Apr 18

April 18.10: Chat Room, Game #12 at Cardinals: Pressure on Maine.

The pressure never ends.

As much as last night’s epic 20-inning victory – anything 20 innings plus is epic – has been written and mentioned as being a catalyst to turn around this sluggish season, it means nothing unless the Mets can sustain.

That means John Maine must step up, perhaps unlike at any other time during his career with the Mets, and pitch big tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets exhausted their bullpen last night for 13 innings, and despite pitching one inning, Francisco Rodriguez was spent after throwing 100 pitches in an up-and-down evening warming in the pen.

If a starter won’t throw the next day after throwing 100 pitches, the same could be for Rodriguez tonight.

Maine, who seems to hyperventilate around the third or fourth inning, needs at least six, better seven innings tonight. He needs it for a lot of reasons, including to silence the Dillon Gee whispers.

You see, Maine isn’t pitching tonight to save the bullpen as much as he is his spot in the rotation. While it is likely Maine, barring a disaster, will get another start after this, manager Jerry Manuel has done nothing to dispel the speculation.

Aware of ramifications of a third hammering, Maine went to the videotape to look at his mechanics and pitch selection from 2007, when he won 15 games. Fundamentally, Maine concluded if he’s going down it would be with his fastball, which has atrophied after falling in love with his off-speed and breaking balls.

“I’m fine, my shoulder is fine,’’ Maine said after the Colorado debacle. “ I know the No. 1 priority is to get back and throw my fastball. That’s what I’m going to do in my bullpen. That’s what I’m going to do in my next start I’m going to get back to where I was.’’

Maine looked at everything from wind-up to delivery to release point and said he’s going back to his 2007 delivery and with it, hopefully that year’s fastball. Where Maine once touched the radar gun at 94 mph, he topped out at 91 in his last start, Tuesday night’s meltdown in Colorado.

“I’m just going to go back to that delivery, going back to throwing the fastball,’’ Maine said. “Hopefully it turns out fine. I may get hit, but, you know, at least I know I’m going out there, getting beat with my best pitch and not my second and third pitch.’’

Maine, 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA, has given up 12 runs in eight innings in his two starts, including eight runs in three innings at Colorado Tuesday.

“It’s hard. I’m doing my stuff in between starts,” Maine said. “I’m doing the right things. I just can’t put it together. … This is awful right now.”

****

Tonight’s line-up for the Mets (4-7):

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Frank Catalanotto, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Gary Matthews, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, LF
John Maine, RP

NOTES: Mike Jacobs was designated for assignment to make room for reliever Tobi Stoner, who was brought up to bolster their depleted bullpen. It’s obvious the Mets won’t go with a Fernando Tatis-Catalanotto platoon, so expect Ike Davis to be promoted. By designating Jacobs for assignment, the Mets open a spot on their 40-man roster.

Apr 18

April 18.10: About Last Night: Will it spur the Mets?

Not all games are created equal, either in consequence or drama. Yesterday’s 6:53, 20-inning endurance test sent Jose Reyes’ spikes and bat to the Hall of Fame, an indication of something special.

There are dozens and dozens of numbers spawning from this game, and an equal number of snap shot memories, beginning with Alex Cora’s sprawling catch into the stands to rob Matt Holliday (pictured).

Take away that catch, and maybe you take away 10 innings of history.

They will be talking about last night for years, but what remains uncertain is how the victory will play out this season for the struggling Mets.

The attributes of grit and resiliency, patience and perseverance, hustle and clutch, all surfaced last night – for both teams – and for the Mets they had been qualities lacking.

“This game] was big for us…We needed to win this game,” Jerry Manuel said. “They were fighting all day to stay in the game. Hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come for us…We were able to hang around, hang around, hang around…Lay on the ropes for about nine innings and then waited for all the other guys to get out of the game.”

It’s an oversimplification to suggest the Mets have turned around their season, but it is not a reach to say last night might be the spark they needed.

When the Mets were in Colorado they took in the Nuggets came. It was to be a bonding exercise. They promptly lost two of three to the Rockies. It’s impossible for a team to bond more than in a game like last night.

The starter, Johan Santana, pitched seven brilliant innings, and 13 innings later was on the bench in uniform wearing a rally cap. Every Met, save Oliver Perez, played and contributed something. Perez, in fact, was ready to pinch hit.

The bullpen gave up one run in 13 innings, but despite all the walks issued it continually refused to yield. Three times in extra innings the Cardinals left the bases loaded.

The offense didn’t get its first hit until the sixth inning, and consisted of strikeout after strikeout from David Wright and Jason Bay, until Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes delivered sacrifice flies.

The Cardinals had a half-dozen chances to win, but the Mets found a way to deny them until like a child confronted with a math problem, figured out a way.

It remains to be seen whether the Mets found an answer they can build on, but the opportunity is there.

Apr 17

April 17.10: Chat Room, Game # 11 at Cardinals: Santana tries to stop slide.

OK, the Mets lost last night in a game they could have won. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still a loss, but as the game progressed there was a different feeling than most times this young season. That’s because Oliver Perez was pitching well, giving the Mets two strong-pitched games in a row.

There’s a different feel defensively when a team gets a well-pitched game, and the Mets were indeed crisp in the field.

Today it’s Johan Santana, who always gives the Mets a chance to win, even when the offense takes a pass as it has most games already this season.

It’s the same story with the Mets offense, which is to say they aren’t hitting with runners in scoring position. Chris Carpenter pitched a good game last night, but still the Mets had a chance to put the game away before it was turned over to the bullpen.

The Mets are on national TV this afternoon. I hope you tune in and also drop by here with your thoughts.

Thanks.

Apr 17

April 17.10: Random thoughts: On Perez, Bay and Reyes; line-up.

The question was raised last night that whether Oliver Perez’s diminished velocity has helped in becoming a pitcher rather than a thrower. While last night’s 6 1/3 innings was a start, it’s too small a sampling to make a definitive conclusion. However, it was a very good sign and something that bears watching.

Perez didn’t blow away any hitters, but was effective in spotting the ball on the corners and getting ahead in the count. Perez pitched last night; he didn’t overpower. And, if last night is a sign of things to come, then maybe ….

But, I regress. I vowed not to get on the Ollie Bandwagon until there’s some consistency. String together four, five games like this and I’ll jump. Until then, I’ll view with cautious optimism.

That being said, did Jerry Manuel do the Mets a disservice when he pulled Perez when he did? You’d have to say yes based on what the bullpen did, but I got the feeling Perez was spent so I can’t blame this on Manuel. Afterall, the bullpen, for the most part has been stellar.

****

Jason Bay is having a rough time, but his track record said he’ll hit eventually. Even so, with Jeff Francoeur on a tear, maybe Manuel ought to consider moving him to the clean-up slot and dropping Bay. Try to take advantage of Francoeur while he’s hot. The flip side, and the gamble, of course, is moving him up might change his approach.

One thing I don’t agree with, it slotting Mike Jacobs between Bay and Francoeur. The idea is to split up the right handers late in the game. But, what about the previous two or three at-bats? Seems counter productive to adopt a strategy for the late innings and discount two-thirds of the game. I could see it if Jacobs was hitting, but he’s not. It’s time to drop him in the order.

Speaking of dropping hitters in the order, Manuel might have had a change of heart when it comes to moving Jose Reyes into the three hole. He says now he doesn’t want to interfere with his recovery from a thyroid disorder.

****

Here’s this afternoon’s line-up:

Jose Reyes SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Fancoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan,CF
Johan Santana, LP

Apr 16

April 16.10: Chat Room, Game #10 at Cardinals: Low expectations.

The Mets are in St. Louis tonight, a town that rarely treats them kindly. They’ll play the sizzling Cardinals, who have the game’s best hitter in Albert Pujols. They’ll face them with Oliver Perez, which begs the question what’s the over-under on homers allowed?

I’m guessing three.

Perez never inspires confidence, so you have to wonder whose basket is Omar Minaya putting his eggs in this weekend. Perez? Johan Santana? John Maine?

Geez … who do you think he had in mind when he told SI.com of his expectations for the weekend?

“St. Louis is always tough,” Minaya said. “If we can win two out of three, that will be outstanding. If we win one, I’ll take it. We’ve got Jose back, and once we get Murphy and Beltran back, we can compete with everyone else.”

Here’s tonight’s starting line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Gary Matthews, CF
OIiver Perez, LP