A Word From Our Sponsors


Open for Business

The familiarity level decreased a little with the Mets. I saw the new SNY graphic for the first time, and what shocked me most was all that construction equipment behind the outfield. I just might be getting excited for CitiField.

But something about these Mets was entirely the same. Like last year, they are the Cardiac Kids, resilient and relentless. While Ambiorix Burgos got a little breaking-ball happy against Ryan Howard (yet another chubby Dominican flamethrower a little too in love with his splitter, in the Mets tradition of Armando Benitez and Jorge Julio), the Mets knew what to do.

John Maine was hardly stellar, being outpitched by his counterpart Cole Hamels, and the Mets didn't have a day off in between the loss at Atlanta and the home opener. Scratch Heilman from the pen. But what we all saw against the Phillies was a sign of both Mets strengths and Phillies weaknesses.

The Phillies 'pen is oft a point of contention among their most ardent supporters. But non-diehards know that Geoff Geary is an inexcusable attempt at a setup man, and Jon Lieber has not had much success in short relief for a reason. Without reason, Jimmy Rollins too choked, failing to make an easy play at short, which prolonged the inning.

That's it. It's the Mets' Magic 8th. While I would hope our squad could break through against the Phillies' starting staff, it might not be necessary when facing a patchwork bullpen and a team that brings little to the table when Howard and Utley are cold.

The Mets are now on pace to go 81-0 at Shea, a feat that has never been performed by any Metropolitan club. Tell me about small sample sizes if you will, but the energy at Shea, despite the frigid weather, seemed to be far more palpable, even on TV, than it was in Atlanta or St. Louis, two venues where fans deserted their clubs when the score became a little unpalatable.

Here, the Mets were trailing, with seemingly very little momentum after Shane Victorino's nice catch. But they came around. Alou, Green, Reyes, Wright, Lo Duca, they all did it.

Shea is open for Mets victory in 2007. I'm ready. Aren't you?

Crosstown Rivals is sponsored by JustGreatTickets.com, your home for Chicago White Sox Tickets.


The Team to Beat

Here at Crosstown Rivals, the virtue we value most is that of foresight. Accordingly, put your hands together in welcoming the second season of Crosstown Rivals' Series Previews. Enjoy.

So, we're 0-for-1 on the series predictions. Oops. Can't really say that the Mets did awfully well against Atlanta, leaving oodles of runners on the bases, while Carlos Delgado (my pick to get hot) left me longing for Doug Mientkiewicz on the field and at the plate.

Stinky Heilman stunk it up on Sunday, and Larry, McCann, and Francoeur provide quite enough trouble against relievers who aren't so hot. Oliver Perez was stellar in his start, and the Mets' offense was in sync that game, but they certainly will need more production from Matty Moises Alou, Stachemaster Valentin, and Bald Lefty Delgado.

I hope they need motivation, as the 1-5 Phillies are entering town on the heels of their shortstop and leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins' prediction of a division title. Brett Myers, who mind you beats his wife, followed in suit with similar words.

Home openers have gone rather well of late for the Mets, as they have captured every contest since 2000 with the exception of Tom Glavine's disastrous effort in 2003. Glavine is not our man today, as John Maine takes the hill after his strong effort on Wednesday night.

He will face the Phillies' Cole Hamels, who, aside from being voted "Most likely to have his left arm fall off" in his senior year, pitched very well in his first start against Atlanta, only to see the Phillies pen blow another one.

I hate the Phillies. I'm not terribly sure why, but it has something to do with Pat Burrell and Geoff Geary. Maybe it's that when I look at their roster, regardless of the talented but tremendously overhyped (and excessively compared to the much younger and more athletic David Wright and Jose Reyes) Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, I find myself totally unimpressed.

Wes Helms (batting .222/.318/.333 on the year)? Aaron Rowand (only six singles on the year)? Shane Victorino? Rod Barajas (oh-fer-8)? All everyday players. The Mets' lineup, bullpen, and rotation are superior to those of the Phillies. Their bullpen is a mess, despite Pat Gillick's attempts to fix it, as Flash Gordon's out of gas for his career, and the rest of the crew is even weaker.

Raise your hand if you thought Antonio Alfonseca had died from the condition that gave him six fingers. Or if you thought he was serving 14 years in a Venezuelan jail cell. He's actually one of the primary setup men in Philly.

Factor in that there are three pretty average rookies/sophomores (Francisco Rosario, Matt Smith, and Clay Condrey) back in the pen, and you can start realizing why the Phillies are panicking. Call me stupid, but I don't see much in this squad to instill fear in the hearts of Mets and Braves fans everywhere.

Take a peek at Ryan Howard's start to the season: .217/.400/.261 with one XBH and 2 RBI in 23 at-bats. He's clearly on his way to another undeserved MVP trophy. Chase Utley's not quite en fuego with his .259/.333/.407 line. Let's not forget that their pitching staff was supposed to be the real concern.

The Games

Game 1: Cole Hamels, LHP (0-0, 0.00) at John Maine, RHP (1-0, 0.00)
Mon 4/9, 1:10 PM
  • I'm liking Maine at present. I know Hamels can get nasty, but how can you pick against the farm boy with an ERA of 0?

Game 2: Adam Eaton, RHP (0-1, 13.50) at Oliver Perez, LHP (1-0, 1.29)
Wed 4/11, 7:10 PM
  • There is an inherent ideological struggle in trying to pick Oliver Perez's starts. He can be so awful at times, but yet I want him to win and I am aware of what he can do. And while I have thought of Adam Eaton as totally overhyped throughout his career, his lifetime 3-0 record (in three starts) and 1.33 ERA against the Mets make me worry. Perez is 0-1, 9.35 ERA against the Phils in two starts for his career. PUSH.

Game 3: Jamie Moyer, LHP (1-0, 2.70) at Tom Glavine, LHP (1-1, 2.38)
Thurs 4/12, 7:10 PM
  • Wow, the infusion of youth into both of these pitching staffs is awfully impressive. I jest, as Moyer is one of the few pitchers around with more birthday candles than Glavine. Their combined age is 85. That said, I like Glavine to get 292 in another grind-it-out start.

Players to Watch
NYM: David Wright. The admitted lefty-masher gets a shot against two of 'em, and his .574 career average against Moyer makes me smile. Maybe we can see some power, for once. He has a hitting streak, too.

PHI: Pat Burrell. Ugh. It's the Mets. He has a .566 career slugging percentage against us. Compare that to his .480 number against everyone, and you too can understand why I worry. Two lefties and a fastballer righty. Oh, no.

Series prediction: Mets 3, Phillies 0. Get those brooms out.

Crosstown Rivals is sponsored by JustGreatTickets.com, your home for Chicago White Sox Tickets.