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 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.

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

Apr 27

April 27.10: Wright continues to struggle.

David Wright said this is a slump, that nothing is wrong with him and he’ll snap out of it.

“We’re 10-9,’’ Wright told reporters. “We’re winning right now. There’s no reason to panic. … I’m seeing the ball pretty well. I’m taking some good swings. But, you could do everything right and not get the results you wanted. I feel comfortable at the plate. I’ll see some results.’’

Then again, Wright said the same thing last year about his power drought. However, a difference between last year and this is he hit .300 last year and currently is batting .222.

Wright also struck out a lot, which he’s doing again this spring. He takes a stretch of striking out in 12 straight games into today’s doubleheader against the Dodgers. He has 24 strikeouts in 19 games.

Wright said he feels comfortable, but just isn’t getting the results he wants.

“There’s no to hit the panic button this early,’’ Wright said. “This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled in my career.’’

For now, Jerry Manuel has no plans to sit Wright and will let him work himself out of it. Then again, that could change in the second game of the doubleheader against knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.

NOTEBOOK: Manuel plans to keep Jose Reyes in the third spot in the order. … Gary Matthews was in the line-up last night and is expected to play in one of the games today. … The anticipated rotation for Philadelphia is Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana.