Their batting order remains impressive but other than a short run that pushed them to first early this season, they haven't really scared anyone in a while.

Overall, comparing the IFs and the Certainties, the Mets are in a better position.

When the season began, my predictions envisioned the Mets winning the NL East and whilst for the majority of this season that has seemed generous, I'm beginning to believe the fates might surprise us. One thing for certain, my prediction of the Braves earning the wild card was certainly misguided. Almost as much as the A's-Mets World Series.

But that's what they play the games for.

We begin the second half perhaps even more optimistic than the first half. With a little luck, it'll be a tight, exciting NL East race.


Mets Complete Sweep, Take 6th In A Row

"Can you hear the drums Fernando?
I remember long ago another starry night like this
In the firelight Fernando
You were humming to yourself and softly strumming your guitar
I could hear the distant drums
And sounds of bugle calls were coming from afar"

Brace yourselves for the new Mets' theme song, Abba's Fernando...

On the one hand a mini sort of run had to be expected from these Mets eventually. I mean there is a modicum of talent on this team to begin with, the manager was fired, coaches were sacked, a GM head was on the chopping block and well, it's difficult to imagine that an entire team could walk in a somnambulistic unity for an entire season without something major happening.

On the other hand, if you think back a month ago or maybe even two weeks ago it actually wasn't that difficult to imagine the team's collective apathy resulting in the GM getting sacked, the core being dismantled and a fire sale being conducted amid a massive fan upheaval of disgust and disappointment.

So here are the Mets, fresh from a sweep of the lowly Giants and giddy like a bird on one too many champagne fizzes, gulping in the fresh air of a 6 game winning streak and for the moment anyway, basking in the glow of redemption.

Does anyone even care that the predictable news, Moises Alou, injured AGAIN, gone for the rest of the season and probably for the rest of his career, is being played for the final time?

Moises Who?

No, they don't. Well, maybe someone who ISN'T already completely and utterly fed up with his ancient muscled fragility does, but even if they do, the news that Fernando Tatis, like a comic book super hero, practically won this game on his own yesterday is sufficient distraction.

Hmmm, let's weigh this on the scale of importance: after a collective five minutes of activity this season, Alou is gone, hopefully for good so the Mets finally dig to find a real solution to left field OR long-forgotten nowhere man emerges to to hit two doubles and a homerun, the last a game-clincher, a knocks in 4 of the Mets' 7 runs.

So let's give both Tatis and Omar a golf clap on this one. Well done the pair of yea.

With the success of recalling Tatis from the depths of inactivity perhaps any day now Omar is now going to announce he's signed Dave Nilsson to fill in permanently for Alou in left.

But look, the game wasn't without it's flaws and imperfections yesterday.

No, the stubble isn't intimidating the ump's strike zone it appears

For one, between Giant starting pitcher Barry Zero and John "Five Innings And Out" Maine, 11 walks were issued in less than 10 combined innings of work. Maine actually, after all those walks, a pair of wild pitches and even 8 strikeouts, didn't even last his minimum five innings. Nope, he was pulled for Carlos Muniz with two out in the 5th despite allowing only two hits.

In fact, the bullpen did a brilliant job between them tossing 4 1/3 shutout innings and allowing only one Giant hit the rest of the game.

Even All Star Hillbilly Wagner got in on the action to pitch a meaningless but flawless 9th.

So here they are these Mets, a few days removed from the All Star break perhaps, perhaps looking like the team they were supposed to resemble since the Spring but then again, perhaps still prone to another collapse just as sudden and unexpected as this sudden victory march.


Looks Like The Mets (And The Army) Are Back!

When these pages were last dulled by the obsequious presence of the Army the Mets were still diligently gathering evidence of the mediocrity.

They'd were in St Louis, had split the first two games of a four game series with another three game series on the road in Philly on the horizan.

The Army felt safe in its belief that upon return from its undisclosed location it would be discovered that either the Metsies had continued treading water in a vortex of unrequited hope or would be preparing the first and likely last fire sale of the Omar regime, miserable with disappointment at all the lofty dreams gone painfully awry.

Well whoop-dee-doo

As it turns out, neither was the case.

Instead, eight days later the Mets are riding a five game winning streak which includes three wins in a row over the Phuckin' Phillies and two shutout wins in a row over the They Might Not Be Giants.

Not only that but even the Mets organisation appears to have allowed themselves enough enthusiasm to unleash a Vote Wright Now campaign the likes of which seemed almost impossible a few weeks ago.

Is this Manager Manuel Magic or simply an inevitable upturn for a team that was destined all along to finally get it right, at least for awhile.

And what the hell happened to the kick the dirt and stumble incoherently into the night Mets we had all grown to despise?

Well for one, the re-treads that Omar put in the outfield and 2nd base to spell an injury-ruptured batting order starting hitting. Over the last week Fernando Tatis is hitting .438, Endy Chavez is hitting .407, and Damon Easley is hitting .367. By god, even that little footnote of a career called Carlos Delgado is hitting .397! Carlos Delgado! Didn't we want him waived unconditionally a few weeks ago?

Pitching coming from very unexpected places...

The starting pitching for another, Mike Pelfrey in particular.unti

There will be no throat cutting until the fatted calf is ripe.

Pelfrey of course, has been long viewed as a guy who could but couldn't and all of the sudden, after two seasons of why is this guy not pitching in New Orleans, he's doing Cy Young impersonations.

For June and July Pelfrey is 5-0 in 7 starts and sports a sub-3.00 ERA.

What the hell happened?

Well I dunno, kids. This might turn out to be fun after all.

Or perhaps the Army should go back on holiday just to make sure the winning continues.


Mets Get Win Despite Themselves

Of course when your buried neck deep in mediocrity and every day is another drudgery of explaining to the world the reasons why you try but just can't get it done, a victory is a nice diversion.

Mets survive to struggle on another day and Duaner Sanchez, struck by a line drive, barely survives the mishap

Even one wherein your winning pitcher is a guy who probably isn't even going to stay with the team very long and you run yourself out of a potentially big opening inning with aggressive yet foolhearted baserunning.

Not even a reasonably good start will likely keep Armas with the team.

In a season of disappointments yes, we should probably cherish every little victory. A victory over your most distant wildcard rival, whose lead was narrowed to six games. A victory with a minor league pitcher starting in Tony Armas for you. A victory on the road against the team with the second best record in the National League. A victory led in part by a back up catcher in Castro, who matched his RBI total for June in one game. A victory with a rare combination of hitting from the corners; Delgado and Wright, who in their first eight appearances, had six hits, three doubles and three runs scored.

Are these the only two guys on the roster worth keeping?

Yes a victory that saw a rare, flawless performance from the bullpen when Heilman, Feliciano, Sanchez and Wagner pitched a combined three shutout innings and allowed only one baserunner.

Of course, by the end of the 1st inning the bitterness had only grown.

Reyes was thrown out at second trying to steal, killing one runner and then Endy Chavez was thrown out at home when he tried to score on a wild pitch only to see the ball bounce back short off the brick wall behind home plate. You had to be thinking to yourself losing two potential runs like that was going to be demoralising.

And then when Ankiel hit his two-run shot to give the Cards their early lead in the bottom of the 1st the temptation to simply stop listening and find something more productive to do with your time was overwhelming.

But somehow, the Mets persevered.

It's a win that keeps them on pace with the Phillies and staves off the howling rage of their supporters during this crucial, probably season-deciding road trip to St Louis and Philly.


King of Understatement, Jerry Manuel on Luis Castillo, who didn't play last night: "He seems to wear out a lot easier than I anticipated,"

Pedro takes the mound tonight and who else other than me is dying to see if the rubbish theory about tipping his pitches? If this is the simple mechanical explanation that Pedro should throw 5 or 6 shutout innings tonight, I'm betting. And he'll need to because Joel Pineiro, who hasn't won since April, will be on the mound for the Cardinals. Pineiro's post-April streak likely means an inexplicably spectacular outing against the Mets. You just watch. That's how the Mets roll. Struggle against inferiority.

With June mercifully over I note the near identical stats of Wright, Beltran and, surprisingly, Delgado.

1. C Beltran 28 107 19 29 6 0 6 21 53 15 18 .361 .495 .271
2. C Delgado 28 105 14 27 8 1 6 20 55 9 21 .333 .524 .257
3. D Wright 27 104 13 29 3 0 5 23 47 14 17 .355 .452 .279

And poor Johan Santana - his June consisted of 5 starts and an 0-4 record despite a 2.53 ERA for June.

Pelfrey, on the other hand, was 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA.

Surprise, surprise: Heilman, everybody's favourite goat, pitched in 15 games and had an incredible 0.61 ERA over the last 30 days.


Mets Bring Joy To Cardinals Fans

"We just looked sometimes lethargic. We have to be careful that doesn't become a pattern." says Jerry Manuel after last night's stinging 7-1 loss, like his manager's position is allowing him unique insight he didn't have as the bench coach. Be careful it doesn't become a pattern? Jerry where the fuck have you been the last two seasons? It's not in a danger of becoming a pattern, Jerry. It's already set in fucking stone.

The Mets are a rubbish team with the focus and concentration of Oliver Perez and after a few weeks of Jerry Manuel I think it's now safe to say he isn't the man who is going to change that.

And maybe nobody is. Maybe it's time for the Mets to simply get rid of as much of this excess baggage calling itself a team that they can rid of and start all over again with a new GM, a new manager, whatever can be salvaged from a gutted minor league system and whatever they can get for the junkyard of a team they have remaining. Spare David Wright, but quite frankly, this is the only guy from this wreckage that I'd save.

I'm beginning to believe Luis Castillo is hiding behind the guise of injury when it's really disinterested laziness which seems to be his real foe. What else would explain how fast and agile he looked against the Yankees and what a lifeless fielding muppet he looked like against the Cardinals last night? Hurt? Old? Incapable? I've said this before - if Castillo is playing hurt, put him on the DL or let him undergo season-ending surgery but this rubbish of I'll play a few games and then put jersey on and take the field but not really play the rest of the games is simply cashed as a baseball philosophy. Sadly, because of Omar's short-sightedness, this empty jersey calling itself a ball player is going to be difficult if not impossible to unload on another team. How about an unconditional release?

Resting Delgado for a late-inning defensive replacement is another joke. This guy puts up half efforts in the league of Castillo and sticking some past-his-primer like Fernando Tatis for crissakes is like trying to stem the flow of blood squirting out from a severed artery with a square of toilet paper.

The right side of the infield a gaping hole of incompetence and lethargy and no amount of wishful thinking, no amount of late-inning replacements called up from Scrubville or Futility City or the MLB pension queue, is going to change that.

Look, staying out here is a bad idea coach, I think I'm just going to give up all these runs right now so we can stop having to worry about staying close altogether and just get this loss over.

Hard to believe that a year and a half ago or so these two teams were playing in the NLCS.

Sure, the Cardinals are looking good after a year of misery. But the Mets? Looks like the 2006 NLCS was the closest this collection of somnambulists and brittle bodies is ever going to come to winning anything again.

John Maine started the game off smashingly...for the Cardinals. A lead off walk, a single and an RBI single followed by another walk and the next thing you knew Coach Warthen is waddling out there to see what the fuck John Maine was smoking. Four batters into the lineup and the Mets were down 1-0 with the bases loaded and none out. Not the kind of beginning that makes you think the Mets have a prayer of staying in the game.

But Maine escaped it with only one more run to leave the Mets in a 2-0 hole.

Then in the second inning, as the Met bats went down meekly yet again to Kyle Lohse, a man the Mets rejected, or rather Omar rejected back in January off season. But Maine seemed ready to answer before Skip Schumaker's simple grounder with two outs went through Castillo's legs and let Yadier Molina to score from second base. 3-0 and hope slipping like sand through the fingertips.

Third inning, Mets go down as easy as 1-2-3 and the Cards get another run in their half, 4-0.

Need we go on and on and on? The millionth throwing error by David Wright in his short career, this one a circus throw in the 4th inning led to yet another run and by now, if you were still listening to or watching the game you are a confirmed masochist because everybody in the world knows the Mets are not going to come back from such a lifeless deficit with the entirey of the defence simply standing around waiting for the next lapse in concentration. How long has Wright been playing third base for the Mets and how long has he had problems throwing the goddamned ball from third to first? Is there some sort of learning disability on display here?

What? The game still salvageable? Why let's put in Carlos Muniz then so we can all get back to the hotel!

So there you go, folks. Another embarassing loss. Another reminder that no matter how delusional the length of the baseball season allows us to remain, the simple fact is that the Mets are going nowhere this season.

It's time to start the Fire Sale.