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: Tonight’s line-up at Braves

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ lineup in Atlanta:

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

NOTES: Jason Bay gets the night off. Chris Carter is hot so the Mets are riding him. … David Wright is on pace to whiff 212 times. … Jeff Francoeur is still fighting to get out of his slump which started with the 20-game at St. Louis.

May 14

May 14.10: Reyes moving back?

.Several days ago I suggested a revamping of the batting order, which included moving Jose Reyes back to the leadoff situation and David Wright second. The moves also included moving Ike Davis up to fifth.

After last night’s game Jerry Manuel suggested line-up changes were coming but would not elaborate. I am hoping he realizes his intentions, although well meaning, aren’t working.

The numbers say Reyes isn’t hitting whether it be first or third in the order, so why change?

Normally, I wouldn’t move a guy just because he’s unhappy, but Reyes is in a definite funk and the Mets need to get him better. They juggled things to get Jason Bay going; they need to do the same to get Reyes going again.

Reyes’ professional identity is as a leadoff hitter and that’s been stripped from him and you can tell in his body language and demeanor he’s frustrated. I recently told him, “you know, Babe Ruth hit third.”

He was not amused, although he has been swinging like the Bambino.

For years we’ve been told Reyes is the ignition to the Mets’ offense as the leadoff hitter, and it is time to move him back. Reyes, because of injuries last year and perhaps a damaged psyche this spring, hasn’t been Reyes since 2008. It’s time to get him back

May 13

May 13.10: Chat Room, Game #35 at Marlins: Classic pitcher’s duel.

The Mets begin an eight-game road trip tonight in Florida in a classic pitcher’s duel: Johan Santana vs. Josh Johnson.

Something has to break because both pitchers dominate the opposition, with Santana 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins. Johnson is not the type of pitcher a team in a hitting funk likes to face. He is 7-1 against the Mets, including 4-0 with a 2.14 ERA in five home starts against them.

The Mets’ lone victory over Johnson came Opening Day at Citi Field. The Marlins, however, won the next two games of that series.

The Mets need to get Jose Reyes going. Reyes is mired in a season-long slump, which hasn’t been helped by the move to third in the batting order. Reyes is batting .228 with a .283 on-base percentage. He is hitting .242 since being moved out of the leadoff spot.

Clearly, he’s not performing well hitting third. He’s trying to do too much with the ball. He’s better off going back to first where he’s more comfortable. Hitting is all about comfort, and Reyes looks uncomfortable at the plate. He’s reaching for pitches and is swinging with more of an uppercut than he has in the past.

However, manager Jerry Manuel is insistent on leaving Reyes third in the order ahead of Jason Bay. Manuel’s theory is Bay will see more fastballs with Reyes on ahead of him. The problem is Reyes isn’t on much these days. And, Bay only has one homer on the season, so where he has benefitted I’m not sure.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

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

NOTE: I have my class tonight and won’t be home until nine. Hope to see you then.