Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Friday, July 30, 2004
  Are you fucking kidding me?!

Details later. Maybe.
  Mets 10, Expos 1

The Mets had to settle for a split of this four game series against the lowly Expos, but at least they finished it off in emphatic fashion.  They had the kind of offensive day they ought to have against the kind of pitchers the Expos were throwing at them and got more than enough starting pitching to make it hold up.

Eric Valent became the eighth Met to hit for the cycle, smacking a monstrous home run off of a speaker hanging from the roof in rightfield.  Mike Cameron launched two of his own, giving him twenty on the season.  Richard Hidalgo hit his seventeenth.  David Wright had a pair of doubles and a walk. Ty Wigginton had three hits.  And Kazuo Matsui hit his thirty-first double of the season.

And the beneficiary of all this offense was the league’s temporary ERA leader, Al Leiter.  After today’s six-inning start, he’ll have enough innings to qualify for the league lead until Saturday.  And he dropped his ERA to 2.18 by allowing just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out one.  Leiter always needs some support from his bullpen and his offense to get the job done, given how quickly he runs up his pitch count, but in this game, after 105 pitches, he had a comfortable lead and gave way to Pedro Feliciano and Dan Wheeler, neither of whom allowed a run.

Of course, the big news of the day is that Peter Gammons is reporting that the Mets may be very close to acquiring Mr. Diminished Expectations, Kris Benson, from the Pirates for Ty Wigginton, Matt Peterson and a third player to be acquired from the White Sox.  I’ll have more to say on this if and when a detail goes down and all the details are known, but I’ll just say right now that even if this trade were just Wigginton and Peterson for Benson, it would be a bad move and nothing more than a desperate grasp at the playoffs. 

Ty Wigginton isn’t likely to be a starter on this team next year unless something goes horribly wrong.  Matt Peterson still has a lot to prove and hardly looks like a future ace at this point.  But they both look like players who will have value at the major league level for the Mets in the future, and in Wigginton’s case, in the present.  Peterson’s value may be as nothing more than a middle of the rotation starter.  And Wigginton’s may be just as trade bait for something the Mets actually need.  But both of those things would be more useful to the Mets that two months or a few post-thirtieth-birthday years of Kris “4.00 would be a triumph!” Benson.  Making this deal might provide an incremental improvement to the Mets’ starting rotation, but not only would that come at the cost of starting either Vance Wilson or Jason Phillips nearly every day in Wigginton’s absence, and perhaps Joe McEwing as well, pending the health of Jose Reyes’s ankle.  But adding Benson to this already veteran-heavy rotation might dissuade the Mets from pursuing someone who might actually be a significant upgrade in this offseason, like Matt Clement or perhaps Carl Pavano.  Bottom line, adding Benson now seems like the Mets scrambling to add someone, anyone to this team without bothering to consider if he’d actually make the team appreciably better in the short or long term. Making this deal wouldn’t be a disaster, but it wouldn’t be a step in the right direction either.

This weekend the Mets head to Atlanta to battle The Team That Wouldn’t Die.  Steve Trachsel (9-7, 3.59) gets first crack at taking the monster out as it sends the reanimated corpse of Mike Hampton (6-8, 4.92) to do battle on its behalf.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
  Expos 7, Mets 4

Well that was fun for a while.  The Mets had themselves a nice little season, but it turns out they can’t beat the Montreal Expos.  It turns out that Endy Chavez and Tony Batista are too much for the Mets to handle, and when you realize that about your team, it’s time to start looking toward next year.

Speaking of looking toward next year, Jose Reyes hurt himself again.  He hurt his left ankle coming into second base on his third-inning double, but for some reason stayed in the game.  Then in the fifth, he smacked a ball off the rightfield wall and could only make it to first because of the ankle.  At this point he was replaced by David Wright, who for some reason didn’t start the game.  The word "sprain" is being used to describe Reyes’ ankle, but given his history and the team’s shady history of using words to describe his injuries, I think it’s best to think about how great he’ll look at shortstop next year until further notice.  Wright hit a single in two at bats.

Anyway, the culprit in this game was that other promising rookie from last year who hasn’t worked out so well, Jae Weong Seo.  Seo only lasted into the fifth inning, and didn’t record any outs there, ending up responsible for five runs on five hits and three walks whiles striking out just one.  He’s now struck out forty-four on the season while walking thirty-eight, nearly as many as he walked in twice as many innings last year.  Seo has given up hits at a higher rate than last year, which could perhaps be attributed to luck, but given the drastic increases in his walk and home run rates, the blame for his regression has to lie with him.  The Mets aren’t really in a position to take him out of the rotation, and would probably be better served leaving him in it to see if he can turn his season around than replacing him.  But if he doesn’t get things going in the right direction quickly and consistently, the Mets may have another hole in their starting rotation to fill this offseason.

Tomorrow afternoon, Al Leiter (6-3, 2.22) tries to salvage a still-embarrassing split of this series against Rocky Biddle (2-4, 6.26).  Seriously, Yahoo is telling me that Rocky Biddle is starting tomorrow, and I have no reason not to believe them.  Apparently he’s started three games this month and gone a total of sixteen innings.  But hey, he’s only allowed four runs in those sixteen innings.  He’s like a little Al Leiter.  Should be fun.  Or, you know, depressing when the Mets lose 4-2.

At least Yusmeiro Petit had another brilliant start for St. Lucie.  In a game only scheduled for seven innings because it was half of a doubleheader, he went the distance for a shutout, striking out ten and walking just one while allowing three hits in a 2-0 victory.
  James Baldwin Redux

To the surprise of no one in particular, Scott Erickson has been released, according to WFAN.  Erickson had one decent start and then got torched by the Expos, which apparently sealed his fate.  Given the way Matt Ginter fell apart as the season progressed, I guess it was worth giving Erickson a shot to see if he could miraculously rebound, but I’m glad the Mets had him on a short leash and hopefully the Mets can find more than just another stopgap to fill the fifth hole.

Pedro Feliciano was called up to take Erickson’s spot on the roster, at least for now.  Feliciano hasn’t had a particularly good season at Norfolk, posting a 5.30 ERA in 35.2 innings, striking out twenty-five and walking fifteen.  But anyone who can throw the ball with their left hand is worth a shot in this bullpen right now and if he gets a shot to pitch in the place of Mike Stanton or John Franco once in a while, I won’t mind that a bit.

But Feliciano may not last long at the majors, because right now the Mets don’t have anyone to start Saturday’s game against the Braves.  There are a few uninspiring options down at Norfolk, but I would like to see the Mets give Aaron Heilman another shot to prove he can make it in the majors.  After an awful start, he’s won five of his last six decisions and gotten his ERA down to 4.60.  He’s pitched 117.1 innings and struck out ninety-six while walking forty-six.  He’s also allowed fifteen home runs, which is definitely the most troubling part of his stat sheet, given how much he struggled with the longball in his major league stint last year.  But he has only allowed two homers in his last six starts, after allowing two in five and one-third innings in his first win on June 20.  So maybe he’s gotten that under control a little bit as he’s turned his season around.  Or maybe he just had a fluky good month.  Either way, I think it’s worth trying him out.  The Mets don’t have any obviously better options, and probably can’t acquire one without trading someone who’ll be valuable to the team in the coming years.  And if Heilman can’t get major league hitters out by now, he might not ever be able to.  And whether he succeeds or bombs, giving him a shot has more upside than either James Baldwin or Scott Erickson did.
  Mets 4, Expos 2

After Monday’s debacle, the Mets didn’t only need a good performance out of Tom Glavine, they needed the kind of rare, extraordinary effort that it’s taken for Tom Glavine to actually win a game this season.  Well, it wasn’t exactly a brilliant all-around effort, as the Mets made another pair of infield errors, but somehow this team pulled together to get the man with the 2.61 ERA back to .500 on the season.  Glavine himself only went six innings, and allowed seven hits and three walks, though one of those was intentional.  But he held the Expos to just two runs and actually got some help from his offense and bullpen to make that stand up.

Mike Cameron provided all the offense the Mets needed with a three-run home run in the sixth, his team-leading eighteenth on the year.  Ty Wigginton drove in the other run with one of his three singles on the night.  And Jose Reyes had another good game, hitting a double and a single and stealing two more bases on the night. 

He’s now stolen twelve while being caught just once and is adding serious value to the Mets’ offense with his once-fragile legs, even if he didn’t score a run tonight.  He’s not the only Met having a good year on the basepaths, but the quick start he’s gotten off to since his return to the lineup has been far more than I ever expected.  He’s stolen just one fewer than he did in more than twice as many games last year, and is stealing bases at a rate that would add up to a ridiculous-for-this-era sixty steals over the course of a 162 game season.  With he, Cameron, Kazuo Matsui and even David Wright, who had success stealing bases throughout his minor league career despite not being a real speedster, could the Mets be developing into a serious base-stealing threat of a team?  Base-stealing isn’t really my favorite form of run-producing, and I certainly didn’t see this coming, but the Mets have now stolen sixty-nine bases in eighty-three chances this year—a success rate of 83%--and now rank near the top of the league in steals and at the very top in success rate.  And what’s going to stop the Mets from keeping this up in the coming years?  Matsui, Reyes and Cameron seem unlikely to slow down too much, barring injury, and Wright should eventually pitch in a few steals at a good rate as well.  The Mets offense may always have some holes, but the stolen base might actually wind up a nice added weapon to put a couple of runs on the board.  And if they keep running without getting caught, I certainly won’t complain.

Mike DeJean, Mike Stanton and Braden Looper each pitched well enough in relief, with Stanton even striking out two of the three batters he faced to further cement Art Howe’s faith in him.

Tomorrow, Jae Weong Seo (4-6, 4.58) pitches for the Mets against Tony Armas Jr. (2-3, 3.97).
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
  Expos 19, Mets 10

Remember when I said Scott Erickson wasn’t the new James Baldwin?  Yeah, I may have spoken too soon.  The Mets’ latest bad idea got smacked around by the worst offense in baseball on Tuesday and as a result Art Howe wound up using nearly his whole bullpen in one night.  Erickson went just two-plus innings, allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out none.  And after Erickson blew an early 3-1 lead, Dan Wheeler came in and pitched a terrible inning, putting the game pretty well out of reach on a night when the Mets’ offense was smacking Montreal pitching around.  Wheeler gave up five runs, four earned, on four hits and four walks while striking out three before Ricky Bottalico came in and finally got things under control.  Bottalico and Tyler Yates each pitched well before giving way to John Franco who did a repeat of his performance against Montreal last week, culminating in a Tony Batista two-run home run, followed by a hit batter that got Franco ejected.  Mike Stanton got the final out of the inning and down by six runs, Howe gave up and turned to Todd Zeile to finish things off.  Zeile gave up five runs on four hits and two walks in a performance that was surprisingly even worse than Franco’s.

Meanwhile, down in Norfolk, while Erickson was getting pounded and wasting the Mets’ bullpen for the rest of this road trip, Aaron Heilman was throwing another solid start and picking up another win.  After starting out the season 0-7, Heilman is now 5-8, thanks to another good seven inning performances.  Heilman did give up four hits and four walks and hit a batter while striking out just two, but he limited the damage to three runs to lower his ERA to 4.60.  Heilman got off to a terrible start this year, and hasn’t really been consistently dominant in his comeback, but I still think it’s worth giving him a shot over Erickson as soon as possible.  Erickson isn’t going to rebound to be a good starter for even the rest of this year, while Heilman still has a chance to be a solid option for the rest of this year and beyond.  I expect Erickson to be out on the mound again on Saturday, and he’ll probably get pounded again.  Hopefully the Mets will give Heilman a shot the next time the fifth spot comes around.

Of course, while it was rarely a close game, the Mets’ offense did have a huge night, putting up those ten runs on sixteen hits, including eight for extra bases.  David Wright hit his first major league home run, a huge shot to left centerfield, and also walked.  Richard Hidalgo smacked a pair of his own, giving him sixteen on the year, and Mike Cameron hit his seventeenth.  Kazuo Matsui hit his thirtieth double of the year, Ty Wigginton had a pair of doubles and Cliff Floyd had one as well.

Tonight the Mets really need a long outing from their starting pitcher, but luckily they’ve got Tom Glavine (7-8, 2.60) going, so there’s a pretty good chance of getting seven innings or so.  Zach Day (5-9, 3.90) goes for the Expos.
Monday, July 26, 2004
  Braves 5, Mets 2
Braves 4, Mets 3

It’s hard to get too pessimistic with four games with the Expos coming up on the schedule, but even so, this homestand went about as badly as it could have for the Mets.  And in the end, it was a Piazza-less offense failing to get the job done against the Braves.

On Saturday, it was the standard Al Leiter performance of slightly more than half of a really good game, while the offense couldn’t muster nearly enough runs to cushion the blow from the inevitable bullpen collapse.  Leiter went five innings on 117 pitches, walking five and allowing four hits while striking out three, but of course that only added up to one run by this year’s wacky Leiter math.  And he actually left with a lead as the Mets put two whole runs on the board with the lineup’s table setters actually doing their intended job, as both Jose Reyes and Kazuo Matsui were on base, Reyes by singles and Matsui by walks, and scoring one run each.

Mike DeJean actually continued his excellent post-trade work in support of Leiter, tossing two scoreless innings while allowing two hits and striking out two.  But then things were turned over to poor, overworked Mike Stanton and things went to hell.  Stanton, having had two full days off since his last collapse, entered in the eighth and faced two batters, retiring neither.  After a single, a double and the tying run, Stanton was relieved by Ricky Bottalico, who couldn’t quite clean up his mess.  Bottalico got one out, but followed that with two walks, one intentional and one not.  Then Braden Looper entered in an unusually clever move by Art Howe, and wound up allowing three more runs on a sac fly and two singles.  But hey, at least John Franco pitched a scoreless ninth.

A day after using six pitchers, the Mets got a lengthier outing from their starter, but Steve Trachsel didn’t get much help from the guys with the gloves and bats either, so all his seven inning performance accomplished was resting the bullpen.  He gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out three, but only one of the runs was ruled earned.  David Wright was charged a somewhat tough error on a sharp grounder in the second that led to a pair of runs when Trachsel couldn’t quite work around it, and a Matsui error in the fifth contributed to another run.  DeJean pitched another two scoreless innings, striking out four and allowing no baserunners.  I’d say he was well on his way to being burned out by Howe’s overuse, but he only threw twenty pitches in each of the two weekend games, with thirty-one of them going for strikes.  I don’t know if he’s a five inning mirage or a Rick Peterson miracle, but what he’s doing and the way he’s doing it look pretty good so far.

As for the offense, it was the Jose Reyes show on Sunday, as he continued to tear it up, managing a career-high four hits, including a double.  He’s still not drawing walks, and he did get picked off once, but he certainly appears to be on his way back to form, raising his average all the way to .261.  He did strike out to end the game, though, which wasn’t that much of a surprise.  He’s still swinging at just about everything, and while he’s making good contact a lot of the time, that’s not a strategy that’s likely to be too effective against someone like John Smoltz.

Also on Sunday, Scott Kazmir kept carving up AA hitters.  This time he went seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out seven to earn his second win since being promoted.  His ERA with Binghamton is a very Kazmir-like 1.73 and he’s struck out twenty-nine while walking just nine in twenty-six innings.  If I can get well ahead of myself, what, aside from another injury, is going to keep us from seeing him a Shea around the middle of next year or so?  The dominant way he’s gotten his year back on track is very exciting.

Now hope for the fourth-place Mets comes in the form of a trip to Canada, as they’ve got four scheduled against Bud Selig’s personal playthings.  Scott Erickson (0-0, 1.50) tries to keep backing up his veteranness with numbers adequate enough to keep his job as he takes on John Patterson (1-2, 4.02), who the Mets knocked around for four runs in four innings last week.  The Mets don’t have their first scheduled day off of the second half until next Monday, so hopefully the ineptitude of the Expos’ offense will prevent Erickson from getting knocked out of this game too early.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
  Weather 4, Joe 0

Okay then.  Apparently I'm some sort of Rain God, like Rob McKenna.  I can't even think about going to a baseball game without the stadium being besieged by rain.  I'm still coming to terms with these powers and trying to figure out all of their implications, but I know one thing.  The Mets should get themselves one of those stadiums with a retractible roof.  That would be a worthwhile investment.
Friday, July 23, 2004
  Expos 4, Mets 1

Entering Thursday, left-handers were hitting .150/.212/.317 against John Franco.  Right-handers were hitting .320/.413/.400.  These stats aren’t hard to find.  I found them in about five seconds on  And you’d assume that a major league baseball franchise would hire someone to keep track of such things.  But if the Mets have such a guy, they don’t have another guy whose job it is to share such information with the manager, because Art Howe must not have a clue.  I mean, really, he can’t be so inept that if he knew the stats, he’d keep letting Franco pitch to righties, let alone quality righties, can he?

Franco entered Thursday’s game in the top of the eighth with the score tied at one.  He retired the first two batters he faced, both lefties.  But at this point the Mets didn’t even have anyone warmed up to come in to face the lone serious threat in the Montreal lineup, the right-handed swinging Jose Vidro.  So of course Vidro singled to left.  Another righty followed Vidro in the fourth spot in the lineup, and still the Mets had no one ready to relieve Franco.  Now, I’m not normally one to call Tony Batista a “quality hitter”.  The man’s OBP is .262.  But he’s obviously got a little power, especially when faced with a pitcher nearly incapable of retiring a right-handed batter.  So it was no real surprise to anyone but perhaps the clueless Howe when Batista took Franco deep to break the tie and give the Expos a lead they would not relinquish.  Now, I know the Mets’ options among lefties in the bullpen are terrible and they don’t have a whole lot going on in right-handed middle relief either.  But when you find a guy who clearly can do one thing and clearly can’t do another, let the guy do the thing he can do, and find somebody else to do the thing he can’t.  John Franco can retire lefties pretty successfully.  He’d make a decent LOOGY, especially if the Mets had another lefty in their ‘pen who was competent enough to pitch to righties, too.  But whether there are four or five righties in the Mets bullpen at any given time, Franco should under no circumstances be allowed to pitch to a right-handed batter in any kind of crucial situation.

Aside from Braden Looper and the occasional flash from one of the other righties, the Mets’ bullpen has been a disaster, and if Jim Duquette is intent on making a deal to improve this team before the trading deadline, that, not the starting rotation, should be his focus.  Get on the phone and see what the Mariners want for Eddie Guardado.  Have a word with the Orioles about B.J. Ryan.  Jason Frasor.  Steve Reed.  There are relievers out there with a history of success having good seasons for teams that are not going to make the playoffs.  Rather than semi-talented or even talented young players trading for that elusive fifth starter, go out and see if you can get one or two of these guys without giving up too much.  Hell, maybe Jaime Cerda’s available.  He’s only worth, say, Shawn Sedlacek, right?

Orber Moreno pitched for the second straight day and did so in the ninth inning.  He gave up a run on a hit and a walk, though that right might have been cut down at the plate had David Wright thought to throw there rather than to second on a slow grounder that was not going to turn into a double play.  Wright also made an error in the first inning, but he did have a fine offensive game, hitting a double for his first major league hit and subsequently scoring the Mets’ only run of the day.  He also later singled.

The Mets had nine hits on the day and four of them were for extra bases, but as so often happens, they repeatedly failed to get that one clutch hit to drive in a run or two.  The most glaring example was when Kazuo Matsui tripled to lead off the fourth, only to be stranded there when the inning ended.  Matsui had three hits on the day.

Of course, lost in the ineffectiveness of the Mets’ bullpen and offense was just another great start by Tom Glavine, who lasted seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits and one intentional walk while striking out five.  Maybe the other Mets just don’t like Glavine.

Justin Huber made his AAA debut and went two for three with a double for NorfolkYusmeiro Petit had a less than spectacular start for St. Lucie as he allowed three runs, two earned, in five innings.  He allowed six hits and two walks and struck out just three.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading back out to Shea to see Al Leiter (6-3, 22.4) and the Mets take on John Thomson (7-7, 4.85) and the division co-leading Braves.  The Braves winning this division again simply cannot be allowed to happen, and hopefully the Mets will have something to say about it this weekend.  I have a good feeling that this will be the time I go to a Mets game without experiencing a rain delay, at least.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
  Mets 5,Expos 4

Day one of the David Wright era was nearly another terrible loss for the Mets, but luckily the Expos’ incompetence was able to overcome Art Howe’s in the end.  Wright himself went hitless in four at bats, but the Mets’ offense gave starter Jae Weong Seo enough of a cushion to be comfortable.  At least for a little while.
Richard Hidalgo blasted a three-run home run for the second consecutive day to break a scoreless tie in the third, giving him fourteen on the year including ten in twenty-nine games with the Mets.  Kazuo Matsui padded the Mets’ lead with an RBI single in the fourth, driving in Seo, who was cruising on the mound up until that point.
Seo got through six very good innings, allowing just one run in the fifth and heading into the seventh with a three-run lead.  But he allowed a pair of hits to lead off the inning and Art Howe made the completely inexplicable but entirely predictable move that nearly cost the Mets the game.  The world’s most useless human Mike Stanton entered the game and immediately surrendered a game-tying three-run home run to Endy Freaking Chavez.  Stanton allowed another hit before finally finishing the inning, but the best part is that Howe actually sent him out to start the eighth, too!  The way Howe uses Stanton, the league leader in appearances, is entirely indefensible and short of Howe’s firing, the only hope for this team may be that Stanton’s arm falls off from overwork.  There’s no way to justify using this guy so often in clutch situations given how consistently incompetent he’s been, and the inability to recognize such an obvious truth should be enough to cost Howe his job.  Certain managerial moves that garner criticism are open to debate, but Howe’s usage of Stanton is flatly idiotic and if the Mets won’t fire Howe, they ought to get rid of Stanton by any means necessary to prevent the two of them from further damaging the team’s chances of competing in this winnable division.
Jae Weong Seo, however, is still deserving of a spot on a major league roster, and another solid start tonight will hopefully slow the Mets’ pursuit of Kris Benson.  Seo wound up charged with three runs in six innings, allowing eight hits and three walks while striking out one.  Benson’s line on the night was much prettier as he went eight innings and allowed just two runs on five hits, striking out four Braves.  That’s now four straight good starts for Benson, but I still don’t think the Mets should let one good month obscure years of mediocrity and give up someone who might actually be a useful part of this team in the upcoming years for the next three months of Kris Benson.
Seo’s line of course could have looked better had he gotten some support from the bullpen, but at least after Stanton allowed a leadoff hit to start the eighth, he got some help.  Orber Moreno entered with one out and a runner on first and got a double play to get out of the inning and preserve the tie.
Meanwhile, Ty Wigginton seemingly stepped up his game with the new kid in town, as he drew his third walk of the night with two outs in the eighth.  Then it was time for the Expos to balance the scales of ineptitude.  Wigginton advanced to second on a wild pitch and then scored when first baseman Nick Johnson just dropped what should have been an inning-ending groundout by Todd ZeileBraden Looepr finished things off for his twentieth save, though he did allow a pair of singles before getting the job done.
Down in the minors, there was another noteworthy promotion today as catcher Justin Huber got bumped up to Norfolk for the next couple of weeks before he heads off to represent Australia in the Olympics.  After starting out the season injured, the twenty-two year old Huber bounced back to hit .271/.414/.487 in 236 at bats with Binghamton.  I’m somewhat surprised by this promotion, especially given how briefly he’ll be around to play at the AAA level, but I suppose it’s not a bad idea to give him a taste of the higher level this year.  And if this means that Huber has a shot of helping the Mets out at the major league level at some point next year, all the better.

Tomorrow, another two game series comes to an end with Tom Glavine (7-8, 2.67) taking on Tony Armas, Jr. (1-3, 4.24) in an early afternoon game.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
  Marlins 9, Mets 7

Yeah, the Mets lost, but who cares?  David Wright is a major leaguer!  The wait is over and The Future will be at third base on Wednesday.  Wright went one for five to finish up his minor league career on Tuesday, leaving him at .298/.388/.579 through 114 at bats.  Getting swept in this two game series by the Marlins is severely disappointing, but I’m having serious difficulty being upset about anything at all right now.
The other good news on Tuesday was that even without Wright in the lineup, the Mets’ offense came to play, bouncing back from an early six-run deficit to put seven on the board.  Mike Cameron and Richard Hidalgo each smacked home runs.  Jose Reyes<./a> and the Mets’ new utility infielder Ty Wigginton each had two hits and two stolen bases and Kazuo Matsui had a hit, a walk and a stolen base of his own.  Wigginton and Cliff Floyd each had doubles.
Of course, there was plenty of bad news to go along with that, beginning with the starting pitcher.  Steve Trachsel, who’d been so excellent at home, allowed six runs in the first inning and later let in the seventh to blow the slim lead the Mets had built.  He got through five innings, but allowed three walks and eight hits, including a pair of home runs, while striking out three in his worst home start of the season.  After Trachsel exited, John Franco and Dan Wheeler immediately untied the game as Franco walked two in two-thirds of an inning before Wheeler came in an let in the go-ahead run on a single.  Ricky Bottalico later allowed a run on three hits in two inning of work while Mike DeJean managed a scoreless inning on one hit in his New York debut.
But then the worst news of the night was that Mike Piazza had to leave the game in the second with what’s being called a "sprained left wrist" after colliding with Juan Pierre trying to reach for Wigginton’s errant throw to first base.  Wigginton will slide over to first for at least one game, and it’s not like Piazza’s exactly been tearing it up with the bat, but even so, the Mets really need this to be a minor, two or three-day thing for the sake of their new Wright-powered offense.
Down in Binghamton, Scott Kazmir had his best AA start to date and what, as far as I know, was the longest start of his professional career.  The young lefty went eight innings and allowed just two runs, one of which was unearned thanks to his own error, on two hits while striking out ten.  Whatever rust the kid may have had early in the season after battling injury problems, he seems to have shaken it off with gusto since his recent promotion.  Kazmir took the loss as his teammates managed just one hit and no runs in the game, but he also dropped his ERA to 1.89.  He’s struck out twenty-two in nineteen innings while walking seven and allowing just eleven hits.
 Tomorrow, the new era begins with Jae Weong Seo (4-6, 4.59) on the mound for the Mets against John Patterson (1-2, 3.29) and the Expos.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
  Marlins 6, Mets 5

It figures that the day I start worrying about the Mets taking Orber Moreno’s job away from him, he goes out and tries to lose it all by himself.  Now, all year he’s had difficulty pitching on consecutive days, and while he didn’t pitch yesterday, he did have more than his usual workload the last few days, pitching more than an inning twice in the last four days.  And a passed ball by alleged defensive specialist Vance Wilson tacked an unearned run onto his total.  But still, Moreno came in with the Mets up by three and after retiring the first batter he faced, walked and hit the next two on his way to allowing two runs on just one hit.  I still think he’s a better option out of the bullpen than Mike DeJean is likely to be, but tonight was disappointing.
Of course, even with the runs Moreno and Wilson allowed, the Mets could have gotten away with a win if their heretofore stellar closer hadn’t chosen tonight to blown just his second save of the season.  Braden Looper is no Eric Gagne and was bound to blow some eventually, and I suppose it’s only fitting that he blew one against his former team, allowing the man he replaced, Armando Benitez, to pick up the save for himself.  But the Mets’ two best right-handed relievers picked a bad night to have a bad day.   Looper gave up two runs on four hits, striking out two.
Their failures were especially disappointing given that they came in relief of a surprisingly effective Scott Erickson.  The Mets’ newest old starter had a fine debut, allowing just two runs, one earned, on eight hits and one walk while striking out three.  I still doubt very much that he can be any kind of savior for this rotation, but at least he’s not the new James Baldwin.
The good news was that at least the Mets’ offense, stocked entirely with righties, finally got to Dontrelle Willis, with Jose Reyes leading the way with a breakout game.  The leadoff man had three hits on the day, including two doubles, and stole two bases, scoring a run each time he was on base.  Shane Spencer’s three-run home run in the first inning was the big blast of the game and his fourth on the season.  Mike Piazza returned to the lineup and had a good game, drawing two walks and hitting a single, while Richard Hidalgo had two hits of his own, both singles.  Ty Wigginton had a single in the ninth, but grounded into two double plays earlier in the game.
Meanwhile David Wright had no hits but two walks in support of a decent start by Matt Ginter.  Ginter went seven and one-third innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six.  Victor Diaz had a double and a walk in the game.  Justin Huber hit his eleventh home run for Binghamton and also drew a walk.
 Tomorrow, Steve Trachsel (9-6, 3.35) looks to continue his home-field dominance (7-2, 1.70) against an as yet undetermined Florida starter, as far as ESPN can tell.

Monday, July 19, 2004
  Mets and O's swap mediocrities

Karim Garcia had become a pretty useless player for the Mets given the arrival of Richard Hidalgo and the emergence of Eric Valent, not that he’d have been particularly useful even if he’d been getting playing time.  The former Yankee hit just .234/.272/.401 in 192 at bats, with his seven home runs being the lone bright spot on his stat sheet.  I’m happy to see him go, and wouldn’t have been upset if the Mets had just released him, but there is reason to be concerned about the guy they got in exchange for him.
Mike DeJean had an okay season with Milwaukee and St. Louis last year, posting a 4.68 ERA in 82.2 innings, striking out 71 and walking 39, while allowing a troubling 13 home runs.  He had two fine seasons with the Brewers prior to that, posting ERAs around three in similar numbers of innings with similar strikeout and walk rates and much better home runs numbers.  His slugging percentage against was .330 in 2001 and .362 in 2002 before jumping all the way to .450 last year, and he hasn’t done much better this year.  Though he’s only allowed two home runs in 39.2 innings, his SLG against is still up at .428, thanks in part to a .308 batting average against.  He’s struck out 36 already this year, but 49 hits and 28 walks have led to a 6.13 ERA, the worst of his career but for one disastrous season among his four in Colorado when he put up an 8.41 in 61 innings.  He's also been the worst reliever in the majors at preventing inherited runners from scoring this year.  Yeah, even worse than Stanton.

Of course, that DeJean kinda stinks isn’t really the point.  He’s also thirty-three years old, which means that whether or not he stinks is in danger of not mattering to Art Howe when he’s deciding which right-handed reliever to go to in a high leverage situation.  Even Jim Duquette says "Mike will bring experience and depth to our bullpen.  He has had success in the National League and has the savvy of pitching well in close games."  With quotes like that, you have to wonder what chance things like Orber Moreno’s "talent" and "ability" are going to have against DeJean’s "savvy".  The Mets’ bullpen certainly could use some help, but someone like DeJean isn’t going to be nearly as helpful as someone who’s either left-handed or highly skilled at getting people out.  Maybe the Mets’ defense and Shea Stadium will be enough to overcome DeJean’s occasional difficulties with extra base hits, and his solid strikeout rate will be a nice addition.  But with the way Moreno and Jose Parra, Saturday’s blowup notwithstanding, have pitched lately, the job of high leverage righty out of the ‘pen should be theirs to lose, not DeJean’s.

  Phillies 5, Mets 1
Phillies 8, Mets 2
Mets 6, Phillies 1

Starting pitching.  It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  This weekend the Mets got three more solid starting pitching performances, and as so often happens, it wasn’t nearly enough to get them a win in this series against the division leaders.  On Friday, Jae Weong Seo went seven innings and allowed just two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five.  On Saturday, Tom Glavine wasn’t quite as sharp, but he still allowed just two earned runs of his four total runs allowed, and even one of those two was aided by some poor defense behind him.  He allowed nine hits and one intentional walk through six and one-third innings, but he still might have gotten a win if his defense, his offense or his bullpen had shown up.  On Sunday, Al Leiter finally figured out what he needed to do, keeping the Phillies off the board entirely for six innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out seven, though it was the standard mind-boggling Leiter performance, featuring nine or ten full counts and 105 pitches in total.
Seo got so little help from the offense on Friday that it didn’t matter that the bullpen’s lackluster lefties gave up three runs in relief, with Mike Stanton allowing a home run and a walk to the first two batters he faced, the two lefties he was called on to retire.  And John Franco lasted just one-third of an inning and was charged with two runs on four hits.  But the only run the Mets got was on back-to-back doubles by Jose Reyes and Kazuo Matsui, while Cliff Floyd was the only other Met with a hit.
Glavine got the usual effective relief from Orber Moreno, who went one and two-thirds perfect, striking out two and stranding another inherited runner.  But Jose Parra collapsed in the ninth, allowing four runs, three earned, on three hits and two walks while striking out one.  The offense did manage ten hits and three walks on the day, but only a Floyd double and Mike Piazza’s first home run in seventy-five at bats went for extra bases in an eventually lopsided game.
The seriously slumping Piazza got the day off on Sunday and the offense sort of came to life, with his replacements having big days.  Vance Wilson followed a Mike Cameron home run with one of his own in the fifth and had three hits on the day.  And Todd Zeile had two hits and a walk, though he didn’t figure in the scoring.  Ty Wigginton and Richard Hidalgo each had doubles.  Ricky Bottalico gave up a run in one-third of a relief inning, but otherwise the ‘pen was adequate, with Braden Looper securing a four-out save.
The Mets’ efforts on the trade market lately have apparently been focused mostly on the starting rotation and the bullpen, and that’s fine, because there are certainly holes in both of those.  But they have to realize that as it’s currently constituted, this offense is far from a sure thing, as its recent collapse in the wake of Mike Piazza’s slump has shown.  Prior to Sunday the Mets had scored just ten runs in their last five games.  There aren’t really a lot of holes to be filled in the starting lineup, as all three outfielders, the middle infield and Piazza are secure.  Finding someone to fill the non-Piazza half of the first base/catcher situation is an idea, but the Mets have an obvious upgrade at third base available from within right now and it’s about time they utilized it.  Ty Wigginton’s been hitting fairly well lately, and he had three hits and a walk in this series.  But he’s still not much more than adequate and third base and this team doesn’t have the kind of offensive forces at other positions to settle for that, particularly when David Wright can almost certainly give them more.  If Wright’s is nearly as good as reported, he’d be a serious and much-needed upgrade in that department as well.  Leaving him in Norfolk makes less and less sense by the day, especially if Wigginton, who’s been taking grounders at first base, can play that position at all.  He’s not a great offense option there, either, but having he, Piazza and Wright in the lineup looks a lot better than he, Piazza and Jason Phillips at this point.  Wigginton doesn’t need to play there every day, and Wilson and Phillips ought to get into some games as well.  But the important thing is getting David Wright at third base as soon as possible, and let the rest of the infield fall into place.
Speaking of Mr. Wright, he went two for four with a walk on Sunday in support of another good start by Aaron Heilman.  Heilman went seven innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits and two walks while striking out eight.  I know Scott Erickson will be taking the mound for the Mets on Monday, but Heilman is starting to look like the better bet to be useful to the Mets down the stretch.
Justin Huber hit his tenth home run for Binghamton on Sunday.  And on Friday Yusmeiro Petit had another great start for St. Lucie, going six inning and allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out six, leaving his ERA at 0.77 after three starts.  He’s struck out seventeen and walked nine through eleven and two-thirds innings, allowing just one run on three hits.  A lot of those walks came from his brief, terrible second start, but aside from that he’s continued to dominate after being promoted.

On Monday it appears that Scott Erickson will finally get that first start of the season as he takes on Dontrelle Willis (7-5, 3.99) at the Marlins.
Friday, July 16, 2004
  Mets 3, Phillies 2 (11)

The second half of the 2004 season started out looking a lot like the first half for the New York Mets.  They got a pretty good performance out of their starting pitcher and not quite as much offense to back him up as you would like.  Steve Trachsel got the honor of watching his efforts nearly go to waste this time around, going five and two-thirds while allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks and striking out a season-high six.  But in a departure from first-half patterns, he got a lot of support from his bullpen.  Orber Moreno did a good job coming in with the bases loaded in the sixth to save Trachsel and preserve a tie game, making a nice defensive play on a weak grounder down the third base line.  He wound up finishing one and one-third perfect innings on just eleven pitches and has now stranded ten of twelve inherited runners on the season.
Mike Stanton followed with a shocking perfect inning of his own, striking out two while facing the heart of the Phillies’ lineup.  Braden Looper pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one.  And Jose Parra wound up getting the win with a scoreless inning featuring one walk and two strikeouts.
Of course, while David Wright was down with Norfolk smacking home runs in his first two at bats, the major league Met offense was struggling to score more than two runs against Eric Milton.  Jose Reyes and Kazuo Matsui each doubled to start the fourth inning and produce a run and Trachsel drove in Ty Wigginton, who had singled, in the fifth.  That was it until the Mets loaded the bases with two walks and a hit in the eleventh, giving Wigginton a shot to win the game after he had failed to do so in a similar spot in the ninth.  He grounded one sharply back up the middle and Vance Wilson was able to come home when pitcher Roberto Hernandez had trouble handling the grounder and wound up bouncing a throw home that got away from the catcher.  Wigginton wound up with two hits on the night, but he also exhibited his trademark first pitch swing a few times and game-winning hit or not, I don’t have much doubt that the Mets’ lineup would be better with David Wright at third base.
Elsewhere in the minors, Scott Kazmir got things going in the right direction for Binghamton, picking up his first AA win in the process.  He went just five innings, but only allowed one run on three hits and, perhaps most importantly, one walk, striking out five.  He did hit two batters and throw a wild pitch, but it seems tonight was at least a small step forward as far as his control goes.  Justin Huber had a fine night as well, with a single, double, walk and hit by pitch of his own.
Tomorrow, the Mets are apparently going to send Scott Erickson to the mound for his first start since 2002.  Erickson’s been solid in his last few minor league starts, and this will probably go a little bit better than The James Baldwin Experiment of earlier this year, but I still don’t expect Erickson to be able to get major league hitters out for very long and I think the best we can hope for tomorrow is a high-scoring slugfest against Kevin Millwood (6-5, 5.15) and the Phillies.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Now there can only be three World Series games at Shea Stadium. Clemens screws the Mets again! It's as if he's been holding some sort of grudge for approximately eighteen years or something.

Mets vs. Phillies, Trachsel (9-6, 3.36) vs. Milton (11-2, 4.72) on Thursday. Glavine and Leiter will follow in this big four game series. That preseason plan to split up the lefties got lost somewhere along the way.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
  Marlins 5, Mets 2 (twice)

Going three and four in the wake of The Sweep, as it shall be known for years to come, isn’t exactly a great way for the Mets to stumble into the All-Star break. Luckily the rest of the division didn’t do much better, and they still sit only two games out of first place despite being just one game above five hundred. But the difference between a great ending to the first half of the season and this disappointing one was basically just Tom Glavine waking up from the dream season he’d been having up until about a week ago. After his worst start of the season in Philadelphia, Glavine came back with another rough game in Florida He gave up four runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out three in six innings and, as usual, the Mets’ offense wasn’t there to pick him up, despite Jose Reyes picking up three hits and a pair of stolen bases on the day. Hopefully Glavine can hit the snooze button after the break, because the Mets’ chances in this division will go south in a hurry if he can’t be an effective pitcher at the top of the rotation. Of course, even before these last two starts, it’d been a while since he’d won a game, thanks to the Mets’ offense deserting him more often than not. But even he’s not always getting the win, it’s crucial for him to keep the Mets in games and not let his early-inning troubles get out of hand to the point where his post-second inning rebound is too little, too late, as it was against the Phillies last Monday.

Sunday brought another less than stellar start from one of the Mets’ top pitchers with the offense failing to help out as Dontrelle Willis continued his career-long dominance of the Mets. Al Leiter went just three innings on eighty-eight pitches, allowing four runs on three hits and two walks with a Jeff Conine grand slam pretty much ending his day. Orber Moreno pitched a scoreless inning, walking one, and Ricky Bottalico threw two, striking out four and walking one, before giving way to the bloated corpse of Mike Stanton. Stanton went two innings and, despite not entering the game with any runners on base, allowed a run on two hits and two walks while striking out two.

Also over the weekend, Scott Kazmir finally made his AA debut, with mixed results. He went six innings and struck out six, but he also walked five while allowing six hits and two runs. Walks were something of a problem for Kazmir down in St. Lucie this year, as he issued twenty-two free passes in fifty innings, so it’s something he definitely has to work on, as that rate is a bit higher than what he’s done in the past. Still, for now we can probably chalk up his extreme wildness to the adjustment to the new league. His strikeout total is certainly encouraging as he seems to be getting back on the right track, having wound up with fifty-one Ks in those fifty innings at St. Lucie. I’m certainly excited to go see him start the next time Binghamton comes to Trenton to take on the future Yankee trade bait. They’ve got a four game series at the beginning of August, so it looks like there’s a good chance I’ll get to see Kazmir take the mound.

Of course Sunday brought the Futures Game, featuring David Wright and Yusmeiro Petit representing the Mets. Wright looked perhaps a little nervous early on, striking out in his first at bat and having trouble with three separate grounders in the third inning, one of which was ruled an error. But he bounced back later to single in the second of his three at bats and also show off his range and arm in the field. Petit came in with a pair of runners on and one out and allowed a double that went over the left fielder’s head after he appeared to misjudge it. But he bounced back to get the second of his two outs via the strikeout having allowed just the one hit.

And tonight is obviously the All-Star Game with Mike Piazza representing the Mets as the National League’s starting catcher and Tom Glavine sitting out in the bullpen to perhaps make an appearance in relief.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
  Mets 6, Marlins 3

Ty Wigginton apparently likes playing every day in the major leagues. On a day when David Wright went two for five with a walk, raising his stat line to .322/.406/.611 in ninety at bats at AAA, Wigginton had two hits of his own, both for extra bases, including a double and his twelfth home run of the year. He only hit eleven in nearly six hundred at bats last year. He's raised his slugging percentage seventy-five points in the last two weeks, all the while with Wright looker ever more closely over his shoulder. The twenty-six year old current Met third baseman, now hitting .276/.319/.504, probably can't keep this up for too long and at the very least is enjoying a career. Wright is still clearly the future of this position, but it would be great if the Mets could manage to keep Wigginton around as a very potent bat off the bench, with some versatility to act as the backup to their oft injured second baseman. Still, the Mets are very much n the reace fo the division lead and ye tin need of at least one more arm, whether in the rotation or the bullpen, and trading Wigginton now, when his value's as high as it's likely to go, may in fact be for the best.

Other Mets contributed to those six runs, of course. Mike Cameron followed Wigginton's fourth inning home run with a blast of his own, giving him fourteen on the year and four in the last three days. In addition to auditioning for a spot as the new Richard Hidalgo, Cameron drew a pair of walks in the game, one intentional. Hidalgo himself had just a single and an RBI, while Kazuo Matsui added his twenty-sixth double.

Jae Weong Seo had another decent outing, allowing just three runs in six innings, though he did allow a pair of home runs among the Marlins' seven hits. He walked two and struck out two before being relieved by Dan Wheeler, who pitched an inning and two-thirds scoreless, allowing a hit and a walk with one strikeout. John Franco finished off the eighth for him, getting Hee Seop Choi on one pitch, and Braden Looper pitched a perfect ninth for his eighteenth save.

Tomorrow, Tom Glavine (7-6, 2.49) tries to bounce back from the one bad start he's had this season while the Marlins send Brad Penny (7-7, 3.21) to the mound.
Friday, July 09, 2004
  Phillies 5, Mets 4

If, as is often asserted, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results in the definition of insanity, what exactly is it going to take for Art Howe to be fitted with a straightjacket? Not that his cup is bubbling over with other options, but any choice would provide more drama than bringing Mike Stanton into a game with runners on base while clinging to a one-run lead. Surprising no one but Howe and perhaps his own mother, Stanton coughed up the Mets' 4-3 lead after Ricky Bottalico had started the inning by allowing a walk and a single when Bobby Abreu singled to right. Stanton then got three outs with only an intentional walk mixed in, thanks in part to an inning-ending sliding catch by Mike Cameron, but the tying run was enough to set up Abreu's walk-off home run in the ninth, in part because it was also enough to prevent Howe from using his best reliever, Braden Looper, in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game.

Before the bullpen gave away his lead, Matt Ginter gave the Mets an adequate, but not necessarily game-saving performance. He went five innings and allowed three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three. He was sent to Norfolk to make room for Karim Garcia on the roster, but time will tell if he gets recalled in ten days when the Mets next need a fifth starter.

It was another good offensive day for the top of the Mets' lineup, as Jose Reyes and Kazuo Matsui each had a pair of hits, with Matsui smacking his twenty-fifth double and also drawing a walk. The "bust" of a rookie shortstop is now hitting .273/.342/.415 on the year and ranks second in the National League in Baseball Prospectus's VORP among shortstops. Eric Valent, Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron also doubled on a day when the Mets managed plenty of hits but failed to get quite enough in the crucial spots. Cameron also added his thirteenth home run of the year and third in two days. The once-struggling centerfielder is now hitting .226/.324/.436, within twenty points of his career marks in all three rate stats and already exceeding his career slugging percentage, having smacked just five fewer home runs than he did last year in twice as many at bats.

It's hard to get too upset about a split with the division leaders in their park, though the Mets certainly had their chances to do more damage in this series. Still, they'll head into this weekend's series with the Marlins right in the thick of the four-team race for the division lead.

Also on Wednesday, the Mets apparently signed "twenty-four year old" Cuban starting pitcher Alain Soler. While statements like "He's a Roger Clemens-type pitcher... Give him a few weeks in the minors and he'll be ready," are not worth taking seriously, if he is as young as he's said to be, it's certainly worth a shot that he can be a good major league pitcher. One of the things that has made the Yankees so successful--and hated--has been their ability to absorb the financial hit when a gamble they throw a ton of money at doesn't work out. And while the Yankees certainly have the biggest stack at the Major League Baseball table, the Mets are certainly among the chip leaders, so to speak, and could reap big benefits if they're willing to similarly risk what they've got on longshot bets. Yes, I am obsessed with poker, thanks for asking. When you need a starting pitcher, and the best guy immediately available is Kris Benson and his 4+ ERA, it's time to get creative, and I applaud the Mets for doing so.

Tonight the Mets begin another important series, this one with the Marlins, and it'll be Jae Weong Seo (4-5, 4.79) taking on AJ Burnett (1-3, 4.74).
Thursday, July 08, 2004
  Mets 10, Phillies 1

Okay, so I was wrong about the rain. But at least this time the game was only delayed, rather than interrupted, by the precipitation. And the Mets certainly didn't miss a beat once the game began, pounding the crap out of Brett Myers and the Phillies to creep within one game of first place in the National League East.

Once again it started early, as Cliff Floyd, Ty Wigginton and Mike Cameron each homered in the second inning to give Steve Trachsel a three-run lead that he would never relinquish. Cameron homered again in the fifth to provide the margin that would have triggered the mercy rule, were it written in the Major League Baseball rulebook. The Mets were up by ten, getting contributions from everyone in the lineup but the hitless Mike Piazza. In addition to the longballs, Kazuo Matsui and Jason Phillips each had three hits, including a double, while Jose Reyes added a two-bagger of his own among his two hits.

Meanwhile, Steve Trachsel turned in his best road performance of the year, going seven strong innning allowing just one run on a home run by Pat Burrell. He allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out three to increase his team-leading win total to nine. Orber Moreno pitched a great eighth, striking out two in a perfect inning, and Jose Parra finished the job with a scoreless ninth.

Down in the minors, Scott Kazmir finally got his much-delayed promotion to AA Binghamton, where he'll start on Saturday.

Tonight the Mets try to tie up the Phillies for the top spot in the division, sending the struggling Matt Ginter (1-2, 4.74) to the mound against the struggling Kevin Millwood (6-5, 5.07).
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
  Mets 4, Phillies 1

It’s nice to see that when Tom Glavine was unable to fulfill his responsibilities as the National League ERA leader, Al Leiter didn’t hesitate to step in and take his place. After tossing seven innings on Tuesday, Leiter finally has enough IP to qualify for the ERA title, and his 2.05 mark certainly gets the job done. He allowed just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out three and got through those seven innings on just 102 pitches on his way to earning his fifth win of the season.

Richard Hidalgo’s home run streak came to an end, but only by about ninety feet, as he tripled in his first at bat and later singled, driving in two runs after being moved up to the fourth spot in the lineup. Kazou Matsui had another good game, with three hits including a double while every Met starter aside from Leiter had at least one hit in the game.

On Wednesday night, I’ll be heading out to Citizen’s Bank Park to see Steve Trachsel (8-6, 3.49) take on Brett Myers (5-5, 5.28). I’ve been to two Mets games this year, and both times I’ve left during a rain delay after which the Mets wound up winning. It doesn’t look like rain today, so hopefully I’ll get to see a whole game for once. And Trachsel’s given up fewer than five runs only twice in his six road starts this year, so here’s hoping he can start making his poor road performance look like a small sample size anomaly rather than a trend.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
  Phillies 6, Mets 5

I suppose we should have expected this. The Mets’ offense finally gave Tom Glavine a little bit of run supporting, putting three on the board in the top of the first inning, and the Phillies came out smacking line drive en route to scoring more runs against the Mets’ ace than any team had all season. Of course, he settled down after two innings and the offense nearly completed the comeback, but in the end it was just another case of Tom Glavine and the Mets narrowly avoiding victory.

It seemed at the start like the Mets’ bats were picking up where they left off in the weekend series against the Yankees. Kazou Matsui reached on an error and then Cliff Floyd smacked one over the right field wall only to be followed immediately by Richard Hidalgo’s daily home run, a long bomb to left. The Met rightfielder has now homered in a team record five consecutive games and has twice as many homers with the Mets as he did with the Astros, giving both he and Floyd twelve on the season.

Glavine got a combination of uninspiring play by his corner infielders and a couple of surprisingly tough catches from Floyd in the midst of some hard hit balls on his way to giving up ten hits, including four doubles, in six plus innings. But after the rough first two innings, he did what he’s done all year and shut the opposition down through the middle innings, winding up with just six runs on the board. He walked two and struck out three while his ERA rose all the way to 2.49. The Mets got their final two runs on a single from Floyd, who had an all-around terrific game, but couldn’t get anything done against the Philly bullpen in the later innings and Glavine wound up taking the loss to drop to a deceptive 7-6 on the season.

Scott Erickson had another halfway decent start for Norfolk, going five innings and allowing just one run on six hits and two walks while striking out four. David Wright continued the recent minor downturn in his hitting, managing just a walk in his four plate appearances, dropping his batting average all the way to .307. Scott Kazmir had another solid start, going six scoreless innings allowing five hits and one walk while striking out three in a game that St. Lucie wound up winning 2-0 in nineteen innings. Scott Strickland pitched one scoreless inning in the game. The Mets’ bullpen is getting to the point where I’m almost looking forward to seeing him back in the majors.

Tomorrow the second place Mets try to salvage their hopes of earning a tie for first place in this series by sending Al Leiter (4-2, 2.12) to the mound against Randy Wolf (3-3, 3.08).
Sunday, July 04, 2004
  Mets 11, Yankees 2
Mets 10, Yankees 9
Mets 6, Yankees 5

A sweep of the mighty Yankees? Twenty-seven runs in three games?! Who are these guys, and what have they done with the New York Mets? If you long for the familiar after this utterly ridiculous weekend, at least you can take comfort in the fact that Mike Stanton still sucks and Art Howe still can’t tell.

Things started out pretty comfortably for the Mets, kicking off the series with a pounding reminiscent of last Saturday’s series opener across town. They took advantage of some poor Yankee defense in the first and never looked back, knocking Mike Mussina around for seven runs in five innings before he turned it over for the bullpen. "Colossal disappointment" Kazuo Matsui led the way with a pair of home runs, giving him seven on the season, driving in five runs and adding a couple of fine defensive plays at shortstop. Richard Hidalgo had another big game, going three for four with a double and his ninth home run of the season, his fifth in two weeks with the Mets.

The Mets were in control of this one all the way, thanks in large part to another fine starting pitching performance from Steve Trachsel. He went seven innings and allowed just a pair of unearned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out four. Jose Parra pitched another scoreless inning and Orber Moreno finally made it into a game, pitching a scoreless ninth.

So for the second consecutive weekend, the Mets stared things off with a convincing win over the Yankees, but they had to deal with Jose Contreras in game two again, six days after he shut them down at Yankee Stadium. The Mets had no such trouble with the newly happy family man this time, pounding him for seven runs in five innings. The Mets kept up the home run barrage, as Cliff Floyd, Ty Wigginton and Hidalgo each went deep, their eleventh, eighth and tenth of the season respectively.

The Mets didn’t get any help from their starting pitching this time, though, as Matt Ginter got pounded by the Yankees again. He went just three and two-thirds innings and allowed six runs, and while only three of those were earned, part of that was his fault as he was once again unable to field a weak grounder hit back to him, as he was in the first inning on Sunday. He didn’t’ get much help from his bullpen either, in a wild back-and-forth game. Dan Wheeler actually got him out of trouble in the fourth, striking out Cap’n Clutch with a runner on third. But he allowed a two-run homer to Tony Clark, Clark’s second of the day, to put the Yankees up eight to six in the sixth.

The Mets got one back on Hidalgo’s homer and took the lead on Shane Spencer’s two-run double in the seventh. Crazy old coot Art Howe brought in Mike Stanton to preserve that one-run lead in the eighth, so of course he walked the first batter he saw. The next batter reached on a Wigginton error and after a successful sacrifice from those small-ball lovin’ Yankees, Stanton left with runners on second and third and one out. Ricky Bottalico allowed a sacrifice fly before finishing off the innings, so the game was tied at nine after eight.

Bottalico got the first two men in the ninth, but John Franco came in to pitch to Jason Giambi and after a double, an intentional walk and an infield single, he’d loaded the bases. But he managed to strike out Jorge Posada looking on a very close strike to preserve the tie.

Joe Torre apparently decided to try to out-Howe Art Howe as he brought in Tanyon Sturtze to pitch the bottom of the ninth and Kazuo Matsui capped another big game at the plate by drawing a lead off walk to go with his two singles and a double on the day. After a Floyd walk and a Hidalgo hit by pitch, Spencer hit a weak grounder down the first base line and Matsui scored the winning run as Sturtze’s desperate throw sailed over the catcher’s head. One would hope that Matsui’s huge performance in this series would teach people Michael Kay to keep their mouths shut regarding things about which they don’t know, like, say, baseball, but I’m not holding my breath.

After securing their first series win ever against the Yankees, the Mets came back on Sunday looking for their first sweep and season series victory, and brought their offense and starting pitching with them. Jae Weong Seo didn’t get a lot of help from his defense, but went five and two-thirds innings allowing just a pair of runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out two. Meanwhile, the Mets’ offense knocked another Yankee starter out after just five innings, this time reaching Javier Vazquez for four runs.

The bullpen didn’t help Seo out much, either. Although Stanton shockingly got the final out of the sixth with a runner on base, Howe left him out there to start the seventh, and things went more like you would expect. He got just one out in the seventh and wound up charged with two runs on three hits after Bottalico had to come in and save his ass.

Richard Hidalgo struck again in the bottom of the seventh, going deep for the third straight game, giving him eleven on the year, seven on the Mets and FIVE in six games against the Yankees. We got this guy for freaking David Weathers! And Houston is paying part of his salary! It’s utterly amazin’ how well that deal’s worked out so far. Still, the bullpen did manage to blow this lead as well, as Orber Moreno gave up three hits before settling down and finishing the inning with a pair of Ks.

But Ty Wigginton, in a mad dash to save his job, I guess, smacked his second home run of the day in the bottom of the eight to put the Mets on top for good. The way Wigginton’s been hitting lately, I would love it if the Mets could somehow keep him and use him as a utility guy off of the bench, but if he can hit his way into some serious trade value and get back a good starting pitcher now, I can’t say I’d be too upset about that. Although I must stress that "good starting pitcher" and "Kris Benson" aren’t really the same thing.

Anyway, Braden Looper nailed it down in the ninth, allowing just one hit and the Mets completed an improbable sweep of the New York Yankees to put themselves two games above .500 and remain just two games out of first place in the National League East, heading into a big four-game series with the division leaders with their top starting pitchers all lined up and ready to go.

And hey, Yusmeiro Petit got promoted to St. Lucie Mets and struck out nine through four no-hit innings while walking three in his first start. Yeah, it was a pretty good weekend for the New York Metropolitans.

Tomorrow, Tom Glavine (7-5, 2.16) goes into Philadelphia hoping some of this offense will come along with him for once, and Paul Abbott (0-2, 5.03) seems like a bad bet to be the one to stop it.
Friday, July 02, 2004
  Mets 7, Reds 6

After an apparently refreshing day off, the Mets offense came to play on Thursday afternoon. And that was a good thing, because it seems the bullpen took their place in the lounge on this day. The Mets got another stellar starting pitching performance and this time it was the relief pitchers rather than the guys with the bats who nearly made it go for naught. Al Leiter kept the free passes and the pitch count in check, by his standards anyway, and managed to go a full seven innings on 116 pitches. In those seven innings, he blanked the Reds on just two hits and two walks while striking out four. And while he was doing that, the Mets’ bats were resuming their recent practice of depositing baseballs on the opposite side of distant fences.

Eric Valent got things started with his fifth in the fifth, a solo shot that broke the scoreless tie. Then miscast centerfielder Shane Spencer followed with his third longball of the year in the sixth, driving home Mike Piazza and Richard Hidalgo. In the seventh, it was Jose Reyes with a solo shot, his second. And Hidalgo went deep for the eighth time in the eighth to put the Mets up six to zero. Hidalgo also doubled and walked on the day and has now hit as many home runs, four, in two weeks with the Mets as he did in two and a half months with the Astros. Meanwhile, David Weathers has pitched six and one-third innings for Houston and allowed six runs, four earned, on five hits and a walk while striking out six. So yeah, that deal’s worked out pretty well.

This game, on the other hand, nearly didn’t go so well, as the Reds stormed back with five runs in the bottom of the eighth to draw within one. Ricky Bottalico started the inning with a six runs cushion and wound up responsible for all five of those runs in two-thirds of an inning, allowing four hits and hitting a batter. Orber Moreno has apparently been kidnapped by revolutionaries and was nowhere to be seen. Bottalico actually left with the score at 6-3 and two runners on base and Braden Looper allowed those two to score before finally ending the inning.

The Mets added an important insurance run in the top of the ninth as Jason Phillips drove in Kazuo Matsui with a double. That wound up mattering a great deal as Looper allowed a home run to Adam Dunn with two outs in the ninth before finally closing the door for his fifteenth save.

Down in the minors, Aaron Heilman had another decent outing, going seven innings and allowing just two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. Amazingly, David Wright went hitless, though of course he did draw a walk.

Wednesday’s game aside, the Mets’ offense is looking pretty good heading into this weekend’s big cross-town shindig, with even the heavily slumping top two hitters showing signs of life. In addition to Reyes’s home run, he also had a bunt single and Matsui had a double for himself. Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd have been hitting well lately and Richard Hidalgo certainly looks like he’s for real, at least this week. The pitching matchups this weekend don’t look too promising, but at least the Mets might be able to put some runs on the board.

Tomorrow it’s Steve Trachsel (7-6, 3.74) for the Mets and Mike Mussina (9-4, 4.67), who the Mets did fairly well against on Sunday, for the Yankees.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
  Reds 2, Mets 0

Throughout this season, Cory Lidle’s approach to pitching has relied heavily on throwing strikes, with pretty crappy results. Entering Wednesday’s game, Lidle had walked just 2.1 batters per nine innings on his way to racking up a 5.05 ERA. His strikeout rate has been a mediocre 5.6. I was all ready to point out what a free-swinging team the Mets have been this season and how these two factors would seem go together like Colin Quinn and awkward comic delivery. But after a lengthy search, I finally managed to find stats like pitches seen per plate appearance and batting average on balls in play sorted by team, and it turns out my impressions were entirely inaccurate. In fact, as of five days ago—the last time The Hardball Times updated their stats—the Mets were tied for the second highest P/PA in the league behind only these Cincinnati Reds. That’s an interesting stat given that the Mets are also third-worst in the league in team on-base percentage. But perhaps the Mets’ tendency to watch pitches as well as their proclivity for the strikeout—they’re fourth in the league in that category—do in fact match up well in the favor of the strike-throwing Lidle. Whatever the reason, he was able to shut the Mets’ offense down for the second time in a week, once again costing Tom Glavine a loss in a game in which he pitched well enough to win.

Lidle went seven innings and while the Mets did manage to get three walks out of him, they only added three base hits to that—all singles—while striking out four teams. They got just one hit in two innings of Cincinnati relief work and another solid effort by Glavine went to waste. Glavine went just six innings, as he was lifted for a pinch hitter when the Mets loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh for their best scoring chance. But the league ERA leader allowed just a pair of runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out three. Glavine’s early season hit luck seems to have cooled off a bit, as he’s allowed at least as many hits as he’s had innings pitched in his last three starts. But the increase in base hits hasn’t effected his success in preventing runs much, as he’s allowed just two in each of those starts. He’s managed just one win in his last seven starts, but he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of those starts, so the blame has to go to the Mets’ offense, which comes up lame in more than Glavine’s fair share of starts. The Mets have managed to win two of those starts in which Glavine did not get a decision, at least.

Mike Stanton entered in the eighth with no runners on base, and thus managed not to embarrass himself, tossing two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out none.

Elsewhere, the easiest way to boost the Mets’ inconsistent offense went two for four with a stolen base for Norfolk. Victor Diaz had a big game himself, going two for four with a double and his twelfth home run of the season. Unfortunately, Scott Erickson, after clearing waivers, had a pretty effective performance of his own. He went seven and two-thirds scoreless, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out two. His ERA is now at 5.59 and his peripherals continue to be unimpressive, but if he pitches like this a time or two more, he might just find his way to the big leagues to be the new James Baldwin.

Down in AA, Justin Huber had another big game, going two for four with a pair of doubles. And in some good pitching news, Scott Kazmir had another fine game for St. Lucie, throwing six scoreless innings, striking out six while allowing three hits and three walks. He’s gotten his once ugly ERA all the way down to 3.89 and struck out 48 through 44 innings while walking 21. The strikeout numbers aren’t as dominant as they have been the past two years and I’d really like to see him get the walk rate down a bit, but he’s still doing a good job rebounding from a rough start.

Tomorrow afternoon the Mets try to earn a win of this series before heading home for some tougher competition. Al Leiter (3-2, 2.34) will pitch the first five innings or so for the Mets while Juan Acevedo (4-6, 5.30) goes for the Reds.
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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