May 03

May 3.10: Chat Room, Game #26 at Reds: Perez needs to stop slide.

After their weekend in Philadelphia in which they were ripped the last two games, the Mets find themselves in position of needing to again right their ship.

As quickly as they won nine of ten they can lose the same, especially if they don’t get pitching. So, once again, it is time to say Oliver Perez needs to earn his money.

Maybe not all $36 million, but at least one game’s worth.

The Mets’ starting pitching, so good during the last homestand that is fast becoming a memory, has been poor in three of its last five games, beginning with Perez’s start last Tuesday against Los Angeles when he gave up three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Manager Jerry Manuel gave Perez the benefit of doubt after that start, saying the cold and windy conditions made it hard to grip the ball. That won’t be a problem tonight in Cincinnati.

Manuel said Perez would stay in the rotation for now, however, he suggested he would keep his options open, and if the uncertain lefthander should continue to falter how impressed he has been with Hisanori Takahashi.

Here’s the line-up behind Perez tonight:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Oliver Perez, LP

Apr 30

April 30/May 1.10: Chat Room, Games #23-24 at Phillies: Niese and Pelfrey carry the load.

The last time the Mets played the Phillies they lost to be officially eliminated from playoff contention. That was last September, but the truth is the Mets were cooked long before that game. It was one of 12 games the Mets lost to their rivals at the other end of the Jersey Turnpike last season, one that went horribly wrong for them.

In the previous two seasons, the Phillies overtook the Mets on the final weekend and went on to the World Series.

The first-place Mets are back in Philly tonight for the start of a three-game series against the Phillies.
The Mets, winners of seven straight, are the majors’ hottest team, and enter the series with their three most consistent pitchers, Jon Niese tonight followed by Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana.

“If we go out there and we do what we’re capable of, I think we’re going to be fine,’’ said Pelfrey, Saturday’s starter against Roy Halladay. “I don’t think it matters who we’re playing. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing. If we do that, we can play with anybody.’’

In breaking down the series, Santana figures to have the edge Sunday and Halladay should be favored over Pelfrey, which leaves the toss-up game tonight that boils down to how well Niese does against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

The Mets’ offense is starting to heat up, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Niese, who has gotten no more than one run in any of his last four starts.

The power keys are Jason Bay and David Wright, who shook slumps in the Los Angeles series.

Still, these are the Phillies and strange things often happen in that bandbox of a park. The Mets are streaking, but an argument can be made they won nine of ten games against the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers, all teams struggling lately. The Phillies have stumbled a bit – enough to where the Mets passed them – but manager Manuel is right in that they are the class of the league.

“It will be a good barometer as far as where you stand,’’ said Bay. “They’re obviously one of the top teams in the National League for what they’ve done the last few years. You can’t deny that. And we’re playing pretty good baseball.’’

NOTE: Folks, I have to attend to a family commitment tonight and tomorrow and won’t be on the blog. I will leave the Chat Room open and hope you continue to watch the games and post. I will be back online Sunday.
Sorry I can’t be with you, but I need to take care of this responsibility.

Apr 29

April 29.10: Hope they don’t leave home without them.

The Mets wish they were playing the Phillies today. When you’re hot you don’t want to stop. Instead, they are off basking in the excitement of a 9-1 homestand.

When it began they were 4-8 and staring into irrelevancy in the National League. Today they are in first place and will take a half-game lead into Philadelphia Friday evening.

A lot of good things happened over the past week-and-a-half. Here are the nine most important trends and player developments, one for each victory:

Taking advantage: The Mets ran into three opponents who weren’t at the top of their games, but it would be unfair to say they beat up on bad teams. The Mets did what good teams are supposed to do, which is to pounce on the opposition when it is down. It’s not the Mets’ fault the Braves don’t know the infield fly rule. Too often last year the Mets didn’t take advantage of opportunities presented of them, but this time they went for the throat, which is the right mentality heading into Philadelphia.

The pitching: The starters have been particularly stingy, even Oliver Perez in terms of giving up runs. Still, Perez, John Maine and Jon Niese haven’t been able to go deep into games, but have been picked up by the bullpen. It can’t continue this way for the starters, but for now the bullpen is holding up to the strain.

John Maine: Wherever the Mets go this season, their GPS will be their rotation. Maine had been struggling, running his pitch count into the 100s while barely lasting five innings. Removed from his last start with spasms in his left arm, Maine recovered yesterday on a chilly afternoon to pitch into the seventh and earn his first victory of the season. He was on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation, but there’s now reason for optimism.

Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey has been stellar all season, but had a rocky go of it in his last start with ten base runners through five innings. Yes, there was mumbling of this being “the same old Pelfrey,’’ but instead he pitched out of trouble with no runs scored. Not pitching well but finding a way to win is taking it to the next level.

Pedro Feliciano: The season began with a myriad of questions, not the least of which was the eighth-inning set-up role. Feliciano has been nearly untouchable giving up one run all season. During the homestand he appeared in five games and gave up one hit in 4 1/3 innings.

Fernando Nieve: The man with the rubber arm, Nieve appeared in six games during the homestand and worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He’s given up only five runs all season in 14 appearances, with three of them coming in one game at Colorado. He might get burned out, but for now he has proven to be reliable and durable.

Hisanori Takahashi: As Perez continues to frustrate, the Mets might have found a possible fill-in should they need to bump him a turn. Takahashi worked 3 1/3 innings in relief of Perez on Tuesday. He has 21 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings on the season.

David Wright: You knew he was going to hit eventually, and he snapped out of a funk against the Dodgers getting hot just in time for the Phillies. In the second game of the doubleheader Wright snapped a string of strikeouts in 13 consecutive games with three hits and four RBI. While it is premature to say he’s on a roll, he’s showing the signs of mechanically getting straight.

Jason Bay: Bay finally homered after 69 at-bats and is hitting the ball hard a couple of times in most games. Like Wright, it was only a matter of time. The professional that he is, Bay didn’t take his offense to the field.

Ike Davis: Davis’ major league career consists of this homestand, and in it he hit .355 with a homer and six RBI. Four of his nine hits have been for extra-bases as he’s given the Mets an offensive presence in what had been a black hole of a position.

Jose Reyes: Reyes hit safely in all but two of the ten games. He’s still not running with the authority he has in the past, but he’s getting sharper at the plate, with 12 hits in the 10 games. It is hard to say Reyes in the reason for Bay’s resurgence because the latter was starting to come around, but it is fair to say most of the questions surrounding the shortstop are being answered in the positive. Only three strikeouts during the homestand.

Apr 28

April 28.10: Chat Room, Game #22 vs. Dodgers: Another Maine event.

The first-place Mets ride a six-game winning streak into this afternoon’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. John Maine will attempt to give the Mets their third straight series win and second straight sweep.

The Mets’ starting pitching has been strong, with the exception of Maine and Oliver Perez last night. Still, the Mets are staying with Maine, who threw over 100 hard-to-watch pitches in his last start, which only lasted five innings.

If the Mets are going to do anything this season they will need Maine to snap out of it.

Snapping out of it is what David Wright did in the second game of last night’s doubleheader sweep of the Dodgers. Wright collected his 1,000th career hit and cleared the bases with a bases-loaded triple.

Apr 27

April 27.10: Chat Room, Games #20-21 vs. Dodgers: Let’s Play Two.

At one time the Mets were 4-8 and there were rumblings manager Jerry Manuel’s job might be in jeopardy. However, behind stellar pitching the Mets have turned it around.

During their four-game winning streak, the Mets’ staff has a 1.41 ERA, but a .239 average and only one homer. In a larger window, the ERA is 1.39 ERA from the starters in their last two turns through the rotation.

The Mets will start Johan Santana (2-1, 2.59 ERA) and Oliver Perez (0-2, 3.71) in today’s doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Neither has been the recipient of substantial run support.

Santana has given up one run and 12 hits with 14 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings to help the Mets win his last two starts. He’s gotten only four runs in his last three outings.

Perez has been given five runs in his three losses.
To be fair, Perez was not effective in his last start, throwing 97 pitches in five innings while giving up three runs.

Offensively, the Mets have won three straight since dropping Jose Reyes to third in the order, which coincidentally is about the time Jason Bay has started to warm up.

Still cold, however, is David Wright, who is batting .154 with four RBI over the last eight games. Like Perez, Wright has a degree of success against the Dodgers with a .425 average, four homers and 35 RBI in 39 meetings.

Wright will bat fifth behind Bay today. There are only two changes in the lineup from last night: Gary Matthews replaces Jeff Francoeur in right and Rod Barajas returns behind the plate.

Here’s the order for the 10-9 Mets:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Gary Matthews, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP

NOTE: I will be with you for most of the day. I need to leave around six for my class and be back by around nine.