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Mets Get Philled … Except Jose Reyes

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The Mets are in complete control of the National League East division, ahead by 13 games over the next best team in the division, the Philadelphia Phillies.  However, this lead seems to be misleading, in terms of projecting how the Mets will fare in the playoffs (assuming they make it, which they almost certainly will).  And at this point, the Mets that we saw in the first half of this season are not the same Mets we are seeing now; the current team is much, much worse. 

What got the Mets to the top of the NL East and to the top of the entire National League was their dominance of their own, much weakened (compared to 2005) division.  The Mets had enormous trouble trying to deal with American League teams such as the Red Sox and their crosstown rival Yankees, and the rest of the National League gave the Mets all they could handle at times as well.  That means the Mets largely relied on their weaker divisional opponents to get to the top — and it was great, while it worked. 

Over the last two days however, we’ve seen the Mets falter in a huge way, both at the plate, and on the mound. 

On Monday, the Mets played what TV commentator Keith Hernandez described as “the worst game I’ve seen in awhile”.  The final score was 13-0 in favor of the Phillies, but that doesn’t even begin to describe all the problems the Mets had.  Pedro Martinez had one of the shortest, and almost certainly the worst start of his career.  Before taking the mound, he felt some tightness in his calf and groin muscles, but thought nothing of it.  Perhaps he should have given it more attention, because his one inning of work was an inning in which the Phillies scored 6 runs on 4 hits, a walk, 2 hits batters, and a balk, not to mention an error on a pickoff attempt.  Nothing went right for Pedro on the mound, and things could get a whole lot worse when he finds out the severity of his calf strain (Martinez is day-to-day but could be placed on the 15-day-DL if the strain is severe).  Mets reliever Darren Oliver also had one of his worst career outings allowing 7 runs in 3.2 innings of work on 8 hits, including 3 homeruns.  At the plate, the Mets were so silent you could hear the peanuts vendor yelling in the 3rd deck.  Phillies’ rookie starter Cole Hamels pitched the best game of his brief career going 8 innings and allowing 4 hits, no walks, and 9 strikeouts.  Even more impressive was Hamels’ balls-to-strikes ratio which was a spectacular 86-to-28 (114 total pitches).  The Phillies’ bats were so loud you couldn’t hear the same peanuts vendor two rows away.  Led by Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, the Phillies had 12 hits of which 5 went for extra bases.  Rollins reached base all 5 times he came to bat on 3 hits and 2 walks.  In short, just about everything went right for the Phillies and everything went wrong for the Mets. 

The Mets had hopes of bouncing back, with Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez on the mound.  The Mets scored first on a leadoff homerun by Jose Reyes, but the Phillies countered with 4 in the first, 2 in the second, 3 in the third, and 2 more in the fourth.  “El Stinque” would have been an appropriate nickname for Hernandez, after his 4 inning, 10 hit, 11 run, 4 walk, and 5 strikeout outing.  He probably would not have lasted past the second inning if the Mets had their bullpen available, but El Duque was hung out to dry because of Pedro’s brief outing the day before.  The game was completely in the Phillies control, with the score at 11-2 after 4 innings (the Mets scored again on another Jose Reyes solo homerun in the 3rd inning).  No more Phillies would touch homeplate in the game, while the Mets would score two more runs on an 8th inning homerun by (who else?) Jose Reyes.  The Mets had 7 hits in the game, and 3 of them were by Reyes.  The only other player in the Mets starting lineup to get a hit was Paul LoDuca; the other hits were by Michael Tucker and Endy Chavez, both of whom entered the game later.  On a day when the Mets hoped to bounce back, they were held in check by Phillies’ starter Randy Wolf, and whacked around by Philadelphia’s bats. 

If the season were just getting started right now, the National League would not be intimidated by the Mets, and the Mets would probably not be leading the NL East; at least not judging by their erratic August play.  And if I were GM Omar Minaya or Manager Willie Randolph, I’d have some serious concerns about this team heading into the playoffs.  They’ve lost most of their games to the AL’s best teams, and haven’t dominated the top teams in the National League either.  If the Mets are indeed the NL’s best team this season, we may see a 3rd consecutive AL sweep in the 2006 World Series.

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