May 21

May 21.10: Who goes first, Manuel or Maine?

Was one of the five pitches John Maine threw last night his final one with the Mets?

That’s what many are thinking, but if Jerry Manuel’s job security was secure, or at least stable, it might be enough for him to outlast Maine, but it is a house of cards.

Maine was the third Mets starter to go down during the team’s dreadful 2-6 road trip, but if the DL is in his immediate future then he’ll get another chance to save his career.

Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen think Maine is hiding an injury – the latter called the pitcher a “habitual liar’’ when it comes to discussing his health – and we should know after he sees a doctor today.

“I would like an explanation,’’ Maine said about his removal. “Me throwing 85 mph I don’t think is a good explanation to be taken out.’’

A weak warm-up session and Maine hunched over on the mound might have had something to do with it.

However, Maine partly answered his own question about why he wasn’t allowed to stay in the game.

“I’m in no position, I don’t have enough clout,’’ said Maine. “I don’t have enough star power to say anything. So what happens happens.’’

While Maine’s verbal explosion might doom him with some organizations, what might save him was how this was bungled by Manuel and Warthen.

“I just didn’t think John had enough to compete tonight,’’ Warthen said. “If he’s throwing that way, then there’s got to be something incorrect in that arm. … He wants to go out there and pitch. But we have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn’t right.’’

How come then, if his warm-ups were so bad, weren’t they smart enough to pull the plug before he took the mound?

Warthen told Manuel that Maine wasn’t throwing 80 mph in the bullpen. When Maine bounced a warm-up pitch, Manuel immediately got Raul Valdes up and throwing.

Manuel talked so much about wanting to protect Maine, but he let him start the game anyway? If one pitch could blow out his shoulder, then why take the chance?

Maine said he was never asked how he felt or that he was scheduled to see a doctor today. There’s a protocol in dealing with pitcher’s injuries and it wasn’t followed.

To be sure, Maine didn’t handle things properly, but neither did Manuel or Warthen, and the ice they are skating on is thinner than Maine’s.

May 20

May 20.10: Chat Room, Game #42 at Nationals: Wright needs to get going.

The numbers currently for David Wright are so bad they are almost incomprehensible. Wright is back in the lineup tonight at Washington after being forced to sit out to clear his head.

“I’d rather play, but it’s (Jerry Manuel’s) decision,’’ said Wright, who his mired in a 3-for-25 slump over his last seven games. Dominating that stretch are 12 strikeouts.

Wright has struck out in each of his last 15 games, and has a major league high 55 this season.

The Mets need Wright to snap out of his funk quickly before they dig themselves too deep a hole they can’t escape. The Mets have lost seven of their last eight games and open up a six-game homestand with three games each with the Yankees and Phillies.

The hitting has been dreadful during that stretch, personified by Wright’s troubles.

“We need him back to where he can be,’’ Manuel said. “You’re talking about a guy that’s a .309 career hitter.’’

As bad as Wright has been, there are numbers that suggest a glimmer of hope, such as 28 walks, a .382 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging percentage with eight homers. Wright chooses to look at these numbers as a positive thought.

“All it takes is one swing or one at-bat where something clicks, you feel good, and hopefully you go on a hot streak,’’ Wright said.

Wright will bat fifth, behind rookie Ike Davis in the order.

“I think we’re going to try to leave Davis there for a while. I think he’s ready to handle that,’’ Manuel said of Davis, who in 28 game since his call-up is batting .272 with four homers and 11 RBI.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind John Maine.

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
David Wright, 3B
Angel Pagan, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
John Maine, RP

After a stretch of three strong starts in which he went 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA, Maine was hit hard by Florida Saturday, giving up six runs on seven hits in five innings.

NOTE: At class until nine. See you then.

May 19

May 19.10: Chat Room, Game #41 at Nationals: Knuckleballer Dickey gets the ball.

Let the patchwork begin.

With Oliver Perez exiled to the bullpen, R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball is being brought up from Triple-A Buffalo to face the Washington Nationals.

Dickey has been Buffalo’s most effective starter and his date to pitch coincided with Perez’s so this should be seamless.

Dickey has major league experience, but it would be wrong to say he’s an accomplished major league pitcher. He was 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA in 35 games last year for Minnesota, all but one of them in relief. He is 0-1 with a 17.18 ERA in one start and one relief appearance against Washington.

The Mets have made no commitment to Dickey beyond today, but it is a safe assumption that a strong start should warrant the ball again.

May 19

May 19.10: What’s wrong with Wright?/Adding tonight’s lineup.

Pedro Martinez once told me one of his greatest weapons as a pitcher is the fear he instilled in the batter’s mind about being hit.

“If the batter is afraid of being hit, then I can pitch him any way I want,’’ Martinez said.

That’s the way it seems these days for David Wright even though he will never admit it. That’s all right, because what the mouth won’t say body language does, and there have been numerous times when Wright bails out.

We see him more turning away from the inside fastball rather than turning on it and ripping it to left. Once a pitcher knows he has the inside half of the plate, there’s no reason to go to the outside.

The Matt Cain beaning last season has had a residual effect of Wright, and it mostly is mental, which leads to bad physical habits.

I’ve seen Wright pull off pitches he used to hammer, and I see him get too anxious when he does get a ball on the outside half and middle. His swing is long with a noticeable uppercut.

Statistically, Wright has made enough contact to be on a pace to hit 32 homers and drive in 105 runs. He’s also on pace to strike out 223 times and hit for a .262, some 43 points below his career average.

Those aren’t the results Wright is seeking.

“If you don’t see the results a lot, you start pressing a little bit,’’ Wright said last night after his three strikeout game in Atlanta. “It’s tough when somebody is out there playing as poorly as I am right now, costing us both offensively and defensively.’’

Wright was having an off-year in 2009 even before the beaning, which some of it being written off as adjusting to the new stadium and him being on an island in the line-up. There was no Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Jose Reyes for much of this year. There’s no Beltran this year, Jason Bay has done nothing to protect Wright and Reyes hasn’t been on his game. The situations are very similar, as are the results.

Wright called baseball a “humbling” game and right now the man is humbled.

It all boils down to this, that regardless of the psychological and statistical theories, if Wright is the player the Mets and he believes himself to be, things have to dramatically change. These reasons, or excuses, for him not hitting must be pushed aside.

It could start with something small, like hitting a sacrifice fly instead of striking out.

Here’s tonight’s line-up”

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
Angel Pagan, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Henry Blanco, C
RA Dickey, RP

May 18

May 18.10: Chat Room, Game #40 at Braves: Can they score for Johan?

Say what you will about the Mets’ current problems, but at least the team doesn’t quit. That sounds so cliché, but it is true. We’ve seen sloppy play, we’ve seen physical and mental breakdowns, but we haven’t seen a lack of hustle.

No Met has dogged it like the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez did the other day in Florida. Jason Bay isn’t hitting for power but he busts it every time out of the box. The same can be said for most Mets, and that’s a reflection on the manager.

A manager still has his team when it plays hard for him, and that’s something working for Jerry Manuel.

The Mets snapped their five-game losing streak last night behind Mike Pelfrey and will attempt to win for just the third time in nine games tonight behind Johan Santana against the Braves. Pelfrey gave the Mets 7 2/3 strong innings to become the first starter to win in 16 games.

“Pitching is the key,’’ Manuel said. “If we continue to get this kind of pitching, it at least gives us a chance.’’

Pelfrey pitched big when it counted, limiting the Braves to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. He had to, because he didn’t get much help, something Santana is familiar with when the comes to facing the Braves.

Santana (3-2, 3.88 ERA this year) is 1-4 with a 2.05 ERA in seven starts against the Braves. He has received two or fewer runs in each of those starts.

Here’s the line-up behind Santana that needs to improve on those numbers:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Chris Carter, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Johan Santana, LP

NOTE: I’ve got class tonight and won’t be back until nine.