Apr 21

April 21.10: Chat Room, Game #15 vs. Cubs: An Ollie P. encore?

With a victory tonight against the Cubs, the 6-8 Mets would win their third straight game and first series of the season.

On the mound is Oliver Perez, who is coming off a solid start last Friday at St. Louis when he gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings.

Perez worked quickly and got ahead in the count in that game, spotting his pitches low and on the corners. It was how the Mets have wanted him to work for years.

He’ll be backed by this line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Ike Davis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Oliver Perez, LP

Offensively, Wright and Bay have been strikeout machines lately and Francoeur’s hot start is now a memory. On the upside, with four hits Reyes might be getting into a groove.

Ryota Igarashi was placed on the disabled list today with a strained left hamstring (he was replaced by Manny Acosta), which leaves the eighth inning to Pedro Feliciano and Fernando Nieve.

Apr 19

April 19.10: About Last Night: Maine will get another start.

GM Omar Minaya said he’d take one out of three in St. Louis. He got it, but is anybody really happy? They could have won all three with a little bit of hitting. Then again, they could have been swept, too.

John Maine was better last night, but the qualifier is he was better in comparison to his previous two rotten starts. Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game last night with 107 pitches. Maine was lucky to get through five with the 115 he threw.

Maine worked out of trouble in each of the first four innings, which showed some improvement, but gave up a three-run homer to Colby Rasmus in the fifth. How often does a manager pull a pitcher winning 3-0 after four scoreless innings?

If he had to do it all over again, that might have been the way for Jerry Manuel to go last night.

While Maine on a whole was a disappointment again, he showed enough to where he’ll get the ball again. He threw his fastball more, and the more he throws it the harder it will become. He’s still throwing it in the low 90s with little movement. It should get better.

The one thing the Mets have to take out of their 2-4 road trip to Colorado and St. Louis was a definite improvement in the rotation collectively. What they got received from their five they’ll take every time.

Of course, they’ll still come away 2-4 at best because they offense is non-existent, especially with runners in scoring position, hitting .155 on the trip.

Moving Jose Reyes to the three hole isn’t the answer, because he’s not getting on base anyway. Nobody is hitting, including now Jeff Francoeur, whose 10-game hitting streak has fallen into an 0-for-9 slide.

Jason Bay? Well, he’s still on the team, but you’d never know it by his production.

“I’m living what they are watching,” Bay said in St. Louis last night. “It’s just one of those things you go through… I’m just going through a slump.”

Although Bay struck out four times Saturday, he did scorch a line drive that was robbed of a hit late in the game. Given he finally made contact, I thought he would have played last night.

A lot of pressure will be put on Ike Davis when he arrives, presumably tomorrow, as he was in the starting line-up today in Buffalo.

I’m encouraged by the pitching on the trip, but also tempered because it is one time through the rotation. We’ll see what we get from Jon Niese tonight against the Cubs.

Apr 18

April 18.10: Chat Room, Game #12 at Cardinals: Pressure on Maine.

The pressure never ends.

As much as last night’s epic 20-inning victory – anything 20 innings plus is epic – has been written and mentioned as being a catalyst to turn around this sluggish season, it means nothing unless the Mets can sustain.

That means John Maine must step up, perhaps unlike at any other time during his career with the Mets, and pitch big tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets exhausted their bullpen last night for 13 innings, and despite pitching one inning, Francisco Rodriguez was spent after throwing 100 pitches in an up-and-down evening warming in the pen.

If a starter won’t throw the next day after throwing 100 pitches, the same could be for Rodriguez tonight.

Maine, who seems to hyperventilate around the third or fourth inning, needs at least six, better seven innings tonight. He needs it for a lot of reasons, including to silence the Dillon Gee whispers.

You see, Maine isn’t pitching tonight to save the bullpen as much as he is his spot in the rotation. While it is likely Maine, barring a disaster, will get another start after this, manager Jerry Manuel has done nothing to dispel the speculation.

Aware of ramifications of a third hammering, Maine went to the videotape to look at his mechanics and pitch selection from 2007, when he won 15 games. Fundamentally, Maine concluded if he’s going down it would be with his fastball, which has atrophied after falling in love with his off-speed and breaking balls.

“I’m fine, my shoulder is fine,’’ Maine said after the Colorado debacle. “ I know the No. 1 priority is to get back and throw my fastball. That’s what I’m going to do in my bullpen. That’s what I’m going to do in my next start I’m going to get back to where I was.’’

Maine looked at everything from wind-up to delivery to release point and said he’s going back to his 2007 delivery and with it, hopefully that year’s fastball. Where Maine once touched the radar gun at 94 mph, he topped out at 91 in his last start, Tuesday night’s meltdown in Colorado.

“I’m just going to go back to that delivery, going back to throwing the fastball,’’ Maine said. “Hopefully it turns out fine. I may get hit, but, you know, at least I know I’m going out there, getting beat with my best pitch and not my second and third pitch.’’

Maine, 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA, has given up 12 runs in eight innings in his two starts, including eight runs in three innings at Colorado Tuesday.

“It’s hard. I’m doing my stuff in between starts,” Maine said. “I’m doing the right things. I just can’t put it together. … This is awful right now.”

****

Tonight’s line-up for the Mets (4-7):

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Frank Catalanotto, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Gary Matthews, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, LF
John Maine, RP

NOTES: Mike Jacobs was designated for assignment to make room for reliever Tobi Stoner, who was brought up to bolster their depleted bullpen. It’s obvious the Mets won’t go with a Fernando Tatis-Catalanotto platoon, so expect Ike Davis to be promoted. By designating Jacobs for assignment, the Mets open a spot on their 40-man roster.

Apr 12

April 12.10: What to make of the first week?

To be sure six games is too small a sampling to get a definitive feel about the Mets. However, it isn’t too small to quash some first impressions.

Among them:

1) The preseason concerns on John Maine. As has been the case with Maine, he throws far too many pitches and labors with his command. He gets his second start tomorrow in Colorado, a place where it is not easy to pitch. Maine is No. 2 in the rotation currently and insists his shoulder is fine. OK, but his velocity is down and control is off. Not good and there have been little signs of turning it around.

2) Oliver Perez is Oliver Perez, which is to say he’s an enigma. Through his first five innings Saturday he threw 12-24-12-24-12 pitches. He walked four or which two of the runners scored. Perez will live and die with his command. When he worked quickly his control was good, but get a runner or two on base and he takes forever and his ball can go anywhere. Perez is not the pitcher you bet on.

3) The offense is as spotty as it was last year. Hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be a foreign concept. It’s not too many games in which they’ll hit four homers.

4) Mike Jacobs is Mike Jacobs. He’s always been a streaky hitter and so far he’s gotten off to a slow start. Maybe the homer Sunday will get him on track. Colorado is often a good place for a hitter, or an offense, to get hot.

5) Until David Wright hits the inside pitch he’s going to be pounded inside and handcuffed. When Wright is on he drives the ball the opposite way, but he’s not getting many pitches on the outside half of the plate. He needs to pull a few to keep the hitters honest.

6) The bullpen will be a key. So far it has been outstanding, and perhaps the biggest reason why these games have been competitive. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano are in competition for the eighth inning role. If the bullpen can maintain the Mets will be all right. However, it can’t keep throwing three innings a game. That will add up before you know it.

7) I’m not worried about Jason Bay. No homers so far, but he’s making contact and I love his hustle. He’ll be fine.

Apr 11

April 11.10: Chat Room, Game #6 vs. Nationals: Santana tries to right ship again.

Oliver Perez has thrown worse, but by no means does that make yesterday’s loss to Washington a quality outing.

He had three innings of 12 pitches, but two innings of 24. It was the same old problem with Perez: When he slowed up his tempo he lost command; he walked four of which two of them scored.

Those two runs were the difference in the game, so let’s not blame in all on the offense taking another game off.

NOTEBOOK: The Mets placed reliever Sean Green on the disabled list with a small tear in his rib cage. He was replaced on the roster by left-hander Raul Valdes. The addition of Valdes could take some of the pressure off Pedro Feliciano, who’s in competition with Fernando Nieve for the eighth-inning, set-up reliever. … Despite Mike Jacobs’ slow start there are no plans to bring up Ike Davis. … Today the Mets try to get back to .500 behind Johan Santana.