May 26

Jose Reyes back … are the Mets next?

With his legs feeling better, stronger and more flexible, and released from the shackles of hitting third in the batting order where he never felt comfortable, Jose Reyes is back to being Jose Reyes.

Reyes is coming off this best game of the season last night, when he went 3-for-5 – including a triple – two stolen bases and three runs scored in the rout of the Phillies. One of those hits was off a bunt.

“I can’t wait to get on base two or three times a game,’’ Reyes said. “My legs feel so good now.’’

After undergoing surgery to replace a torn hamstring tendon, and missing most of spring training with a thyroid issue, Reyes as struggled for much of the season. His legs missed that strong push-off step and he looked lost batting third and developed a noticeable uppercut in his swing.

The result was a .275 on-base percentage.

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May 25

Tonight’s Mets’ line-up vs. Phillies.

Tonight’s line-up vs. Phillies:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
David Wright, 3B
Angel Pagan, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
R.A. Dickey RP

NOTE: I posted earlier today a column saying the Mets should go for Roy Oswalt.

May 23

May 23.10: Chat Room, Game #45 vs. Yankees: Santana vs. Sabathia.

Overall, Johan Santana has enjoyed pitching against the Yankees, but what’s gnawing at him is his last one.

Santana, 4-2 with a 4.59 ERA in eight regular-season starts against the Yankees – including 1-2 with an 8.64 ERA with the Mets- gave up nine runs in three innings in a 15-0 loss last June 14 at the Stadium.

“It motivates me,’’ Santana said. “I don’t go crazy about it, but it’s there. I want to pitch against them again.’’

That game represented a career-high in runs allowed until the Phillies hit him for ten runs, May 2, at Philadelphia. Since then, he’s made three starts with no decisions, but a 2.49 ERA. He gave up two runs in seven innings in his last start, May 18, at Atlanta.

Interleague play has not been kind to Santana since joining the Mets as a free agent from Minnesota, going 2-5 with a 5.11 ERA in seven starts.

Santana will be going against C.C. Sabathia, who, beat him in three of four starts while the latter was with Cleveland.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

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

NOTEBOOK: Daniel Murphy went 5-for-5 with three RBI today for Class A Port St. Lucie. He is expected to join Class AAA Buffalo Tuesday. … Former Mets pitcher Jose Lima, 37, died of a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was 0-4 with the Mets in 2006, his final season in the major leagues. … Reliever Ryota Igarashi was activated from the DL and reliever Manny Acosta was optioned to Buffalo.

May 22

May 22.10: Chat Room, Game #44 vs. Yankees: Pelfrey attempts to stop slide.

The beleaguered Mets – losers of eight of their last ten games – hope to get better tonight with Mike Pelfrey (5-1, 3.02) going against the Yankees.

Pelfrey is making his third start against the Yankees, against whom he is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings. In his last start, Pelfrey gave up two runs over a season-high 7 2/3 innings Monday at Atlanta, which snapped a five-game losing streak.

With questions throughout their rotation, Pelfrey has been the Mets’ most dependable starter, and his 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in five home starts. Pelfrey attributes much of his success for falling out of love with the sinker. He said he was becoming predictable with the sinker.

“I would almost say I’ve changed from being a sinkerball guy to a four-seam guy,’’ Pelfrey said. “There are times when I’ll only use the sinker when I get in trouble. I’ve changed.’’

What hasn’t changed is the Mets’ myriad of pitching questions, beginning with John Maine, who will be examined by doctors Monday for discomfort and fatigue in his shoulder.

Maine pitched to one batter Thursday night at Washington before being removed. Angry for being taken out, Maine has finally admitted to discomfort, but stubborn as he is, said he didn’t think it was necessary to go on the DL.

Raul Valdes replaced Maine and pitched five strong innings. He was so effective, that Jerry Manuel has tentatively penciled him in over knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to start Tuesday against Philadelphia.

The Mets’ offense, save a 10-run explosion Thursday night, has been listless for much of May. It has been a brutal month for David Wright, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Wright has struck out 23 times since May 8.

Here’s tonight’s line-up behind Pelfrey:

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

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.

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