Oct 16

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Tale of two pitchers.

Two pitchers, one the Mets didn’t want and one they’d love to have, will be on display today in the second round of the playoffs.

Pedro Martinez, whom the Mets cut ties with in an effort to get younger and move toward the future, will start Game 2 of the NLCS for Philadelphia against the Dodgers. John Lackey, the pitching prize of the free-agent market, starts for the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.


If Martinez wins, it will send Philly home with a 2-0 games lead. If Lackey wins, he will give the home field advantage to the Angels.

The Mets are watching at home for the third straight season.

After a series of injuries the past few years, the Mets decided they could live without Martinez, 37, will make his first playoff appearance in five years against the Dodgers, the team in broke in with in 1992. Martinez made nine starts with the Phillies, going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA.

He told me last year he thought he could still pitch again, and proved it this year in a limited capacity. Weary of the injuries, and confident Mike Pelfrey would progress and they’d finally get something out of Oliver Perez, the Mets said good-bye to Martinez, who did not want to come back in a limited role or with a limited contract.

If he will be content with a No. 5 slot, he’ll get some attention this winter. No, the Mets won’t be one of the teams, but he could stay in Philadelphia.

Martinez likes the team and it will be good again next summer.

Martinez hasn’t pitched since Sept. 30, but manager Charlie Manuel isn’t concerned, saying, “I think he knows how to pitch.’’

Martinez’s last playoff appearance was in 2004 with Boston, and one of the story lines today will be facing former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez.

“Well, nobody can say I know how to pitch Manny.” Martinez said. “Manny is such a great hitter, and he’s someone that makes adjustments as he sees the game develop.”

The Angels are a team in a zone, having swept Boston in the Division Series. They’ll face CC Sabathia tonight at the Stadium.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.


The Angels know how to beat the Yankees, dispatching them from the playoffs twice since 2002. The teams split 10 games this year.

“I don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to measure yourself against an organization like the Yankees. It might take a century before you would get there,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I think our guys feel good at the way they go about their business, the way that they play the game hard, the way that they push the game.’’

But, it all begins with pitching, and tonight that is Lackey, who beat the Yankees in July when he gave up two runs in seven innings.

“I’m not going to get intimidated by anybody,” Lackey said.

Lackey is a bulldog type, he gives innings when he’s healthy, but he’s missed considerable time in each of the past two seasons. That will give the Mets pause as they were bitten all year by injuries. It would just be the franchise’s luck to sign him and have him go down.

Lackey leads a relatively thin free-agent market that includes Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Andy Pettitte, Jose Contreras, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf.

There are some good names, but nobody outside of Lackey who could be called a No. 1.

Oct 15

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: NLCS Game #1: Phillies at Dodgers

Game #1: Philadelphia at Los Angeles.

Game #1: Philadelphia at Los Angeles.

The Phillies didn’t exactly sprint into October, but they are here and they know what’s at stake. And, even before the first pitch, they know it will be tougher this season.

It is always tougher to repeat, and the Phillies aren’t boasting of slicing through the Dodgers in five games as they did last autumn.

“Believe me, we came back here to win,” said Philllies manager Charlie Manuel. “I have more determination probably than I had last year, and I mean that from the fact that that’s how much I want it, and I think I know how much our players want it.”

The Phillies are trying to become the first repeat champions since Joe Torre’s Yankees won three straight, 1998-2000.

“When you repeat, you basically have to go through a tougher season to get there,” said Torre, now manager of the Dodgers. “You’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back. Everyone seems to put on their Sunday best to play you. You always get the best pitchers matching up.”

In at match-up of lefthanders, Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers against Cole Hamels.

Kershaw lost twice to the Phillies this season, but he said he’ll still attempt to be aggressive.

Kershaw was 0-2 against the Phillies in the regular season, but he plans an aggressive approach.

“I’m not trying to sit up there and walk people or try and pitch around someone else,” Kershaw said. “You can’t go out there with that mindset. They’ve got a great lineup. But the pitcher’s job is just to go right after them with your best stuff.”

Oct 10

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Dodgers stymie Pujols; go for sweep.

The Cardinals were a pick of mine to advance. I thought the Dodgers’ pitching was suspect and Albert Pujols could take over a series. So far, I have been wrong. The Dodgers have limited the Cardinals to five runs in the two games and go for the sweep today in St. Louis.

Of course, if Matt Holliday could catch a line drive the NLDS would be tied at a game apiece. He couldn’t and it is not.

PUJOLS: Cardinals need his bat.

PUJOLS: Cardinals need his bat.

That play was a major storyline. So is the Dodgers’ unwillingness to pitch to Pujols. Like Barry Bonds a few years ago, Pujols is to be avoided.

Pujols, the NL MVP favorite, hit .327 with a major league-leading 47 homers and 135 RBI. He as also intentionally walked 44 times, most in the majors. In the first two games of this series the Dodgers have limited him to a single in six at-bats. They’ve walked him intentionally the three times he came to the plate with runners in scoring position.

“To me, Albert is just out there in a class by himself,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Friday. “It may cost me, you know, a three-run homer instead of a two-run homer. But I’m still going to make somebody else beat me.”

The Cardinals have the power to complement Pujols, but Los Angeles’ pitching has been too good.

“One of the reasons we were a lot better in the last half of the year is we have protection behind him,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “If Albert keeps getting on base, we’ll pick him up.”

For the Cardinals, who stranded 14 runners in Game 1, it has to happen soon.

Oct 09

Be careful what you wish for ….

A lot of Mets fans are hoping the team will take the plunge on free-agent outfielder Matt Holliday, whose defense prowess is why the Cardinals are down 2-0 in their NLDS with the Dodgers.

Holliday dropped a line drive for what should have been the final out in Game 2 yesterday and enabled the Dodgers to rally in the ninth inning. That the Dodgers rallied is not a surprise, as they won 23 games in their final at-bat this season. It was how sudden that was shocking.

There’s no doubting Holliday’s offensive ability, but his defense has been suspect and left field is a difficult position to play in Citi Field. Not that the Mets are going to splurge on what it would take to land him, but defense is a priority.

So, is his glove worth the risk just to have his bat?

Oct 08

Talkin’ Baseball: The Playoffs continue.

No real surprises last night in the first day of the Division Series. The Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers all won as the home teams rolled. Of the three losing teams, I see only the Cardinals of rebounding to take their series.

Obviously, the defending world champs aren’t a media darling. They have another afternoon game today. Cole Hamels is starting and could give the Phillies a chokehold in their series with the Rockies.