Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Friday, April 30, 2004
  Mets 6, Dodgers 1

Jae Weong Seo pitched well, as I figured he might. Karim Garcia and Mike Cameron each homered for the first time. And the Mets took two out of three on the road from a pretty good Dodgers team. And all of that is overshadowed by this.

Jose Reyes suffered another setback, having to remove himself in the fourth inning of last night's St. Lucie Mets game due to some pain in his leg. "He didn't aggravate [it] but he wasn't feeling 100 percent," Mets general manager Jim Duquette told reporters. "When he was running down the line he felt it." But the most interesting thing to me is this quote from the ESPN article: "Duquette also said that Reyes originally suffered a Grade 2 strain -- more severe than the Grade 1 injury initially described."

So what does this mean? Well, I think it must mean one of three things. First, the Mets are incompetent. Second, the Mets were lying to us when Reyes first got hurt. Or third, they're lying to us now. I would have no trouble believing any of these things, but it's still frustrating to learn that the Mets have seemingly been understating the severity of the injury in a manner that only served to make Reyes look bad for not being back by now. Why they would do that is anyone's guess, and I doubt any sort of satisfactory explanation will be forthcoming. The Mets don't seem to be ruling out Reyes' returning at some point during the upcoming homestand, but what reason do we have to put any stock in what they say? Either the medical staff is inept or the front office is misleading the public, and in either case, I'll believe Reyes is ready to play about a week after he steps onto a major league field.

Tonight, the Mets, without Reyes or Cliff Floyd who may or may not be back next week, head to San Diego to start a series with the Padres. Tyler Yates (1-2, 4.26) takes on Brian Lawrence (2-2, 4.97).
Thursday, April 29, 2004
  Dodgers 3, Mets 2

The Mets offense got things started on the right foot and seemed to be on the verge of breaking through all night. Kazuo Mastui led off the game with his second home run of the season, and much of the lineup seemed to be working their way to good hitter's counts all night, getting Odalis Perez up to 90 pitches through six innings as he allowed seven hits and two walks. But they were only able to get two runs out of Perez and were held just barely in check by the bullpen. Mike Cameron was robbed of a solo home run by Milton Bradley in the sixth and Jason Phillips hit a line drive up the middle in the eighth that might have tied the game had it not connected with Eric Gagne's leg on its way through the infield. But in the end, it was just another day of not enough offense to support a decent pitching performance.

Steve Trachsel wasn't at his absolute best as he allowed a a pair of home runs, five hits and three walks while striking out just one through six innings. But it all added up to just three runs for another tough-luck loss for Trachsel (2-3, 4.50). John Franco pitched a brilliant seventh inning, striking out the side, and the suddenly dominant Mike Stanton retired the Dodgers in the eighth on only five pitches.

Thankfully, help is in fact on the way for the offense, as Jose Reyes made it through his first rehab start for St. Lucie without incident, hitting a double in five at bats. Scott Erickson had no such luck, managing just one inning of work before reaggravating his hamstring. Elsewhere in the minors, David Wright went three for four with a walk and is now hitting .380/.494/.662. And Yusmeiro Petit had a rough start, but at least some of the blame has to go to his defense. He went four innings and allowed five runs on five hits and a walk while striking out three, but only two of the runs were earned. In the first inning, an error with two outs allowed a run to score before Petit struck out the next batter to end the inning. In the second inning, he allowed a couple of earned runs with two outs, but another error extended the inning and the next batter hit a two-run double before Peit got the next batter to fly out. He allowed just one walk over the next two innings before exiting the game. This start got his ERA up over one to 1.29 and his RA is at 3.00, but he's still striking out more than a batter per inning and striking out five times as many as he walks. He also got his home run rate under one per nine innings, not allowing a longball in this start.

Tonight, the Mets try to salvage a win of this series, sending Jae Weong Seo (0-3, 6.60) to the mound against former Yankee washout Jeff Weaver (1-2, 6.75). Somehow I think at least one of these guys will lower their ERA in this game.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
  Mets 9, Dodgers 5

It was far from Tom Glavine's best start of the season. Through one inning, he'd given up one run on four hits. After two innings it was three runs on seven hits. But he managed to get things under control and finish six innings having allowed just those three runs on ten hits and one walk while striking out three. Oh, and he got some help from his offense for once, too.

Amazingly, Glavine gave up three runs in the first two innings and still wasn't trailing. Art Howe actually decided to stick someone who can hit in the second spot in the lineup for once. But it wasn't Mike Cameron who sparked the offense, but a couple of guys a little further down. Both Shane Spencer and Todd Zeile homered for the first time this season in the second innings to keep the Mets even through two. Glavine managed to keep the game tied through the sixth, when Mike Piazza came up just in time to give him a well-deserved win by tying Carlton Fisk's record for career home runs by a catcher with this fourth of the season. Fortunately, and rather shockingly, the Mets managed to tack on a few more runs while their bullpen tried to give this game away. Kazuo Matsui failed to get a hit in five at bats, but he did get on base via an RBI Fielder's Choice allowing him to steal his first major league base. He then scored a run as well for a pretty productive 0 for 5 night.

John Franco and David Weathers each gave up a run om relief, but somehow Mike Stanton came to the rescue, pitching a scoreless inning before Braden Looper did the same in a non-save situation.

Tonight, Steve Trachsel (2-2, 4.50) goes for the Mets against Odalis Perez (1-1, 3.86) for the Dodgers.
  Actual good news

No, I'm not talking about that ball Mike Piazza just hit over a wall (more on that later), but there seem to be some real positive developments on the injury front. To wit:

[Jose] Reyes played five innings in an extended spring game on Monday and collected three hits and a few steals. He was scheduled to play on Tuesday but it rained heavily in Port St. Lucie and the field conditions were not conducive to getting in work.

Reyes, who has been out since March 14 with a strained hamstring, is expected to play nine innings for St. Lucie in a Florida State League game on Wednesday...

It seems like a real possibilty that he could be with the team next week, which is great news for me, given that I should be heading up to Shea Stadium for the first time in many years for one of the games againts the Giants. And Cliff Floyd seems like an even surer bet to be back by this weekend. Getting those guys back will be huge.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
  Around the minors

Monday saw most of the Mets' minor league affiliates send their aces to the mound, and the results were generally encouraging.

Aaron Heilman continued to make the case for being recalled, striking out nine through six innings while allowing one run on three hits and two walks. His ERA is an unspectacular 4.09, but he's now struck out 23 through 22 innings while walking just four. The three home runs he's allowed are the only obvious cause for concern among his peripheral numbers, but even he can keep the ball in the park a little bit better, he'll once again be a very good candidate for the major league rotation. I don't think Jae Weong Seo's job should be in jeopardy right now, but if a spot should open up due to injury or trade, Heilman looks capable of filling it. Also for Norfolk, Mike Jacobs (.262/.333/.452) had a good day with the bat, homering and doubling in five at bats, as did Victor Diaz (.258/.279/.394), who had two hits, including a double, in six at bats.

Matt Peterson took the mound for Binghamton and had another quality outing. He pitched six innings, striking out five and walking none while allowing just one run on four hits. His ERA now stands at 2.08 and he's struck out 22 through 21 2/3 innings while walking just five. Like Heilman, he's allowed three home runs on the season, but otherwise his numbers look very good. And as usual, David Wright had a big offensive day, going two for three with a walk and three stolen bases. He's now hitting .381/.494/.698 and is nine for twelve in stolen base attempts.

And down in Florida, Scott Kazmir got roughed up a little bit for St. Lucie, but provided some encouraging signs as well. He allowed four runs through four innings to put his ERA at 6.14, as three walks and three hits, including one home run, did him in. But he also struck out seven through those four innings as his K rates continue to creep up to their normal levels. He's struck out 14 through 14 2/3 innings while walking seven and allowing two home runs. He obviously needs to get the walks under control, but it's good to see him once again whiffing batters with such regularity.

The pitching wasn't so hot Capital City on Monday, as they lost a 12-11 slugfest in 12 innings. But their big bats kept hitting, as Ian Bladergroen (.423/.468/.859) went two for six and Tyler Davidson (.318/.403/.576) went two for four with a home run and two walks. Hopefully we'll see these two playing in a more age-appropriate league before too long.
Monday, April 26, 2004
  Cubs 4, Mets 1

The Mets sent out a lineup on Sunday basically begging to be no-hit, and Matt Clement very nearly obliged, not allowing a hit until Karim Garcia's home run with one out in the seventh inning. Even when Cliff Floyd was healthy, the Mets had nothing resembling depth in the outfield. Shane Spencer has been a nice surpise early in the season, and has in fact been the best hitter among the outfielders, aside from Floyd. So when minor hamstring troubles forced him out of the lineup, you'd think Art Howe would send out the best of what's left of his outfield. But instead, Howe, apparently not overly concerned about minor issues like winning this game, decided this was the right time to give Mike Cameron a day off, too. In the end, the Mets scored one run on two hits and two walks.

The Mets offense has been a disaster early in the season, and while the outfield has been a weakness, and Mike Piazza has struggled recently, it's been the infield that's really doomed the team. Kazuo Matsui's played well, and ranks second among National League shortstops in Runs Above Replacement Position. But looking around the rest of the infield, you see the worst first baseman in the majors, the two worst second basemen in the league and the fourth worst third baseman in the league.

Jason Phillips has been terrible playing first base and catching, hitting just .130/.254/.204. Mike Piazza has given the team some offense out of the first base position, although all three of his home runs this season came as a catcher. A lot of people, myself included, figured that Phillips might have been playing over his head somewhat last year. But no one could have predicted this complete collapse, nor, I think, can we expect it to continue all season. First base was never going to be a huge strength for the Mets this year, but Phillips looked like a good enough placeholder while we await the arrival of the two minor league catchers who might push Piazza to first base on a more regular basis. The Mets didn't do a great job acquiring a backup in case Phillips faltered, with Todd Zeile and Vance Wilson being the guys most likely to step in. But the team had no reason to prepare for a disaster of this magnitude, and by the time the season is over, the Piazza/Phillips combination should wind up a reasonably productive first base/catching tandem.

The mess at second base, on the other hand, was easily forseeable. While most people figured that Jose Reyes would be in the lineup by now, anyone who thought that, if given a chance to start, Joe McEwing wouldn't be among the worst players at whatever position he was playing, obviously hasn't been paying attention to the last two years of his career. McEwing hasn't been anything but terrible with the bat since 2001. That was pretty much the last year Ricky Gutierrez was worth anything, too. That there are people in the Mets front office that thought these guys would be more useful than Marco Scutaro is seriously depressing.

The third base situation isn't too surprising, nor is it anything to be too concerned about. Ty Wigginton isn't hitting, but no one should have expected anything else. And the Mets had no real reason to rush out and find a replacement in the offseason. They could have perhaps found a better backup than Todd Zeile. But any kind of replacement starter they might have found would have needed to sign on for one year and then get out. For a team unlikely to make a run at the playoffs this year, finding such a guy wasn't a priority. They've given Wigginton a shot, and if he works out at all, they'll know he can be a useful part of their bench next year of perhaps useful trade bait. While the situation at second base makes you wonder what this team is thinking, the situation at third reassures you that they're looking toward the future.

So while these three positions provide reason for concern in the short and long term, there's really nowhere to go but up. Jason Phillips isn't this bad. McEwing and Gutierrez very well may be, but Jose Reyes will be back someday. And Ty Wigginton may be nearly this bad, but even he can probably get his average above .200. And even if he can't, we won't have to worry about him dragging down the next good Mets team.

And hey, at least the Yankees suck, too.

Tomorrow, Tom Glavine (2-1, 1.00) and this black hole of an infield take on take on Hideo Nomo (3-1, 6.55) and the Dodgers.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
  Cubs 3, Mets 0

Well, that went pretty much as expected, with the very stoppable force meeting the unhittable object. Kazuo Matsui was the highlight of the Mets' offense, hitting a pair of singles which accounted for half of the team's hits on the day as they wasted another decent start by Tyler Yates. Matsui did also get picked off of first base by Kerry Wood, though, and has yet to sucessfully steal a base, now having been caught twice. Yates went five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three, allowing one home run on his way to his second loss of the season.

Today's game figures to be more of the same, but with the pitching matchup at least favoring the Mets this time. Al Leiter (1-0, 0.52) tries to continue his dominant performance while Matt Clement (2-1, 2.76) opposes him for the Cubs.
Friday, April 23, 2004
  His name is Yusmeiro

Kazmir or no Kazmir, the most interesting pitcher in the Mets' low minor leagues might just be Yusmeiro Petit. He pitched his third start of the season for the Capital City Bombers today and struck out nine over six scoreless innings, walking just one and allowing two hits, both singles. His ERA now stands at just 0.53 through seventeen innings, and he's struck out twenty-two while walking only four. He has also allowed one unearned run, putting his RA at 1.06.

But that paltry ERA might remind discerning Mets fans of Scott Kazmir's first year in professional baseball, when he allowed just one run in eighteen innings for the Brooklyn Cyclones for an ERA of 0.50. Petit's not striking batters out quite as often as Kazmir, but he's not walking them as often either. Of course, this isn't Petit's first year in the Mets organization, as he split last year between Brooklyn and Kingsport. But he's also ten months younger than Kazmir and starting out this year at the same level Kazmir started last year. In 2003 he struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.2 through 74 total innings. Compare that to the 17.0 K, 3.5 BB rates Kazmir posted in just eighteen innings as an eighteen year old.

Petit doesn't get a lot of press (he wasn't even included in this year's Baseball Prospectus) and like Kazmir a year ago, he's a long way from the major leagues. But with his dominant strikeout and walk rates, he definitely merits keeping an eye on. If he keeps pitching like this, he may just wind up in St. Lucie before the year is through, just like Kazmir did last year.
  Cubs 3, Mets 1

The Mets offense isn't this bad. It's not. Don't get me wrong, it's bad. Without Jose Reyes and Cliff Floyd in the lineup, it's one of the worst in the league. Not the absolute worst (bonjour, Montreal!), but one of the worst. Still, it's not this bad. It's not "scoring two runs is a moreal victory" bad. It's not "Shane Spencer is one of our three best hitters" bad. It's not "we need a shutout from our pitchers to get a win" bad. One year wonder or not, Jason Phillips is more than capable of hitting over .200 at the major league level. Mike Cameron is not the new Roberto Alomar. Mike Piazza has not hit his last major league home run. No matter how Art Howe arranges his lineup, there is enough offensive talent currently on the Mets' major league roster to win a game in which their pitcher limits the opposition to three runs.

But none of that was apparent from today's performance, in which Jae Weong Seo (0-3, 6.60) rebounded to give the Mets a decent outing. It wasn't the prettiest line in the box score, as he allowed two home runs and walked three while striking out three through six innings. But he also held the Cubs to just three runs in the losing effort.

Kazuo Matsui got back on track somewhat, as he doubled off the wall and reached on a bunt single over the head of pitcher Greg Maddux. And Mike Cameron accounted for the Mets' run with a home run in four at bats, his third of the season. But aside from another nice game from Shane Spencer (three singles and a stolen base), that was about it for the Mets, who managed just eight hits and one walk in 34 at bats.

Although Orber Moreno seems to have vanished off the face of the roster, the Mets got solid bullpen work in support of Seo, as both Mike Stanon and David Weathers pitched an inning, walking one and striking out one while allowing no hits or runs. But as has become routine, solid pitching wasn't enough to get the Mets anywhere, and the team fell to 7-10 on the season.

Tomorrow's not likely to be the day the Mets' bats get going, as Kerry Wood (2-1, 3.48) will go for the Cubs. The Mets' lone hope for victory seems to be Tyler Yates (1-1, 3.86) holding the Cubs scoreless long enough for Wood's arm to fall off from overwork. If the Mets can get Wood up to around 140 pitches or so, which would take about 14 innings given the Mets' recent plate discpline, without the Cubs getting on the board, they might have a shot. More likely, it'll be another fine pitchers' duel tomorrow with the Mets coming out on the short end.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
  Mets 3, Expos 2

The day started out according to form for the Mets. They loaded the bases in the first inning without recording an out or a hit. And then they failed to score a single run. And it's not like these were the McEwings and Gutierrezes failing to drive these guys in. There were no outs in the first inning, so it was the middle of the lineup that couldn't even manage a sacrifice fly.

But unlike the last time the Mets faced John Patterson, they did eventually get to him. If you can calling scoring one run "getting to him." In the third, Shane Spencer got hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and Mike Piazza followed with a line drive that rightfielder Matt Cepicky was nice enough to turn from out into double. But that still wasn't enough to score a run, so Jason Phillips managed an infield single to finally plate Spencer.

And that was very nearly enough for Steve Trachsel, who pithced his third straight strong outing. It wasn't until the seventh inning that he allowed a run, a solo home run by Brian Schneider. With these two teams, that seemed to doom this game to extra innings, but the Mets actually managed to bounce back in the next half inning and get back the lead for Trachsel. Kazuo Matsui drew the first of his two walks on the afternoon. A Karim Garcia single and Mike Piazza double later, and Matsui scored the Mets' second run of the game. And with an insurmountable one run lead, it was time for Art Howe to begin resting the starters, so out came Piazza for pinch runner Vance Wilson. Luckily for Howe, the Mets added another run on a Mike Cameron double which drove home Wilson after Garcia had been erased at home on a fielder's choice.

A lead of two runs was an offensive explosion for this series, but hte Mets' improved defense managed to make things interesting in the ninth. Braden Looper did a very good job, all things considered, as not every closer can get five outs in an inning only allowing one run. With one out and a runner on first, Ricky Gutierrez, playing third base in place of the hospitalized Ty Wigginton, blew a grounder that should have been the second out of the inning. After Juan Rivera struck out for the third out of the inning, Brian Schneider lined out to left field that Shane Spencer, instead of turning into the fourth out of the inning, just dropped, allowing a run to score. Jamey Carroll finally grounded out to Jason Phillips for the fifth and final out of the inning, giving Trachsel the win and Looper the save.

Tomorrow, the Mets begin a nine game road trip in Chicago, as Jae Weong Seo (0-2, 8.00) and Greg Maddux (0-2, 8.62) each try to get on track for their respective teams. Ty Wigginton, hospitalized today due to dizziness and fainting, has been placed on the disabled list and replaced on the active roster by Danny Garcia. Hopefully Garcia will get a shot at starting at second base while he's up. He can't be any worse than the other options, can he?
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
  Expos 2, Mets 1

This Mets team is beginning to remind me of the New York Football Giants of a couple of years ago, when you were just waiting for Michael Strahan to snap and beat the crap out of an offensive player or three. Tom Glavine has pitched well enough to be 4-0 with minimal assistance from his offense. Instead, the man with the 1.00 ERA is now 2-1. Tonight, he gave up an earned run for the first time since his first inning of the year, and the Expos added one of the unearned variety thanks to an error on the part of Mike Cameron. Glavine went seven innings again, this time on 95 pitches, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out three.

But mediocre hitting and some bad luck (or bad decision-making, depending on your perspective) led to the Mets once again putting just one run on the board. The Mets did manage to string some hits together more than once, but twice got thrown out trying to score from second on singles. I was only listening to the game on the radio, so I'll leave it up to you to assess Matt Galante's level of culpability for those outs. My sense of things is that Mike Piazza getting sent home in the second was less defensible than Karim Garcia in the eighth. The Mets managed to score in the second anyway, as Joe McEwing, of all people, drove in Mike Cameron. McEwing had two of the Mets' eight hits, as did Piazza and Shane Spencer. Piazza, Spencer and Garcia each doubled for the Mets.

I was pleased to see Jason Phillips back in the lineup, even if he only managed a walk in four plate appearances, as Ty Wigginton, who hasn't even been getting on base as often as one in four times up so far this year, got the night off. New starting infielder Todd Zeile also walked once in four times to the plate. It's probably best for the Mets to let both Phillips and Wigginton get the majority of the playing time this year, as a team looking toward the future shouldn't be bending over backward to get at bats for a thirty-eight year old utility infielder who's already stated that he'll retire after the season. But if a slumping infielder is going to take a seat temporarily to get Zeile's once-hot bat into the lineup, Wigginton is the right choice.

In more Ty Wigginton news, David Wright homered, singled and walked in five plate appearances in a 5-2 Binghamton win. The magic numbers are now .360/.492/.760. Elsewhere in the minors, Scott Kazmir may be back. He pitched five scoreless innings for St. Lucie, striking out four, walking none and allowing six hits, all singles. His ERA is now 5.06 with seven strikeouts and four walks through ten and two-thirds innings. He's not yet blowing away people at the rate he has over the last couple of years, but it's early, and tonight's a step in the right direction.

Tomorrow, the Mets get a second crack at John Patterson (1-1, 4.09) who shut them out over seven innings in San Juan. Steve Trachsel (1-2, 5.82) tries to salvage some self-respect for the Mets before they head out on a tough road trip.
  Expos 2, Mets 1

Effective starting pitching? Check. Impotent offense? Check. Inept bullpen? Check. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2004 New York Mets.

As has become his custom, Al Leiter gave the Mets an excellent starting pitching performance. With some help from The Rangeless Wonder Ricky Gutierrez, he finally allowed a run, but he also dramatically improved his pitch efficiency, as he managed to get through seven innings on just 102 pitches. Through those seven innings, he allowed just five hits while walking two and striking out five. He also managed to maintain the team lead in ERA among starters over Tom Glavine's 0.90 by keeping his mark at a miniscule 0.52 through seventeen and one-third innings. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough, as David Weathers entered in the eighth only to give up a solo home run to Jose Vidro, and that was that.

Much like the first week of the season, the Mets got off to an early start scoring runs, as Mike Piazza singled in Kazuo Matsui in the bottom of the first. But by the time the game was over, the offense had racked up just four total hits, one from each of the first four batters in the lineup, and two walks, one of which was intentionally handed to Piazza. Todd Zeile and Karim Garcia both manged doubles, but this extra-base bonanza failed to produce any more runs for the Mets.

Zeile, incidentally, was starting at first base in place of Jason Philips for the second consecutive day for reasons known only to Art Howe. Yes, Zeile has gotten off to a relatively hot start in limited at bats. But benching Phillips after just forty at bats is ridiculous. Not only did he hit .298/.373/.442 last year, but despite his early-season struggles and subsequent benching, he's still second on the team in walks with 7. He's also a guy likely to be part of this team next year and perhaps beyond. A team in the Mets' current rebuilding situation shouldn't be sacrificing at bats of guys like that to a thirty-eight year old friend of the owner. And if Art Howe is determined to get him in the lineup, how about putting him in the place of a guy who didn't really hit last year, certainly isn't hitting this year and almost surely won't be starting next year like Ty Wigginton? By the way, David Wright doubled and homered in four at bats for Binghamton tonight. He's now hitting .348/.483/.717 with eleven doubles, two home runs and seven walk in forty-six at bats.

Tomorrow, the Mets hit what I guess would be the teeth of the Montreal rotation, as Livan Hernandez (0-2, 3.79) opposes Tom Glavine (2-0, 0.90). Hopefully Glavine can do what it takes to have a shot at winning a game, i.e., shut the Expos out for nine innings.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
  Mets 4, Expos 1

Having been swept by the Pirates over the weekend, the Mets really needed a hapless franchise to beat up on to get back on track. Enter les Expos de Montreal. Tyler Yates' third start of the season wasn't exactly pretty, as he walked three while striking out just one over five and two-thirds innings. But he also allowed just one run on five hits to earn his first major league victory. No, this time there was no incompetent bullpen to snatch a victory over the Expos away from Yates. Instead, there was John Franco retirng the only batter he faced. There was Mike Stanton getting his ERA under ten with two scorless innings that included two strikeouts. And there was Braden Looper, who wouldn't let a silly thing like three singles turn into a run, finishing the job to earn his third, though surely his least impressive, save of the season.

And the Mets' offense didn't exactly explode in support of Yates, though it did put up more runs than in both of his previous starts combined. Kazuo Matsui was kept off base in the leadoff spot, but the Mets got contributions from some unusual sources, as both Karim Garcia and Ty Wigginton homered for the second time this season. Mike Piazza, Mike Cameron and Ricky Gutierrez each had doubles, Piazza's smacking the wall just a few feet shy of Carlton Fisk's record, and of the three it was Gutierrez who drove in a run. Piazza also had a single and just his second walk of the season.

If the offense continues this slump, at least the Expos seem like the team the Mets could stumble to some wins against, as long as the starting pitching remains effective. That seems to be a decent bet tomorrow, as Al Leiter (1-0, 0.00) takes to the mound having neither allowed a run nor finished a sixth inning through two starts. Leiter and likely several relief pitchers will face off against Zach Day (0-1, 3.75), who held the Mets to two runs through five innings in his first start of the season.
Monday, April 19, 2004
  Pirates 8, Mets 1

If there's anything that can kill the early-season optimism surrounding a team more quickly than getting swept at home by the Pirates, I don't want to know about it. In the first two games of this series the Mets got good starting pitching performances but couldn't get the win for one reason or another. In game two that reason was a lack of offense, and that carried over into Sunday's game as well. After a hot start to the season, Mike Piazza has gone cold, reaching base just twice in twelve plate appearances during this series. Jason Phillips has similarly slumped, going hitless in seven at bats in this series, dropping his batting average to a McEwingesque .179. With a couple of the team's key offensive cogs on the shelf, that's left the job of putting runs on the board to Kazuo Matsui and Mike Cameron, and even Cameron had just one walk as the Mets scored two runs in the last two games of this series. The reality of life without Jose Reyes and Cliff Floyd is beginning to sink in, while Art Howe seems intent on construcing lineups designed to display exactly what the Mets' offense is lacking.

Meanwhile, after two solid relief outings, Jae Weong Seo got the start for the first time this season on Sunday and got knocked around like it was Spring Training. Through just four and one-third innigs, he allowed ten hits, including a home run, and two walks while striking out two, which added up to seven runs for the Pirates. The bullpen did a pretty good job picking him up, but by the time he left the damage had been done. Still, Grant Roberts managed to pitch two whole innings without allowing a run, though he did allow three hits and a walk, and Mike Stanton also provided a scoreless inning. Their ERAs have now dropped to 17.36 and 11.57, respectively.

Still, as I began writing this, the Red Sox were finishing off the Yankees, and the Expos, losers of seven straight are coming to town to take on the Mets. Not all is going wrong in the world of baseball and the Mets have a good opportunity to get back on track tonight. Tyler Yates (0-1, 5.40) will get the start in better weather than he experienced in his last rocky start and will be opposed by Tomo Ohka (0-2, 5.59), who's apparently off to something of a rough start himself.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
  Pirates 2, Mets 1

Well, apparently the story on last night is that Tom Glavine experienced some stiffness in his shoulder, wanted to pitch the eighth anyway, but was taken out at the behest of pitching coach Rick Peterson. I'll leave it up to you to determine whether or not that's a cover story for a very Art Howe kind of decision. I'll at least give Howe credit for bringing in the right guy to start the eighth, even if it didn't work out so well. Using Orber Moreno to set up Braden Looper in close games seems like the best way to use this bullpen to me, and Howe apparently agrees. Bringing in Former Yankee Mike Stanton with runners on base, on the other hand...

In more disappointing news from Friday, Scott Kazmir took to the mound for the St. Lucie Mets and had perhaps the worst start of his professional career. Through four innings he gave up five runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out just two. For comparison's sake, in 33 innings with St. Lucie at the end of last year, he gave up just 29 hits and 15 runs, striking out 40. There's certainly no reason to panic, as he was making his first start after having to be removed from a game due to injury, and his health is more important than how he pitched in one game. Still, he's not quite off to the blazing start that he had in both 2002 and 2003 and that I'm sure most fans expected this year.

In better news, Victor Diaz had a big game for Norfolk on Friday, going three for four with his second home run of the year, as well as a walk and a stolen base. He's now hitting .286/.310/.500 through 28 at bats. Craig Brazell (.233/.233/.667, 4 hr) and Mike Jacobs (.500/.538/.833, 1) also homered in the Tides' 10-9 win.

As for the major league Mets, they got another strong starting pitching performance on Satuday, this time from Steve Trachsel, but once agian it wasn't enough to get the team a win. Trachsel went eight innings, giving up two runs on eight hits, one of them a home run, and one walk while striking out five. He once again lowered his ERA, this time to 5.82, but also lowered his record to 1-2 when the Mets were unable to put up more than a run against five Pittsburgh pitchers. On a day when Jason Phillips watched from the bench with Mike Piazza at first for the third time this week and Vance Wilson behind the plate for the first time all season, no one higher in the lineup than sixth hitter Ty Wigginton managed a hit. Mikes Piazza and Cameron did each draw walks ahead of Wigginton to kick off the run-scoring rally, such as it was.

Tomorrow, a presumably more standard Mets lineup will try to put some runs on the board against Kris Benson (1-0, 2.45) while Jae Weong Seo (0-1, 1.93) makes his first start of the season for the Mets.
Friday, April 16, 2004
  Pirates 7, Mets 6

Being a Mets fan this year is complicated. With the team's future seemingly brighter than its present, do you root for the team to win as much as possible, get lucky and perhaps sneak into the Wild Card race in a weakened NL East? Or do you root for the team to collapse as quickly and dramatically as possible to get Art Howe out of town in time to prevent him from screwing up that promising future?

You can't tell from that final score, but this was quite the pitchers' duel for seven innings. Through seven, Tom Glavine had pitched an absolute gem, allowing just one walk and one hit, with some help from his newfound security blanket Mike Cameron, while striking out two. And he'd done it all with just 78 pitches. Kip Wells allowed a pair of runs in the second to wind up on the losing end after seven. But then in the seventh, the Mets made the mistake of getting a runner on base and Howe decided it was time for him to do some managing. Jason Phillips reached on an error to start the inning and then three pitches into the next at bat Howe brought in a pinch runner. After Ty Wigginton and Ricky Gutierrez predictably failed to get on base, and failed even to advance pinch runner Jeff Duncan, Howe pinch hit for Tom "78 pitches" Glavine with two outs and a runner on first. After all, the average guy in this bullpen is more or less as capable as Glavine, the team's nominal and now actual number one starter, of getting outs, right? Duncan did manage to steal second with a 2-2 count on pinch hitter Todd Zeile, but then Zeile swung and missed and the Mets moved ahead with their slim lead but without their ace starter and one of their best hitters.

As you might imagine, the bullpen failed to hold the lead. Three balls that apparently weren't hit all that hard turned into hits against Orber Moreno. Former Yankee Mike Stanton walked the first hitter he faced and allowed an infield single. David Weathers gave up two hits and hit a batter. By the time Weathers had managed to record all three of the inning's outs, the Pirates had scored seven runs.

Howe got a little bit lucky as the Mets strung together some hits and with two outs Mike Cameron doubled in Kazuo Matsui. Then Eric Valent hit his second home run of the season, a three-run blast that was also his second hit of the season, pinch hitting in the spot vacated by Phillips. But even Jose Mesa couldn't give this game to the Mets in the ninth and Tom Glavine, having lowered his ERA to 0.90, kept his record at 2-0.

I don't know if Howe dreams of someday managing an All Star Game, and thus likes to play out the fantasy on a daily basis by getting every member of his bench into the game, but unless Glavine suffered some injury in the top of the seventh that I don't know about, his managing of this game was simply ridiculous. The bullpen worked more than a full nine inning game over the course of the last two days, while Tom Glavine was absolutely cruising tonight, looking like the anti-Leiter as far as his pitch count was concerned. Oh, and he's hitting .286, too.

Tomorrow, Steve Trachsel (1-1, 9.00) tries to follow up a strong outing and get the Mets going back in the right direction. Hopefully if he's pitching well in the seventh, he'll have a no hitter going so Art Howe won't be tempted to take him out. Oliver Perez (1-0, 5.40) opposes him for the Pirates.
  Mets 4, Braves 0

The Mets' outfield and lineup took another hit tonight as the combination of a minor thigh strain and the cold New York weather led Mike Cameron to take a precautionary day off. He'll be in the lineup tomorrow, but tonight the Mets had to make due with the frightening outfield of Joe McEwing, Jeff Duncan and Shane Spencer. The presence of Duncan meant the Mets didn't lose all that much defense in center, but that he suffered the indignity of having to bat eighth, behind McEwing, tells you something about his history with the bat in the major leagues. Only Spencer, who's been hitting and kept it up tonight, was part of the Mets' pre-season starting plans with a lefty on the mound for the Braves.

Al Leiter failed to allow a run in his first outing, but coudn't win due to lack of support from a Mets lineup that featured both Cameron and Cliff Floyd. He gave the Mets a very similar effort this time out, once again holding the opposition scoreless while racking up a huge pitch count. This time he made it into the sixth and recorded an out before David Weathers entered with two runners on base. Leiter allowed three hits and three walks while striking out two over his five and a third innings. Weathers wound up walking the first batter he faced, Andruw Jones, to load the bases when an epic 11-pitch at bat ended with a near-miss ball. But he got a double play from the next hitter and the Mets' then two-run lead was preserved for Leiter.

The Mets got on the board right from the start as a Kazuo Matsui walk and a Ricky Gutierrez bloop double turned into a run on a Spencer ground out. Matsui also singled and drew an intentional walk in four plate appearances, scoring two runs on the game. His on-base percentage is once again an even .500 as he's tied for the league lead in walks with the guy who led the league last year. Gutierrez of course made the intentional walk look like a great move by flying out to end the inning. Spencer drove in both of Matsui's runs, also walking and singling. Mike Piazza had a pair of singles in four at bats including one as part of the Mets' eighth inning rally of three singles and a walk that netted two runs. Vance Wilson scored one of those pinch running for Piazza.

The Mets got good work out of their bullpen as well, as Weathers went one and two-thirds scoreless, Orber Moreno pitched a perfect eighth and Braden Looper struck out two in a perfect ninth. Looper has struck out five in five and one-third innings of this young season while walking just one and not allowing a run.

Tomorrow, the 5-4 Mets try to fatten up on the dregs of the NL Central, as the Pirates come to town. Kip Wells (1-1, 1.50) will go for Pittsburgh in game one, while Tom Glavine (2-0, 1.38) hopes to have both his smoke and his mirrors in working order for the Mets.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
  Down on the farm

First of all, the best news from the minors comes from NYFS as apparently Scott Kazmir's abdomen and "both [his] groins" are fine, as he's scheduled to make his second start of the season in St. Lucie on Friday. The St. Lucie Mets are 6-1 through seven games, but haven't seen any real standout pitching performances yet. Brian Bannister leads the team in strikeouts with eleven through ten innings in two starts, and he's only walked one batter, but his ERA is still a robust 6.30. No other starter has gone twice yet, but Mike Meyers (2.25 ERA, 3 Ks, 0 BBs, 4.0 IP) and Robert Paul (1.93, 2 Ks, 3 BBs, 4.0 IP) have been the most succesful so far. The St. Lucie offense has been more obviously succesful so far, with 22 year-old first baesman leading the way, hitting .333/.462/.714 with two doubles, two home runs and five walks through 21 at bats. Third baseman Aaron Baldiris is looking good early as well, hitting .333/.394/.519, with a double, two triples and four walks through 27 at bats. Outfielder Bobby Malek is hitting .310/.394/.586 and Alhaji Turay is leading the team with three home runs though hitting just .286/.286/.714. Justin Huber is struggling so far in his rehab assignment, hitting just .148/.281/.370, though he has hit two home runs.

Down in Capital City, the 5-2 Bombers have gotten some good starting pitching thus far. Stealth prospect Yusmeiro Petit went five innings striking out seven and walking three in his first start, also giving up one home run to win up with an ERA of 1.80. Matthew Lindstrom has started twice and has an ERA of 2.00 after striking out fourteen and walking just one through nine innings. Tanner Osberg has also struck out fourteen through none, and without walking anyone, but has given up two homers and has an ERA of 4.66. And at least a few of the Bombers have lived up to the team name with the bats, as first baseman Ian Bladergroen leads the way hitting .500/.519/.958 with three doubles, one triple and two home runs through 24 at bats. Outfielder Tyler Davidson is right behind him, hitting .464/.484/.821 with five doubles, a triple and home run. Andrew Wilson (.391/.417/.652), Shawn Bowman (.250/.400/.500) and Dante Brinkley (.250/.348/.500) are looking good early as well.

Of course, the biggest on-field story comes to up from Binghamton where third baseman David Wright is just obliterating Eastern League pitching for the 5-2 B-Mets. At .480/.552/.920 through 25 at bats, nine of Wright's twelve hits have gone for extra bases, including eight doubles and one home run. Yep, that Ty Wigginton will make a nice bat off the bench come 2005. Shortstop Crhis Basak (.353/.476/.647) and outfielder Prentice Redman (.316/.480/.421, 5/6 SB) are also acquitting themselves well against what, for them, is much younger competition. Outfielder Angel Pagan at .286/.348/.524 with a triple and a home run is also hitting well.

Matt Peterson was the first of the minor league Mets' opening day starter to take the mound for a second time, and through ten innings, he's posted a 2.70 ERA with thirteen strikeouts, just one walk and two home runs. Joselo Diaz has also started twice, posting a 1.04 ERA over eight innings, with eleven strikeouts and six walks.

The Norfolk Tides are the only Mets' affiliate not off to a hot start as far as wins and losses are concerned, having compiled just a 2-3 record. They haven't gotten a whole lot from their starting bats yet, as CedeƱo-bait Wilson Delgado is leading the team with his .412/.474/.529 line through seventeen at bats. Rightfielder of the future Victor Diaz is hitting just .200/.200/.350 with one home run through twenty at bats. But in addition to Aaron Heilman's good first start, the Tides have gotten some good starting pitching. Randy Keisler has a 1.80 ERA through five innings in which he struck out six and walked none. Matt Ginter didn't allow an earned run through four inningsof starting work, striking out six and walking one. And Jeremy Griffiths has a 1.80 ERA despite not striking anyone out through five innings while walking one. James Baldwin, on the other hand, had a rough first outing, giving up four runs in five innings, striking out three and walking two for an ERA of 7.20.
  Reyes emerges from seclusion

Apparently whatever mobsters were out to get Jose Reyes have been taken care of, as Jim Duquette once again feels comfortable speaking his name in public. In addition to that bit of good news, Duquette says of the young second baseman's hamstring injury, "We're optimistic. We feel like he's turned the corner." And it seems this optimism is more concrete than all previous optimism about Reyes' healing, as they've actually pinned down a possible date for his return, namely the April 23-25 series agains the Cubs. The offense has held up relatively well without Reyes so far, but getting him back will be a huge boost to the quality and consistency of the Mets' run-scoring apparatus, provided he's completely healthy. And it'll force Art Howe to stick someone who can actually hit in the second slot in the lineup, which is always nice.
  People writing about baseball on the internet!

Brendan and Sean have posted a lengthy preview of the major league season over at These Days that's definitely worth checking out.
  Braves 6, Mets 1

Well, Tyler Yates was bound to give up a run eventually. Might as well get it out of the way in a game where the offense wasn't going to led much of a helping hand anyway. I still think he can be a useful part of the starting rotation this year, and no single outing of less than three innings should diminish the optimism fostered by his terrific first start. He's only been a starter for about a year, and he spent that year posting ERAs around four at three different minor league levels, so for him to be much more than a league average starter this year would be quite a step forward for the twenty-six year old. Still, over the last three years as a starter and reliever he's posted strikeout rates higher than those of anyone else currently being employed by the Mets as a starting pitcher, and improved defense or no, the infusion of someone who can strike some people out into this rotation is a definite plus. He's bound to be at least somewhat inconsistent and he'll need to keep his walks more under control than he did in the minors to have any sort of sustained success, but as someoen who's young and talented and gives opposing teams a different look from anyone else in the Mets' rotation, he's worth putting up with starts like tonight's to see if he can put it all together.

After Yates allowed his six runs in two and one-third inning, the Mets got very solid work out of the bullpen, starting with two and two-thirds scoreless from Jae Weong Seo, who entered the game with two runners on base and recorded two outs without allowing either to score. Dan Wheeler had a couple of good innings as well, striking out two. John Franco also pitched a scoreless inning, as did Grant Roberts, who walked two before retiring the side in the ninth. Removing Seo, who was pitching well, after just 2 2/3 may prove to have unnecessarily tired out the bullpen a day before Al Leiter's scheduled to throw about twenty pitches an inning, but I guess Art Howe didn't want Seo to throw too much given that he's currently scheduled to start on Sunday. If he winds up missing the Sunday start anyway, the move will wind up pretty indefensible, even if it failed to cost the team any runs on this night.

Not that it would have mattered if it had cost the team any runs, as the offense struggled all night, and failed to draw a single walk on the night as John Thomson cruised through eight innings on just 94 pitches. The lone run scored on a sacrifice fly by Kazuo Matsui, who also singled in three at bats. Doubles by Ty Wigginton, who also singled, and Jason Phillips were the only other offensive highlights, as Art Howe continued to find baffling ways to keep his best hitters out of the top of the lineup. Second hitter Eric Valent went hitless in four at bats, dropping his batting average to .091, while relatively hot-hitting Shane Spencer went just one for four. Mike Piazza provided both a single and his first error at first base, making one of the Braves' runs unearned.

Tomorrow Al Leiter (0-0, 0.00) takes on Horacio Ramirez (0-0, 0.00) as the 4-4 Mets try to get back over .500 with a win of their first series at home.
Monday, April 12, 2004
  Mets 10, Braves 6

With Cliff Floyd out of the lineup for at least a couple of weeks and Mike Piazza taking at least one day, today's Mets lineup could have been forgiven for not managing much offense. And with the Braves also missing a couple of key bats from their lineup, one might have expected a tight pitchers' deul in true Shea Stadium style. But the Mets got offensive contributions from up and down the lineup and Steve Trachsel bounced back from an awful first start to get the job done with both his arm and his bat.

Just like last week in Atlanta, the Mets wasted no time getting to Mike Hampton. With two outs in the first, third and fourth hitters Shane Spencer and Todd Zeile (I am not making this up) hit singles and Mike Cameron followed with one of his own to drive in Spencer. The Mets kept it up, scoring in each of the first five innings to amass a 10-0 lead. RBI doubles by Trachsel and Cameron and a two-run double by Kazuo Matsui highlighted the all-around offensive effort on a day when the Mets scored ten runs without hitting a home run. The only starters without a hit were, shockingly, Ricky Gutierrez and Joe McEwing, and while Gutierrez walked once and McEwing twice, Gutierrez joined Trachsel as the only starter not to get on base as least twice. Zeile had three hits in five at bats starting at first base and is looking like the Mets' best option at third right now, hitting .417/.385/.583 in limited duty as compared to Ty Wigginton's .185/.241/.296. Matsui reached base three times with a double, an infield single and a walk to bump his on-base percentage back up to an even .500.

Trachsel, meanwhile, pitched six innings giving up just one run on four hits while striking out three. And after Orber Moreno got through the seventh inning on just six pitches, three of which he needed to strike out Jesse Garcia, Grant Roberts came in and picked up right where he left off in Trachsel's last start. The Braves were able to make a game of it by torching him for four runs on a walk and three hits including two home runs. His ERA is now a robust 48.60 through one and two-thirds innings of work. Dan Wheeler helped make things interesting in the ninth, loading the bases with the help of some questionable defense by Wigginton at third. But Braden Looper came in, threw two pitches and got Andruw Jones to hit into a game-ending double play to earn his second save in as many days.

While this lineup can't be expected to produce like this on a regular basis, it's good to see guys like Zeile and Spencer come off the bench and provide some offense along with guys who've been producing on a daily basis like Matsui and Cameron. If the Mets can continue to get a little bit of help from the bench as well as getting Piazza back in the lineup on Wednesday, they should be able to continue to put some runs on the board. And Steve Trachsel in his second start became the fourth of four scheduled starting pitchers to give the Mets' an excellent outing. It's still too early to know quite what to expect out of the fifth spot in the rotation, but the top four have looked great so far and combined with this offense should be able to win some games even when either side's production slips a bit. And who'd've thought the day Cliff Floyd goes on the DL would give us reason to feel good about the Mets' offense.

The 4-3 Mets have tomorrow off, but on Wednesday, Tyler Yates (0-0, 0.00) tries to follow up his tremendous major league debut with a win as he takes on John Thomson (0-0. 3.60) and the Braves.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
  Mets 4, Expos 1

Kazuo Matsui SS
Jose Reyes 2B
Cliff Floyd LF
Mike Piazza C
Mike Cameron CF
Jason Phillips 1B
Karim Garcia RF
Ty Wigginton 3B

Once upon a time that was going to be the lineup the Mets sent out to the field for their home opener tomorrow. Not the scariest lineup in the majors, but a pretty solid one through six at least. Then Reyes went down with The Hamstring Strain That Wouldn't Heal. In spite of Art Howe's unusual choices as to how to replace Reyes in the second spot in the lineup, the offense got off to a pretty good start. Then Garcia fractured a finger trying to catch a fly ball with two hands on Saturday. And in today's Floyd pulled up lame trying to run out a ground ball in the first inning. As of right now Floyd's latest injury is being called a strained quadricep and he'll probably head to the DL after he gets examined back in New York on Monday. With just one exception the Mets have gotten good pitching from their starting staff so far this year, and, regardless of how Art Howe decides to rearrange the four good hitters left in this lineup tomorrow, that will have to continue if this team's going to win many games.

The good pitching in today's game came once again from suddenly aptly-labeled ace Tom Glavine. Aside from the point in the game where he decided to illustrate the point of this article by allowing an unearned run as a result of his own error, Glavine was excellent all day. Through seven innings he struck out just one but allowed just one walk and five hits.

Glavine's outing kept the Mets in the game all day, and after a while, the offense managed to cash in. Glavine himself got things started in the sixth with a single and after a Kaz Matsui double and a Todd Zeile sacrifice fly, Floyd's replacement in the lineup, Eric Valent came through with his first major league home run. The Mets added another run in the ninth when defensive replacement Ty Wigginton (yes, really) single to drive in Karim Garcia who had come in to pinch run for Jason Phillips. Braden Looper pitched an uncharacteristically dominant ninth inning, striking out two to earn his first save of the season.

Mike Piazza's first day at first base was fairly uneventful aside from Glavine's errant throw which led to Piazza colliding with the baserunner trying to reach for the ball. He did fail to get anything done with the bat, just as he had in the first two games of this series.

It will be interesting to see who gets called up to replace Floyd once he hits the DL, as the Mets have no depth in the outfield and I tend to doubt they'll give Victor Diaz a shot in the majors after less than a week of playing right field in the minors. For tomorrow, at least, it'll probably be Valent and Shane Spencer. Hopefully Steve Trachsel (0-1, 24.00) can rebound from his rough first start as he once again takes on Mike Hampton (0-0, 11.25) and the Braves.
Saturday, April 10, 2004
  Expos 1, Mets 0

After a slight delay, Al Leiter made his first start of the season and was nothing if not effective. After five innings, he'd allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out four. But while he was effective, he wasn't exactly efficient, as it took him ninety-seven pitches to finish those five innings. The Mets' offense had similar luck against Montreal starter John Patterson and Leiter exited a scoreless game after five, making way for the returning Jae Weong Seo.

Seo pitched a scoreless sixth, but gave up a double to Brad Wilkerson to lead off the seventh. He almost got out of the jam, but with two outs, Peter Bergeron singled to left to drive Wilkerson home and the Expos took the lead for good. John Franco pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing just one hit, but the Mets were unable to get on the board against the Expos' bullpen, managing just three hits and one walk for the game, and fell to 2-3 on the season. Cliff Floyd and new-found offensive threat off the bench Todd Zeile each had doubles on the game, providing the lone bright spots for the Mets' offense. Kazuo Matsui was kept off base for the first time in his brief major league career, going oh for four with two strikeouts.

Tomorrow's game features a couple of Mets trying to assume new roles. Tom Glavine (1-0, 3.00) will get the start against Livan Hernandez (0-0, 3.00), trying to make another good start and become the ace the Mets signed him to be. And standing to his left will be
Mike Piazza, making his first start at first base. If Piazza can play passable defense, he'll be able to stay in the lineup for more day games after night games, which will be a nice boost to the Mets' offense.
Friday, April 09, 2004
  Mets 3, Expos 2 (11)

The Mets exited the mainland with a tired bullpen that had given up early leads in two consecutive disastrous losses to the Braves, needing a strong outing from Tyler Yates in his first major league start. Yates gave the Mets all they could have asked for, exiting after six innings with a 2-0 lead. Cliff Floyd homered in the first and scored in the fourth on a Karim Garcia fielder's choice to give the Mets the lead. Yates left after six having allowed just five hits, striking out four and walking none. It was exactly the kind of performance that the Mets needed.

But Yates' desire to earn his first major league win would come into conflict with the destructive force that is Former Yankee Mike Stanton. Pitching for the third straight night and having gone an entire forty-eight hours without allowing a run, Stanton could not let this lead stand. He got through the seventh without incident, but then the eighth came, and he entered into a bizarre conspiracy with Art Howe to lose this game for the Mets.

Apparently unfamiliar with his own bullpen and believing this two run lead to be insurmountable, Howe removed his third and fourth hitters for defensive replacements to start the bottom of the eighth. The first two batters to face Stanton in the eighth reached base and after a sacrifice there were runners on second and third with just one out. This brought in Proven Closer Braden Looper in a double switch that also put Todd Zeile at first base. The Expos were threatening and Cliff Floyd, Mike Piazza and Jason Phillips sat on the bench and watched Looper try to close it out. While Armando Benitez was 1000 miles away wrapping up his third save of the season, Looper was giving up a two-run double to Jose Vidro. He managed to get the final two outs without allowing any more runs and the game was tied heading to the ninth.

Despite Art Howe's best efforts, the Mets' offense showed signs of life in the ninth and nearly took the lead. With two outs on the board, Kazuo Matsui added a double to the single and two walks he'd already racked up in the game. Ricky Gutierrez then walked, bringing up leftfielder Shane Spencer. Spencer ripped one into left, but it turned out to be hit just a little too hard as Matsui flew around third base only to be nailed at the plate by Juan Rivera's throw.

Looper pitched a perfect ninth and the game headed to extra innings. David Weathers gave up a hit and a walk before finishing a scoreless tenth. Then Art Howe's defensive replacement got called on again to carry the offense. Karim Garcia led off the eleventh with a single and after Ty Wigginton tried and failed to bunt him over, Todd Zeile came through with a double to left center to drive Garcia home. Matsui added an intentional walk to his box score and Gutierrez was hit by a pitch before Spencer and Vance Wilson made outs to end the inning.

As the game progressed, Expos manager Frank Robinson seemingly tried to keep up with Howe in the area of bizarre subsitutions. First he removed Brad Wilkerson to let the righthanded Luis Lopez (no, not the former Met) bat against the lefty Mike Stanton despite Wilkerson's .400+ OBP against lefties last year. After Lopez grounded out to lead off the 11th, Orber Moreno struck out out-machine extraordinaire Tony Batista before Robinson removed Juan Rivera, who had earlier replaced Termel Sledge in left, in favor of Ron Calloway and his .282 career OBP. Calloway managed to come back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk, but Brian Schneider grounded out to end the game, giving Moreno his first career save. Hopefully it won't be his last this year.

So despite everything Art Howe and Mike Stanton tried to do to derail them, the Mets would not be denied their second win of the season and things are once again looking up for this team. Kaz Matsui had another excellent game, reaching base five times, although he did get caught in his first steal attempt of the year, Mike Cameron walked twice and singled in five plate appearances, and two young pitchers gave the Mets very solid performances. Tomorrow the Mets have some reason to have faith in the man on the mound, as Al Leiter (15-9, 3.99 in 2003) will get the start opposite John Patterson (1-4, 6.06). Hopefully the irrepressible Mets offense will be there to back him up.
  Around the minors

On Thursday night, the minor league season opened and several of the Mets' top arms, some of whom might be able to find a spot in the major league rotation around 2007 or so, took to the mound.

Scott Kazmir, of course, had a rough night for St. Lucie, lasting just an inning and two-thirds, giving up a run on three walks and two hits, including a home run, while striking out one. But just like in the majors, the Mets' offense had no trouble, as the bats led the team to a 9-4 win. Rightfielder Alhaji Turay had a home run in four at bats. Leftfielder Bobby Malek had a double and a triple in four at bats. Justin Huber, rehabbing minor injuries and playing DH before heading up to Binghamton to catch, went two for four. And third baseman Aaron Baldiris had a double and a walk in four plate appearances.

Matt Peterson for some reason didn't start for Binghamton, but he did pitch five innings in relief in a 4-3 loss, giving up two runs on seven hits, including a home run, while striking out six and walking none. David Wright (fresh off posting his latest journal entry) got right to work in his AA debut hitting a double that either just missed going over the wall or actually went out and bounced back in, depending on who's telling the story, and walking in five times up. But just as in the majors, the talented defender had a rough night in the field, as Wright made an error at third. Shortstop Chris Basak went one for three with a double.

The best news of the night may have come in a 2-1 Norfolk loss, where Aaron Heilman struck out nine over five and two-thirds innings, walking two and allowing three hits and one run. Victor Diaz got the start in rightfield and accounted for the Tides' run with a solo home run.
  Seo nice to see you again

Despite the Mets' best efforts, Jae Weong Seo is once again a major leaguer, as he's been called up to replace Scott Erickson, whose strained hamstring has landed him on the disabled list. I don't think there's much chance that Seo has worked out whatever mechanical issues were troubling him during the spring, but hopefully the temporary demotion at least served as a kind of wake up call to get him back on track. According to Avkash's calculations, Erickson wouldn't have pitched again until the 18th anyway, so perhaps Seo has some time to get himself in order.
  Kazmir down?

I was going to use the occasion of opening day, and Scott Kazmir's subsequent starts throughout the season, to take a look at how the Mets' minor leaguers were playing. But apparently Kazmir left tonight's game in the second inning with the trainer and I've been unable to find out why thus far. Once I have that information, I'll be sure to pass it along, but right now, it's hard to type with my fingers crossed.

EDIT: has the story, and it appears to be nothing too serious.

"I was running yesterday [Wednesday] and I felt like, when I stopped, that my midsection, my abs and both my groins were on fire," Kazmir said. "I thought it was all right but then it felt tight again tonight."

So far, he's just listed as day-to-day and there's no word on the extent or exact nature of the injury, but I'm at least relieved to see that it's in no way arm-related. It's also good to see that he was smart enough to take himself out of the game at the slightest hint of trouble. We'll have to wait and see what happens next and hopefully this won't become another Jose Reyes situation, but at least we know the Mets will be very cautious about putting him back out there. He won't pitch again until he's ready, and the chance of reaggravating the injury shouldn't be too great.
  Braves 10, Mets 8

On a night when an injury to the Mets' scheduled starter forced a reliever into the game from the opening pitch, you might think that it was the pitching that did the team in. But in fact it was the Mets' vaunted defense that let the team down as the Mets got a decent nine innings of pitching out of the 'pen to go along with another offensive assault.

NRI-turned-fifth-starter-turned-third-stater Scott Erickson was scheduled to pitch for the Mets, but some last minute hamstring trouble ended his night before it had started. Dan Wheeler somehow got the job in his stead despite having pitched and inning and a third the night before and got off to a good start. The offense got him the lead in the second when Ty Wigginton hit a two run home run. The Braves tied it up in the fourth, but four innings of two run ball from an emergency starter who had pitched just a day earlier was pretty good. Then Wheeler led off the top of the fifth inning and reached on an error. I thought, even with a depleted bullpen, that four innings was plenty from Wheeler, but I won't try to understand Art Howe's pithcer usage decisions.

Regardless of how much Wheeler had left in the tank, he got on base, so the decision to let him hit for himself worked out pretty well. Kazuo Matsui then reached on a fielder's choice, erasing Wheeler, and scored on a triple by Karim Garcia, batting second in a slightly better constructed lineup. Garcia then scored on a Cliff Floyd sacrifice fly to put the Mets up by two.

Wheeler then came out to start the fifth and gave up a double to Rafael Furcal. But really this was the beginning of the Mets' defensive troubles, as Mike Cameron ranged impressively into the gap in left center before letting the ball bounce off of his glove. The Braves would go on to score three runs in the inning to take the lead as Wheeler was removed from the game right after the "double" for David Weathers.

The Mets would go on to commit three official errors in the game, but that doesn't come close to telling the whole story. For one thing, two of the errors were by the team's new defensive specialists, Cameron and Matsui. And they each looked bad on at least one more play that wasn't scored an error. Add to that Joe McEwing playing second base like a utility infielder and Ty Wigginton playing third base like Ty Wigginton and you've got a pretty awful defensive night.

The Mets wound up using five pitchers and the only one who didn't give up a run was Mike Stanton, who pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing one hit. John Franco took the loss, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks, one intentional, in two-thirds of an inning.

Cliff Floyd and Jason Phillips had doubles, and Mike Cameron closed the gap in the ninth with a solo home run, but it wasn't enough to overcome the defense and the unique pitching circumstance to get the win. The Mets will bring their hot offense and scary defense and pitching to the bandbox in San Juan as Tyler Yates makes his first major league start against Zach Day (9-8, 4.18) and the Expos. If Yates doesn't pitch well, this weekend could get ugly in a hurry.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
  Braves 18, Mets 10

The new-and-improved Mets offense showed up for the second night in a row. Art Howe's controversial decision to entrust the pitching duties to an unruly band of Atlanta-area school children, on the other hand, didn't work out so well.

But seriously, the nineteen million dollar man Steve Trachsel was on the mound, and the offense staked him to an early lead. The Braves finally managed to get Kazuo Matsui out, as he swung at and missed a 3-2 pitch to lead off the game. But after number two hitter Ricky Gutierrez predictably failed to reach base, the offense came alive. Cliff Floyd singled and then back-to-back home runs by Mikes Piazza and Cameron put the Mets up by three before the Braves had even come to bat.

The Mets kept it up in the second inning as with one out, Trachsel singled and Mastui walked. After a Gutierrez fielder's choice erased Matsui, RBI singles by Floyd and Piazza padded the lead to five. Meanwhile, Trachsel was cruising on the mound, getting through the first two innings with just one runner reaching base. The Mets added another run in the top of the third thanks to a Shane Spencer single, a Mike Hampton balk and a Rafael Furcal throwing error. Matsui drew another walk in there as well. Then the wheels pretty well fell off the wagon.

Trachsel allowed a home run to Larry Jones as part of a three-run third. Then he started the fourth inning and wound up responsible for five more runs without recording a single out. Grant Roberts then began a parade of ineffective relievers by giving up five runs in two thirds of an inning. In the end, five relievers pitched in the game and the only one who didn't give up at least one run was John Franco, who pitched a scoreless sixth, walking one batter. The only other pitcher to escape this game with an ERA under eighteen was Dan Wheeler, who relieved Roberts in the fourth and wound up responsible for one run over an inning and a third, striking out two and walking one while allowing two hits.

The score was 14-6 when the fourth inning finally came to an end and while the Mets kept hitting, the Braves did too and so the game was never in question after that. Mike Piazza is just killing the ball, as he wound up five for five with a double and two home runs, leaving him just one blast shy of Carlton Fisk's mark of 351 as a catcher. Kaz Matsui's much-ballyhooed strikeouts made their first appearance as he went down twice with a bat in his hand, but he also walked twice and singled in six plate appearances. He did fail to score or drive in any runs this time, most notably grounding out with the bases loaded in the seventh to end the inning. Karim Garcia came off the bench to homer off of John Smoltz in the ninth.

There was once again plenty to be happy about regarding the Mets' offense, but the pitching fell completely apart and the team will need a solid outing from *gulp* Scott Erickson tomorrow to get back on track. Former Met disappointment John Thomson (13-14, 4.85 in 2003) will oppose him for the Braves.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
  Mets 7, Braves 2

The first game of the New York Mets' season wound up answering some important questions in an encouraging fashion, and yet, the first question I had when the game began was, what the hell is Art Howe thinking batting Ricky Gutierrez second? Maybe Howe got so used to the idea of batting his second baseman second that he was incapable of adjusting when Jose Reyes went down. Still, Gutierrez is, at best, the third-worst hitter in the Mets' lineup and choosing him to bat second ahead of Mike Cameron or Jason Phillips boggles the mind.

But such petty concerns were allayed quickly when Kazuo Matsui shrugged off a spring of offensive struggles to send Russ Ortiz's first pitch of the season over the wall in straightaway center. Matsui's debut was nothing short of spectacular, as he wound up 3 for 3 with the home run, a pair of doubles, and two walks, one of which was intentional. That the Braves felt the need to walk Matsui with runners on second and third when he came to bat for the fifth time was impressive, but of course, Ricky Gutierrez was hitting behind him, so they didn't have a lot to lose. Still, along with his power and speed, Matsui impressed me with his patience, not at all resembling the hacker portrayed by his Japanese stats. While the Atlanta pitching was far from dominant, with Ortiz leaving after recording just seven outs, it was very encouraging to see Matsui willing to take a walk even with the bases loaded while not striking out once in the game.

The other big story was of course Tom Glavine, trying for the fifth time to pitch against his former team without embarrassing himself. He wasn't dominant, and Marcus Giles' first inning home run had me fearing the worst, but Glavine settled down in a hurry, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out two. There were plenty of balls hit hard to the outfield, but the defense helped Glavine out with Mike Cameron ranging from gap to gap with ease and Karim Garcia making a couple of nice sliding catches in right.

There was plenty of offense to go around for the Mets as every starter but Cliff Floyd got on base. Jason Phillips doubled twice and walked twice, Cameron walked, singled and stole a base, and Mike Piazza inched closer to Carlton Fisk with a solo homer in the third.

This first game could hardly have gone better for the Mets as the offense looked formidable even without Jose Reyes in the lineup and the pitching and defense got the job done as well. The team still has a long way to go to prove they can hang with the best of the East, but last night was a complete turnaround from the disastrous opening day of a year ago, and we can only hope that this season stays as true to its first day as last year's did.

Tonight, Steve Trachsel (16-10, 3.78 in 2003), new contract in hand, takes on former Met mercenary Mike Hampton (14-8, 3.84).
Disseminating descriptions and accounts of New York Mets games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball or the New York Mets since 2003.

Location: Hatboro, Pennsylvania, United States
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