Mets End August In Victory

A 4 run margin going into the 9th inning is certainly not, in the venacular of the Mets' bullpen, a safe lead.

However, with Brian Stokes acting as the closer du jour, combined with a diving catch by Jose Reyes to end the game, the Mets managed to squeak by with another valuable victory.

After this comes the call-up of fresh arms from the farm clubs to restock the bullpen and give Jerry Manuel even more arms to barter against last-minute losses with.

For today though, Pedro pitched 6 reasonably strong innings and the bullpen surrendered only three hits in the last three innings.

Perhaps more importantly, unlike the usually lethargic batting displays with a lead in their pockets, the Mets actually hit with men on base and built on their slim one run lead in the 7th, handing the pen three more runs to work with.

And just like that the Mets close out August leading the NL East by a slim margin hoping to avoid another September collapse.

That month of avoidance begins tomorrow in Milwaukee with three lefty starters against the Brewers who have the best record in the Majors against lefties.

Should be interesting.

Stupid 101: Don't Intentionally Walk The Bases Loaded

I have to wonder if Jerry Manuel's as desperate and as crazy as he sometimes acts.

Jerry reverts back to his early career playing Easy Reader on Electric Company...or was that Morgan Freeman?

Yes, easily and predictably you could blame Duaner Sanchez for allowing a game-tying homer or even Aaron Heilman for walking home the winning run but at the end of the day, I see one of those big foam fingers pointing at the Mets' fearless interim manager.

I mean, good christ, the bullpen isn't bad enough already, doesn't have enough pressure, isn't already consumed with the failure facing them on a daily basis that you've got to have the manager INTENTIONALLY walking the bases loaded? That's not Russian Roulette relief mate, that's a bloody firing squad.

Will the men in the little white suits be coming to take Jerry away?

And to think he was crazy enough to intentionally walk the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th and a one run lead with Aaron Heilman on the mound. HEILMAN, for crissakes. You might as well have called the boys in from the field and taken an early shower, surrendering before the Marlins could have the satisfaction of actually beating you.

And if that isn't bad enough, just consider this isn't the first time Manuel has done this in the last week. Oh no, he loves this little manoeuvre. On Tuesday night he did the same thing for Scott Schoeneweiss last Tuesday to blow the game in the 13th against the Phillies, which is almost as crazy as doing it to Heilman. For an encore he's going to trade for Kenny Rogers just so he can load the bases against the Phillies next weekend and walk in the winning run, bring back all those tender memories from 1999.

"As a pitcher, I don't think we want to intentionally walk anybody." Heilman said after the game. As manager though, dealing with an erratic bullpen and trying to win, apparently all sane thinking goes out the window. The relievers don't put enough men on base, don't let enough runs score on their own. They need Jerry Manuel's assistance apparently.

But anway, we weren't seriously going to sweep the Marlins in Florida in this series. Especially after Friday night's escape. The Mets are lucky not to have lost both games. But as loseable as the game apparently won so was it equally winnable.

Manual would have welcomed a third straight complete game from Mike Pelfrey and after five innings, he was probably even money to do so, with only 75 pitches and trepid 3-0 lead. But Pelf ran into a little trouble in the 6th so by the time he was reluctantly removed in the 7th with two out he'd rung up 117 pitches. Too much to ask, no doubt. Besides, it was evident he was wilting and if you're going to intentionally walk the bases full with Heilman on the mound, no use wasting any more energy in Pelfrey's arm.

Maybe next time Pelf should aim for Ross' head.

Pelf also caused a little chaos by plunking Cody Ross in the 2nd inning. Ross had been hit by Pelf before and made a little episode of it so presumably, Pelf was showing him who was boss out there. The benches emptied and oddly enough, there was Oliver Perez getting in the mix looking ready to cut a Marlin if necessary. This put the Marlins' little bitch brigade of Tommy Hutton and Rich "Super Douche" Waltz into a self-righteous tizzy about pitchers who aren't in the game coming off the bench in bench-clearing disputes punctuated by Waltz, who must be in the running for most annoying runt-like impersonation of Joe Super Duper Douche Buck, opining that Perez "had his chance" last night when he was pitching. To do what exactly? Bean the Marlins one by one? Run off the bench and on to the field? Run up into the announcers booth and bury Waltz with a haymaker? Idiot. Waltz should have his mouth cauterised to prevent his stupidity from spreading to the public like an airbourne virus.

The best part of course, was that Pelf picked Ross off first right after that. Nyaaah.

In any event, other than the intitial outbut, in very typical fashion, the Mets batting order flailed miserably and after the fifth is was simple a matter of time, a waiting game, for the Marlins to post the winning run. That's what happens when you stop trying scoring.

Today is the final day of August before the dreaded anniversary of last September's collapse. August, which started with a three game sweep by the Astros in Houston, will see the Mets off with at least a share of first place in the NL East and perhaps as much as a two-game lead.


Somhow, Mets Win Again

With a bullpen that is essentially the laughingstock of contenders, the Mets are kind of like a marathon runner who has broken a leg halfway through a race and limps along to the finish line, gritting out every step.

Improbably, one out away from a loss, Carlos Beltran belted a dramatic grand slam to give the Mets a 5-2 going into the 9th.

Beltran shows a little clutch for a change. Swings on first pitch - sure is an improvement over striking out with the bat on your shoulders in Game 7 of the NLCS, isn't it?

Yet dramatically, with Luis Ayala left to save or blow the game on his own and struggling with a sort of hamstring ailment in the bottom of the 9th, the Magical Murph, rookie hotshot, made a rather incredible relay throw to hold pinch runner Alfredo Amezaga at third after Jorge Cantu's double and one Marlin later, the Mets finally had the victory.

Typical drama. Typical edge-of-your-seat finale that is the trademark of a very unremarkable bullpen and once again, the Mets somehow managed to escape.

No victory is certain, no defeat is unavoidable. Somehow, night after night, the Mets defy the odds with their one-legged marathoner of a team. Even when David Wright strikes out with the bases loaded in the 7th.

And to make matters better still, the Cubs were battering the Phillies again to raise the Mets' lead to 2 games after having lost the NL East lead in heart-breaking fashion only 4 nights before.

No one will accuse the Mets of being boring and frankly, so long as they continue to win more than they lose, this has to be by default, one of the more entertaining ways to see a season through.

A team of guts that doesn't allow injury, set-back or even dramatic losses foil them.

A team to be proud of, grinding it out without a bullpen to speak of.


Redemption: Mets Take Back First Place

The only thing you can say with any certainty about these 2008 Mets is that you never know what they are going to do.

Ok, you can probably squawk "the bullpen sucks, the bullpen sucks" and be pretty safe most nights but every thing else is pretty much a crap shoot.

Last night, even the bullpen would have proved you wrong.

Brian Stokes pitched his fifth consecutive scoreless inning and has given up only 2 runs in 11 1/3 relief innings he's pitched for the Mets this season while earning the win.

And with the lead and the game at stake the dreadful duo of Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith somehow managed to combine to pitch an eventless and quiet 8th.

In the 9th, Luis Ayala, a broken bat hit away from a flawless Met career and the defacto closer perhaps the rest of the way through, closed out the game 1-2-3 to earn his second save as a Met this season.

Meanwhile, and perhaps even more ironic, the vaunted Phillies pen disintegrated in the 8th to blow this game.

Brian Schneider, the guy whose head many of us would have like seen on a pike outside of Shea for that misplayed throw to the plate the night before that pretty much cost the Mets the game, what did he do? Mr Defensive Catcher "only" hit a two-out two-run single off of the impenetrable Brad Lidge to seal the three run lead.

Rookie Murph was even more miraculous, doubling home the lead run in the 8th on Lidge's second pitch.

And Carlos Delgado, the guy written off by pretty much everyone on earth earlier this season continued to yank the Mets forward with his inexplicable resurgence, golfing a pair of pitches out of the park to go along with his RBI single in the first to pretty much carry the Mets to victory. 19 homers and 57 RBIs since June and the Mets have found themselves their cleanup hitter. Hitting .301 since the All Star game.

Yes, as hideous as Tuesday Night's 13th inning debaucherie was, tonight's 8th inning two-out rally was just as beautiful.

Shouldn't last night's salary be donated to charity?

Johan Santana, on the other hand, way for the ace to come up big in an important game. I know, he gutted out those final three outs of his outing when the game could have completely gotten out of hand but really - when you're making like, a trillion dollars a pitch, when you're the go-to guy in the rotation, is that performance last night something to be proud of?

I mean, even David Wright, hitless in 5 at-bats, made that unbelievable play in the 8th to help the pen.

Santana? How about some complete game shutouts to close out the season?

And to make this an almost perfect day, the Yankmees have pretty much been knocked out of the post season. Boo-hoo.


Redefining Ugly: Phillies Take Over First

13 innings to lose a 7 run lead and first place in the National League East.

I was preparing a deep breath to go into a long and lovely rant about how much the Mets suck that they could blow this game in the demoralising manner that they did, about how this defeat mirrors the choke-job of last September, about how the season is unremarkably lost because the bullpen yet again fail to do the one thing they are asked to do. Oh yeah, and how the "defensive catcher" allows a ball to skip past him and the tying run to score when by rights, Jayson Werth was going to be out by a mile and the Mets were going to squeak out of this first game alive.

But why bother?

Reyes demonstrates the Mets NL East tactic, a downward dive.

The Mets could win a game tonight and be back in first.

Words are useless in this battle. You have to sit there soaking in every millisecornd of melodrama knowing as if it is some Philly sadist rather than the Mets and Phillies writing this story, that no matter how many innings with Heilman in there that concluded with an exhale of relief, eventually, the Mets were going to drop this.

You know in the same way you knew in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS that Kenny Rogers was going to walk the winning effin run home that somebody in this bullpen was ultimately going to spit the bit last night and the game was going to be lost.

Why do you know?

Because it's no work of genius to conclude that that which is good will be undone by that which is evil (Schoeneweiss or Ayala or Heilman or Smith or Feliciano or Sanchez what difference does it make?) someone is going to do it. Not even a 10-0 lead into the 9th can be considered safe which is why you saw Pelfrey the other night getting his arm used in a place it had no business being used since the business of the pen is to close these games out one, two, three.

But they don't.

There will be no reinventions of the wheel this week.

Easley's quasi-heroics for naught.

The bullpen sucks and the only thing the Mets can do is try and overcome it.

And not let demoralising defeats like the one last night or echoes of September 2007 get into their heads.

Starting, you would imagine, with a Johan Santana complete game shutout.

Of course, that won't happen but the Mets will bounce back to live another day this time. Just to prolong the inevitable. Keep us beating our heads against the wall.


Easiest Solution: No Bullpen No Cry

Getting the feeling that in order to have any hope of salvaging the season your going to have to burn out the brightest young arm in your rotation?

Granted, back to back complete games is not necessarily Six Million Dollar Man territory. That fat guy in Milwaukee does it almost every start.

Nor is 108 pitches a particularly alarming number of pitches to through. Not unless your arm is hanging by a thread, like Pedro.

Enjoy this whilst you still can because next season he will probably be on the DL.

But surely no one can look at Pelfrey, his innings pitched, the innings he's pitched in the past and think Generation K

You get the crazy urges, I'm sure, to imagine that even Aaron Heilman could hold a 9-0 lead, but deep down you realise this isn't a certainty and sparing the stadium more late inning bullpen cock-ups theatrics is always the nice way to close out a bank holiday weekend. Even if that's only in England and not in New York.

Still, a bit of a waste of Pelfrey's arm, you might imagine.

In any event, quickest solution to the bullpen is keep them in the bullpen where they can't do any damage.

Add a pair of three run homers from Carlos Delgado (where were you Sunday when the bases were loaded, but all is forgiven) and for a night the Mets seem nearly invincible and the Astros look as mediocre as they should rightfully look given their lineup and rubbish pitching staff.

So short, sweet and painless it goes for a night. Not very good practice for when all hell breaks loose in Philly but maybe we all needed a night off of hysterics in preparation.

PS: Mr Castillo - don't think that diving catch gets you off the hook just yet.


Bullpen Ruins The Day Again

Let's all give Pedro Feliciano a round of applause. To the head.

Ok, maybe a punch to the head.

Ok, so the Mets couldn't hold a 3-0 lead but jaysus, Feliciano put it out of reach with a pair of homers surrendered in the 10th on Sunday because for christ only knows what reason, Luis Ayala, the one guy to date who has demonstrated some consistency getting outs out of the bullpen, leaves the game after three up three down.

Deliver defeat from the jaws of victory, thanks again. However, the look of disgust on Jerry Manuel's face almost makes up for the idiotic removal of Ayala.

Find the hot hand, that's what Mr Manuel said, post-loss.

So the only hot hand is found in Ayala and discarded for the abusive Feliciano.

Of course, this is a two-game tailspin which, on the heels of a nice stretch of good baseball, is probably to be expected. No team stays hot forever.

But this game's turning point, bullpen's chicanery asidde, was the Mets' failure to do more with the bases loaded in the 3rd. Mark Loretta's ridiculous catch didn't help but nor did Carlos Delgado's childish pop up after they'd walked the bases full to face him.

But what the hell, not the end of the world. A few losses here, the shattered bullpen there. Lack of timely hitting, less than spectacular starting pitching...

Arm hanging on a limb?

It was bound to happen.

Just like Heilman's absurdist performance in the 7th - four straight competent appearances were bound to end in tatters eventually.

More worrisome is the Phillies looking like their 2nd half bat slumber is nearing an end. Last night's walk off homer narrowed the lead to a half game.

Tonight, Pelfrey will try to save this series, the NL East lead and well, the ebbing flow of momentum.

And just as easily as the drunken euphoria of invincibility arrived, well, it's pulling out of the station.

Relying on Brett Myers to meltdown against the Dodgers might just not be enough.

Still, that's why they play the games, isn't it? To see which bullpen cancer will metastize into another grueling Met loss.

Good luck with that hunt for the hot hand, Jerry. You'll need it.

Especially now that Doom Is On The Doorstep


Jesus Christ, This Can't Be Real Anymore

Mets win again and again and again.

God, that sounds good.

So good I won't even put up photos for this victory, it speaks for itself.

I will come back to NYC for the World Series finally.

I know it's happening now. Mets. World Series.

Don't you?


Sweep of the Braves!

Sure, we can love Omar Infante for losing the ball in the lights out there in left field and letting 5 for 5 Carlos Delgado's ball to deflect off his glove and David Wright to run home with the game winning run last night but Omar Infante hasn't been out there the last 17 games since Wagner went down and the Mets have won 13 games of those games, 9 of their last 10.

Omar Infante wasn't out there on the mound wearing Pedro's uniform to bravely come out for the 8th inning and at least try to keep the pen out of it.

Nor did Omar Infante make that crucial bunted double play in the 8th or make that perhaps questionable call in the top of the 9th

Omar Infante didn't pitch 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief like the newly acquired Luis Ayala did.

No, no, no. That was all the Mets doing. Nothing to do with Omar Infante at all.

Wright flies home

Slowly but surely, even with no closer, the Mets are beginning to look like they have the resilience and skill, and are working hard enough to create their own luck, all enough to see them poised to pull away and surprise baseball almost as much as they did in their horrific collapse of a year ago.

I know, premature, right?

But these are not the early 2008 Mets that followed any glimmer of hope with a hammer blow of disappointment to the skull.

Yes, the bullpen is still a big problem but you can almost get the sense watching the Mets play these last half dozen games that they are rising to the occasion, that all those dog days of earlier this season have helped them - the old what doesn't kill them will make them stronger adage might be applicable. They have gone through dark days, the sacking of their manager, the boos of the home crowd, the humiliation and disappointment and have come through on the other side.

My only fear is the return of Luis Castillo to douse the magical chemistry with lethargic play and a less-than-enthusiastic attitude. That, and of course, a closer by committee bullpen with little to no precedent for World Champions.

Still, it's difficult not to get a little giddy these days.

Sweeping the Braves will do that to you. Even an uncharacteristically crappy Braves team.


No Closer? No Worries

It may do him irrepairable harm somewhere down the future, according to the doom mongers and nervous pitch count Nellies out there but Mike Pelfrey demonstrated he's willing and able to throw over the Maginot Line of 100 pitches and to throw a complete game for good measure.


You betcha.

Mets take another off the Braves. Ever get sick of saying that? I didn't think so.

A man steps up to the mound...

Hopefully this won't lead to permanent damage but Pelfrey is the Mets' biggest surprise of the season from a pitching standpoint (the contributions of Church, Tatis, Murph, Lil' Reyes, Evans, Castro, Cancel, etc etc at the plate are equally welcomed but having a guy like Pelf develop before our eyes, especially after that hideous 0-7 start last season, well, sometimes the scouts are right after all.)

What, complete game not enough for you? How about an RBI single in the 1st?

And talk about rising to the occasion: knowing their bullpen is crap, the starters have as they say, kicked it up a notch and are a collective 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA over their last 8 starts. Granted, against the dregs of the NL, but hell, this contribution is enormous at this point in the season. If they're lucky, their will reward will be a renewed bullpen by the time their red heat begins to fade.

And to top it all off, the Mets added more to the mountain of potential closers in the form of Al Reyes, adding to their odds of success with every new face and arm, even if they are the faces and arms of retreads and failed experiments. This is Omar's territory, slobbering up the table scraps and finding some little morsels taste better than others.

And oh yeah: Mets Beat Braves again. Always a delicious sentence.


Someone Else's Pen Blows It For A Change

Funny, isn't it?

When it's your bullpen giving up 5 runs in the 8th inning to blow the loss wide open it's your bullpen that sucks.

When it's the other teams' bullpen giving up 5 runs in the 8th inning to blow the game right open, it's down to clutch hitting.

Happy faces all around with Delgado's unexpected clutch hit

Last night Carlos Delgado's bases loaded double, with the Mets hitting 3 for their last 42 with the bases loaded, began the final push towards victory, punctuated by Damion Easley's own two-run single in that same inning as the Mets took the opener in what one might consider somewhat surprising fashion.

Surprising because of the clutch hitting which has been dormant all month, or most of it anyway. Surprising because the much beleaguered bullpen, plagued further still by the latest news about the end of their closer's hopes this season, pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to seal the victory. And surprising, yet again, because Oliver Perez stuck another positive performance in his cap showing how well he can concentrate when a giant free agent salary is on the line.

Push HARD, Damion. Snap that back in two!

Newly acquired Luis Ayala, after nearly decapitating Omar Infante with one out and men on the corners, pitched well in his debut lending hope, well-founded or not, that he might be the answer the Mets' bullpen so desperately needs. Heilman came in the game in the 8th and got three outs on 20 pitches although not without some anxiety and finally, Schoeneweis came in to close it out.

This is how it will be the rest of the season. Fighting and clawing for every run, every save and every victory.

And in a way, you've got to wonder what that kind of resiliency does for a team's character and whether maybe the Mets are actually capable of stepping up and winning the NL East, even without a closer.


For A Change Of Pace, Let's Blame The Hitting

Ok, ok, we've heard, seen and smellt it all.

The bullpen sucks. Irrevocably.

Forget about day dreaming that the Mets will find some miracle cure on the waiver wire or that they will get collectively as hot as they stink at the moment. It ent happening. The crappy bullpen is here to stay and the difficulties, nay, near impossibility of holding a lead is going to stay with the Mets for the remainder of the season so it's almost pointless as is it repetitious to roll out the excremental parodies night after night blaming the same names again and again and again.

One of the many candidates for wanker of the day.

To varying degrees and on most nights, Duaner Sanchez, Scott Schoenweiss, Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman and probably Brian Stokes and Luis Ayala as well now that Eddie Kunz is gone; one or all of them is going to blow a lead the Mets have carefully crafted and basically hamper this team as though they were a pair of pliars and the Mets hope for victory were an Achilles Heel.

Don't blame the dirt for your ineptitude, buddy.

Oh sure, maybe Pedro can become the closer, or the Mets can start culling the bullpen now, give them all their collective releases and scour waiver wires to replace them. Maybe they can raid their farm system for assistance:

Eddie Camacho or Eudo Brito both appear to know how to hold leads on occasion. Why not Jose Bierd down at the Sand Gnats? Either Roy Merritt or Jimmy Johnson up from the Cyclones...hell, why not even Michael Powers up from the Rookie League?

Surely these guys can't ALL do worse than an already rubbish bullpen and who knows, perhaps one of them will come up here and dazzle, stick his footprint in the reliever walk of fame and lead the Mets miraculously into the postseason.

All we know or need to know is that these Stooges running the show at the moment are not the answer.

Ump should have ejected the Mets pen as well and save us the bother

Irrespective of who or how, simply sitting on your hands or walking whistling past this bullpen is not going to keep the Mets in first place. They could put an advertisement in the NY broadsheets for relief pitchers, couldn't they?

Look, I know I said I was going to blame the lack of timely hitting for yesterday's loss. The double plays, the striking out with runners in scoring position, etc., etc but let's be real - even scoring two meagre runs against a scrub pitching staff like the Pirates, bad as it it, is not realistically the primary problem to hand, is it?

Sure, we could worry about Carlos Delgado's plunge back into mediocrity this week because if his hitting magic is gone again, so are the Mets, forgettaboutit. Not even Murph and Tatis and Cancel can save this bunch.

I know the Mets have been good at Shea this season but don't expect that to last forever, not if the bullpen isn't replaced and the hitting starts to go because the next thing after that is the fielding and this'll be September 2007 all over again.

I mean, you KNOW the Braves are always trouble - forget about how bad they suck this season, you KNOW the potential is there after all these years for something ugly and hurtful. And the Astros, need we be reminded how the Mets were swept in Houston just earlier this month? They're 13-4 this month.

This homestand, as brilliant as the road trip was, could be the final harbinger of doom. Imploding pen, failed hitting, the added pressure of cascading booing at home, the media getting hysterical. You name it.

One and a half games in front is nothing. Could be gone in an instant.

Especially since the Phillies play the Nats up next.

Gone in an instant.


Mets Lead Remains Two

Not all the news, despite winning all three games against the Pirates this weekend with three outstanding starts from Pelfrey, Pedro and Santana, was good news.

First, the Phillies took two of three from the Padres to stay within two games of the Mets in the NL East.

Secondly, the bullpen, which nearly blew a massive lead on Saturday, received further bad news when it was revealed The Hillbilly Is Still Hurtin and the cavalry is not on the way. Wagner will not be coming off the disabled list after all.

On Friday night, the bullpen entered the game in the 8th with the narrowest of two run leads after a rather brilliant performance from Mike Pelfrey; six hits and seven shutout innings.

Relief was a hard as it looked Friday night.

Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman closed it out surrendering only one run: Jack Wilson's lead homer off of Feliciano in the 8th to which kept everyone's hearts in their collective throats for the rest of the game. Feliciano made a miraculous recovery with two men on and two out in the 8th to set up Heilman's 9th inning save which involved three outs sandwiched around a lone walk.

So the Mets took the opener despite an enemic 2 run output against the Pirates' hardly renowned pitching staff.

On the other hand, rather than criticising, one simply felt relief.

Even if Pedro is back, he can't pitch complete games...

On Saturday, Pedro led the way, managing an encouraging seven inning out, allowing only a single run despite 8 hits. Before getting giddy about a resurgence from Pedro, remember that these were the Pirates after all, an almost ridiculously easy opponent on the heels of the Nats and hell, even before you could get giddy about the game you could see this one, like the one on Friday, almost but not quite get rubbished by the ever-frightening bullpen despite a seemingly insurmountable 7-1 lead going into the 9th.

Oh no, and did we need the Pirates to remind us that no lead is safe with the Mets bullpen?

Saturday, it was rookie Eddie Kunz who did the honours of horrifying Mets fans with a psychologically damaging outing, perhaps not unexpected when you throw a guy who has been pitching Double AA into a Major League pennant race. Kunz showed he's no closer, not even with a 6 run lead, managing only one out but three runs on only 17 pitches before Feliciano mercifully finished it off. You might also note that Joe Smith shat himself again, giving up a hit and failing to get a single out before being removed.

Not only unencouraging, but terrifying when you consider the lead the Mets blew against the Pirates last week.

In between the Mets announced a trade for Luis Ayala, from the Nats of all teams. Ayala of course, is 1-8 with a 5.77 ERA - just the sort of guy who can fit in the Mets' pigpen of ugly and flailing finishers. Any worries he wouldn't clear the waiver wire?

The entirety of the game Sunday could be summed up by these two battery mates.

Yesterday Santana made the bullpen irrevelant by throwing a nice complete game shutout; i.e. doing what he's paid kazillions to do for the Mets, preserving the winning streak and keeping the pen out of the equation.

This is all good and well against the likes of the Pirates and Nats - the Mets simply MUST win against these teams to have a prayer at the NL East - but it doesn't do the heart much good considering the results when they have to start playing contenders again.

For one, you begin to get the feeling that Wagner isn't going to be healed any time soon despite the wishful thinking and again, this is a blessing in disguise because frankly, we were never going to get deep into the post season with a choker like Wagner as our closer anyway so best the Mets learn to live without him and find a more suitable replacement next season.

Secondly, no matter how rubbish the Hillbilly can be, most outings he made it look reasonably easy. The remainder of the season is going to be filled with blown saves, deliriously wobbly saves blowing all but the final chunk of big leads, and perhaps, on occasion a night with no worries, when the offense explodes and gives a big enough lead to carry them.

I've also got a little theory here called wishful thinking:

Remember when the Mets nearly went to the World Series in 2006? Did they not do it by winning even though half their starting rotation went down to injury and they were forced to rely on the inverse of this season; 5 or 6 innings of hold your breath followed by 3 or 4 innings of hold your lead?

In 2006 it was all about the bullpen with surprisingly good starters occasionally paving the way. Who can forget Oliver Perez coming from virtually nowhere in Game 4 or equally, John Maine's 5 1/3 inning outing in Game 6 both of which kept the Mets alive? No Pedro, no El Duque. Just unstable kids holding on for dear life until the bullpen could save them. Sure, Glavine pitched almost memorably in Game 1 but by Game 5, he'd shot his wad just like Pedro and El Duque.

Now we're at the opposite end of the spectrum. We've got what one could argue is the best starting rotation in the NL, bar perhaps the Cubs and maybe the Brewers, but the bullpen is in shreds. (Ok, officially, over the last month, the best in the NL behind the Brewers, Cubs and Dodgers but hell, who's counting?)

And who knows, maybe Heilman, or Sanchez or even John Maine will catch fire and figure out they're going to be the closer the rest of the season and just do it. Who knows indeed. Stranger things have happened.

And for those of you feeling bad because Wagner isn't coming home any time soon just remember what he did in that 2006 NLCS: 16.88 ERA.

Even Heilman can probably manage that.


Sweep Complete, Mets In First Alone

I have to admit I was quite skeptical about Oliver Perez's start against the Nats.

Hard to imagine, Olly pitching consistently, Delgado still playing vintage Delgado...

He was coming off a 120 pitch start, he has a prediliction for failing to concentrate against the rubbish teams, and at this point in the season, the Nats certainly qualify as rubbish and well, what were the odds that the Mets, with their own rubbish overflowing out of the bullpen, were going to be able to avoid disaster for thee consecutive games and complete their first road sweep of the season?

But surprise, surprise.

Perez, with a 1.97 ERA in his last 9 starts, pitched extended his scoreless inning streak to 15 games before finally succumbing to reality in the 7th and letting three in to narrow the Mets margin to 5-3 and making us all exceedingly jittery at the prospects of the bullpen coming in and the lifeless Nats suddenly springing to life.

Instead, Joe Smith came in and closed off the bleeding in the 7th but before we could even remotely begin to trust him, he walked a pair of Nats in the 8th leaving the game in danger for Duaner Sanchez, who I assert is the only reasonably stable reliever the Mets have at this point which is not saying very much at all. Sanchez got both outs to end the 8th, another land mine avoided.

But still all of us were wondering with that slim 5-3 lead and three very large outs to go whether or not this was really such a good idea before the Mets pinched out 4 runs in the top of the 9th to give Aaron Heilman a reasonable amount of breathing room or margin for error and a 9-3 even the HE couldn't blow.

Damion Easley's pinch-hit two run single in the 9th was a great assist to make the final three outs more tolerable and you have to wonder at Carlos Delgado's continued resurgence, his full return to the Delgado of old. The homer he hit in the 6th seemed almost effortless.

And Brian Schneider, ok, not pinch-hitting with the bases loaded like in the opener, finally hit a homer - the first one since like, Little League and again coming against his former teammates. Of course, Schneider reminds everyone that the Mets traded Lastings Milledge but frankly, given full opportunity to flourish, he isn't such a spectacular rapping five tool player after all, is he? .256 batting average on the season - sure, he made a nice grab of David Wright's shot but he made it look harder than it really was by stepping back just a bit as he was already into his stride. It almost looked like one of those Victor Diaz, now-I-see-it-now-I-don't sort of last second stabs that looked a lot harder than it should have.

In any event, thank you, Nats. (And belated, thank you Dodgers for stomping down the Phillies...)

Three victories and sole possession of first place.

Not a bad way to start a road trip. Now let's go see if the Pirates are still trying to give games away up in Pittsburgh.


Just What The Doctor Ordered 12-0 Night

Nothing to bemoan for a change.

An off night for a bad team and a good night for a better-than-average team meant John Maine returned to the rotation from the DL last with sufficient run support to relax which in theory anyway, what a team should be able to do against a team like the Nats.

The Murph is still hitting the bejauysus out of the ball, another three hits worth, including another homer.

8 runs in the 3rd was just the kind of medication a rubbish bullpen on the heels of an amazing and thoroughly unexpected two innings of success on Tuesday night deserved. A night off from pressure.

Not only that but whilst the Mets enter into a cream puff section of their schedule,
the Phillies were losing their third game in a row to the Dodgers, and just like that the NL East lead evaporated and the Mets are once again tied for the top.

nice and easy

Most importantly of course was a night off from the pressure of relying on the pen to save a win. It was like being on a mini holiday for a night.

Brian Stokes even earned his first career save with four solid innings of three hit shutout relief for Maine.

So feel free to worry amongst yourself about Maine being rusty, having right shoulder soreness after his outing, Pelf being tired and on the verge of unprecedented pitching workloads and the bullpen whilst Oliver Perez certainly well overdue for one of his curiously miserable performances heavily laden with concentration lapses against a low-rated team.

Something tells me this tie for first is only going to last 24 hours so enjoy it while it lasts. Even if the Phillies bullpen pitched like the Mets last night and their ace, Cole Hamels, like Pelf for the Mets, nears his all-time highs in innings pitched for the season.


No, This Isn't A Dream Sequence....

Dear, Sweet Je$u$,

Thank you for pulling the collective arses of Jerry Manuel, Johan
, Pedro Feliciano and Eddie "Nothing But A Bunch Of" Kunz out of the fire last night.

(Manager Manuel, you will recall, pinch hit for Santana after 94 pitches in the 8th with the bases loaded so that Brian Schneider could strike out in his stead and further that the bullpen, namely Feliciano in the instant case, could try and ho-ho-ho hee-hee-hee ha-ha-ha, hold a 1 run lead.)

Unbelievably, you took mercy on both Manuel for either a)making the right decision in a crapshoot called Russian Roulette Relievers b) guessing c) making a desperate choice when utterly out of reasonable options.

Sure, if Schneider had turned around and hit a grand slam it could have rightly been hailed, similarly to the choice of relievers, as either incredible luck or a decision bordering on genius, the difference being primarily that based on probability alone, Schneider probably had a better chance of hitting a pinch hit grand slam than the bullpen did of saving the game but that's all water under the table dear, sweat Je$u$, for whatever reason, you spared him and Feliciano both the incredible ridicule that was almost certain to follow and instead, turned them into temporary folk heroes in a way.

You spared Santana the humiliation of losing another reasonably pitched game that he couldn't or didn't finish and accordingly, was forced to watch the bullpen choke it up like a hair ball - not that he deserved it necessarily - having watched the games of his own and his colleagues turned into contests of unfathonable ineptitude he almost deserved to see another victory yanked from his maw for failing to finish.

And you spared Kunz well, being the goat for a day a day or two early.

Jerry knew as well as the rest of us that if Kunz went in there he was going to gag on the bit and hinted as much when he made some absurdist argument about why Feliciano was a better choice pitching to batters he would usually not be allowed to pitch to simply because he didn't think Kunz would be able to handle it.

Well, his exact words were "I did not want to start Eddie with a guy that I didn't think was a swinger," but frankly, that justification makes little sense due to the double negatives and intentional obfuscation of the decision process. The truth is probably closer to wild guess or gut instinct than Jerry would lead on.

Hey, what's HE doing? Isn't it the Mets' bullpen who is supposed to throw
games away on hit batsmen??

The other theory is that you just hate the Nats more than the Mets. I mean look at what you've turned that franchise into historically. That city's baseball history reads like a tragicomedy whereas you appear more inclined to tantalise Mets fan before yanking the chair out from under them. Fair play. If it gets us and the pen a long-awaited win then I'm sure nobody in Queens is going to complain.

What do you mean it hit Easley? The pitch was this far over his aura...

In any event, there it is - you appear to be a great believer in miracles and the bullpen appears to be the beneficiary for a night.

Can't wait until tomorrow night to see which reliever is the bullet.


Bullpen Takes Another Bullet To The Head

They're calling it Russian Roulette Relief, the daily load the chamber, put the reliever to your head, pull the trigger and watch another lead explode out of the back and splatter another blown victory all over the wall.

Congratulations, douchebag. You just blew another one.

Last night it was the Pirates who ate up a 5-1 lead Pedro had left the game with, satisfied with the outing after 99 pitches and a reasonable six innings under his belt.

Don't get too excited, Petey, there's still 3 innings and a piss pot bullpen to go...

It was a game, at that point, with the Pirates seemingly demoralised, that seemed one even the bullpen couldn't blow.

But they did.

Point fingers, break fingers, pull triggers, however you choose to deal with it the bottom line is that the Mets have NO PRAYER of winning the NL East or squeaking in as a wild card so long as the bullpen cannot hold a lead.

The definition of ugliness courtesy of the NY Times

And it wasn't just Aaron Heilman's fault last night. Sure, coming in as the closer to try and earn his third save, he collapsed after a promising beginning, no doubt.

But that doesn't absolve Joe Smith or Pedro Feliciano or Scott Schoenweiss from equal guilt for their own shitty outings.

Smith was the first one in to begin the 7th. A walk, a double, a run scored, a visit to the mound. Out he goes and in comes Feliciano.

A sacrifice bunt followed by a walk to put two men on and a run scoring double.

Just like that, a convincing 5-1 to lead is cut to 5-3, there's still two men in scoring position and only one out. Another coaching visit to the mound. Dan Warthen is getting more exercise in the late innings than he is in the other 23 1/2 hours of the day combined. Anyone in that shitty bullpen care to get some outs? Sac fly makes it 5-4 before Duaner Sanchez, the only reasonably competent arm out of the pen last night, mercifully ends the inning.

But of course we all knew by then we could forget about it.

Heilman and Schoenweiss only confirmed it.

So with the solution of this problem in essence, the make or break reality of the season, Manager Manuel has decided that none of the veteran pen is worthy of the closer role and Eddie Kunz, up from Double AA should get a shot.

It makes sense in the distorted way of this season which has seen so many guys from Double AA and Triple AAA carry or lead this team in the way several veterans have failed to do.

And if not Kunz, than maybe John Maine.

At this point he might as well bring in a drunk and doped up Amy Winehouse to be the closer.

Just gimme the bloody ball!

I'll tell you what, if Johan Santana doesn't insist on pitching a complete game, he's an idiot.


Overall, Not A Bad Weekend

Out of three games, they gained a game on the Phillies in the NL East and nearly swept their nearest rivals, the Marlins.

You could also point out that even in yesterday's ugly loss, Mike Pelfrey's continued struggles, (last three starts he's given up 13 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings)were somewhat overshadowed by his struggles generally against the Marlins (in three appearances against the Marlins this season, he has surrendered 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings) but then, of course you'd be merely whistling past the grave and ignoring the fact that his 23 starts this season are more than his other two seasons combined. You'd be ignoring the warning signs. Manager Manuel says he'll try to get Pelf some rest from time to time but mostly it looks like he's just going to have to suck it up.

Not to be all gloom and doom though.

Aaron Heilman followed up his first save of the season on Friday with another on Saturday which is about as high up on the Scale of the Unexpected as imaginable.

Carlos Beltran finally broke his 82 at-bat homerless streak.

Dan Murphy continued to shock and awe to such a degree at the plate with a pinch-hit two-run homer that spellt the difference against the Marlins on Saturday and is still hitting .478 in the 8 games he's played for the Mets this season.

So even though the loss was ugly Sunday, the weekend overall was good. Two out of three is good in any series although with the carrot dangled out there of a sweep, the tendancy is to get greedy and ask for it all. Not forthcoming.

Thus the Mets remain two games back from the lead and look ahead to makeup game against the Pirates Monday afternoon followed by a series against the Nats. Of course, the Pirates' pitcher is Zach Duke who is 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three career starts against the Mets so there won't be very far to look ahead, even with Pedro taking the mound.


From the Don't Miss This Department: the It's Mets For Me Roundtable, Pt 1


Holy Heilman! Lead Held, Mets Shut Out Marlins

Just when you thought one more kick would bury this guy forever, Aaron Heilman came into last night's game protecting what, in the Mets world anyway is a very, very slim 3 run lead with 6 outs to go.

Was there ANYONE at Shea or clenching their fists listening on the radio or watching on television that didn't expect Heilman to simply wilt and if not give the lead away at least open the door to a demoralising Marlin victory?

And yet just when you think the world is going to end there is Heilman doing the unthinkable, pitching with an UnHeilman-like efficiency, a perfect 8th and 9th inning to earn his first save of the season. Mets victory, coupled with the Phillies loss to the Pirates now narrows the NL East lead the Phillies hold to a single game.

Whoops! Last out of the night for Olly that nearly wasn't.

Whilst the focus has been on the bullpen's weak-kneed antics, the other story was Oliver Perez's wonderfully pitched, if not slightly rutted game, one wherein he showed Johan Santana how to pitch above and beyond that mysterious 100 pitch mark, throwing 120 all by himself. Of course Perez doesn't have the biggest contract in baseball for a pitcher and he's demonstrated throughout his career that any sparkling performance can be followed by something lame, weak and disgusting the next so he and his arm are perhaps expendable in the organisation's mind, even if he has been pitching with rare skill minus the lapses in concentration for the second half of the season.

And yes, we are now free to revel in David Wright's two-run homer in his first at-bat last night, in essence his second game-winning homer in two days proving yet again to his manager that the last thing he needs is a day off to rest.

The guy who did get the day off, Carlos Delgado, added a homer of his own and for one night anyway, the bullpen hysteria could be put to bed, the victory tallied without the typical nerve-wracking expectation of failure and well, hell, there's just nothing to reasonably complain about as far as this game is concerned.

Tomorrow however, as we all know, is another day and just when you think you can exhale again you can be sure someone somewhere, will emerge like a festering chancre to cock up another run of hopefulness. It's the Mets way.


So, You Wanna Laugh Or Cry About This One?

Yes, David Wright ultimately won it for the Mets in the bottom of the 9th with a two-run walk off homerun.

Even the mere HINT of a benching jump-started Wright yesterday

Yes, the Mets took two of three from the Padres in a crucial series and even crawled back to within two games of the Phillies.

But let's face it. The bullpen sucks and if the Mets struggled this mightily against the lowly Padres to hold a lead in both victories, gawd only knows what's going to happen against the likes of the Marlins, homefield advantage or not.

If you were Johan Santana, the same one who has watched the bullpen ruin a half dozen victories already this season, (in 24 starts which is more than the Twins' bullpen blew for him in 100 starts...) what in the hell are you doing handing over the ball with a slim lead, 104 pitches thrown and 6 outs still needed?

According to Manager Manuel this is all down to protecting an investment.

"He's been over 100 pitches more than he has been in his entire career at this stage with us. I understand the frustration with the fans. They want to win. But I also have to make sure this guy is our guy for a long, long time."

It's a story that's been nagged about all season and now of all times, with the bullpen threatening to bring down the season much like they helped bring down the last, you'd think he'd WANT to stay in there if for no other reason than to make sure the Mets won.

And in addition, Manuel is full of shite.

This has already been refuted by fact:

(games that Santana threw 100 pitches or more and his record in those games)

2000: 2 (0-1)
2001: 0
2002: 4 (3-1)
2003: 9 (7-1)
2004: 22 (15-5)
2005: 20 (10-2)
2006: 20 (12-4)
2007: 20 (6-10)
2008: 14 (6-4)


How close was Jerry to beaning Sanchez with that ball whilst they awaited the arrival of Feliciano?

Ok, the bullpen sucks. We've established that. Now what?

Sit around hoping too outscore every team by double digits going into the 9th and waiting for Hillbilly Wagner to get healthy? To be honest, his reputation in pressure-packed games with seasons riding on the line is not exactly sterling so praying for Wagner is not the final resolution of this problem.

Last night people like Duaner Sanchez choked down a heaping dose of humility, hitting the only fucking batter he came in to face on the first pitch.

And the book end to that was Schoeneweis giving up the homerun in the 9th that tied the game. But we knew that was coming. It was not a question of it, or when but who would be the culprit. Like drawing straws to see who gets executed.

I mean just look at these numbers over the last 30 games:

Schoeneweis, 1-0 4.82 ERA 2 blown save opportunities
Joe Smith 0-2 6.48 ERA
Pedro Feliciano 1-0 7.36 ERA
Aaron Heilman 2-3 7.80 ERA
Duaner Sanchez 2-0 3.86 (despite his ridiculous outing last night)

I mean reading this off is like reading off that scene where Dean Wormer is reading out the grades of the Animal House:

Dean Vernon Wormer: Mr. Kroger: two C's, two D's and an F. That's a 1.2 grade average. Congratulations, Kroger. You're at the top of the Delta pledge class. Mr. Dorfman?
Flounder: Hello!
Dean Vernon Wormer: Zero point two... Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Mr. Hoover, president of Delta house? One point six; four C's and an F. A fine example you set! Daniel Simpson Day... HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete. Mr. Blu - MR. BLUTARSKY... ZERO POINT ZERO.


Now, I'm not covering any new territory here and the Mets did win anyway, dramatically so I'm going to drop this for now and keep my eyes shut against the Marlins.

On the positive side, rookies Reyes, Evans and Murph all played key roles in the victory and if this trio is any indication of the future, there is still something positive to squeeze out of last night.

Now if the Carloses start hitting the lineup might catch fire and the bullpen will have the space and time to try and right themselves. It wasn't that long ago they were doing brilliantly so who knows, anything is possible. After all, who'd have ever thought Carlos Deglado would be hitting over .250 again?


With No Bats, Bullpen Worries Ease

Well you can't chalk this loss up against the wuthering bullpen. There was never a lead to blow.

If Pedro had pitched all season he'd be giving Santana a run for his money as Gopherball Champion

Starting with the first pitch of the game, a Jody Gerut gopher ball surrendered by Pedro, the Mets fell behind and despite a couple of mewling little efforts at offense, stayed behind in a demoralising sort of 4-2 loss that dropped them 3 full games behind the Phillies.

In many ways a familiar theme to the early days of this season - the Mets put some runners on, put them in scoring position and then watched the guys who are supposed to be driving those runs home fizzle.

Three innings the Mets ended with runners in scoring position and Carlos Beltran failing: but not only Beltran. For the night, a meak 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Want to see the source of this loss? Look no further. Carloses Delgado and Beltran 0 for the Evening. Another rock to poke under.

Another disgusting sort of loss seeing as it comes against the Padres, one of the worst teams in baseball, who have now beaten the Mets 5 out of 6 times this season. Think if the Mets lose out of the playoffs by a few games they can't point to these pissant performances against the Padres and gasp at the opportunities squandered?

Any one got any goat horns for this kid?

A few things could be said about David Wright as well but what would be the pernt? Wright sometimes giveths away as much as he giveths and last night was another one of those - charged with two errors, one legit, one questionable and one my-head-is-not-really-in-the-game sort of amateur base running blunder - how the FUCK do you not pay attention and know how many outs in an inning for chrissakes - of course by then the Mets were just dragging their little bodies across the losing finishing line anyway - afterwards you could hear Jerry Manuel questioning whether or not Wright needed a night off to rest but really it might be one of the Carloses who could do with a blow. Beltran has driven in just 3 runs in the last 12 games and Delgado hasn't had a hit in this series.

Every night another Met Nobody makes the scene...

And even with the Miraculous Tatis having a quiet night by his standards (a mere hit, no homers) there was Murph pounding out three hits from the number two hole and seeing his batting average in the Majors shoot to a meteoric .455.

So the bullpen was spared for a night.

Perhaps irrationally, Killer Kunz is my new favourite Double AA Met

Pedro, quite encouragingly, pitched into the 7th inning and certainly the key to making this shitty little bullpen work is giving them as little work with as big a lead as possible. The latest Double AA wunderkind whose is to save us all, Eddie Kunz, gave up his first professional homer that saw the Padres increase their lead to 4-2 in the 8th but at least he didn't have that beaten child face that Heilman wears when he knows his life is in the shitter and the walls to climb to get out are covered in grease. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Kunz is going to thrive up here this season. Maybe. Ha. He has to.

Otherwise, Johan Santana takes the mound Thursday afternoon and you've got to imagine what the Mets could really use is a laughter. A big lead early, Santana pitching 7 or 8 dominant innings and the bullpen easing their way into protecting a nice 8 run lead or something.

We'll see though. These are the Padres and the Mets, if the rest of the season is any indication, will be lucky to trickle out a run against the likes of Josh Banks.


Luckiest Game of the Year

Oh, they coulda sunk to mighty depths, the Mets coulda.

If Scott Schoeneweis hadn't gotten Brian Giles to fly out to centerfield for the final, desperate out of the game and the nerve-wracking 6-5 victory, the Mets would be staring at a 5-game losing streak, a gutting loss and probably their season out the window. Instead, they live another day.

The look of disgust on Jerry Manuel's face as he calls for the removal of Heilman is so succinct one would almost expect to see an ice pick coming out of the side of Heilman's neck...

Aaron Heilman, we all know, is a punk.

Actually, that can be said with a smile. I feel bad for the guy. He's not a closer, he's struggled most of the season even as a set-up man and thanks to Hillybilly Wagner's trip to the DL, his reward is to be named a closer. And perhaps predictably, instead of stepping up, there he was in all his glorious Heilmanesque hideousness, surrendering a nearly devastating three run homer in the top of the 9th to Jody Gerut of all people, the Padres' leadoff hitter, a guy who'd had 7 homers all season before last night. Joe Smith, (maybe even Argenis Reyes' maddening bobbling act of a foul ball out) and Schoeneweis finally closed the lid on the insanity of the Padres' rally but you get the impression this was a win to be relieved about, not proud of.

Does this look like the throwing motion of success?

One could go on bashing, as Shea probably will en masse every time Heilman steps foot on the field in the near future but the truth is, with Wagner out and the bullpen always one of those who knows sort of prospects all season anyway, the Mets need Heilman rather desperately and to kick a guy when he's down, a guy who always stands up to take the blame rather than blaming others, like Billy Joel, would be a mistake. Handle him with care. Help him along. Although he may have blown his chance at the closer's role the thing is, they need him and his arm and they need him not to be surrendering devastating homer after homer in every appearance. Yes, normally I'd say call for his head, vent mercilessly the frustrations of watching this guy blow it again and again but hey, the Mets still managed to win last night so I'm feeling generous. Oh hell, maybe one kick.

All last night's game really did was to emphasise how incredibally difficult a road the Mets are going to travel for the next few weeks if they are going to stay alive in the NL East.

How long does his pact with the Devil run?

I mean yeah, wonderful that Fernando Tatis is the game's hero yet again, further resurrecting a finished career. Those two homers and four RBIs last night were a continuation of a very improbable story you can't help but wonder will have an anti-climatic sort of finish - has he rediscovered himself and is set for a continuation of his career, right place at the right time or simply hot for now, only to cool off towards the end of the season, hot enough to help carry Mets through games like this when the rest of the fabled Mets lineup is off doing another disappearing act? (Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Delgado a combined 0 for 9)

Like Tatis himself we'd have to ask ourselves, who cares, just as long as it keeps up.

Nice introduction to Shea...

And maybe like Murph as well whose improbable leap from Double AA to the Mets continued last night with another leaping catch in left field in the 1st inning, first batter of the game, his first major league extra base hit and first major league RBI; i.e. an important RBI double in 7th, and a pair of walks. I know, it's only a few games but you can't help but wonder maybe this is the left field of the future, who knows.

I dunno, add it all up, another shining start by Pelfrey, Tatis' continued, unexpected mastery at the plate, the bullpen's rubbishing of clear and certain victory and what it all adds up to is this was one of the most important and certainly the luckiest wins of the season summed up perfectly by Brian Schneider:

"We can't lose on a night like this if we win."


Gee Thanks For the 10 Game Memories

Close your eyes for one second, blink even and poof! There go the Mets team dreams were made of.

Just like that not only not in first place but dropped down to third.

Instead of holding the lead, three games behind, instead of 10 game-winning streak, a 4 game losing streak, losing losing losing, the Mother of Miserable Road Trips. To teams like the Astros no less. Three times in a row. Swept by the Astros. Has a hideous little ring to it.

It's difficult to gauge what will happen to these guys. The hot ones are cooling off ever so slowly. Kids are coming up from nowhere, Double AA, Triple AAA, waiver wires, retirement and one face, one day, like let's say Murph in Game 2 on Saturday against the Stros - he with the spectacular double play leaping catch, double runner off second kind of game. And you just know that'll be his big hurrah for the season - that and a hit in his first at-bat.

Besides cooling off, there are others getting hurt. Not talking about Alou or El Duque or Ryan Church. Not even Pedro. Guys like Hillbilly Wagner who may or may not have a serious, disabling problem and who may or may not leave the Mets with a Double AA closer shutting things down for them. Guys like John Maine who has been DL'd although according to the local spin, not because he's disabled but because of roster space. Yeah, good one. The League Commish would certainly condone such roster hanky panky.

Oooooold team, Mr Omar, that you've constructed. You've tried your hand a few magical tricks, a few optical illusions and for the moment anyway, some of the tricks are exploding in your face.

But hey, we've sent the Astros off on a charming bit of momentum. Somebody else wish bash them back down into place. That's how the season goes.

The inclination, I'm sure, is to get hysterical but the reality is, even though it sounds like a load of bullocks when the players say it, the season is a series of ups and downs. That they have pieced together a season at all is miraculous and that they have done so without their number two starter all season, without their corner outfielders, with their first baseman and middle of the order power hitter doing a year long disappearing act, is commendable.

Will they recover and wipe the floor with the Padres even though their closer situation is so uncertain and you feel like any minute everyone but Santana in the starting rotation is one pitch away from either an injury or a nervous breakdown?

I dunno.

One thing for certain, we can all sit around waxing poetic about what it might be like if Heath Bell were still pitching for us instead of a Padres uniform. Fortunately, their closer, Trevor Hoffman has a history of stinking up Shea up a bit so even without Wagner, we still stand a chance with those Double AA and Triple AAA bats in the lineup to make last minute rallies.

And yeah, not hard to forget the Padres swept the Mets four straight back in June. We'll be lucky to get out losing only two of three in this scenario and at least we'll get a little schadenfreude out of watching the Marlins and Phillies bash each other up. In Philly, but I'll be rooting unrealistically for the Marlins to take two of three just to keep the standings sort of evenish.

Otherwise, quicker than you can say brush fire, poof, there goes the Mets season up in smoke, leaving us with that 10 game winning streak to remember.