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Goin' West

On the topic of a brief wrapup, that past series was horribly disheartening. First all of the rain came. Then the Duke couldn't hold a 2-run lead, followed by Armandito somehow managing to extend his scoreless innings streak against the Mets to every inning he's ever pitched against them. Almost true story. While the Mets did manage to take the nightcap, Glavine was denied his league-leading ninth win and the Mets played extras for the millionth game in a row. But Firstings made me jump for joy with his pinch-run madness. And that move by Willie was top 10 clutchest moves of the year. But my Yaaaay Firstings dance was nothing compared to what would happen on Sunday. The Mets had their Disappointment-in-Chief, Steve Trachsel, on the hill for what I had assured myself would not be a bad start. He seems to always pitch well against the Giants, as I mentioned in last week's series preview. And he did pitch well, but that bullpen once again choked, despite David Wright's early jack and Firstings' clutch double. Regression to the mean, like Sanchez exhibited yesterday, is a bitch. While the righty would not have allowed a run if Reyes/Valentin/Delgado turned that double play and Bonds grounded out on the next pitch, things are not always that peachy and Sanchez imploded, though ChadBrad got a huge DP. But even though a 3-1 lead became a 4-3 deficit, David Wright weighed in with his second homer of the game to tie it. And at that point, the Mets did their usual and went to extras. A quiet ninth was followed by Aaron Heilman pitching the tenth. And after two innings of work the previous day, Heilman looked dog tired. He gave up four hits and two runs in that inning of work, clearly lacking a put-away pitch. And when Armandito came on, it seemed apparent that the Mets would be vanquished. Instead, JoVal hit what was a seemingly meaningless solo shot to right. Benitez deposited Endy Chavez in the trash can. And up came Lastings Milledge. After that point, it was all history. Sure, Feliciano couldn't finish the Giants, and sure the Mets lost, but it was all about the energy in the moment. The energy of the young rightfielder high-fiving the fans. There was nothing arrogant or "thuggish" about it. It was pure perfection.

But on the topic of young and talented players, the Mets have to face the Dodgers who have the most loaded farm system I've ever seen. They've called up youngster outfielders Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Joel Guzman, third baseman Willy Aybar and catcher Russell Martin, as well as young flamethrowers Jonathan Broxton and Peter Gammons' man-crush Hong-Chih Kuo. More about them later in the LAD breakdown.

Game 1: Monday, 10:10 PM (EDT)
Alay Soler, RHP (0-1, 7.36 ERA) @ Brett Tomko, RHP (5-3, 4.38 ERA)
  • This game will be a crossroads for Soler, as John Maine's rehab is progressing. Should Soler pitch poorly and have location trouble like he did in his last start, it is likely that Maine will soon assume his rotation slot. Should Soler pitch well, more along the lines of the last five innings of his first start, he will remain the fourth starter. Tomko is a case of a great arm who has never really put it all together. Signed by the Dodgers in the offseason, the righty started strong, but was disappointing near the end of May, allowing at least four runs in his last three starts. In his last two starts, Tomko has only gone 7.2 innings and allowed 13 runs. Batters have great success early against Tomko, posting a 5.73 ERA in those first innings. Push is the word for this matchup.

  • Game 2: Tuesday, 10:10
    Pedro Martinez, RHP (5-1, 2.50 ERA) @ Derek Lowe, RHP (4-3, 2.68 ERA)
  • Each staff's ace takes the hill tonight, despite the fact that they have been outperformed by their #2 starter (Tom Glavine is 8-2; Brad Penny is 6-1). Lowe has been strong this year, only making two or three bad starts. In his last twenty innings, Lowe has allowed 13 hits and six walks, but only one run. Pedro Martinez just battled through a winless May, despite allowing only 2 runs in his last 22 innings while striking out 26 in that span. Pedro has posted a phenomenal four starts with double-digit strikeouts, while maxing out at 4 ER allowed in two starts. It should also not be forgotten that his last start, made on last August's Road Trip from Hell, was a near no-hitter against the Dodgers. I believe every blog I read was either cursing Antonio Perez (who is now batting .034 for the A's) or saying that Gerald Williams (who is currently MIA from baseball) should have caught the ball. Pedro has the edge and will get his first win since April 28.

  • Game 3: Sunday, 1:10
    Tom Glavine, LHP (8-2, 2.59 ERA) @ Odalis Perez, LHP (4-1, 6.05 ERA)
  • Good lord, Odalis. How far have you fallen? Although he has not yet turned 29, the lefty has been in the bigs since 1998. He, like Glavine, broke in with the Braves, and was dealt to LA in the Brian Jordan-Gary Sheffield deal. A free agent in the Pedro Martinez/Brad Radke/Matt Clement class, he re-upped with LA for 3 years and $24 million. He suffered from a bout of tendinitis in 2004 and then shoulder ailments last year, followed by a disappointing year so far. He's allowing far more than a hit per inning, despite the fact that he had been demoted to the bullpen. In the pen, the lefty posted a 3.12 ERA in 5 appearances. He will take over the spot vacated by the disappointing ex-Met folk hero Jae Seo, recently demoted to the bullpen. Although Tom is pitching on three days' rest, he was strong in his last start and threw only 85 pitches while earning a no-decision. Glavine's got the edge.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles Breakdown (32-25):
    This is a young team, something which I absolutely love. They've got a good, young catcher in Russell Martin as well as enough young outfielders to rebuild the Royals, like the aforementioned Guzman, Kemp and Ethier. Their team is so young due mostly to an injury bug which has destroyed the team for what seems to be the tenth consecutive year. DLers include reliever Yhency Brazoban, infielders Jeff Kent, Bill Mueller and Cesar Izturis, catcher and former Yankee über-prospect Dioner Navarro and outfielders Jayson Werth, Jason Repko and Ricky Ledee. Closer Eric Gagne was only recently promoted off the DL. The team, however, is only 2.5 games from first place in what is arguably baseball's most competitive division. J.D. Drew has recovered from last year's injuries, driving in a team-leading 42 runs while hitting at a .278 clip. Shortstop Rafael Furcal, an offseason acquisition of new GM Ned Colletti, has produced despite early season injury problems and an inability to hit. Furcal has upped his average from .198 in April to .259, by hitting .311 in May. Jeff Kent's injury has forced youngster Willy Aybar into a starting job, where he has performed well, hitting .314 on the year. Centerfield has been aptly manned by former Phillie Kenny Lofton, who spent time on the DL earlier this year, but is now hitting .324 with 12 SB. The real wonder to have been promoted from the DL is first baseman Nomar Garciaparra, who is hitting .369 with 6 HR and 38 RBI and 35 runs scored in 38 games. Good lord, that's beautiful. And look at other ridiculous stats. He has a 1.052 OPS, a .428 OBP and he has only struck out 5 times in these 38 games. Wasn't he the one who was assuredly on steroids? Well, he's having a resurgence like Jason Giambi's 2005. The pitching staff has been slightly less impressive. Ex-Met acquisition Jae Seo has posted a 2-3 record with a 5.37 ERA this year. Maybe it's because there aren't all of those Koreans in the left field stands smacking their thundersticks together even though there wasn't a thundersticks giveaway and their Lord of the Mound poster, but some baseball pundits will instead chalk it up to the WBC and its unusual taxing of pitchers' arms. Starters Perez and Tomko have also been disappointments, as discussed above. The only bright spots in the rotation have been the resurgent Derek Lowe and the former Marlin Brad Penny, who is 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA on the year. He's been especially hot lately, going 4-0 in his last five starts. The rotation has also been buoyed by the out-of-nowhere Aaron Sele, who dominated for AAA Las Vegas before being promoted to take Perez's rotation spot. The righty is 3-0 in his six starts, going at least six innings and allowing no more than 3 runs each time. Good stuff. The bullpen has been bizarre, as the heralded Danys Baez for Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson move has backfired, as the former D-Rays closer has blown six saves as Gagné's replacement, while only saving nine. In this capacity he also posted a 3.81 ERA and a 3-3 record. He was recently supplanted by 36 year-old rookie Takashi Saito, who is 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA and two saves. Gagne recently returned from the DL, pitching in one game against the Phillies. He threw a scoreless ninth inning with LA trailing 8-6. In that game, Baez allowed 3 hits and 2 walks and 5 runs while failing to record an out. Also pitching well in relief for LA are former Devil Ray great Joe Beimel (2-1, 3.26 ERA despite a 5.08 career ERA) and youngster Jonathan Broxton who has given the Red Sox's Papelbon a run for his money as best rookie reliever named Jonathan. Broxton is 0-0 with a 0.93 ERA in 19.1 innings. In those 19.1 innings, he has allowed only 11 hits and struck out 26. Come to think of it, it's not really close. Papelbon has a 0.32 ERA in 28 innings... and 20 saves. Never mind. My sworn enemy, lefty reliever Hong Chih-Kuo, has stunk up the joint to the tune of 0-3 with a 5.27 ERA in 11 games. The team is managed by Boston's favorite man, Grady Little, who has done a nice job after not deserving to be fired in 2003 anyway. Ex-Dodger manager Jim Tracy has surprised no one following his dismissal by posting the NL's worst record in Pittsburgh.

    Players to Watch for:
    LAD: Nomar Garciaparra. He's riding an 8-game hitting streak, with RBIs in 7 of those eight games. It's worth noting, however, that he's never faced Soler or Pedro (though they did play together for a while in Boston) and he's only a .167 career hitter against Glavine in 24 AB.

    NYM: Carlos Delgado's busting out. He's a career .333 hitter against Lowe (in 24 AB) and a .286 hitter against Tomko (in 7 AB). He looked good with the doubles to the opposite field during the final games of the Giants series and I think he's due.

    Player of the Series: Carlos Delgado

    Picks: Mets take two of three and lose Soler's start. Then it's off to face the D'Backs with the bizarre start time of 9:40 PM for each game.

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