Apr 13

April 13.10: Chat Room, Game #7 at Rockies: Maine needs a big night.

With the 2-4 Mets six games into the 20-game plateau manager Jerry Manuel defined as fair to evaluate the start of the season, the team begins its first road trip to Colorado and St. Louis, perhaps two of the more unfriendly venues for visitors.

After losing two each to the Marlins and Nationals – teams they should handle at home at least – the mood of the Mets isn’t panic as much as it is urgency.

There have been three bad starts by the rotation, a trend that would wear down the bullpen eventually, and no hitting with runners in scoring position.

“It’s six games,’’ said outfielder Jeff Francoeur. “With that being said, we’d better get it going quick, because we’ve got some teams coming up that are really, really good.’’

Manuel ripped his team for being unprepared – for which he assumed responsibility – and others wondered about the intensity level.

If the Mets are going to get it started, they’ll have to do it tonight behind John Maine, he of the 7.20 ERA and slow fastball.

Maine has lost some of the velocity, and worse, some of the movement off his fastball, a byproduct of shoulder problems. He says he’s fine, but he still needs to build up strength.

“We’ll continue to hope for that,’’ Manuel said of Maine building up his shoulder strength. “He’s healthy and I don’t see why, being free from setbacks and those types of things, we won’t see that at some point.’’

Maine is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in three starts versus the Rockies, so there’s some reason for optimism.

NOTE: I am taking classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights for the next few months, and won’t be around for the start of the game. With the game at 8:40 p.m., I’m expecting to be back by nine, so I might miss the first inning or two.

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 10

April 10.10: About Last Night; Pelfrey makes stride.

Pitching plus power have always been baseball’s greatest winning equation and the Mets finally got it last night with a solid start from Mike Pelfrey and four homers.

The Mets have questions with their rotation after Johan Santana, and the Mets have gotten three solid starts in their first four games.

Pelfrey had his rough spots, but with the exception of one inning he overcame them. Last night, working under cold and windy conditions, Pelfrey showed marked improvement. He continually threw first-pitch strikes.

Pelfrey gave up two runs in six innings, an effort he can build on. The bullpen pitched well for the second straight game. It looks as if Fernando Nieve appears to have gotten the first crack at being the eighth-inning set-up man.

Pelfrey was aided by his defense, especially Alex Cora, who made two scintillating plays, one of which saved a run. The offense was four homers – two each by Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas – and amazingly enough, a couple of hits with runners in scoring position.

Apr 09

April 9.10: About Last Night; Niese shows up; offense doesn’t.

Losing two of three to the Florida Marlins, including 3-1 last night, isn’t the fast start manager Jerry Manuel envisioned. The upsetting thing is they could have swept this series with several more hits.

There was one positive to take out of the game, and that’s Jonathan Niese, who gave up three runs in six innings. Niese pitched with composure and efficiency for the most part, something they didn’t get the night before from John Maine. Something to look out for is the Marlins did some first-ball hitting because Niese often started out with fastballs.

Offensively, the Mets picked up where they left off the previous night, not to mention 2009. They left two runners on in the second and fourth innings when they could have made a dent into the game. Just three extra-base hits in their past two games.

When you’re not going to pitch consistently, you need to score. And, you can’t afford to waste good outings when you get them. The Mets were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring positions and left seven, and over the past two games have gone 0-for-10 while leaving 16. Not the ingredients of a fast start.

Tonight against Washington, it will be Mike Pelfrey vs. Garrett Mock.

Apr 08

April 8.10: About Last Night – Flashback, 2009.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to last night was the comeback, how it was generated by good, patient at-bats. Considering how they played overall, the Mets had no business playing baseball in the tenth inning last night.

The rally was encouraging because we saw too little of that last season.

However, and you knew there would be one, last night was a reminder of last season in several ways.

First, there was the horrid starting pitching of John Maine. We heard during spring training that his shoulder was fine, and maybe it is, but there’s something definitely not right with his pitching. Ninety-two pitches is way too many for not getting out of the fifth. His location was spotty (he missed on the homer by a foot and a wild pitch set up another run) and his velocity is down.

Will Maine improve? I really don’t know. You would hope, but maybe the 15 wins in 2007 was his ceiling.

Secondly, there was the offense, which mustered only six hits. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. One or two more hits and this was a win.

Finally, the bullpen gave up three runs. When your starter won’t give you five, giving up three in the pen is too many. Jenrry Mejia’s outing made you wonder if the Mets jumping the gun with him, but the performances by Sean Green and Hisanori Takahashi makes one think they might not have had a choice. Oh yeah, last night would have been perfect for Nelson Figueroa.

There was the Fernando Tatis play, which was boneheaded for sure. A reminder of how sloppy they were on the bases last night. But, you can’t hang the game on that one play. Afterall, there was no guarantee David Wright would have come through.

Of course, no guarantee he wouldn’t have, either.