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.

May 21

May 21.10: Who goes first, Manuel or Maine?

Was one of the five pitches John Maine threw last night his final one with the Mets?

That’s what many are thinking, but if Jerry Manuel’s job security was secure, or at least stable, it might be enough for him to outlast Maine, but it is a house of cards.

Maine was the third Mets starter to go down during the team’s dreadful 2-6 road trip, but if the DL is in his immediate future then he’ll get another chance to save his career.

Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen think Maine is hiding an injury – the latter called the pitcher a “habitual liar’’ when it comes to discussing his health – and we should know after he sees a doctor today.

“I would like an explanation,’’ Maine said about his removal. “Me throwing 85 mph I don’t think is a good explanation to be taken out.’’

A weak warm-up session and Maine hunched over on the mound might have had something to do with it.

However, Maine partly answered his own question about why he wasn’t allowed to stay in the game.

“I’m in no position, I don’t have enough clout,’’ said Maine. “I don’t have enough star power to say anything. So what happens happens.’’

While Maine’s verbal explosion might doom him with some organizations, what might save him was how this was bungled by Manuel and Warthen.

“I just didn’t think John had enough to compete tonight,’’ Warthen said. “If he’s throwing that way, then there’s got to be something incorrect in that arm. … He wants to go out there and pitch. But we have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn’t right.’’

How come then, if his warm-ups were so bad, weren’t they smart enough to pull the plug before he took the mound?

Warthen told Manuel that Maine wasn’t throwing 80 mph in the bullpen. When Maine bounced a warm-up pitch, Manuel immediately got Raul Valdes up and throwing.

Manuel talked so much about wanting to protect Maine, but he let him start the game anyway? If one pitch could blow out his shoulder, then why take the chance?

Maine said he was never asked how he felt or that he was scheduled to see a doctor today. There’s a protocol in dealing with pitcher’s injuries and it wasn’t followed.

To be sure, Maine didn’t handle things properly, but neither did Manuel or Warthen, and the ice they are skating on is thinner than Maine’s.

May 19

May 19.10: Chat Room, Game #41 at Nationals: Knuckleballer Dickey gets the ball.

Let the patchwork begin.

With Oliver Perez exiled to the bullpen, R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball is being brought up from Triple-A Buffalo to face the Washington Nationals.

Dickey has been Buffalo’s most effective starter and his date to pitch coincided with Perez’s so this should be seamless.

Dickey has major league experience, but it would be wrong to say he’s an accomplished major league pitcher. He was 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA in 35 games last year for Minnesota, all but one of them in relief. He is 0-1 with a 17.18 ERA in one start and one relief appearance against Washington.

The Mets have made no commitment to Dickey beyond today, but it is a safe assumption that a strong start should warrant the ball again.

May 18

May 18.10: Chat Room, Game #40 at Braves: Can they score for Johan?

Say what you will about the Mets’ current problems, but at least the team doesn’t quit. That sounds so cliché, but it is true. We’ve seen sloppy play, we’ve seen physical and mental breakdowns, but we haven’t seen a lack of hustle.

No Met has dogged it like the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez did the other day in Florida. Jason Bay isn’t hitting for power but he busts it every time out of the box. The same can be said for most Mets, and that’s a reflection on the manager.

A manager still has his team when it plays hard for him, and that’s something working for Jerry Manuel.

The Mets snapped their five-game losing streak last night behind Mike Pelfrey and will attempt to win for just the third time in nine games tonight behind Johan Santana against the Braves. Pelfrey gave the Mets 7 2/3 strong innings to become the first starter to win in 16 games.

“Pitching is the key,’’ Manuel said. “If we continue to get this kind of pitching, it at least gives us a chance.’’

Pelfrey pitched big when it counted, limiting the Braves to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. He had to, because he didn’t get much help, something Santana is familiar with when the comes to facing the Braves.

Santana (3-2, 3.88 ERA this year) is 1-4 with a 2.05 ERA in seven starts against the Braves. He has received two or fewer runs in each of those starts.

Here’s the line-up behind Santana that needs to improve on those numbers:

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

NOTE: I’ve got class tonight and won’t be back until nine.

May 18

May 18.10: Tonight’s line-up at Braves

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ lineup in Atlanta:

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

NOTES: Jason Bay gets the night off. Chris Carter is hot so the Mets are riding him. … David Wright is on pace to whiff 212 times. … Jeff Francoeur is still fighting to get out of his slump which started with the 20-game at St. Louis.