Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
  Mets 7, Reds 5

Not that the Reds’ pitching is anything to get excited about, but for the third time in their last four games, the Mets’ offense put some runs on the board. This time it was Cliff Floyd, who’s been inconsistent of late, with the extraordinary performance, knocking a pair of out of the park to give him ten home runs on the year and to give the Mets a lead that was, for a time, fairly comfortable. Ty Wigginton also added his seventh home run of the year while Kazuo Matsui doubled and singled to continue his slow return to the realm of productive offensive players.

And to go along with all of this offense, the Mets also got some good starting pitching. For a while, at least. Jae Weong Seo got through six innings having allowed just one run, but in the seventh, the Reds finally got to him. Seo wound up pitching just six and one-third innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out five. The big blow was a pinch hit home run by Brandon Larson in the seventh. Seo left with a runner on first and Ricky Bottalico allowed that run to score before recording one out via a strikeout. John Franco came in to get the final out of the seventh after allowing a walk. Then Jose Parra had another fine outing, pitching a scoreless eighth inning. Braden Looper, pitching for the first time in almost a week, wasn’t at his sharpest in the ninth, but after three straight hits to lead off the inning, Looper managed to get a double play and a groundout to end the game, allowing just one run.

Down in AAA, it was a slow day for David Wright, who managed just a singled and a hit by pitch in a 5-4 Norfolk win. Victor Diaz provided the only extra base hit for the Tides, doubling and walking in the game.

Tomorrow, it’s the same promising pitching matchup that didn’t work out so well last Thursday, as Tom Glavine (7-4, 2.11) takes on Cory Lidle (5-5, 5.05).
Monday, June 28, 2004
  Mets 9, Yankees 3
Yankees 8, Mets 1
Yankees 11, Mets 6

Part one of your 2004 Subway Series was another weekend of mixed messages from the Mets. First, they got adequate starting pitching to go along with an offense that looked like a legitimate run-scoring apparatus. Then the pitching fell apart and the offense got shut down by the pitching equivalent of the Mets’ own inconsistent offense in Jose Contreras. And then Former Yankee Mike Stanton reminded us all that it doesn’t really matter what the offense looks like as long as he’s out in the bullpen.

Game one was one of those rare occasions when the Mets got offensive production from everyone in the lineup, scoring the first eight of their nine runs without the benefit of a home run before Cliff Floyd went deep for the eighth time this season in the seventh inning. A six-run inning on six hits in the fourth gave starter Al Leiter all he needed as every Mets starter was on base at least once in the game, with only Mike Cameron failing to get a hit. Mike Piazza and Jason Phillips each had a double and Piazza, Kazuo Matsui, Richard Hidalgo and Todd Zeile each had a pair of hits. Zeile also walked three times. Leiter went six and one-third innings, striking out five while walking four, allowing three runs and five hits including a pair of home runs.

Steve Trachsel couldn’t work out of trouble as well as Leiter and wound up charged with six runs on three walks and six hits including three home runs while striking out three. He didn’t get much help from his bullpen once he left the game with two on and none out in the eighth, though. Orber Moreno allowed an infield single to load the bases and then Art Howe brought in noted clutch performer Mike Stanton. Stanton of course allowed all three runners to score as Hideki Matsui took his first pitch over the rightfield wall.

Meanwhile, the offense managed just two hits and four walks off of Contreras, who also struck out ten through six innings. Mike Cameron had two hits, including a double, while Jose Reyes was the only other Met with a hit.

The night game was more of the same, with the starting pitching collapsing even more quickly and getting even less bullpen support, although at least the offense came to life. The game started with Matt Ginter flubbing an easy ground ball that wasn’t ruled an error for some bizarre reason and his night didn’t get much better after that. He wound up allowing six runs in the first inning, and while he did get things under control for a while after that, he lasted only three innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three.

The Mets’ offense actually managed to get them back in the game, though, as Mike Cameron hit his tenth homer of the season in the second inning and Richard Hidalgo hit a pair of long home runs in the fourth and sixth to give him seven on the season. While there was a lot to be unhappy about in this game and on this day, Hidalgo’s play, with five hits and two home runs on the weekend, is a definite positive sign. If he can return to the area of consistent offensive threat, that will be a serious boost to a Mets lineup that’s only really gotten regular production from Mike Piazza lately. The Mets strung some hits together in the seventh to close the gap to 7-5 with Kazuo Matsui contributing a key RBI single.

Meanwhile, Dan Wheeler came in and pitched three very good innings, holding the Yankees hitless, but then Art Howe sent him out to pitch a fourth inning and things didn’t go so well. He allowed a pair of hits to start the seventh and was relieved by Jose Parra who struck out the first batter he faced as the two baserunners stole second and third. After an intentional walk to Jorge Posada, Art Howe once again brought in Mike Stanton with the bases loaded, and once again that went badly. Stanton let two runs score on a single by Ruben Sierra and after a groundout, allowed two more in on a Miguel Cairo single. Stanton’s line on the day: six inherited runners, all of them scored. He was only charged with two runs in an inning and two-thirds pitched on the day.

Eric Valent added his fourth home run of the season in the ninth, but by then the game was well out of reach. So the Mets exit the weekend in the unusual position of perhaps feeling okay about their offense while having serious reason to be concerned about the pitching. But at least Tom Glavine should pitch in the next series against the Yankees.

There were at least some good things going on in the minors, as Aaron Heilman finally put together a good start on Saturday, going six innings, allowing just two runs, one earned, on six hits and one walk while striking out six. His ERA is still an ugly 5.34. Also, Scott Erickson got rocked again on Friday and David Wright hit his third and fourth home runs of the year on Friday and Saturday. He’s now hitting .356/.412/.778 in forty-five at bats. Meanwhile, Ty Wigginton went one for ten with two walks and a throwing error in the series against the Yankees.
Friday, June 25, 2004
  Reds 6, Mets 2

So now the rest of the Mets have ceased merely robbing Tom Glavine of wins with their inept play, they’ve begun saddling him with undeserved losses as well. Glavine got through the sixth inning with a solid 2-1 lead, receiving a veritable bounty of support from the team’s offense. He then got himself into trouble in the seventh, allowing a pair of hits and a sacrifice bunt before leaving with runners on second and third with just one out. Ricky Bottalico then entered and proceeded to allow a run to score on a groundout. Bottalico left after allowing a walk and made way for Mike Stanton, and as you can imagine, things didn’t go well from there. What might surprise you, though, is how much of it wasn’t Stanton’s fault. Sure, he did walk the first batter he faced, but he also should have gotten out of the inning with a tie game by getting Ken Griffey Jr. to fly out to Mike Cameron in centerfield. But Cameron lost the ball in the sun, dropped it, and allowed all three baserunners, the first of which was charged to Glavine, to score, giving the Mets’ starter the loss, even though the last of his three runs allowed was scored as unearned. Stanton then allowed another hit and run to leave the score at 6-2. Glavine wound up going six and one-third innings, allowing those three runs on nine hits while striking out five and walking none. So now the man with the 2.11 ERA has a record of seven wins and four losses on the season.

On the bright side, Jose Reyes drove in the Mets’ two runs with his first home run of the season. Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd each had three hits that went for naught.

Elsewhere, the sun rose in the east and David Wright hit a double and drew a walk. He’s now hitting .351/.418/.702 through 37 at bats with Norfolk. Meanwhile, Ty Wigginton of the struggling New York Mets’ offense is hitting .270/.312/.445.

Tomorrow, the Mets’ bubble either begins to burst in earnest or stays surprisingly afloat, as they begin a three game series with the Yankees. The first game’s pitching matchup looks pretty good, although I did say that about today’s game as well, as Al Leiter (2-2, 2.14) takes on new kid Brad Halsey (1-0, 3.18).
Thursday, June 24, 2004
  Reds 6, Mets 4 (12)

Kazuo Matsui’s Great National League Adventure has taken a turn for the worse of late. Now, if we learned anything from Mr. Matsui Comes To New York, Part One last year, it was that a lot of the new guy’s struggles can be chalked up to the period of adjustment to Major League Baseball. So while it seems likely that Kazuo’s great defensive reputation was at least somewhat overblown, I’m still pretty confident that he’s a better hitter than he’s shown this year, and there have certainly been flashes of good play that have lent credence to that opinion. But the most frustrating moments of his tenure in a New York Mets uniform have been the mental lapses. With one out n the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game, the Mets had Matsui on second and Jose Reyes on first with Mike Piazza at the plate, a situation the team’s management no doubt spent the offseason envisioning. So when Mike Piazza drove the ball off the wall in centerfield, I was pretty happy about the fact that the Mets had just closed a two-run gap and tied the game. Except that didn’t happen, because Matsui was standing at second base waiting to tag up when the ball landed, so he wound up getting thrown out at the plate on Piazza’s four hundred foot single. Fortunately Cliff Floyd then came up and singled to drive in Reyes, but Matsui’s bizarre baserunning cost the Mets at least a run. Certain of his shortcomings thus far as a Met have been excusable due to his unfamiliarity with the American pitchers and baserunners and playing fields and whatnot, but there have been a few too many of this kind of play, a play that would have been dumb no matter where on the globe it occurred, and it’s hard to figure how he’s going to go about acquiring some common sense at this stage of his career. Matsui did hit a pair of singles on the night, breaking a lengthy hitless drought, but he also struck out with a runner on third base and one out in the ninth inning, when any sufficiently deep fly ball to the outfield could have ended the game.

The Mets did get some offense from some of their other important bats, as Piazza, Reyes and Richard Hidalgo each had a double. Piazza had three hits on the night and Hidalgo had a pair of his own.

The Mets also used just about every relief pitcher they have due to another less than stellar starting pitching performance from the back end of the rotation, and it wound up costing them in the end. Jae Weong Seo settled down after a very rough start, but he still lasted only five innings, allowing four runs, all of which scored on the Reds’ three home runs. Seo allowed a grand total of eight hits and a walk while striking out just one. He’s now allowed half as many home runs, nine, as he did last year in sixty-one and one-third innings, about one-third as many as he pitched in 2003.

The Mets are only carrying six relief pitchers at the moment, which is less than they have for most of the season, in part because they’ve got seven outfielder--not including Joe McEwing--on the bench. They wound up using five of those pitchers on Wednesday—everybody but Dan Wheeler--and the first four of them put together six scoreless innings. Jose Parra and Braden Looper each pitched two. But eventually it came down to John Franco who had thrown twenty-six pitches in two innings the night before. That’s not an outrageous workload or anything, and he might have been perfectly ready to go on Wednesday. But some fatigue might help explain the two-run homer he gave up to Sean Casey to put Cincinnati in the lead for good, the first hit by a lefty off of Franco in twenty-seven at bats.

The minor leagues didn’t provide a whole lot of good news for the Mets on Wednesday either, as both Orber Moreno and Scott Strickland had a rough time pitching an inning for St. Lucie. Moreno gave up three runs on four hits while striking out two and Strickland gave up two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out one. At least Lastings Milledge had another good game for Capital City, going two for five with a double.

Tomorrow brings a pretty comfortable pitching matchup for the Mets as Tom Glavine (7-3, 2.07) takes on Cory Lidle (4-5, 5.29) in a battle of contrasting opinions of Rick Peterson’s abilities as a pitching coach.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
  Mets 7, Reds 4

As if the New York Mets organization didn’t do enough to ruin Paul Wilson’s life in the 1990s, on Tuesday they handed him the first loss in his surprising 2004 season. Things started off pretty well for Wilson, as the Mets’ own surprising starter, Matt Ginter got hit pretty hard and didn’t even make it to the fifth inning. In his four innings Ginter allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out four, but at least he managed to prevent things from getting completely out of hand, leaving nine runners on base. And although four runs might have seemed like enough to beat the Mets in a lot of games this season, this time they got plenty of offense from the same hitters they’ve had all year and got plenty of good relief pitching to make it hold up.

Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd each contributed a pair of hits including a home run, their sixteenth and seventh, respectively, with Piazza adding a double as well, but the star of the show was Mike Cameron. The newly dangerous centerfielder singled, doubled and tripled in his three at bats, and also added a walk, scoring three runs and driving in another, driving his batting average all the way up to .223 in the process. Of course, while Cameron has been hot, the top of the lineup continued to struggle, as both Kazuo Matsui and Jose Reyes each went hitless in four at bats. New guy Richard Hidalgo at least added a single and scored a run.

Of course, none of this would have mattered much if the bullpen hadn’t stepped up and shut the Reds down for five innings. And John Franco, Mike Stanton and Braden Looper did just that. Franco and Stanton each pitched two scoreless innings in relief, allowing just one base runner apiece with Stanton also striking out a pair. They left things up to Looper, who pitched a dominant ninth, striking out the fourth through sixth batters in the Cincinnati lineup to earn his thirteenth save of the year.

Down on the farm, it was just another day in the life of David Wright. Get out of bed, smack a double. Wright also hit a single in his five at bats for Norfolk. Victor Diaz added his tenth home run of the season, Craig Brazell his eighteenth. Justin Huber also homered for Binghamton, his seventh, and also doubled. Matt Peterson got the start and again sort of struggled but got the job done, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out five. Also knocking a ball out of a park on Tuesday was Lastings Milledge, who notched his fifth home run, as well as a double, in three at bats for Capital City.

Tomorrow Jae Weong Seo (3-5, 4.63) tries to follow up a strong, rain-shortened performance against another of the former failed first round picks that populate the Reds’ rotation in Todd Van Poppel (3-2, 4.53).
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
  The Future is about three weeks from now

The MLB Futures Games, that is. The all-encompassing minor league all-star game type thing will take place the Sunday before the MLB All-Star game, July 11th, at 4:00 pm and will air on ESPN2. That will allow a national audience to get their first looks at the two hottest Mets prospects, as David Wright and Yusmeiro Petit will take the field for the US and World squads, respectively. Wright celebrated by going one for three with a double and a walk in a 9-3 Norfolk loss on Monday. It'll be fun to see he and Petit play for the first time, and hey, maybe Wright can just accompany Met All-Stars like Mike Piazza and Tom Glavine back to New York once the All-Star festivities are over and get his major league career underway. The Mets host the Phillies for four to kick off the second half of the season.
Monday, June 21, 2004
  Mets 6, Tigers 1

I think we’ve been here before. Five hundred. Thirty-four and thirty-four this time. This team has added a couple of key pieces since the last time or two it reached the break even point, but it remains to be seen if they can for once take a real step beyond sea level. Those key additions played a role in getting them there today, and the Mets will need them to keep it up for this time to be any different than the previous. It was Richard Hidalgo’s two-run home run, his first as a Met and fifth of the season, which drove in Jose Reyes, who had walked, and gave the Mets enough offense to get that thirty-fourth win. Hidalgo later added an infield single and scored on Ty Wigginton’s double, and while it was just one game, it was also Hidalgo’s first home run since the fourteenth of April, which at leaves gives you some hope that he, like Mike Cameron before him, is turning his awful slump around. Cameron went hitless on Sunday, but drew two walks and scored a run. Also providing big hits for the Mets were Eric Valent with a two-run double and Mike Piazza with his fifteenth home run.

And while it seemed a bit like Al Leiter was on the mound for the Mets, it was in fact Steve Trachsel taking a page out of Leiter’s book, getting in and out of jams all day. Trachsel allowed just one run in six innings, but was out in the seventh having thrown one hundred seventeen pitches thanks five walks, one intentional, and four hits while striking out four on the way to his seventh win of the season. Mike Stanton pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and striking out two and Ricky Bottalico finished things off with a perfect ninth.

Down in the minors, Yusmeiro Petit was at it again, striking out eleven through five and two-thirds, allowing just one hit, a solo home run, and one walk. Petit has now thrown almost exactly as many innings as Scott Kazmir did last year for Capital City before being promoted to St. Lucie and has struck out seven more while walking seven fewer and allowing one more home run than Kazmir did. Petit got to that innings total a little more quickly than Kazmir did due to Kazmir’s restrictive pitch count limits, but still, it shouldn’t be too long before Petit gets a shot to show what he can do against high-A level hitters. If Kazmir doesn’t hurry up and get promoted himself, the younger Petit might catch up to him pretty soon. Elsewhere, David Wright and Victor Diaz both homered for Norfolk, their second and ninth for the Tides respectively, and Wright also added a double in four at bats. That’s three doubles and two home runs in a week at AAA. Ty Wigginton had better watch his back.

The Mets get the day off tomorrow before embarking upon yet another of these important twelve-game stretches. This time it’s the Reds and Yankees who the Mets will try to do better than six and six against. Maybe the new lineup is up to the task, or maybe two weeks from now, they’ll be right back at .500. With the way things have gone so far this season, it’s hard to bet against the latter.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
  Mets 4, Tigers 3 (10)

It took a little while for your official 2004 New York Mets “Catch The Energy” offense to finally get going, but when they did, things went pretty much as planned and it was enough to get the win. That is to say, Jose Reyes is back. His one for five line in the box score doesn’t look too pretty, and he didn’t fare well in his first three times up, but after that, it was like things were back to normal. With the Mets trailing three to one in the eighth, Reyes came up with Karim Garcia on third and hit a grounder to the second baseman to drive him home, but the ball went through the fielder’s legs and Reyes made it all the way to second and wound up scoring on a Cliff Floyd single. Then, with one out in the tenth, Reyes tripled to right center to set things in motion for Mike Cameron to hit his second consecutive game-ending hit, this time a single with the bases loaded, although I don’t know why it didn’t count as a two-run double given that the ball bounced over the left field wall. Not that it matters, I just wonder if there’s some strange rule regarding game-ending ground rule doubles or if it was just a Robin Ventura situation where the Mets didn’t bother to score the second run. Regardless, Reyes’s return to the Mets and Cameron’s continued return to the realm of productive hitters were both very encouraging developments. There still seemed to be a bit of tentativeness to Reyes’ running on the triple, so perhaps we’re not quite out of the injury woods yet, but still, things seem to be progressing in the right direction for Reyes and the team’s offense.

Of course, the Mets couldn’t have made it to extra innings without another good starting pitching performance, and it was once again Al Leiter living on the edge. It looked like Leiter’s luck might finally catch up to him in the first, as five of the first six hitters reached base, leading to two runs. But he managed to get out of it, as usual, and did what for him might be considered cruising, allowing just five more base runners over the next five innings. In the end it was one hundred twenty-three pitches, six innings, six hits, four walks, two runs and four strikeouts adding up to another no decision for Leiter.

Jose Parra, recently of Norfolk, is apparently old enough, at thirty-one, to have earned Art Howe’s confidence sight unseen, as he was brought in to relieve Leiter in a one-run game on his first day with the Mets. He lasted just one-third of an inning, allowing two hits before his elder John Franco had to come in and save him. Franco closed out the seventh with ease, fanning the first two batters he faced. But he stayed in to pitch the eighth where a leadoff walk, a couple of bunts and a groundout led to a run. After the Mets tied it up, Art Howe made a good move, using his closer in a tie game in the ninth for the second consecutive night. Braden Looper pitched two scoreless innings, hitting a batter and striking out three, to earn his second win of the season and in two nights.

And while Jose Reyes’s arrival brought some youth and excitement to the major league squad, there’s still plenty of interesting things happening down in the minors. For instance, Scott Kazmir had perhaps his best start of the season, tossing six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out seven in a 6-0 St. Lucie loss. David Wright had an unusual rough night for Norfolk, going hitless in five at bats, but Prentice Redman went three for five with two doubles and a stolen base and Victor Diaz went two for three with a double, a walk and his eighth home run of the season. Meanwhile, Scott Erickson had another less than impressive start, going seven innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out five. His ERA fell to 7.20 as a result.

On Sunday the Mets try to finish off the sweep of the Tigers as Steve Trachsel (6-5, 3.57) takes on Jeremy Bonderman (5-5, 5.63).
Saturday, June 19, 2004
  Mets 3, Tigers 2

Yes, I think Mike Cameron is going to be all right. The Mets were lucky to score even a measly two runs off of Detroit starter Nate Robertson. But once he had to leave the game due to injury, the Tigers’ bullpen proved a bit easier to work with, culminating in Cameron’s ninth-inning walk-off home run, his ninth of the year. Prior to that, it took a high chopper over the third baseman’s head by Tom Glavine to drive in a pair of runs against Robertson, who allowed just four hits and one walk through seven and two-thirds before being struck in the leg by a ball off the bat of Kazuo Matsui. Other than Cameron, the only Met to manage more than one single on the night was Mike Piazza, who was honored before the game for his home run record and had a pair of hits in the game.

In addition to provide some much-needed offense, Glavine gave the Mets another start that was good enough to get the win, but didn’t. He got into a little more trouble than usual, allowed more base runners than he usually has this year, but he still managed to get through seven innings allowed just two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four. He didn’t seem to quite have his best stuff and as usual, could’ve used a little more help from his defense, as “second baseman” Ty Wigginton failing to turn a double play in the first inning wound up costing the Mets a run. He did get some defensive help on the very next play, though, as Dmitri Young was thrown out by Cameron and Matsui at home trying to score a second run on a double.

Tomorrow the Mets will have a new second baseman in the lineup as they take on the Tigers again, with Al Leiter (2-2, 2.05) taking on Jason Johnson (4-7, 5.40). For the first time all year, the Mets will likely have the lineup they envisioned in spring training taking the field, with the only exception being the recent upgrade in rightfield. So far this year the Mets rank fifteenth out of sixteen National League teams in scoring, ahead of only the hapless Expos. This lineup was supposed to be a good deal better than that, and starting tonight, we’ll get to see if it really is.
Friday, June 18, 2004
  Mets 6, Indians 2

Some untimely rain kept him from getting all the credit he deserved for it, but boy did Jae Weong Seo bounce back from his latest rough start. Seo only went four innings thanks to a lengthy rain delay, but it was a scoreless four innings in which he struck out six and allowed just a pair of hits. Who knows what he’ll do next time out, but this performance really should earn him a couple of starts worth of breathing room between himself and Scott Erickson.

Once the game resumed, Ricky Bottalico pitched an inning and one-third scoreless, striking out two and walking one. And he wound up getting the win, because Mike Cameron, who’s looking more and more like an adequate major league hitter, smacked his eighth home run of the season. Kazuo Matsui had a fine offensive game as well, as he reached on a bunt, stole second and scored the Mets’ second run, and later drove in a pair with a bases loaded single in the seventh.

The Mets got some fine relief work from John Franco who went one and two-thirds perfect, and Mike Stanton chipped in with a scoreless inning as well. Braden Looper, on the other hand, pitching with a six run lead for some reason, allowed two runs, one earned, on two hits and a Todd Zeile error. The Mets’ bullpen was a little short tonight due to the trade and the rain delay, but a six run lead with three outs left seems a lot like a Dan Wheeler situation to me.

Jose Reyes had a rough day in AA, going hitless in five at bats with three strikeouts, and will spend at least one more day with Binghamton before joining the big league squad. Thankfully the extra day seems to have nothing to do with any health concerns, and is just an attempt to let him get his game up to major league caliber before he returns. Justin Huber had another big day, though, going three for five with two doubles. And first baseman Josh Pressley, who you may remember from the Rey Ordonez trade, went five for five. David Wright finally went hitless for Norfolk, in two at bats, though he did draw a walk. Victor Diaz did go three for four to get his average up to .302.

Tomorrow, the Mets and their new rightfielder welcome the Detroit Tigers to town for the first time on Mike Piazza Night as Tom Glavine (7-3, 2.03) takes on the surprising strikeout machine Nate Robertson (5-3, 3.91).
Thursday, June 17, 2004
  Weathers out, Hidalgo in

I first heard this on WFAN and have since seen it reported on the ESPN bottom line, and I say right on. No one wants to see the Mets mortgage their future to make a run at the playoffs this year, and this is exactly the kind of trade they should be making, improving the team this year without affecting next year’s team in any significant way. There’s some speculation that management getting rid of Art Howe’s favorite reliever just days after getting rid of his buddy the hitting coach is yet more handwriting on the wall, and perhaps that’s true. But the important thing is that the Mets dumped an ineffective relief pitcher in exchange for upgrading a position that sorely needed it. David Weathers’s struggles this year have come as a surprise given how effective he’d been the last couple of years. Heck, before the season started I argued that he should’ve been considered for the closer job. But he clearly didn’t have it this year, and Art Howe wouldn’t let that stop him from using him in high leverage situations. So now the Mets have apparently relieved themselves of that problem and taken a step toward solving another.

Richard Hidalgo’s calling card is his inconsistency. But he’s also put up a monster season or two, and added a few above average offensive years in as well. And even his worst offensive stretch (2002’s .235/.319/.415) matches up pretty well with Karim Garcia’s career .242/.281/.428 line. Even this year, in which Hidalgo has tailed off miserably after a very hot start, he’s hit .256/.309/.412 compared to Garcia’s .236/..276/.407. Of course, Minute Maid Park is a far more hitter-friendly place than Shea Stadium, but it still seems to me that as long as Hidalgo doesn’t completely collapse, he’ll hit at least as well as Garcia, and he has the potential to bring a whole lot more to the table. And in addition to that, he’s one of the best defensive rightfielders in the game, which makes him a definite upgrade over anyone the Mets have been throwing out there up until now. And all it cost them was an ineffective bullpen arm and a bunch of Wilpon’s money. Sounds like a good deal to me.

The Mets currently have the best team ERA in all of baseball, and while that probably won't continue, given the quality of competition they have faced and will face, among other factors, they seem likely to continue to have one of the better pitching staffs in the game as long as Jae Weong Seo starts pitching in a manner somewhat similar to his 2003 and Al Leiter's arm doesn't fall off. They’re a long way from being the best team in baseball and a pretty good distance from being a serious playoff contender as well, but with the way the division favorites have stumbled, if the Mets can add some offense without giving up anyone who’s an important piece of this team or will be an important piece of the next great Mets team, there’s really no harm in doing it. If the Mets can get their offense going to some degree to go along with this pitching, they could put a pretty competitive team on the field. Jose Reyes, Richard Hidalgo, Jason Phillips, Mike Cameron and David Wright (maybe) are capable of outhitting Todd Zeile, Karim Garcia, 2004's Jason Phillips, 2004's Mike Cameron and Ty Wigginton (maybe) by a decent margin. The upcoming two weeks of games against the Yankees and Reds could be enough to put an end to the 2004 Mets’ chances, but if the Mets can grab some wins this weekend against the Tigers, survive that two weeks stretch and the division leaders continue to struggle, why can’t the Mets compete for the division? This is likely their last shot at it with this particular group of pitchers pitching anywhere near this well, and while they should resist the urge to go for broke because of that, making a smart move or two like this, maybe something to add another dependable bullpen arm, isn’t a bad idea at all.

EDIT: The Mets have apparently added Jeremy Griffiths to the trade. And to that I say "whatever." 31 strikeouts, 29 walks in 70 innings and I don't really care what your ERA is.
  Indians 9, Mets 1

Matt Ginter didn’t have a great start on Wednesday, but he didn’t get much help from his offense, his defense, his bullpen or the umpring crew. On a night that featured three Mets errors and enough questionable umpiring to get Art Howe thrown out of the game, Ginter went five and one-third innings, allowing five runs, three earned, on seven hits and one walk while striking out three. Things could have gone a little bit better for him, but even after Howe was ejected, Ginter was relieved in the sixth with two men on by Howe’s boy Mike Stanton, who proceeded to allow both runners to score after a walk and a hit. Things didn’t go much better for Tyler Yates, pitching for the first time since he was recalled. Yates pitched the ninth and gave up four runs on five hits while striking out one.

The Mets’ offense got back to its usual form, managing just six hits and one walk on the night to scratch out that one run. Kazuo Matsui went two for four with a double and scored the only run, though one more might have scored had Mike Cameron’s double not bounced over the wall, forcing Jason Phillips, who had two singles on the night, to stop at third, where he wound up stranded.

The Mets at least got more good news out of the minor leagues. Jose Reyes went one for six with a stolen base in a 10-5 Binghamton win, a game in which Justin Huber homered, going two for two with three walks. And David Wright had another great night for Norfolk, going two for four with a double and his first AAA home run. Victor Diaz also went two for four with a double while Craig Brazell added his sixteenth homer of the season in a 15-3 Norfolk loss.

Tomorrow, Jae Weong Seo (3-5, 4.99) tries to keep hanging on by a thread as he faces the also struggling Scott Elarton (0-6, 9.71).
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
  Mets 7, Indians 2

Damn that Denny Walling, holding the Mets’ offense back all these weeks. With their former hitting coach in the rearview mirror, the Met bats got off to a quick start on Tuesday, scoring three times in the first inning, including two runs driven in by a Mike Cameron single with the bases loaded. The Mets wound up smacking fourteen hits and drawing three walks to put up seven runs and earn the win. Mike Piazza and Ty Wigginton each had three hits and Karim Garcia added his seventh home run of the year in the fifth inning a the Mets put the Indians away with a four-run inning.

In addition to the improved hitting, the Mets got a good starting pitching performance from Steve Trachsel to earn his sixth with of the year. Trachsel went six and two-thirds innings striking out five and walking just one, allowing two runs on eight hits. Even with a comfortable lead, Art Howe stuck with the same old relievers as David Weathers, John Franco and Braden Looper all got the call rather than Tyler Yates. Looper had the best performance of the bunch, striking out the side in the ninth to finish things off.

Down in the minors Jose Reyes went hitless in three at bats, but walked, stole a base and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in his first game with Binghamton as the B-Mets won 8-6. Yusmeiro Petit had an absurd start, perhaps his best of the season, for Capital City as he struck out fourteen through six innings, walking one and allowing just two hits. Also in that game, Lastings Milledge went three for four with a pair of doubles in a 16-2 Bombers win. The Norfolk Tides had another big offensive game with some help from their latest additions, winning 15-8. Prentice Redman went three for four with two doubles, a walk and a stolen base, while David Wright went two for four with a sacrifice fly and shortstop”>Chris Basak added three hits including a pair of home runs.

Tomorrow, Matt Ginter (1-0, 3.43) goes for the Mets against C.C. Sabathia (3-3, 3.14).
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
  Mets fire Walling

It's hard for me to determine how much impact a hitting coach really has on a team's offensive success, and certain of the Mets' difficulties in scoring runs this year can be chalked up to injuries and luck. But in addition to those issues, like the missing second baseman, the temporarily missing left fielder and the failure to come up with any hits with the bases loaded (the team is 6 for 59 on the year), there have also been some Mets who have clearly underachieved with the bat, and perhaps Walling is somehow to blame. Or even if he isn't, perhaps someone else can do a better job of rectifying the situation at this point. While neither Mike Cameron nor Jason Phillips is a tremendous offensive force, both are clearly capable of hitting better than .200 at the major league level. While some of Cameron's struggles might also be the result of injuries, Phillips's are pretty inexplicable and maybe a new instructive voice can help turning him around. In the shape this team is in right now, it's not going to be a great offense, but it could certainly be better than it has been, and there's nothing to lose by shaking things up like this. We'll have to wait and see if it makes any difference, but right now, it's worth a shot.
Monday, June 14, 2004
  An interesting day in Norfolk, Virginia

Jae Weong Seo may not have done a great job keeping his spot in the Mets’ starting rotation on Friday, but it doesn’t appear that Scott Erickson wants it either. In his third rehab start with Norfolk on Monday, Erickson lasted five innings, giving up eight runs, seven earned, on ten hits, including a home run, while striking out three. While it’s nice that he didn’t allow any walks and seems like tough luck that the defense cost him that unearned run, in fact the Norfolk error was committed by Erickson himself when he allowed the first batter of the game to reach base. And then, he hit the second batter with a pitch. These two batters managed to steal three bases before being knocked in by the first of six extra base hits Erickson allowed on the game. After three starts for Norfolk, Erickson has a 8.00 ERA that makes Aaron Heilman look like he’s having a good season by comparison. Seo has certainly been inconsistent this year and Art Howe hasn’t shown much confidence in him, but after a thorough spanking like this, I have to think Seo’s job is safe, for at least another week.

In more good news from Norfolk, David Wright made his AAA debut and kept up his torrid hitting, going three for four with a double and a walk. Prentice Redman went two for four for the second consecutive day, adding a walk as well. Victor Diaz went one for four with a double and a walk. And even Jeff Duncan went three for four with a triple and a walk on an all around good day for the near future of the New York Mets.

Elsewhere in the minors, Scott Kazmir had some more mixed results for St. Lucie, going five and one-third innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on six hits, including one home run, and one walk, while striking out six. He continues to rack up the strikeouts, with now 30 in 27 innings on the season, but he’s still not dominating as he has in the past, as his 5.67 ERA, which actually went down tonight, will indicate. Also for St. Lucie, a certain twenty-one year old second base prospect you might have heard of had a double in four at bats. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this kid could advance quickly through the organization if he can stay healthy.

Tomorrow, the major league Mets meet the Cleveland Indians with Steve Trachsel (5-5, 3.65) trying to bounce back from three consecutive rough starts against Jason Davis (1-4, 5.18) and the Tribe.
  Mets 5, Royals 2

The Mets managed to end a dismal road trip on a high note and once again it was Tom Glavine getting the job, with little help from his infield defense. Glavine went seven and two-thirds allowing two unearned runs on four hits and one walk while striking out five to earn his seventh win of the season, but it could have been a lot easier if not for three throwing errors, two by Kazuo Mastui and one by Todd Zeile. Thankfully the Mets managed to put some runs on the board earlier, preventing the defensive lapses from costing them the game.

Mike Piazza’s two-run homer, his fourteenth, was the big blast, but an encouraging RBI double from Mike Cameron was important as well. Cameron finished off the trip strongly, going three for his last seven to get his average back above .200, which is a good thing since Jason Phillips is now going back in the other direction. This game was refreshing in that the Mets managed to come through with runners in scoring position, getting their five runs on just five hits and five walks, and only once leaving a runner in scoring position. They didn’t get any chances with the bases loaded, but they still managed to hit in a more timely fashion than they had in recent games.

Ricky Bottalico struck out one batter in relief of Glavine and Braden Looper worked a perfect ninth with one K for his twelfth save.

The Mets get a day off before starting a homestand in which they’ll try to turn around their awful interleague performance. The Indians and Tigers should provide some chances for victories, but then, that’s what we though about the Twins and Royals.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
  Movin’ on up

Moving day has finally come for David Wright, and he’s taking Prentice Redman home with him. Both have been promoted to the Mets’ AAA affiliate in Wright’s hometown of Norfolk, Virginia after thoroughly dominating the AA Eastern League competition. The twenty-four year old Redman obviously doesn’t have the kind of upside that the twenty-one year old Wright has, but his time was just as obviously being wasted in his second trip to Binghamton, as he dominated the younger competition, posting a .297/.375/.585 line in 229 at bats for the fourth best RARP in the league. He may never amount to much in the major leagues, but this move was overdue all the same, particularly given the lack of serious prospects blocking his progress in Norfolk.

Wright, on the other hand, looks like he could be entrenched at third base at Shea very soon and for years to come, in which case the 223 at bats he spent at Binghamton will be looked back at as the time he really broke through and showed what he could do. Wright led the league in RARP by hitting a ridiculous .363/.467/.619 with 27 doubles, 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 26 attempts. The comparison’s been made before, but it’s still fun to put Wright’s numbers alongside the .365/.429/.609 line posted in AA last year by another hot third base prospect by the name of Miguel Cabrera. Wright’s about sixteen months older than Cabrera was at the same time last year, but he’s also shown the better plate discipline of the two and his defense figures to be much more valuable at third base for the Mets than Cabrera’s has been so far in right field for the Marlins. Many have called for Wright to be promoted straight to the majors just as Cabrera was last year and I certainly wouldn’t have been upset had they done so. But this isn’t the Mets’ year, and there’s no real reason to rush Wright. Let him play in his hometown and kick the crap out of AAA pitching for a while and then we’ll get to see him in a Mets uniform come August or September. And by this time next year, we should be speaking of Ty Wigginton as a pretty good bat to have coming off of the bench.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
  Royals 4, Mets 3

David Weathers is nothing if not committed. The Mets and Royals played a tight, ugly game through seven innings and wound up tied at two. Then Art Howe made the inexplicable but entirely predictably move of giving the ball to Weathers, despite having at least two right handed relievers in his bullpen who have been more effective that Weathers this year, as well as Tyler Yates, who at least hasn’t been given the chance to fail as a major league reliever yet. Weathers came in and got a pair of outs, but then he walked perhaps the best base stealer in the game, Carlos Beltran, on four pitches. Beltran then proceeded to steal second and score on a single by Mike Sweeney.

But in the top of the ninth, the Mets miraculously rallied for a run on a single by Mike Cameron and a pinch hit double by—guess who?—Todd Zeile. But after Zeile stupidly got doubled off of second on a Kazuo Matsui flyout to end the inning, Howe sent Weathers back out, and he continued his determined effort to give this game away.

Weathers then gave up a single to the first batter he faced, botched an attempted sacrifice on which he should have been able to get the lead runner and then allowed a single to Angel Berroa to end the game. The Mets’ offense wasn’t pretty today, as they once again went hitless in three at bats with the bases loaded, although they did manage to drive in runs with a bases loaded walk and a bases loaded groundout. And in addition to Zeile’s base running blunder, Matsui, who was on base four time with two walks and two singles, ended a potential threat in the seventh when he ran too far around second base and got tagged out trying to get back. Still, they got another effective starting pitching performance from Al Leiter, who allowed just two runs through seven innings on three hits and three walks while striking out four. And they eventually managed to put three whole runs on the board, on eight hits and eight walks, in support of him. And once again Howe’s reliance on veteran relievers who have proven ineffective time and time again cost the Mets the game in the end.

Hopefully this weekend will dissuade the Mets of the idea that they are anything other than sellers at this year’s trading deadline, especially if they’ve got the idea in their head that what they need most is another hitter. Until the Mets can put together the kind of offense that can score enough runs to overcome Art Howe’s Bullpen Follies, they are no kind of contender. Days like today, which have happened over and over again to the 2004 Mets, should illustrate the point that starting pitching is not even close to being their biggest concern. If the Mets’ front office think that Kris Benson or Freddy Garcia is the key to turning this season around, they’re even more clueless than they’ve already shown themselves to be.

Tomorrow the Mets try to avoid their second consecutive series sweep and send their ace to the mound to get it done. Tom Glavine (6-3, 2.21) gets the ball against young Royals phenom in waiting Zack Greinke (1-1, 1.73). Should we start making bets as to how the Mets will manage to blow Glavine’s excellent start? I’ll take Mike Stanton in the pool.
  Royals 7, Mets 5

Four and two-thirds innings. Six hits. One walk. Two strikeouts. Six runs. Five Earned. I don’t know what Jae Weong Seo would have had to do to keep his job last night, but that probably wasn’t it. It didn’t help that Art Howe decided to bring in Dan Wheeler to relieve him with a runner on, because apparently Art is the only one who doesn’t know what happens every time Wheeler comes in with runners on base. But still, it wasn’t a good showing from Seo and the Mets are likely to press on with their ironic interpretation of a “youth movement” and give his job to Scott Erickson. Maybe Erickson will get bombed again in his next start at Norfolk, and maybe that would be enough to give Seo a reprieve, but right now it’s not looking good.

One thing that did look pretty good, in certain ways, was the Mets’ offense. Five runs in Kansas City isn’t too impressive, but they did rack up seventeen hits, including five doubles. Their inability to come through with the timely hits continued to haunt them, although they came tantalizingly close in the ninth inning, loading the bases after two were out before finally conceding the game. While the Mets’ offense as it’s currently constituted doesn’t look good on paper, the fact that they’ve been so useless with the bases loaded so far this year has a definite flukish quality that can’t be expected to continue for the whole year. Eventually someone has to hit a grand slam or a nice bases-clearing double and then maybe they’ll outscore somebody.

Saturday’s game will feature Al Leiter (2-2, 1.98) trying to continue to walk the tightrope against Chris George (0-0, 3.75) and the Royals.
Friday, June 11, 2004
  Twins 3, Mets 2 (15)

Matt Ginter gave the Mets another job-saving performance with the sword of Erickson hanging above his head, but as usual, it wasn’t enough for the Mets’ pathetic offense. Ginter went longer than he has all season, tossing seven and two-thirds innings, allowing just one run on five hits and one walk while striking out one. Amazin’ly, that was enough to put him in the lead as he left, thanks to the Mets putting two whole runs on the board. But as so often happens, the bullpen and defense faltered in trying to preserve the slim lead.

Cliff Floyd drove in both runs with a home run and a double. But otherwise the Mets again failed to get anything done against a struggling starting pitcher. This time it was Kyle Lohse—he of the 5.33 ERA—and while that’s good news for my pitching-weak fantasy team, it’s a pretty sad testament to the current state of the Mets’ bats. The team managed just eight hits through fifteen innings, and while they did draw five walks, two of those were intentionally handed to Mike Piazza, the only other remotely scary guy in the lineup.

Still, the Mets did manage to make it to the ninth inning with a one-run lead and their best reliever on the mound. And Braden Looper did retire the first two batters he faced. But after Matt LeCroy, the slowest man this side of Jason Phillips reached on a single, Jose Offerman drove a double to the gap in left center and Mike Cameron proceeded to overthrow two cutoff men, allowing LeCroy to waddle home as the tying run. While Cameron’s defense has been mostly superlative this season, and it has (scroll on down), I’ve been pretty unimpressed with what I’ve seen of his throwing, in the areas of both strength and accuracy. He certainly excels in the field of catching the ball before it hits the ground, but after that, he ceases to be Mike Cameron, Defensive God, and turns into just another guy who thinks he can reach home when he should probably just throw it to the shortstop. My impressions are admittedly based on a pretty small sample of plays, but I don’t think this is the first time this has come up at a crucial juncture of a game.

Anyway, you know the rest, the game went six more innings and the Mets lost the battle of the bullpens, as they often do, their record in extra-inning games notwithstanding. Tyler Yates was nowhere to be seen and Ricky Bottalico finally coughed up the winning run one out into his second inning of work.

Tomorrow, Jae Weong Seo (3-4, 4.53) tries again to save his job with a start at Coors Field East against Darrel May (2-8, 6.14) and the Royals. Seo’s been pitching fine lately, but I don’t like his chances heading into that park with the deck already seemingly stacked against him. If Art Howe chooses tomorrow to give Mike Cameron the day off, suspect that something is up.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
  Twins 5, Mets 3

After nine straight starts of excellent performance Steve Trachsel has fallen back to earth, and now teams other than the Marlins have begun taking advantage of it. Wednesday was his third straight rough start, as he gave up five runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out six. He did manage to bounce back from a fourth inning in which he allowed a pair of home runs to go seven innings on 107 pitches. But he was no match for what happens when Johan Santana meets the Mets’ offense, as the struggling Minnesota starter struck out ten Mets through seven innings, allowing just one run on six hits, courtesy of Gerald Williams’s first home run as a Met. The Mets did manage to reach the Minnesota bullpen for a pair of runs on a Mike Piazza double, but that was all they could muster while losing their fourth game in their last five. They did outhit the Twins, nine to eight, but didn’t draw a single walk and had just the two aforementioned extra-base hits.

Also today, the Mets place Orber Moreno on the 15 day disabled list and recalled Tyler Yates to take his spot in the bullpen. Yates wasn’t exactly dominant in his time with Norfolk, posting a 3.55 ERA, but he did strike out sixteen through twelve and two-thirds innings while walking just five and allowing just one home run, so perhaps he can provide some Ks out of the ‘pen like he was doing in the early innings of his major league starters earlier this year.

Tomorrow, the Mets try to avoid the sweep as they send out Matt Ginter (1-0, 2.81) out against Kyle Lohse (2-4, 5.61).
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
  Twins 2, Mets 1

I was in the middle of writing about this game when my computer just froze up for no apparent reason. Here's a tip: don't ever by a Compaq, kids. And, I guess, write stuff in Word, rather than Notepad, so it can be recovered when this stuff happens. But the Compaq thing is more important. They're shit. Don't buy 'em. More tomorrow, on baseball probably.

Okay, let’s try this again.

Do you think Tom Glavine still believes he can win 300 games? With the way he’s pitching lately, you have to think he’s capable of it, but then games like this keep happening to him. This was the fourth time this season the Mets have scored just one run in a game he’s started. He managed to win one, lost a pair of 2-1 decisions, and got no decision in this 2-1 loss. Intuitively, you expect your ace to bump up against the aces of the other teams and get into low-scoring affairs like these. Glavine did face off memorably against Randy Johnson, of course, but that was the one game he managed to win. The other three were against fine pitchers in Livan Hernandez, Dontrelle Willis and, this time, Brad Radke. All of those guys can get the job done, but a good offense should be able to manage two or three runs against any of them on most occasions. This time Glavine went eight innings, his second-longest outing of the season, allowing just one run on five hits and four walks while striking out two. And when he turned the game over to the bullpen, the game was tied.

The Mets managed their run on a Vance Wilson RBI single in the fifth inning and tallied just five hits and a pair of walks against Radke in seven innings before Juan Rincon shut them down in the final two frames. When Glavine turned the game over to the bullpen in the ninth, having thrown a healthy 109 pitches, it was to Mike Stanton. And that’s certainly ominous enough. Stanton didn’t do anything to ease the tension, allowing a single to the first batter he faced. But after he got the first out of the inning on a failed sacrifice, his defense didn’t do him any favors. A potential inning-ending double play ball to Kazuo Matsui was booted, leaving runners on first and second with just one out. Then Ty Wigginton made a nice stop on a ground ball up the middle only to screw things up by unnecessarily throwing to first, allowing Jacque Jones to come all the way around to score from second when the throw from first baseman Jason Phillips home bounced and couldn’t be handled by Wilson.

I’ve personally tried to be patient, more patient than most, with Matsui’s defense. I’ve tried to understand the difficulties that adjusting to America’s grass field and the Mets’ poor first baseman have given him. I do still think his error total is deceptive, but I also think the play tonight, an easy ground ball on the artificial turf to which he became accustomed in Japan, absolutely needed to be made and Matsui needs to be held accountable for his defense failing to even approach the hype that preceded his arrival. I’m still glad to have him on the team and still expect him to improve somewhat, but I can’t help but join the chorus of voices calling for him to shift to second base next year in favor of Jose Reyes. Reyes’ defense has almost certainly been overhyped as well, but there’s no questioning that he’s more comfortable at short than Matsui has been thus far or that he has the significantly stronger arm of the two. It would have been nice if Matsui’s performance had matched his reputation, but I won’t be too upset with an infield of David Wright, Reyes, Matsui and Mike Piazza left to right in 2005.

Tonight, it’ll be Steve Trachsel (5-4, 3.38), who’s had two rough starts in a row, against the struggling Johan Santana (2-4, 5.50).
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
  Mets draft seems okay by me

So the Mets got right handed pitcher Philip Humber of Rice University with the third pick of the 2004 draft and I don't have a whole lot to say about that. He's got great stats and scouting reports, as you would expect, but I personally don't know enough to really put them in context. What was the level of competition? How many others pitched similarly well? Did he succeed by excreting positively charged magnetic residue from his fingertips to avoid metal bats, making him ill-suited for major or even minor league success? Judging from the various expert testimonies, it seems the Mets got a pretty good pitcher out of a pretty thin draft and that he could wind up on a relatively fast track to the majors. Hopefully said track will have fewer detours than the one 2001 first rounder Aaron Heilman took.

Aside from Humber, the Mets got seven more pitchers with their eighteen picks, six of them righties. And they got five outfielders, although none before the tenth round. Pitching and outfielders were the obvious areas of need for the Mets, and they at least addressed each of them with quantity if not quality. The Mets have about two notable outfield prospects in their system in Victor Diaz and last year's first pick Lastings Milledge and while both are hitting well at the moment, both also have some glaring holes in their game that need to be worked out (Milledge's three bases on balls in seventy at bats gives him the better walk rate of the two). Unearthing a hidden jewel or two among those later picks sure would be helpful.

Of the fourteen men the Mets have selected in the first round since picking Jeromy Burnitz in 1990, only the Wilsons, Preston and Paul, have been above average major league players for any length of time, and Paul's length of time is pretty much just the one that's going on right now. There's still some hope for the last three, but they've all still got plenty to prove. Hopefully Humber will turn out a little better than Kirk Presley and Geoff Goetz, better even than Terrence Long and Jason Tyner.
Monday, June 07, 2004
  Marlins 5, Mets 1
Marlins 7, Mets 6
Mets 5, Marlins 2

The Mets' weekend went pretty much the same way the whole season has gone, with its encouraging highs, disheartening lows and the feeling that things might have gone a little bit better if someone else had been managing. On Friday, they just didn't enough hitting or pitching. Steve Trachsel, for the second consecutive start against Florida, gave the Mets a rare subpar starting pitching performance and the offense could only put one run on the board. Trachsel went five and one-third innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out none. He also left the game with runners on first and third, but since the Mets were already trailing by three runs, Orber Moreno got a chance to pitch and got out of the inning recording the last two outs without allowing a run to score. Moreno pitched another scoreless inning and allowed just one walk while striking out one. Cliff Floyd's first inning solo home run provided the only run for the Mets as their four game winning streak came to an end.

On Saturday, neither the offense nor the starting pitching was the problem, but Art Howe still found a way to lose the game. Matt Ginter turned in another solid performance, going six innings, allowing just two runs one six hits and one walk while striking out three. And the offense, powered by three-hit games by Ty Wigginton and Todd Zeile and a pair of home runs by Mike Piazza, put six on the board, which you would think more than enough to support Ginter's fine effort.

Ginter left up 5-2 in favor of Ricky Bottalico, who allowed two of the first three runners to reach. Jack McKeon tired to give Art Howe a way out of it, bringing up Lenny Harris to hit, but Art wanted none of that, bringing in Mike Stanton to pitch, which of course led McKeon to remove the inept lefty Harris. As if to drive the point home, Damion Easley homered off of Stanton, the second game-tying three-run home run he allowed last week. That particular managing decision wasn't quite as baffling as what happened in the ninth, though. After David Weathers allowed a run in the eighth and got the first out of the ninth, John Franco got an out and allowed a triple. So trailing by one run in the ninth with a runner on third and two outs, who does Howe bring in to face Mike Lowell, the best hitter in the Marlins' lineup? His best reliever, Braden Looper? His other effective righty, Orber Moreno? Nah, he brings in Dan Wheeler, who had allowed eight of ten inherited runners to score prior to Saturday. And as everyone but Howe could have predicted, Lowell smacked a double to give Florida a two-run cushion. So when Mike Piazza took Armando Benitez deep to lead off the ninth, all it did was make the game look a little closer in the box score. Art Howe's maddening obsession with guys like Stanton and Weathers may cost the Mets a game every now and then, but at least you can understand his reasoning. The number three at the front of their age column gives them instant credibility in Howe's eyes, and no matter how many games they might blow, they'll still have his confidence. But that just makes Howe's decision to go with the ineffective twenty-six year old Wheeler in such a tight spot even more baffling. That move doesn't even make sense in wacky Art Howe Land.

Howe's bullpen use didn't make a lot of sense on Sunday either, but the Mets did manage to get enough offense and starting pitching that it didn't wind up mattering. Al Leiter had his kind of game, going five and two-thirds scoreless, allowing just two hits and walking an absurd six batters while striking out five. The one hundred fourteen pitch performance dropped Leiter's ERA to 1.98, but your really have to wonder how long he can keep this up walking so many people. Eventually some of them are going to score, aren't they? Mike Piazza once again did all he could with his bat to keep the Mets on top, and this time it held up as he drove in four runs with a double and a third home run, his thirteenth of the season. David Weathers had a solid two and one-third innings in relief of Leiter, as he allowed three hits and struck out one. But apparently holding a five run lead is a more critical situation than trailing by one run in Howe's eyes, as he felt the need to bring in Looper, not Moreno, to finish off the game. Looper had a rough inning, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out one, but did manage to finish things off and preserve the win.

Six up and six down on this twelve-game stretch seems disappointing given how close so many of the Florida games were and how well things went against the Phillies. But .500 in June isn't so bad and neither is three and a half games out of first coming up on a couple of series against weaker AL Central opponents. The Mets managed to hang with the class of the division, now they have to beat up on some scrubs to get some breathing room between themselves and the break-even mark.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
  Mets 4, Marlins1

Jae Weong Seo may have been pitching for his job on Thursday, with Scott Erickson set to pitch for Norfolk on Friday and just drowing in the kind of Veteran Presence that more often than not gets a man a job with these New York Mets. Matt Ginter hasn't done anything lately to lose his spot in the rotation, and of course the top three starters are safe, so that might leave Seo to make way for Erickson if he can't prove he belongs. But nothing he did tonight is likely to work in Erickson's favor, as Seo went six innings, allowing just one run on three hits, walking two and striking out four to earn his third win of the season.

Meanwhile, the Mets' offense was putting a damper on A.J. Burnett's return to the Florida rotation, touching him up for a pair of runs in the second inning and chasing him after just four innings on eighty-three pitches. It wasn't a terrible performance by Burnett, as he allowed five hits and no walks while striking out four, but the Mets did a good job getting his pitch count up early, including an eleven pitch at bat by Seo, forcing the Marlins to go to the bullpen in the fifth. It wasn't a spectacular offensive performance by the Mets, but every starter aside from Seo got on base at least once, with the hitless Kazuo Matsui and Mike Piazza each at least drawing a walk. Mike Cameron's double and Ty Wigginton's first triple of the year were the biggest blows for the Mets while the bullpen kept rolling along just like Seo.

Mike Stanton retunred from a day off apparently reinvigorated, as he tossed two perfect innings on just seventeen pitches to set up Braden Looper's fourth save in as many days. Looper struck out one in a perfect ninth to notch his eleventh of the season.

The win put the Mets a game above .500 both on the season and for this recent stretch against the division's top teams with some more dependable starting pitching on the way. Steve Trachsel (5-3, 3.11) got roughed up by the Marlins on Sunday, allowing three runs on six hits in three innings before the Mets reeled off four games in which they allowed a total of just eight runs (and this team needs to trade for pitching?) and will try to rebound against Carl Pavano (4-2, 3.57). A win would guarantee the Mets at least a split of this twelve game stretch and put them just a game and a half behind the division leaders.
  Mets 5, Phillies 3 (10)

You should be allowed to exchange Todd Zeile for goods and services, for he is indeed money. One day after he tied a game with a home run and won it in extra innings with a single, he came back with an even more impressive encore. Randy Wolf shut the Mets down through seven and two-thirds innings, allowing just two hits and one walk. But with two outs in the eighth, pinch hitter Vance Wilson reached him for a single and Kazuo Matsui chimed in with his daily hit, a double. Larry Bowa went to his bullpen and the heretofore dominant Ryan Madson to finish the inning, but Zeile had a tremendous at bat, working his way to a full count before taking a hanging curve and driving it over the left field wall to bring the Mets all the way back from a three-run deficit.

Tom Glavine wasn't at his sharpest, having trouble with the dimensions of the strike zone, throwing 57 of his 116 pitches outside its edges. He walked four and struck out just two through seven innings, but he also allowed just three hits and the end result was a mere three runs. It wasn't a bad final product for Glavine, but he's pitched better and lost this year and it looked like tonight would be more of the same before Zeile's heroics. John Franco and David Weathers each pitched a perfect inning to send the Mets and Phillies back to extra frames and it was once again time for Todd Zeile to do what no one else could.

Karim Garcia doubled off the top of the center field wall with one out in the tenth, but after Matsui grounded out, it was up to Zeile with two down and once again he came through in a big way. Not satisfied with a repeat of his tenth inning RBI single of one night before, Zeile smacked his second home run of the night, this time to right field, to give the Mets the lead. Braden Looper made things interesting in the bottom of the tenth, allowing a pair of hits and a walk, although one of the "hits" was courtesy of "second baseman" Joe McEwing's adventures in defense. Danny Garcia's sudden banishment to the bench remains perplexing. But Looper managed to escape, getting a big strikeout of Ricky Ledee with two on and one out and getting Jim Thome to ground out with the bases loaded to end the game, earning his tenth save of the season and third in as many days.

This sweep of the division-favorite Phillies was obviously huge for the Mets, especially coming as it did on the heels of that rough weekend in Florida and in advance of another four meetings with the first-place Fish. The Mets are now 26-26 on the season, but also 4-4 so far in this twelve game stretch against the class of the National League East. With the Marlins coming to town tomorrow, the Mets are in great position to emerge even or better for this little two-week trial by fire. If they can win two or three of these next four games, they'll still be right with the division leaders, doing a good job treading water while still awaiting reinforcements in the form of young infielders, whether at second or even third. Jae Weong Seo (2-4, 4.97) gets first crack at the Marlins agaisnt A.J. Burnett, making his 2004 debut.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
  Mets 4, Phillies 1 (10)

Al Leiter's starts are beginning to resemble that old line about laws and sausages. He usually winds up getting the job done, but you might not want to see quite how he does it. Tonight he returned from the disabled list to make his first start in about three weeks and pitched five scoreless innings on a parsimonious eighty-four pitches. He allowed just three hits. And he walked four while striking out none. Maybe it's some sort of cosmic justice that's allowed him to post such a miniscule ERA, now at 2.23, and only have earned one win to this point in the season. Leiter left a significant chunk of this game in the hands of the bullpen, and if you've been paying attention, I bet you can guess the names of the guys who pitched.

David Weathers pitched a decent pair of innings, but allowed the scoreless tie to be broken with the help of a questionable balk call (as if there's any other kind) and a novice first baseman. Todd Zeile, starting at third base for second surprising day, retied the game in the top of the eighth with his fourth home run of the year. Then Mike Stanton continued his unlikely pursuit of Cal Ripken's record, entering his seventh consecutive game. He did a fine job, though, striking out the one batter he faced, Jim Thome, before giving way to Ricky Bottalico, who pitched a scoreless inning and two-thirds, striking out three, walking one and allowing two hits.

Bottalico wound up getting the win after the Mets managed to put three runs on the board in the top of the tenth. Kazuo Matsui led off the inning with a single and stole second before being driven home by Zeile's third hit of the day, a single. Zeile himself came home on a home run by Vance Wilson, batting in the spot occupied by Mike Piazza before he was removed for defensive purposes in favor of that proven first baseman Eric Valent. Once again the Mets' offense got the job done in spite of Art Howe's best efforts and Braden Looper pitched a scoreless tenth, allowing one hit and striking out one to earn his ninth save.

Tomorrow the Mets go for the sweep with their ace on the mound, as Tom Glavine (6-3, 2.17) matches up with another fine lefty in Randy Wolf (2-3, 2.98). The bullpen could really use seven or eight strong innings out of Glavine and this team could certainly use a win to get back to .500 and moving in the right direction as the Marlins come to town.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
  Mets 5, Phillies 3

Also, Weather 2, Joe 0. For the second time this season, I went out to see the Mets play in person, this time at nearby and brand new Citizen's Bank Park. And for the second time this year, I left well before the game ended. It was more than an hour after the scheduled start time of this game when the game actually began, as they apparently decided at that point that the rain was falling lightly enough to get some baseball in. Kazuo Matsui led off the game with a double and scored on another two-base hit by Cliff Floyd. And Matt Ginter pitched three hitless, scoreless innings, walking one and striking out one, running his scoreless streak against the Phillies to nine innings. And then the rain got heavier. We left pretty early on in the two and a half hour rain delay, but at least I got home in time to see the rest of the game on television.

Jason Phillips homered in the top of the fourth to pad the Mets lead and they added another in the fifth when Todd Zeile's double drove home Matsui, who had singled and stolen second. Orber Moreno relieved Ginter and pitched a scoreless fourth before the defense had a chance to let him down in the fifth. Mike Piazza let a ground ball go through his legs to start the inning and Moreno wound up allowing two hits, two walks and two unearned runs in the inning. Moreno did strike out a pair through his two innings of work.

Ricky Bottalico pitched an inning and two-thirds, allowing one hit and one walk, striking out one. And that's when Art Howe went to work on trying to hand this game back to the Phillies. With two outs and a runner on first base in the seventh inning, leading by one run, he brought in Mike Stanton, for the sixth consecutive game and fourth consecutive day, double switching out Cliff Floyd in the process, to pitch to Bobby Abreu. That he would bring in Stanton, who had gotten through an outing without allowing a base runner just once in the previous five games, was baffling enough. But that he would remove Floyd from a one-run game in order to allow Stanton to pitch the eighth inning is just unbelieveable. On this day Art Howe had eight relievers in his bullpen, and yet he felt the need to get Mike Stanton, he of the 4.28 ERA, who last had a day off on Thursday, as much work as possible. Even being familiar with Howe's track record, it's hard to believe he could manage his bullpen as ineptly as he did today. And you know what the funniest part is? After Stanton predictably allowed Abreu to reach base via the walk before getting Jim Thome to ground out, he didn't even pitch the eighth inning! Just as the inning was about to begin, Howe came out and removed Stanton in favor of Dan Wheeler. So, because Howe felt that he had no one else in his bullpen capable of retiring either Abreu or Thome, because neither of the other two lefties in his bullpen, nor even *gasp* a righty, would suffice, he removed Floyd in a move that wound up entirely unnecessary. That Howe can envision neither Stanton failing to retire Bobby Abreu nor any of his other relievers managing to retire Abreu or Jim Thome makes you wonder why he'll still have this job even tomorrow.

Luckily for Howe and the rest of the Mets, the offense managed to put a couple of runs on the board in the top of the eighth. After Howe let Mike Piazza join Floyd on the bench in favor of a pinch runner in what was still a one-run game, Mike Cameron doubled in two runs with two outs. That was lucky, as Pat Burrell, the first batter faced by Dan Wheeler, Howe's spur-of-the-moment replacement for Stanton who made the earlier double switch entirely pointless, homered to make the score 5-3. Wheeler got through the rest of the eighth unscathed before giving way to Braden Looper, who earned the save in the ninth, striking out one. In all, the Mets used five relievers, three of whom had pitched the day before. The offense managed to cover for the damage they and the defense wrought, but you have to wonder what it's going to take for Art Howe to go a whole day without putting Mike Stanton in a game, or, better yet, realize that Stanton isn't some kind of sure thing in clutch situations.

Whenever that might happen, it probably won't be tomorrow, as Al Leiter (1-2, 2.52) returns to face Kevin Millwood (4-3, 4.90). Pedro Feliciano will presumably head back to Norfolk having not thrown a single pitch in a game since being called up. Hopefully he at least spent some quality time with Rick Peterson. If he's really lucky, maybe Howe even remembered his name.
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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