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After two games against the thoroughly underwhelming Washington Nationals, the Mets tonight begin another two-game series against another disappointing team. However, too much about these battles with the Nats is horribly bad news for the Mets. The team played poor baseball and several of the Mets' key hitters are in funks at the wrong times. Jose Reyes, the catalyst, David Wright, the all-around superstar, Carlos Delgado, the thumper, Cliff Floyd, the badass, and Kaz Masui, the Iron Chef are all in slumps. However, Paul lo Duca and Carlos Beltran both homered in last night's games after both smacking a long ball in the Braves series. X-Man has also been mired in a bit of a funk. Yet the Mets also failed to score more than one run against a pitcher whose ERA at High-A ball last year was 3.54. Gross. In this series the Mets will face the new-look Pittsburgh Pirates, who strangely enough have already begun planning for next year's new-look Pirates. More on Randall Simon's former employers in the breakdown.

Game 1: Wednesday, 7:10
Ian Snell, RHP (1-2, 5.79 ERA) vs. Pedro Martinez, RHP (5-0, 2.94 ERA)
  • Edge/Analysis: I'm utterly surprised I even asked myself this question. The National League's second-best pitcher so far this year squaring off against Ian Snell, who has been a disappointment as a hyper-prospect for the Bucs. While he has dominated the minor leagues in his career, he has had significant control problems in last year's big league stint, typified by his 24 walks in 42 innings. Disgraceful. Pedro, is, by the way, Pedro. Although let me set it in print that I expect a pitching duel, not a blowout. And, hang on, one last thing. Ian Snell looks like Pedro Feliciano.

    Pedro. Martinez, not Feliciano.

  • Game 2: Thursday, 7:10
    Paul Maholm, LHP (1-3, 5.86) vs. Tom Glavine, LHP (3-2, 2.29 ERA)
  • Edge/Analysis: Another hyper-prospect facing another member of the 200-win club. Unbelievable. And pardon me, but this fellow in particular really bothers me. Why, you ask? Because when I see P. Maholm, or hear people talk about him, I think of Pat Mahomes (former Met alert). Couple that with the fact that Mahomes' best season was his 8-0 1999 for the Metsies (in only 39 relief stints) and that Mahomes finished his career with the Pirates and you feel like you're in the Twilight Zone. But enough about his name. The Mets have been dominated in the past by pitchers they don't face frequently, including O'Connor's game on Tuesday. All things equal though, I like Glavine.

  • PIT Breakdown: Record- 8-20
    This team is bad. And when I say bad, I really am not joking. This team is paying for the services of the untalented, and fully washed-up Jeromy Burnitz. He's posted a .218 average with an ugly .255 OBP. Not even his six homers can offset the negative impact his inability to get on base has on the lineup. While Jack Wilson and Jason Bay have been successful at the dish this year, they have been unable to carry the weight of the entire lineup, including Chris Duffy's .197 average and Joe Randa's .221. Jose Castillo has also only mustered a .238 split. The offense was dealt a huge blow earlier this year, when it was announced that first-baseman/average machine Sean Casey would miss six to eight weeks with lower back fractures. This may have been a blessing in disguise, however, as thumper-in-chief Craig Wilson is now a starter, and playing well to boot, leading the team in HR (7), RBI (18), and slugging percentage (.630). The problem with this team is also that their entire starting rotation, with the partial exception of Zach Duke, who is 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA, has been terrible this year. Duke's strong stats were boosted by a recent complete game shutout of the anemic Chicago Cubs. The rest of the rotation consists of prospects and misfits. Former Brewer Victor Santos has been walloped to the tune of a 1-4 record with a 5.06 ERA. Oliver Perez, while screaming "Anything you can do I can do better!" at Santos, has a 1-4 record but with a far worse 7.53 ERA. Snell and Maholm, whose numbers are above, round out the disappointing group. Perez, after a strong first full season in the Steel City in 2004, broke his toe kicking a laundry cart in June 2005 after a terrible go of it last year up to that point. He missed the rest of the season. Contrary to popular opinion, Perez, who was acquired along with Jason Bay in 2003 in exchange for Brian Giles, had already played two seasons before 2004, making it more of a breakout season for him than a rookie one. Nevertheless, the Pirates' motley crew-tation has been giving up hits bigger than those of Motley Crüe this year. The bullpen, though, has been a bright spot for the Buccos, including hard-throwing lefties Mike Gonzalez and Damaso Marte and Met folk hero of yore Roberto Hernandez. Altogether, the Pirates are a bad team in a good division. They have been plagued by the hot starts of Cincinnati and Houston, the indomitable Cardinals, the sleeper Brewers and even the surprising Cubs. And in a six-team division, it doesn't help to be the only team without a positive adjective thrown their way aside from "young" or "low-payroll" or "small market."

    Players to Watch for:
    PIT: Jason Bay. This guy is good. Former Met on paper, he and his crew dominated the Mets last year. Though Bay was held in check for the most part, it's hard to forget the "Tike Redman Game," where Castro didn't hustle on the insurance run, then Heilman melted down and then Loopy couldn't stop throwing fastballs to Tike Redman. I also remember some unnecessarily circuitous route run to a ball by Floyd and a walk-off hit down the line by Humberto Cota. And, for the record, I did that without looking at any recap of the game. That's how vividly it still stings.

    NYM: Pedro Martinez. This guy can carry the Mets, and in a two-gamer, he can singllehandedly win us half the series. Here's hoping Petey can do it.

    Player of the Series: Pedro Martinez

    Picks: The Mets halve the series, taking Game 1 but failing to muster enough against Pat Mahomes Paul Maholm in the short-series finale.

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