With 40 games remaining, tonight was supposed to be the start of a hot series with the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Fueled by Cole Hamels “choke” comments about the Mets last winter, there was to be heat and spice in this rivalry, which for the past two seasons featured a Mets’ collapse down the stretch and being overtaken by the Phillies.
Not only did the Mets blow two sizable leads to their neighbors at the other end of the Jersey Turnpike, but watched them win the World Series and in the process tweak Jose Reyes for his hot dog ways.
Reyes is nowhere to be seen tonight, and we might not see him for the rest of the season. The Phillies, meanwhile, cruise into Citi Field with an unfathomable 16-game lead. It could be 20 by Monday afternoon.
After trading for Cliff Lee, and with four players with at least 20 homers, five with 15, and two more with nine, the Phillies have all the pieces needed to repeat.
The Mets, however, are a team in disarray. Their entire core of David Wright, Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Degado is on the disabled list with no projected dates for their returns. Only two players from the Opening Day line-up – Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy – are playing regularly. Two of their five starters – Livan Hernandez and John Maine – are out.
Gary Sheffield represents the power with ten homers and he could be gone any minute.
It has been a Twilight Zone season: the power disappeared; they sacked their assistant general manager; Oliver Perez and tonight’s starter, Mike Pelfrey, have been erratic; and injuries have also claimed time from Maine, JJ Putz, Brian Schneider, Perez and Alex Cora.
In some ways, Pelfrey personifies the Mets. A 13-game winner last season, he was supposed to take a step forward and emerge as the No. 2 starter. He takes an 8-8 record and 4.75 ERA to the mound tonight. He has a three-balk game on his resume and has four of his last five decisions.
Pelfrey has become positively Perez-like, being unable to limit the damage and lets innings get away from him. Against a power-laden line-up such as Philadelphia’s things could get out of hand early.
Here’s tonight’s line-up against Hamels:
Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Gary Sheffield, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Omir Santos, C
Anderson Hernandez, SS
Mike Pelfrey, RP