Apr 20

Mets Host Giants This Weekend

The Mets open a four-game series tonight against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field, a series that takes on a bigger importance than usual this early in the season.

ZITO: Once on Mets' radar.

After a 6-2 start, the Mets have lost three of their last four games, giving up 31 runs in that span. Now, I’m not saying the Mets can’t stabilize themselves, but we’ve them play well before going into a prolonged slide.

Even though the Giants won’t throw Matt Cain at them and Tim Lincecum is off to bad start, they have the pitching to make for a long weekend in Flushing. While Lincecum has struggled, three of the Giants’ starters this weekend have sub four-run ERAs in Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner.

Tonight’s starter, Zito, threw a four-hit shutout at Colorado in his first start and gave up three runs, two of them unearned, in his second against Pittsburgh. Zito seemed heading out of the Giants’ rotation, but their need for pitching forced them to trade Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera.

You might recall Zito was once on the Mets’ radar following the 2006 season, but weren’t willing to swim in the deep end of the free-agent pool ($126 million over seven years).

The Giants are concerned about their bullpen with Brian Wilson having Tommy John surgery and lost for the season. Santiago Casilla will get the first chance to assume the closer role.

The following are the starters for the series:

Friday: LHP Jon Niese (2-0, 2.13) vs. LHP Barry Zito (1-0, 1.13), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-0, 3.09) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 2.84), 1:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Dillon Gee (1-1, 2.92) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (0-2, 10.54), 1:10 p.m. ET

Monday: LHP Johan Santana (0-2, 3.97) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 3.63), 7:10 p.m. ET

Apr 20

Tom Seaver Wins His First On This Day In Mets’ History

Where did the time go?
SEAVER: Won the first of many on this day.

Forty-five years ago today in Mets’ history (1967), Tom Seaver won the first game of his Hall of Fame career in going 7.1 innings in a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium.

Seaver struck out five and was supported by two RBI from Bud Harrelson and one each from Ken Boyer, Tommy Davis, Ron Swoboda and Ed Kranepool.
Seaver went on to win over 300 games (his 300th was with the Chicago White Sox against the Yankees) and be inducted into the Hall of Fame, getting 98.84 percent of the vote, the highest percentage in history.
He’s the only Met in the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets’ cap and is the only player in franchise history to have his uniform number retired. Managers Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel had their numbers retired.
In the 50th anniversary of the Mets coming to being, the team will give away bobble head dolls of some of their greatest players, among them Seaver (this Sunday), Rusty Staub, Keith Hernandez, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza.
I would have hoped they’d include Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry.

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.

Apr 19

Mets Must Recover From Atlanta Pasting

Sorry for the late post this morning. Also sorry for writing positive about the Mets the past few days. Here I go, write about how they could be for real and how steady R.A. Dickey has been and they get routed by the Braves.

OUCH: Kirk Nieuwenhuis watches HR ball in second.

Serves me right.

It’s funny how quickly trends develop. They were pitching great and starting to hit, then all of a sudden they give up 31 runs in four games. Both Johan Santana and Dickey, who had been great out of the gate, were ripped.

The Mets are coming off the worst game they’ve played all year and it’s good for them to have the day off to think about what happened. They’ll need the time to regroup in time to face San Francisco, which will throw four strong pitchers at them this weekend at Citi Field.

The Mets were fun to watch the first week or so, but have been brutal in three of the past four games. It’s a long season, but things can get away quickly, especially for a team as thin as the Mets. Right now, I’m not buying into this “it’s early” stuff. This weekend is important for the Mets to stabilize themselves and get moving again.

Even a split is acceptable because it would mean playing even with one of the best teams in the league. Anything less and things could get away.

Apr 18

Steady Dickey To Face Braves Today

Mets fans and the media have been critical of former GM Omar Minaya for some of his moves, but to be fair he had some good acquisitions and R.A. Dickey is one of them.

DICKEY: Reliable

By reputation, knuckleball pitchers are supposed to be erratic, but Dickey has proven to be the opposite. Once considered to be a journeyman, but now cornerstone in the Mets’ rotation, Dickey will be going after his 15th straight quality start in a few hours against the Braves. Dickey has given the Mets seven innings in 15 of his last 24 starts.

Dickey is coming off a stellar performance at Philadelphia in which he gave up a run in seven innings. The team record for quality starters – defined as giving up three runs in six innings – is 21 by Dwight Gooden in 1985.

The Mets’ rotation has been tattered in recent seasons, but for the most part he has always kept them in the game and we can’t ask for much more.

Dickey will work with a revamped lineup for today’s game with Ronny Cedeno giving Ruben Tejada a day off at shortstop and Kirk Nieuwenhuis leading off.

Here’s the lineup:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf

Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Ronny Cedeno, ss
R.A. Dickey, rhp