May 04

May 4.10: Seeing is believing.

This falls under the `I’ll believe it when I see it’ category. Carlos Beltran is taking soft toss BP in Port St. Lucie and is hopeful of running, then resuming baseball activities later this week. “It all begins with running,” Beltran told reporters in Florida. There is no timetable for Beltran’s return until he begins running. Until then, everything is merely wishful thinking.

I thought of Beltran last night while watching the Mets’ offense sputter in losing to the Reds. Oliver Perez did his job, and so did the bullpen, but the game was lost at the plate. The Mets were cooked the last two games in Philadelphia, but last night was a winnable game, and losses like that ultimately come back to haunt a team.

Last night also reinforced the streaky nature of this team. It is capable of winning seven straight one week and going on a losing streak the next. As evidenced by their record, the Mets are barely a win-one, lose-one type of team.

Save for a few games, the offense has been inconsistent all season, and Beltran’s absence is a big part of the reason.

Losing Beltran forced Jerry Manuel to juggle his line-up by moving Jose Reyes to third. The problem is Reyes is not a No. 3 hitter and it has weakened the leadoff position. Reyes is not playing his normal game, two hits last night notwithstanding. Nor is his replacement, Angel Pagan, a leadoff hitter.

May 03

May 3.10: It happens.

What was surprising about the weekend wasn’t that the Mets lost two of three at Philadelphia, but the manner in which they lost them. After nearly two weeks of sharp, aggressive baseball they were pummeled the last two games.

Pummeled. Slaughtered. Waxed. However you want to say it.

It was discouraging the Phillies hammered both Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana, the two best pitchers the Mets have to offer. But, it isn’t surprising they lost. These things happen. If you want to read that the Phillies are still better, than please do. We kind of knew that all along.

However, the Mets had played too good for an extended period and Santana has been superb for so long to panic over this weekend. File it away under: “It happens.’’

I can’t read anything more into it than that. Both deserve the benefit of doubt.

A mark of a good team is how it bounces back and we’ll find out more about the Mets tonight in Cincinnati, and Santana this weekend against the Giants.

May 02

May 2.10: Chat Room, Game #25 at Phillies: On the rebound.

It’s good to be back. I see we didn’t miss much yesterday. For nearly two weeks everything broke right for the Mets, then it unraveled in dominating fashion Saturday. Getting blitzed by ten runs is being dominated as convincing as it gets.

The Mets won the opening game of the series behind Jon Niese Friday, and the Phillies rolled behind Roy Halladay Saturday in Mike Pelfrey’s first loss of the season. That brings us to Johan Santana, the pitcher the Mets count on to make things right and plenty went wrong yesterday.

Tonight it’s Santana (3-1, 2.08 ERA) against Jamie Moyer (2-2, 5.25). Santana has won his last two games, giving up one run over his last 21 1/3 innings. Santana has gone at least seven innings in seven of his last eight starts against the Phillies – going 4-0 – so the Mets have reason to be optimistic tonight.

The streak wasn’t going to last forever, and logically one had to figure they weren’t going to sweep the Phillies. But, if this series was a test, so is tonight as it will be interesting to see how they respond from yesterday. Tonight is a gut check on several levels.

Apr 30

April 30/May 1.10: Chat Room, Games #23-24 at Phillies: Niese and Pelfrey carry the load.

The last time the Mets played the Phillies they lost to be officially eliminated from playoff contention. That was last September, but the truth is the Mets were cooked long before that game. It was one of 12 games the Mets lost to their rivals at the other end of the Jersey Turnpike last season, one that went horribly wrong for them.

In the previous two seasons, the Phillies overtook the Mets on the final weekend and went on to the World Series.

The first-place Mets are back in Philly tonight for the start of a three-game series against the Phillies.
The Mets, winners of seven straight, are the majors’ hottest team, and enter the series with their three most consistent pitchers, Jon Niese tonight followed by Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana.

“If we go out there and we do what we’re capable of, I think we’re going to be fine,’’ said Pelfrey, Saturday’s starter against Roy Halladay. “I don’t think it matters who we’re playing. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing. If we do that, we can play with anybody.’’

In breaking down the series, Santana figures to have the edge Sunday and Halladay should be favored over Pelfrey, which leaves the toss-up game tonight that boils down to how well Niese does against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

The Mets’ offense is starting to heat up, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Niese, who has gotten no more than one run in any of his last four starts.

The power keys are Jason Bay and David Wright, who shook slumps in the Los Angeles series.

Still, these are the Phillies and strange things often happen in that bandbox of a park. The Mets are streaking, but an argument can be made they won nine of ten games against the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers, all teams struggling lately. The Phillies have stumbled a bit – enough to where the Mets passed them – but manager Manuel is right in that they are the class of the league.

“It will be a good barometer as far as where you stand,’’ said Bay. “They’re obviously one of the top teams in the National League for what they’ve done the last few years. You can’t deny that. And we’re playing pretty good baseball.’’

NOTE: Folks, I have to attend to a family commitment tonight and tomorrow and won’t be on the blog. I will leave the Chat Room open and hope you continue to watch the games and post. I will be back online Sunday.
Sorry I can’t be with you, but I need to take care of this responsibility.

Apr 30

April 30.10: On to Philly.

The Mets didn’t win anything on their recent homestand and they won’t win anything this weekend in Philadelphia.

Neither will the Phillies.

The most important thing coming out of the homestand, and this weekend’s series, is it has made the Mets’ season relevant again. It might have started with the promotion of Ike Davis and ended with perhaps the best 10-game regular season stretch in franchise history, but in between we saw the Mets play alert, aggressive baseball.

We saw the Mets play as they promised us they would. We saw them play as if they wanted our attention.

And, they deserved it.

What I am looking forward to in this series are three games of intense baseball, of a rivalry where the competitive juices are flowing.

After all the promoting it as such, it finally is a rivalry worth paying attention to again. Each one of the games has a special nugget of intrigue.

Tonight is about Jon Niese and how the young pitcher will respond to the pressure of a high profile game. Niese giving the Mets six strong tonight will go a long way toward answering some of their pitching questions. It would also prevent an emotional let down.

After a week-and-a-half of being on an emotional high, tonight is about sustaining. The last thing we want to see is for Niese to get hammered and to lose that good feeling.

Tomorrow, and this is the game I really want to see, is Mike Pelfrey against Roy Halladay. In a season full of tests for Pelfrey, this is another one. Aren’t you curious about seeing him go against an ace?

Sunday it is the stopper, Johan Santana, who would be pitching to either stave off a disappointment or continue the ride. It will be as important a game as you can have in May, and you want your best.

The Mets went 9-1 because they played to their capabilities, but also because they did not try to exceed them. They played within themselves and didn’t try to do something they weren’t capable of doing.

They need that same, level approach this weekend, and if they get it, then it could be the start of a wonderful summer.