Jul 19

Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?

PELFREY: Needs to figure it out.

We might know more about one of the Mets’ key second-half questions tonight, which is: Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?

At one time, Pelfrey was 9-1 and cruising toward the All-Star Game. All was right in his world and the Mets were making up ground on Atlanta. However, he has hit a rough five-game stretch since in which he’s gone 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA.

That’s just the beginning of the bad numbers.

In that span Pelfrey (10-4, 3.58 ERA) failed to make it out of the fifth inning in his last three starts, including going four while giving up four runs on 12 hits in his last start against the Braves.

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May 25

Can Mets’ Dickey get the Phils to knuckle under.

Game #46 vs. Phillies

Next up are the Mets’ real rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, who lead then by five games in the National League East.

The Mets are feeling better about themselves these days. Can you imagine how good they’ll feel if they swept?

Because Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield baffled the Phillies Saturday, the Mets are hoping the same will happen tonight behind R.A. Dickey.

“When you haven’t seen it, basically what we were doing was popping it up,’’ Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “It wasn’t like we were striking out a lot, we were popping balls in the air, and at times, we weren’t very aggressive with it.’’

Well, now that the Phillies have seen the knuckleball, it makes one wonder if they might adopt a different approach with Dickey, who says Wakefield shouldn’t have much of a bearing on his start.

“I don’t think it has much to do with my outing,’’ said Dickey, who is taking John Maine’s spot in the rotation. “It’s good that he threw a shutout instead of giving up 15, I’ll tell you that.’’

Dickey planned to talk with Wakefield prior to this start. Dickey is coming off a no-decision last Wednesday against the Nationals in which he gave up two runs on six hits in six innings.

The Mets are hoping to feed off the good feelings generated from Johan Santana’s strong start Sunday night against the Yankees.

“You see the atmosphere around here,’’ Santana said. “Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s excited.’’

They might be happy now, but Jamie Moyer has put a damper on them before. The Phillies have won 13 of their last 16 games against the Mets, and have won six of their last eight in games started by Moyer.

NOTEBOOK: Jason Bay is sizzling, going 10-for-15 – including two homers – with eight runs scored in his last four games. … David Wright is 21-for-50 (.420) with four homers lifetime vs. Moyer. However, he has 32 strikeouts since May 3. … Luis Castillo was back in the line-up at second.

May 21

May 21.10: Chat Room, Game #43 vs. Yankees: Mets come limping home.

Both the Mets and Yankees limp into this weekend’s series at Citi Field, but as usual there are more issues in Queens than the Bronx.

“I always look forward to these series,’’ Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “You find out where you are as a team, and how you perform in that type of environment.’’

Doesn’t he know by now?

The Mets, despite winning last night at Washington, are reeling, almost in a free fall, and could very well be there after back-to-back series against the Yankees and Phillies.

The last-place Mets are coming off a 2-6 road trip in which they lost, by injury or performance, three-fifths of their rotation. Jon Niese, the most consistent of the three, went on the disabled list and could be joined there by John Maine, who was yanked after five pitches last night. Oliver Perez was exiled to the bullpen.

Journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey replaced Perez and performed well, and long reliever Hisanori Takahashi will start tonight in place of Niese against the Yankees.
Takahashi’s move to the rotation, even temporarily, further strains the bullpen. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano, so effective in April, have been hit lately.

Further complicating matters has been an unproductive offense, which is relying on a journeyman catcher Rod Barajas and rookie first baseman Ike Davis because of the season-long power drought of Jason Bay and David Wright’s assault on the strikeout record.

Bay, although he’s been making contact lately, in on pace for four homers, while Wright is on pace for 223 strikeouts. Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes also aren’t hitting.

As bad as things have been, one can logically assume if Wright and Reyes, the cornerstones to the franchise, were hitting according to expectations, the Mets would be over .500 and there wouldn’t be so many rumblings about Manuel’s job security.

Despite COO Jeff Wilpon’s impromptu meeting in Atlanta in which he said he wasn’t about to fire Manuel or GM Omar Minaya, the whispers persist and are even louder after last night’s Manuel-Maine dugout blowout.

“When the owner comes down, you know something is going on,’’ said Francoeur. “But at the same time, you have to be professional. At times it can be tough, all the speculation, but I try to just play. That’s the easiest way to deal with it.’’

Manuel didn’t do much to get Wright and Francoeur on his side when he rested both this week. Both expressed displeasure at sitting, but neither criticized Manuel.

Also, neither offered much verbal support.

Before he was sacked, Willie Randolph had more verbal support from his players than Manuel has received, but the players are still hustling. That is a saving grace, but will it be enough if the Mets are pasted by the Yankees and Phillies?

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ line-up behind Takahashi:

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

NOTE: Luis Castillo was scratched from the line-up with a bruised left heel. … After throwing five innings in relief last night, Raul Valdes is not expected to be available for the Yankees series. … With Takahashi starting, R.A. Dickey will be the long man.

PREVIOUS POST: Feel free to comment on the Maine vs. Manuel thread.

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 18

May 18.10: Wilpon demonstrates patience.

After the season, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya would be held accountable, that the standards bar has been raised.

That’s still the case after his impromptu visit to Atlanta yesterday. “I’m not here to fire anybody,’’ Wilpon said, which doesn’t mean he won’t later.

How else can you interpret him saying, “I wouldn’t be here if I was happy,’’ other than putting them on notice?

Neither Manuel nor Minaya have had a great run since the end of last season. I didn’t like how he handled moving Jose Reyes to third, but he was seeking a solution and sometimes the things you try backfire.

As far as the front office goes, we all knew pitching was this team’s weakness and that there was little margin for error. There weren’t many great choices, but what are the options now with Oliver Perez exiled and Jon Niese injured? Say hello to journeyman R.A. Dickey.

The Mets are where they are despite poor starting pitching – save that 9-1 homestand – a creaky bullpen, a listless offense that has David Wright on pace for over 200 strikeouts and Jason Bay on track for only four homers, and, of course, not having Carlos Beltran.

Considering what has gone on, the Mets are fortunate to be one game below .500. Things can, and have, been a lot worse.

Wilpon said at the end of last season he would give Manuel and Minaya a chance to make things right and 40 games is too small of a window. Let’s see where they are at the All-Star break, and if they are within striking distance, let’s see who they bring in.