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.

Jan 24

Jan. 24.10: Let’s big-picture this.

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

In 2006, the Mets finished 97-65, winning the National League East by 12 games. It would be fair to say that is when the window was open at its widest for this core of Mets. And, we’re talking David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While that core has remained largely productive, the rest of the team, in particular it’s pitching, has not.

The strength of the 2006 team was arguably its bullpen, which picked up the slack for a consistent, but hardly spectacular rotation.

Despite signing Billy Wagner, at the time an All-Star caliber closer, Omar Minaya let two significant keys to that pen, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, get away. The Mets have been struggling to get a bullpen chemistry since. An argument can be made the chemistry started to fizzle with the decline of Aaron Heilman, who was so good in 2006 save that pitch to Yadier Molina.

Even so, the team started strong in 2007, taking a 34-18 record into June. Would we all agree that 2006 and the first two months of 2007 was when the Mets’ star burned its brightest?

They finished 54-56 the rest of the way in 2007, including a collapse in which they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Much of the downward spiral was traced to a bullpen bridge that could not get to Wagner.

Since June 1, 2007, the Mets are 20 games below .500 – including another collapse in 2008 – and the refrain was the same after each season: The pitching is the problem. The 2008 team, by the way, blew 29 save opportunities.

It’s a double-edged sword: The bullpen is overworked and ineffective. But, the reason it is overworked is because the Mets aren’t getting quality innings from their starters.

For those who think I’m being too negative, those are the numbers.

I realize 2009 was a unique season because of injuries, but even under the assumption the core offensive players return to form this season, there remains largely the same pitching staff. Never mind the team’s hot start one-third into the last season, more representative of their performance was the remaining two-thirds.

Getting Johan Santana was a significant gesture of improvement, but he makes 34 starts a year. The pennant is won or lost in the remaining 128 games, and this is where the Mets are weak and have not improved.

Even Santana is a partial question as he’s coming off surgery. The team says he’ll be ready, but said the same thing about John Maine. Maine’s durability, along with his presence, are questions. We don’t know what we’ll get from Oliver Perez inning to inning, much less game to game. And, Mike Pelfrey has regressed. And, well, there is no fifth starter, yet.

Yes, Jason Bay will improve the offense, but in reality aren’t we subbing his numbers for that of a healthy Delgado? And, there’s another hole with the loss of Beltran. So, just how much better is the offense, really? And, what if Wright doesn’t regain his power stroke? Can we say for sure Reyes is back?

Bottom line: We can’t say the core is back to normal or will get that way.

In that case, it falls again on the pitching, which is the same pitching that failed miserably the last two-and-a-half seasons.

Sep 12

Attitude seems right ….

Seventeen games remain on the Mets’ schedule. Yes, we’re at the same point when they started to make history last year. Up seven games with 17 remaining, the Mets went into a free fall and kicked away the National League East, losing on the season’s final day when Tom Glavine couldn’t get out of the first inning.

“I don’t think anybody is thinking about last year,’’ David Wright said. “When you go through what we went through last year you learn from it.’’

 The Mets’ pitching makes them vulnerable, but they don’t seem to fall into those funks where they lose focus and go through the motions as they did last September.

 ”We think we are as good as anybody,” Carlos Delgado said. “We think we are the team to beat. We think what happened last year is not going to happen again, and we’re very confident that we can get this done. It’s definitely a different atmosphere here, a different feeling than it was last year.”

Are you buying or selling what they are saying?