Thursday, July 01, 2004

Game 76 - Mets
Do We Need to Fire Another Hitting Coach?

Reds 2, Mets 0
Record: 37-39

"Talk to me tomorrow after Cory 'American' Lidle silences the Mets hitters and I'm in a funk."

I didn't actually think that it would happen! Yes, Lidle beat the Mets last Thursday, but at 5-5/5.05, he wasn't a pitcher who should be able to do that twice within a week. He did. The Mets managed just four measly singles (two of them the infield variety, including a Tom Glavine bunt single) against Lidle and two relievers. Danny Graves recorded his 30th (!) save, inducing a Mike Cameron groundout with a man aboard to end it.

The Mets seemingly have been two games under .500 for the entire first half of the season. They're still but three games out of first, thanks to the Braves and Expos knocking off the Marlins and Phillies, respectively. They're only 4.5 games out of the wild card spot, though they rank 7th in those standings. And since you won't be able to do the math on how many games the Mets trail the Red Sox in our wager (since Rob has neglected his duties once again), I'll tell you: the Sox are 5 games up on the Mets, needing 22 to earn Rob the golden prize.

Glavine continues to look sharp, and the rotation, minus a few bumps in the road here and there, is coming together. The bats are still quite cold, though, and that's going to be an issue in the very near future. The Mets seem to be just trying to hang in there until the All-Star break; to be within a handful of games of the top spot in the division would be an accomplishment in any Met fan's book. Here's the problem:

Thu. 1 at Cincinnati
Fri. 2 NY Yankees
Sat. 3 NY Yankees
Sun. 4 NY Yankees
Mon. 5 at Philadelphia
Tue. 6 at Philadelphia
Wed. 7 at Philadelphia
Thu. 8 at Philadelphia
Fri. 9 at Florida
Sat. 10 at Florida
Sun. 11 at Florida

Yikes, zoiks, skiddit, and every other nonsensical expression meaning "I think I just soiled myself." Today's season-series closer against the Redlegs looks like "must-win" all of a sudden. The Yanks have used the Mets like a drum pad over the last few years, and seven straight games visiting the current divisional co-leaders looms just over the behemoth Yankee shoulders. It will have been 13 consecutive days with games against non-slouch adversaries. I suppose there are some tiny rays of light here -- there's no chance for bats to become rusty, plus there won't be too many Mets heading to Houston for the All-Star game. Actually, there may be more than in recent years; Mike Piazza looks to have been voted in at catcher, which is amusing, plus Glavine and possibly Al Leiter could get the nod from Jack McKeon. This is a significant step up from last year's selection of Armando Blownitez, who was traded to the Yankees shortly thereafter. Of course, it's not exactly the Yankee domination of the ballots, though there's little surprise there, since they signed a half-dozen high-priced All-Stars this offseason.

A team that tries to coast into the break often finds itself three or four games worse in the standings than they should have been, and the hump over which they have to climb in the latter half soon proves insurmountable. These are the teams who are the last-minute entries in the dump-a-thon come late July. They hover around respectability for three months, then plummet down to mediocrity for the final three. If the Metropolitans can buck up and just break even over the next 11 contests, there will be sufficient momentum to tough it out through July. (An optimist might look at this as a huge opportunity to gain ground, but I don't think there are any left in the Mets' camp.) And pretty soon we're getting to what Mr. Wilpon called "meaningful games." Fancy that.

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