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Freestyler Xtreme

NEW YORK -- Willie Randolph doesn't normally talk to his pitchers during their games.
But he made an exception early in Sunday's game against the Cubs to tell Victor Zambrano one thing:

"Trust your stuff."

Zambrano heeded his manager's advice and turned in a masterful performance, as the Mets beat the Cubs at Shea Stadium, 6-1, completing a three-game sweep. Zambrano struck out only one batter in eight innings, but induced 16 ground-ball outs, two of them rally-killing double plays.

The sterling start earned Zambrano a bold comparison from Randolph.

"I think he's like [Greg] Maddux in a way -- different stuff, but his sinker can be devastating," Randolph said. "If he would just trust that and let them hit it, every once in a while the ball's going to find a hole, but you saw a perfect example tonight. When he keeps them down below the knees and gets sinkers going, he's going to get balls on the ground."

Zambrano seemed stunned at the comparision, saying it was pretty exciting and felt good to hear his name mentioned alongside that of the 300-game winner. But Randolph's support of Zambrano is nothing new.

"Every single time he's right there with me," Zambrano said. "He told me to trust my stuff and that made me feel pretty good. He's got a lot of confidence in me and I know that, and I know I can pitch some really good games."

Randolph and catcher Mike Piazza both praised Zambrano's focus. Piazza ran through a laundry list of things Zambrano did well -- throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, moving it around, getting ahead in the count, working quickly, sticking to his play -- before summing it up in two words: "just effective."

Zambrano struggled a bit with his control early, not throwing a first-pitch strike until facing his ninth batter of the game, but refused to falter. Piazza commended Zambrano for throwing his fastball for strikes even when behind in the count. Piazza said the movement on the pitch forced several Cubs hitters into bad swings.

"When he's able to ease back off the throttle a little bit and throw the ball, it still moves," Piazza said. "He's going to get some ground balls, some outs, even when he's ahead. If he could do that more often, he could be definitely a force."

Victor Zambrano was certainly that on a night the Mets pummeled Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano early, scoring four runs off the Cubs sinkerballer in three innings, and short-circuiting the duel between the like-named pitchers.

The Mets scored two unearned runs in the first inning, marking the third straight game they produced a run in the game's first frame.

Carlos Beltran reached first on a two-out throwing error by Aramis Ramirez, and then scored on Cliff Floyd's deep single to right-center. Beltran saw Derrek Lee playing deep against Floyd, and took as big a secondary lead off first as he could. He took off on contact, and once he realized the ball would be in the gap, decided to run until the coaches told him to stop.

He flew around the bases and scored standing up, the first of three times he would cross the plate. Floyd moved to second on the throw to the plate.

That play reaffirmed Randolph's belief that Beltran is one of his best baserunners. Something he spoke with Beltran about earlier in the homestand, when he told the speedy center fielder to relax and make things happen on the basepaths instead of worrying about home runs or RBIs.

"That's part of being a five-tool guy, really," Randolph said. "He needs to understand that he can be an impact player by just getting on base and setting the tone for us."

David Wright drove home Floyd with a single to left, and the Mets had all the runs they would need.

The Mets added two more in the third, sending seven batters to the plate and pushing Carlos Zambrano's pitch count to 80 by the end of the inning. Zambrano exited between frames with tightness in his lower back, giving way to the first of three relievers.

Victor Zambrano deferred any claim to the title of "Top Zambrano" after outpitching Carlos, calling the Cub a great pitcher and one of the best ever from Venezuela.

The Cubs scored their only run when Michael Barrett and Jose Macias hit back-to-back doubles off Victor Zambrano in the eighth.

The Mets added an insurance run in the fifth and another on Floyd's home run in the seventh.

Wright led the Mets with three RBIs, two of them coming on outs -- one a sacrifice fly, the other a grounder to third.

"I'd gladly trade an out for a run any day," Wright said. "If we can get some cheap runs on sacrifice flies and hitting some balls on the ground in the infield, I'll take that any day of the week. It's about production, it's not about the numbers or anything like that. It's about getting those runs across the plate."

Jose Reyes extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games with a single in the fourth, matching Floyd for the team season-high. It is the longest such current streak in the Majors.

I was impressed with the facgt that the mets lose 2 of 3 from the brewers and come right back to beat up on the cubs..the finished the homestand 4-2, jumped right in the middle of the wild card and head off to the west where they can gain some momentum..last 2 times they headed west, they crashed and burned, and if they do it again i dont expect them to get back up..they face the Padres who are in 1st place with a weak record and the dodgers who are not having a good season...hopefully they play well and come in hot to face pittsburgh..


Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 64 48 .571 -
Marlins 57 52 .523 5.5
Nationals 58 53 .523 5.5
Phillies 58 54 .518 6.0
Mets 57 54 .514 6.5


Team W L PCT. GB
Astros 60 51 .541 -
Marlins 57 52 .523 2.0
Nationals 58 53 .523 2.0
Phillies 58 54 .518 2.5
Mets 57 54 .514 3.0
Brewers 56 56 .500 4.5


Captain Casual
Staff member
Freestyle.FM Dee Jays
[b said:
Quote[/b] (cubanprncs81 @ Aug. 12 2005, 8:47 am)]Hey, I hope that Cameron & Beltran will be alright. That collision was nasty.
Nasty indeed!
I'm sure that someone will post the article soon, but so far Beltran looks to be ok, with Cameron getting the worse end of it.



Freestyler Xtreme

Medical personnel at PETCO Park prepare Mike Cameron to be carted off the field. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

Cameron suffers fractures in collision
Mets right fielder placed on DL after running into Beltran
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Running at full speed, Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron dived and extended their gloves almost simultaneously in the seventh inning Thursday, intent on catching a sinking line drive in right-center field and not the least bit mindful of possible consequences.
The baseball and the two outfielders -- both center fielders by trade -- were airborne when the players' paths intersected, and as their faces collided, the often-unrecognized danger of big-league baseball came to the forefront. The whole ballpark gasped. The occupants of two dugouts inhaled through their teeth as people do in moments or fear.

The Mets reacted as people rather than players. They instantly feared the worst, though they had no real sense of what the worst might mean. No matter, at that moment, as they processed the sickening impact they had witnessed, their day and their perspective had changed.

Within hours Thursday their roster -- and perhaps their season -- had, too.

Cameron was disabled, probably for the remainder of the season, because of multiple injuries. Beltran was sore and still quite dizzy. And the rest of the Mets were hurting, too.

Even before their game with the Padres was lost -- largely because of the line drive that went uncaught -- the Mets suspected they had lost Cameron for the season. Their fears were confirmed when they learned the head-to-head collision with Beltran had caused the Mets right fielder to suffer a concussion that was characterized as slight, multiple fractures of both cheekbones and a broken nose. They had also worried about neck and back problems.

And by late Thursday night, they learned Beltran would be hospitalized overnight as well while doctors awaited results of tests. A concussion was feared.

The 2-1 loss to the Padres and its ramifications mattered little even before the extent of Cameron's injuries was known. Long before the Mets heard the update on Beltran, they had made their way to Los Angeles as a diminished, saddened and shaken team. They would worry about their season some other time.

"From time to time," Tom Glavine had said before leaving the Mets' somber clubhouse, "things happen that put the game in perspective."

Even before official word came, the players envisioned the recall of Victor Diaz and that Cameron would miss significant time, if not the final 48 games. The full extent of Cameron's injuries was unknown at that point. In fact, before the team buses departed, the club announced the results of Cameron's first CT scan were negative. But a subsequent test detected the structural damage to the popular 32-year-old outfielder's face.

"It's not going to be good," one of the Mets said as he left the clubhouse for a team bus. "They said he was a mess. It might be bad."

Cameron had been removed from the field on a stretcher after lying motionless on the PETCO Park lawn for several minutes. Marlon Anderson, the second player to reach the fallen outfielders, said Cameron was "dazed, not really there" at first.

"His eyes," Anderson said. "He wasn't right."

The only sign of injury Anderson detected was blood -- and a lot of it -- coming from cuts inside Cameron's mouth.

"I can't imagine being a paramedic at the scene of a car wreck," Anderson said. "And that's pretty much what this was -- a car wreck."

Cliff Floyd, Cameron's closest friend, made the sign of the cross and looked away, sickened by the blood as Mets trainer Ray Ramirez tended to Cameron and Beltran, also dazed, crawled away. Beltran eventually left the field under his own power, but he was escorted. At one point, he was seated on a table in the trainers' room, leaning back against the wall, occasionally shaking his head.

Beltran later acknowledged he had little memory of the episode or its immediate aftermath. "After a collision like that," he said, "I feel lucky." He later said, "I'm dizzy," as he walked slowly across the clubhouse.

Beltran and others said the "center fielder's mentality" that the two players share played a part in the collision. "They're trained to want the ball," manager Willie Randolph said.

As it turned out, the ball that neither caught -- Cameron almost did -- was critical to the loss. It became a one-out triple for pinch-hitter David Ross. Pinch-runner Damian Jackson scored the Padres' second run against Glavine moments later, when Joe Randa singled.

Jackson, formerly with the Red Sox, had been involved in a collision with Johnny Damon in the 2003 playoffs against the A's. He could empathize with the Mets outfielders even though Damon had taken the brunt of the hit then.

"Those things happen. It's part of the game," Jackson said. "Unfortunately, I've been through it and know what it's like.

"Hats off to those guys for giving such an effort for Tom Glavine. Baseball takes a beating for not being physical, guys are dogging it. You hear that all the time. But we're out there without protection, and there are times like this when it's dangerous. People will look at it as one of the top 10 all-ugly incidents. Why not one of the top 10 great efforts?

"To me, you had two center fielders going after it with everything they've got, and neither one was letting up or backing off. Cameron has been a center fielder all his life, and he still plays like one. Most right fielders will veer off or give way on a play like that, but he went all out, the way he always has. You have to respect that as a player.

"I just hope they're both OK. They have families just like you do, and we're all playing a game."

As Cameron lay on the field -- first on his back, then on his left side -- Floyd spoke to him. "You'll be all right," Floyd said.

Floyd said Cameron acknowledged his words. "But I'm not sure he really understood me," Floyd said.

Cameron, players said, never lost consciousness. Later, Padres president Sandy Alderson, who had witnessed Cameron's being moved outside the clubhouse, said he had been told Cameron had suffered no type of seizure.

The collision had brought others to mind. Mike Piazza recalled one involving Dodgers teammates Delino DeShields and Raul Modesi that left Shields looking in two directions at once. Pedro Martinez recalled Expos teammate Rondell White hitting a wall with his head. And there were thoughts of the time that Steve Henderson and Lee Mazzilli collided in Los Angeles when they played for the Mets.

But this one was different.

"Most of them you see," Piazza said, "guys are on their feet. This was awful."

i was in the office ready to go when the collision happened, all of us collectively held our breath as we watched in horror hoping that both players were alright...i found out later that cameron would be out for the year and it looks like victor diaz will come up and replace him on the roster..cameron has gone through a lot this season and im hoping he can just come back and play next year...

beltran looked dazed and hurt and he has been a bust this year so this injury wont help...right now we are still in the wild card race and until we are completely out of it i want to keep fighting...hopefully the collision wont drag us down in LA as we need to win 2 of 3 there to make any kind of run...


Team W L PCT. GB

Braves 66 49 .574 -

Phillies 60 55 .522 6.0

Marlins 59 55 .518 6.5

Nationals 59 55 .518 6.5

Mets 58 56 .509 7.5


Team W L PCT. GB

Astros 62 52 .544 -

Phillies 60 55 .522 2.5

Marlins 59 55 .518 3.0

Nationals 59 55 .518 3.0

Mets 58 56 .509 4.0

Brewers 56 59 .487 6.5


Freestyler Xtreme
those guys are like my co-workers/family...i got to meet cameron and he provides a lot of moral support on the team...he is also a very funny person...i wish nothing but a quick recovery and that everything turns out fine with him...baseball is secondary

beltran is an honorable guy and he has put so much on his back because the team is not exceeding expectations...i want both of them to get well...
You guys did a great job kicking our asses but looks like that we are gonna be back on top in the Wild Card Standings since we beat the Cardnals twice so two more games to win and we are back on top. its a good thing that Kerry Wood is back on the cubs pitching mound because damn we really needed his ass back for sure because in the last 7 games we lost big time with the Phillies and you guys.


Freestyler Xtreme
Beltran has concussion, likely won't need surgery

ESPN.com news services

Mike Cameron will need facial surgery and Carlos Beltran sustained a concussion after their frightening outfield collision, the New York Mets said Friday. His surgery is scheduled for Friday night at 10 p.m. ET.

Both players spent Thursday night in a San Diego hospital following their seventh-inning crash in the Mets' 2-1 loss to the Padres. Cameron and Beltran were going at full tilt for David Ross' sinking liner, and their heads hit as they made diving tries.

Cameron broke his nose and had multiple fractures of both cheekbones and a slight concussion. New York Newsday reported that a CT scan didn't show any damage to his brain. The right fielder was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and Victor Diaz was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk for Friday night's game at Los Angeles.

Newsday reported that Cameron could miss the rest of the season.

Beltran is expected to leave the hospital Friday night and will join the team in Los Angeles but will not be at the ballpark until at least Saturday. Carlos will not need surgery for his minimally displaced facial fracture. He is listed as day to day.


Freestyler Xtreme
Beltran makes first return since collision
Associated Press
Posted: 1 hour ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Carlos Beltran returned to the Mets clubhouse Sunday for the first time since his frightening head-to-head collision with teammate Mike Cameron. He will see a doctor on Monday in New York to find out when he can play again.

"I just feel happy that I'm alive and that I'm going to be back on the field," Beltran said in the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium about 90 minutes before the game.

Beltran and Cameron were running full speed toward David Ross' looping fly to short right-center during Thursday's 2-1 loss at San Diego, and their heads hit as they left their feet to catch the ball.

"I have a little fracture and it moved about six millimeters," Beltran said, pointing to his left sideburn. "They want to see if it moved more, or went back in place. And if it did, they won't have to do surgery. I don't want to go through surgery.

"The doctor told me this is something that if I needed surgery, it should be done in a seven-day period. If you let it go and you want to have surgery later on, it can be a major surgery."

Cameron sustained a concussion, a broken nose and two fractured cheekbones, forcing the two-time Gold Glove winner to undergo surgery on Friday night. Beltran came out of it with a fracture in his left cheekbone, a concussion and soreness in his left biceps.

"I didn't have a lot of range of motion, but today I feel like I can extend my arm good," Beltran said. "It's sore, but there's no pain."

Beltran stayed in San Diego an extra day after the incident while the team traveled by bus to Los Angeles. He and trainer Ray Ramirez rejoined them at the hotel on Friday night, but Beltran remained there on Saturday while the Mets beat the Dodgers 5-1.

"I saw the game yesterday on TV and I was very happy that we won," he said. "I really wanted to be here, but Ray wanted me to stay at the hotel and rest. He didn't want me to come here today until after the game, but I wanted to be here and be around the guys and see the game."

Beltran's concussion made it difficult to put all the pieces together for him.

"The only thing I remember was going for the ball," Beltran said. "After that, I don't remember what happened that day - and to be honest, I don't want to remember. I just want to get back to New York and move forward.

"Mentally, I feel good - I remember all you guys," he added with a grin. "Mike (assistant trainer Mike Herbst) told me that I was able to walk off the field after the game, take a shower, get dressed and talk to you guys. But I don't remember talking to you guys. What I said, I don't know - but I hope it was something good."

Beltran, who signed a seven-year, $119 million contract as a free agent last January, wasn't squeamish about watching the collision on the cable highlight shows.

"I saw it like 25 times. They were showing it every five minutes," he said. "It didn't scare me, but it was ugly."


Freestyler Xtreme

Carlos Beltran is day-to-day pending his decision to undergo surgery. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

Beltran weighs option for surgery
Center fielder undergoes tests at Manhattan hospital Monday
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The Mets' lineup may not be back to anything resembling normal this season because of the injuries sustained by Mike Cameron in the outfield collision involving Carlos Beltran last Thursday. Now, depending on whether Beltran opts to undergo surgery to repair a bone fracture near his left eye, the lineup may be lacking two regular outfielders and a semi-regular first baseman through much of the homestand that begins Tuesday.
The chance of Beltran's extended absence came to light Monday after tests he underwent at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan confirmed what doctors in San Diego diagnosed last week: a zygomatic arch fracture and a concussion. After consultation with a maxillofacial surgeon, Beltran was considering whether or not to undergo surgery to repair the fracture. Surgery would almost certainly mean more time lost and perhaps assignment to the disabled list retroactive to Friday, the day following the collision.

Beltran also was evaluated for post-concussive syndrome. He underwent an MRI of his brain and a neurological evaluation. Both were normal. Pending his decision regarding the surgery, his playing status is day-to-day.

Cameron still could be lost for the season, of course. He remained hospitalized in San Diego, though, according to a statement from the Mets, he continues to do well following the extensive facial surgery he underwent Friday to repair multiple fractures to both cheeks and a broken nose. Cameron had what was termed a follow-up CT scan, the results of which were not announced. He could be released from the hospital as early as Tuesday.

At the same time, disabled first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz received approval to begin playing on the Major League rehab program. He likely will join Class A Port St. Lucie and see action starting Wednesday night.

Mientkiewicz sustained a contusion to his right flank in a collision with Rickie Weeks of the Brewers on Aug. 3. An MRI administered Monday revealed a buildup of fluid around the psoas muscle in his lower back and under the skin. The Mets' statement didn't say whether that fluid was the cause of the numbness the first baseman has experienced since his collision.

Mientkiewicz continues to experience pain with activity.

the biggest impact on this is that without our starters our bench plays and if our bench plays..our backups are very very weak...so it hurts our chances to compete with the healthier teams who are ahead of us in the wild card...right now it is still close and barring a gigantic losing streak, we are in the playoff hunt till the end...so...this is the time to play hard and make sure cameron and beltran heal..

i will post standings sometime during the current home stand...


Freestyler Xtreme

The Bucs walked Cliff Floyd to pitch to David Wright, who answered with a two-run single. (Julie Jacobsen/AP)

Beltran sparks Mets, Glavine to victory
Center fielder scores twice in first game back since collision
By Bryan Hoch / Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran guesses that he had about five chances to ask his way out of the starting lineup Wednesday, to postpone his return for just one more day.
No dice. Beltran wasn't biting, and the Mets are glad he didn't. Playing his first game since last week's outfield collision in San Diego, Beltran ignited the offense by scoring New York's first two runs, legging out a bunt single and stealing a base.

The effort lifted the Mets' spirits in a 5-1 victory over the Pirates, their fifth straight win at Shea Stadium.

"[Mets manager Willie Randolph] asked me like five times, 'You OK? You OK?'" Beltran said. "I said, 'I'm sure.' He trusts me. I'm not going to go out there if I'm not capable of playing the way I play."

One day after announcing that he'd postpone surgery to fix a small fracture in his left cheek, Beltran could have been excused if he'd looked a little hesitant or rusty on the field -- a collision of the magnitude Beltran suffered last Wednesday, coupled with six days off, could easily do that.

But Beltran looked as though he'd been saving up all his energy for this evening, taking out his frustration on the Pirates and starter Josh Fogg.

Beltran walked on four pitches in his first at-bat, then scored from first base on a Cliff Floyd single. Later in the fourth, Beltran legged out a bunt single and stole second base, setting up a two-run inning.

So much for easing back into action.

"I can't be playing like that," Beltran said. "I have to go out and play the game the way it's supposed to be. ... I want to show them that just because I'm hurt or have a little injury, I will do what it takes to win a game."

"He can flat-out run," David Wright marveled. "When he gets going, he kicks it into high gear. He's like a deer."

And while it was Beltran's return that was the big story at Shea, a better side note would be the Pirates' avoidance of Floyd, which backfired not once, but twice.

After Floyd singled in Beltran in the first inning, knotting the game at 1 and erasing a lead the Pirates took on a home run by Jason Bay, the Bucs made up their mind not to pitch to Floyd again, intentionally walking him twice to get to the No. 5 hitter Wright.

It's a tactic that's been tried this season by opposing clubs with little success. When Wright shot a two-run single into left field off Fogg in the fourth inning, plating Beltran and Floyd, he improved his numbers to 6-for-7 with 13 RBIs in situations where the preceding batter has been walked intentionally.

"You've got to take it personally," Wright said. "It gets under your skin a little bit when they try to pick on you."

Floyd has seen his share of intentional walks in his career, but even he was left scratching his head at the logic.

According to Floyd, "The one thing that goes through your mind when you're coming up next is: you ain't letting them do you like that.

"That's the attitude D-Wright's taking. I must be doing OK, and I guess they feel like he's not. But he's doing great, so I don't know why they want to pick the poison with him."

The Pirates tried again in the sixth inning, with reliever Salomon Torres on to pitch after a second free pass to Floyd. Torres wound up walking Wright on six pitches, but the end result was close to the same, as Jose Offerman -- a gametime insertion by Randolph -- fired a two-run single through the right side of the infield.

Five runs was more than enough for Tom Glavine, who shut the Pirates down after Bay's first-inning home run.

Glavine kicked himself a little for not trusting his breaking ball against Bay, who launched a fastball over the left-field wall, but soon decided to go with a heftier selection of spinning pitches. Glavine even recorded an out in the third inning on a cutter, a rare feat for the 39-year-old left-hander.

"Hey, you can teach an old dog new tricks," Glavine said he told Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson in the dugout.

On the 18th anniversary of his Major League debut for the Atlanta Braves, Glavine pitched into the eighth inning before yielding to Aaron Heilman. Glavine believes he's getting closer to re-inventing himself as a hurler, trusting the 'new' version of himself more with each starting assignment.

Win No. 271 might look far different than the first 200 or so, but as long as the quality starts keep coming -- Wednesday's effort makes five of seven -- Glavine has no complaints.

"That's what makes the game fun," Glavine said. "If I want to pitch another couple of years, then that's what I'm going to have to do. It's getting to the point where it's a little more second nature."

Speaking of second nature, Mets fans should enjoy checking out the standings on Thursday morning. Surprise: Wednesday's win moved the Mets within 2 1/2 games in the National League Wild Card chase.

"We're certainly in a good place," Glavine said. "I don't think any of us have given up. I think we all realize it's going to be a tight stretch the rest of the season."

with washington coming in this weekend, we are in for a huge dogfight, we are in the thick of the wild card race, and baseball is exciting as ever here at shea stadium...now if we can only win on the road...arizona and san francisco is next and it is imperitive we play over .500 to remain in the race..


Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 69 51 .575 -
Phillies 64 56 .533 5.0
Nationals 63 56 .529 5.5
Marlins 62 57 .521 6.5
Mets 61 58 .513 7.5


Team W L PCT. GB
Astros 64 56 .533 -
Phillies 64 56 .533 -
Nationals 63 56 .529 0.5
Marlins 62 57 .521 1.5
Mets 61 58 .513 2.5


Freestyler Xtreme

Mike Cameron said he was in a daze and couldn't really breathe following the collision. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

Cameron recalls details from collision
Outfielder speaks publicly for first time since leaving hospital
By Bryan Hoch / Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Speeding through the city streets of San Diego, as ambulance lights whirred and paramedics sliced through Mike Cameron's jersey and pants, the Mets outfielder remembers softly humming a song.

The tune was irrelevant, whatever first came to mind. At the time, it was the only way Cameron could calm himself enough to ignore the blood clouding his eyes and grasp what had just happened in the outfield at PETCO Park.

Cameron spoke publicly Saturday for the first time since his horrific collision with Carlos Beltran, releasing his thoughts to a pool reporter.

"I didn't know what was going on," Cameron recalled. "I was just in a daze and it was kind of crazy. I couldn't really breathe. I couldn't breathe because I had blood coming out of my nose and my mouth at the same time. I didn't know that my nose was broken. I couldn't really smell. I was coherent, but I was just out of it."

A little more than a week after Cameron suffered three facial fractures, a concussion and a broken nose from smashing face first into Beltran as the two outfielders dove for a looping fly ball, Cameron is in better spirits.

He was released from a San Diego-area clinic on Wednesday and made his way back to New York, briefly stopping by the Mets clubhouse at Shea Stadium before Thursday's game.

Cameron was barely recognizable to Mets manager Willie Randolph, who said he gave his outfielder a "big hug." With braces and screws littered through his mouth, Cameron's post-surgery facial swelling has improved somewhat, but has still plumped his appearance to an extremely foreign level.

In fact, upon getting a first look at his face since the surgeries, peeling bandages from his eyes and nose, Cameron told teammate Cliff Floyd that he looked like Will Smith's character in the movie, "Hitch," after Smith suffers an allergic reaction.

"I still have headaches," Cameron said. "Half of my face is numb. My right eye is filled with blood from one of the vessels in there [that] broke. The braces in my mouth are really tight, along with the screws in my mouth. ... It just feels like there's a lot of pressure. My face feels like it's going to explode because there's so much pressure."

What Cameron remembers from the actual collision, and the moments immediately following it, are shaky. Lying on the outfield grass, he recalls seeing a blurry Mets player hovering over him -- later determined to be a concerned Marlon Anderson -- and squinting painfully as the California sunshine blazed down.

"You see football hits like that all the time, but when you have no equipment on, no face masks, that can be pretty gruesome," Cameron said.

Cameron said he was "out of it for a minute" when the collision first happened, which meshes with the motionless demeanor he displayed for several minutes on the field as trainer Ray Ramirez rushed to his side, but he was conscious through the entire ambulance ride to the hospital and the rush to the emergency room.

Intensive care was his home for six days, and Cameron couldn't talk for two or three days after the incident. But he said he was comforted by an initial diagnosis that said his baseball career hadn't met its end on that fly ball.

"I was relieved that everything was functional, everything could be fixed," Cameron said. "I wasn't really thinking about baseball too much. But then, you know me, I was saying to myself, 'How long is it going to be before I'm able to come back?'"

There's no definitive answer. An estimate released by doctors who have attended to Cameron pegs a possible recovery time at six to seven weeks after the injury. Seven weeks to the day would be Sept. 29, the opening game of New York's final series of the year.

With Cameron having to re-learn everything "like a toddler again" -- struggling to eat, heavily medicated, seeing hazily and having already dropped 10 pounds -- facing Major League pitching certainly appears at least a winter away.

"There's a piece of me that says I'm going to come back," Cameron said. "But I've got to be realistic with myself and realize that this is real, that this was a true thing that happened. It's not like any other thing I've ever had or had to overcome. I have to be really smart."

Cameron says that in three month's time, he'll be "practically normal again," and there's no reason to believe he won't be on call for Spring Training in 2006.

In the meantime, the outfielder plans on being a "couch coach" for the Mets, and said he has been taken aback by thousands of phone calls, e-mails and letters from well-wishers supporting his quick recovery.

"I just truly appreciate it," Cameron said. "I didn't know how well I was appreciated in New York until a really kind of traumatizing event happened like that.

"I just appreciate the love that everyone is spreading around. Every day, that's the mentality of a New Yorker. That's the way I go out and put my body on the line for the team. I [did] it last year and I've always tried to be accountable. That's the only reason I want to be back out there."


Freestyler Xtreme

Tom Glavine's night came to an end after Royce Clayton's single opened the ninth. (Paul Connors/AP)

Glavine galvanizes Mets in road opener
Reyes, Diaz homer against D-Backs to lift lefty to 272nd win
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Here's the dirt on Tom Glavine's victory against the Diamondbacks on Monday night. Or, as he might say, here's to the dirt -- here's to the grassless strip that connects the mound to the circle that surrounds the plate at Bank One Ballpark.
It is that strip that makes this arena unique in the National League -- Comerica Park in Detroit has one too. It's a tangible element of the legacy of Buck Showalter that connects this modern structure with its retractable roof to baseball's topless past and, in Glavine's mind, the strip that makes him a remarkably effective pitcher here in the desert.

Glavine is a pitcher of a special stripe regardless of the ballpark. Here, he is a pitcher of a special strip.

It showed again Monday night when he shut down the Diamondbacks in the Mets' 4-1 victory. Locked in with the help of the strip, Glavine pitched into the ninth inning and allowed merely five hits. When Braden Looper completed the ninth for him, Glavine had an 8-1 record at the BOB and another reason they ought to call it the TOM when he's here.

And he's convinced the strip has a lot to do with it.

"It just helps me lock in," he said. "It's tunnel vision for me."

Glavine, of course, has prospered without the strip. He has won 264 games elsewhere. But the fact that he has lost only once to the Boys from the BOB in nine games on their turf is what makes his record so remarkable.

"It doesn't start with the strip, but it's a part of it -- no question," he said. And he smiled when the idea of strip at Shea Stadium was broached.

"It has to help him," said Gerald Williams, who knows Glavine as an opponent and as a teammate with the Mets and Braves. "Have you seen that man's mechanics? Every pitch is the same. You give him that strip. It assists his discipline."

With that assist, Glavine gained his third victory in four starts and the 272nd victory of his career. And with an appreciation for symmetry and round numbers, he evened his record, and that of losing pitcher Branden Webb, at 10-10.

Moreover, he gave the Mets what they needed: innings from their starter, an essential after Kris Benson's cameo appearance Sunday, and a victory in the first game of their road trip. Even with the victory Monday, the Mets' record is 3-7 in such games.

Not that winning the first counts more than winning the second or the seventh. But it might help the Mets in their recurring trouble with road inertia. And what better time? The game Monday was the first of 17 on the road in a 20-game sequence that stretches to the second Sunday of September. It could be a fatal run for a team with a .307 winning percentage in its first 59 road games.

Should the Mets perform at that level in their remaining 22 games away from Shea, they could win all their 16 remaining home games and not win 90 games overall. And 90 victories probably won't bring home a Wild Card, anyway. So the fact that they are 2 1/2 games behind the National League Wild Card-leading Astros doesn't mean so much.

"I sense we're starting to recognize that we have to play better on the road if we're going to get where we want to be," manager Willie Randolph said before the game. "We knew it, but now there's more urgency to it."

And afterward, the manager saw more of it. "I think we picked up on what Tom was doing. He comes from a team that knew how to get it going when they had to."

Glavine gave the Diamondbacks precious little. Four of the five hits were singles. The lone extra-base hit, a double by Shawn Green in the seventh, produced the lone run. Pitching on the 18th anniversary of his first Major League victory, Glavine walked one -- he has walked four in his last 59 innings -- and struck out five. At one point, he retired 14 straight batters.

He used his cutter and curve, relatively new weapons, more than he had since he introduced them. The strip, he said, allowed him to do so. He knew he could regain his focus on his fastball and changeup because, "I was so locked in."

And it helped that the Mets gave him early support. They scored twice in the first inning before Webb retired two batters.

Kaz Matsui, starting for the third time since ending his extended assignment on the disabled list, doubled down the third-base line with one out before Webb walked Carlos Beltran. Cliff Floyd then pulled a double into the right-field corner for two RBIs, his 77th and 78th.

Webb then retired David Wright and Victor Diaz to end the inning and began a sequence of 14 of 17 batters retired. He allowed walks to Beltran and Floyd in the third and Jose Reyes hit his fifth home run, his second in three games, in the fifth. Diaz hit his eighth home run in the ninth against Tim Worrell.

By then, Glavine was comfortable, thinking of three days of golf in the desert and perhaps a strip of dirt at Shea, connecting the mound to the plate and him to 300 wins.

this was a good win for us and hopefully we can build from it...there is a lot of baseball goin on here with arizona and san fran..2 really bad teams in the west that we should beat...i am hoping for 5-2 on the road trip, 4-3 at the worst, we just need to keep pace...with a pit stop at shea to face philly, we can control our own destiny before we go back on the road...by the time the mets get back to shea on sept 13, we should know if we are contenders or pretenders...

Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 71 54 .568 -
Marlins 66 58 .532 4.5
Phillies 67 59 .532 4.5
Nationals 65 59 .524 5.5
Mets 64 60 .516 6.5

Team W L PCT. GB
Astros 67 58 .536 -
Marlins 66 58 .532 0.5
Phillies 67 59 .532 0.5
Nationals 65 59 .524 1.5
Mets 64 60 .516 2.5


Freestyler Xtreme

Victor Diaz smiles as he rounds the bases after his ninth homer, a solo shot in the second. (Roy Dabner/AP)

Pedro, Diaz guide Mets to sweep
Righty tosses six shutout innings; outfielder drives in pair
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

PHOENIX -- So call them the best-of-four Mets and understand that they believe their best is yet to come.

They took another confidence-building step Thursday night when they completed a four-game sweep of the anything-but-poisonous Diamondbacks and inched closer to the leaders in the National League Wild Card race. Their 3-1 victory, largely the work of the tag team of Pedro Martinez and Victor Diaz, moved them beyond the Nationals, kept them even with the Marlins and put them within 1 1/2 games of the leaders, the Phillies.

They're that close to the Phillies because a series of good things happened since they left New York late Sunday in search of away-from-home success. The opposition was less than formidable, but that wasn't the only reason the Mets completed their fourth series sweep this season, the first one longer than three games.

They played with a sense of urgency Willie Randolph said he had detected before the flight to the desert and a degree of relentlessness that encouraged the manager. And they achieved a baseball oddity. Schedules don't provide many four-game series, so four-game sweeps are rare. But, sweep or not, the Mets seem to play better when the schedule yells "Four."

They have won 15 of the 20 games they've played in five four-game series. Find some other set of games in which this team has played at the .750 level. There's no explanation. But there is an awareness that this season provides a final four of a different sort -- four games at Shea Stadium, Sept. 20-Oct. 2, against the Rockies, who aren't even as competitive as the Diamondbacks.

"We know," Cliff Floyd said. "It could come down to that."

But the schedule has other obstacles for the Mets before their Rockie ending, not the least of which is their three-game weekend series in San Francisco, where they seldom have prospered, a blink-of-the-eye homestand against the Phillies, and a 10-day excursion to Miami, Atlanta and St. Louis that includes a four-game series against the Cardinals.

Now that they have won four straight road games -- regardless of site -- for the first time in three years, the Mets see the remaining 2005 schedule as less menacing.

"I think we're feeling better about ourselves every day," Tom Glavine said.

Adding to the Mets' belief was what they witnessed Thursday -- Pedro Martinez charming the Snakes and actually getting a win for his work. The Mets had won only one of his previous five starts, and he hadn't won any. But, with the assistance of Diaz, Martinez (13-5) gained his 13th victory, his first since July 23.

He pitched six scoreless innings, throwing 100 pitches and allowing seven baserunners, two on hits, four on walks and one hit by a pitch. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth. But this wasn't a no-hitter night. Martinez experienced minor tightness in his back and spent four innings in search of his rhythm. But he won.

"And we have to start winning more of his games," Randolph said.

The Mets' record in Martinez's starts is 15-11.

Diaz and Roberto Hernandez made the victory possible. After the Mets had scored one run against losing pitcher Javier Vazquez (10-13) in the second inning on a ground ball double play, Diaz hit his ninth home run. And he drove in David Wright with a sacrifice fly in the ninth, with a resolute turn at bat against Brandon Medders.

"If that's what he meant to do," Randolph said, "hit the ball in the air like he did, then that's a good sign. We've talked a lot about situational hitting and making the necessary adjustments."

Diaz's home run was a rocket to left. The sac fly was a lazy fly ball to right.

"It's easier for me to get the ball up in the air if I go the other way," Diaz said. "That's what I was trying to do."

In between Diaz's two RBIs, the D-Backs offered some resistance -- two hits in Martinez's final inning, a home run off Hernandez by Chad Tracy leading off the eighth, and a seventh-inning scare. Aaron Heilman, Martinez's successor, surrendered a leadoff triple by Royce Clayton and then hit Quinton McCracken. Hernandez was summoned. With the Mets' infield positioned for a double play and not a play at the plate, Wright took a ground ball from Alex Cintron and threw Clayton out at the plate.

Randolph was willing to clear the bases at the price of a run.

"We ducked one there," he said.

But the play was made. And when Craig Counsell lined into a double play, not one cared how the outs had been achieved. They'd rather win than play well. But doing both is acceptable.

Two innings and one Braden Looper save later, the Mets had secured their ninth victory in 12 games and put their record at 67-60, marking the first time since May 3, 2002 their record has been seven victories better than .500.

The sweep was their first in a four-game road series since Sept. 6-9, 2002, when they swept through Philadelphia. They had played 11 since then. Until Thursday night, that 2002 sweep stood as the only one by the Mets in 59 four-game road series since 1992.

"We don't play many, but when we do, we're OK," Randolph said. "I guess we like them."

the sweep was great...so far we are 4-0 on this road trip, who would have thought...we have been creeping up on the wild card and division and teams are starting to take notice we are the real deal...we have 3 games against the giants and i hope to win 2 of 3 then we have a battle at shea against the phillies...i will def be there for all 3 games, it feels good to play meaningful games so late into the season...LETS GO METS!!

Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 72 55 .567 -
Phillies 69 59 .539 3.5
Marlins 67 60 .528 5.0
Mets 67 60 .528 5.0
Nationals 66 61 .520 6.0

Team W L PCT. GB
Phillies 69 59 .539 -
Marlins 67 60 .528 1.5
Astros 67 60 .528 1.5
Mets 67 60 .528 1.5
Nationals 66 61 .520 2.5
Brewers 63 65 .492 6.0


Freestyler Xtreme

David Wright batted .481 with three homers and 10 runs during the road trip. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Mets undone by Giants' homers
New York offense limited for third time in San Francisco series
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO (and PHOENIX) -- Double the dateline because this is a tale of two cities, the best of hitting followed by something decidedly less. What the Mets did -- or didn't do -- in the City by the Bay on Friday, Saturday and Sunday must be measured against what they had done in the desert last week in order to illustrate the extremes of the game as they play it.

To be sure, seven days away from Shea Stadium created a study in contrasts equal to anything an old rabbit-ears black-and-white could muster. The difference was almost as great as what separates Jason Schmidt from Claudio Vargas.

The Mets' offense overflowed last week in Phoenix -- 39 runs in four games, more runs than they had scored in any four-game sequence this season. And then the schedule brought them here to a beautiful baseball setting and a ballpark without a roof. And they scored three times on the weekend, the lowest three-game output of their season.

But the result of this go-figure week on the road left the Mets in a better position than they could have anticipated when the excursion began. And that's what the summer is all about. They departed the Bay Area on Sunday night following their 4-1 loss to the Giants as legitimate Wild Card contenders, a status that might have been debated a week earlier. They were ahead of the Nationals, a game behind the Marlins and even with Astros.

And not the least bit ahead of themselves.

"We've still got a lot to do," manager Willie Randolph said, not the least of which is play three games against the Wild Card leaders, the Phillies, at Shea Stadium this week. The Mets are 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies after Philadelphia's loss in Arizona on Sunday night.

They all recognized that 6-1 is markedly better, as a seven-game record, than the 5-2 record their schizophrenic act produced. But 5-2 has more than redeeming value. This wasn't the glass half full vs. the glass half empty. This wasn't merely perception or spin. They Mets played well for a week.

That assessment didn't square quite so well with their loss Sunday. But it's not as though they gave it away. Left-handed Noah Lowry, the Giants' answer to Jae Seo as Mr. August, made them miserable with his assortment of offspeed stuff. The Mets managed six hits on the day, five in eight innings against Lowry (11-11), who has a 5-0 record and 0.69 ERA in August. He walked one and struck out six.

The balls hit hardest against him were Carlos Beltran's double in the sixth inning -- it led to the run -- and foul balls Jose Reyes and David Wright hit off their own left feet.

Even the scant evidence of Mets offense was tainted. Beltran's run scored not on some timely line-drive single, but on a third-strike wild pitch with Chris Woodward batting. So in 27 innings against the Giants' staff, the Mets scored on Wright's bases-empty home run against Kevin Correia on Friday night, an infield groundout Saturday when Schmidt shut them down and a wild pitch.

That is far less damage than the Mets inflicted in merely five innings against Vargas on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The more telling difference Sunday was that Kris Benson was more generous than Steve Trachsel and Tom Glavine had been in the first two games of the series. He surrendered a leadoff home run to J.T. Snow and a two-run home run to Pedro Feliz in the sixth inning. The Giants' fourth run came against Heath Bell in the seventh.

Benson (9-6) had been afforded two extra days' rest to benefit his right shoulder, which was said to be tired. He allowed seven hits and two walks in six innings and lost his second straight decision. He had allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Nationals a week earlier.

He congratulated Snow on "guessing right on a 3-2 changeup" and condemned the almost stationary slider that Feliz hit down the left-field line.

"The slider just sat there. It was flat all afternoon," Benson said. "The majority of their hits came on sliders. ... Getting beat on that pitch when you know you can get an out if you throw it right ... that's the worst part."

The Mets had given him a margin for error so thin it had no other side after scoring enough runs in Arizona to allow Jonathan Hurst and Mauro Gozzo or another of the Mets' past pitching luminaries to win.

"When you change cities or series, you change your rhythm and groove," Randolph said. But he knew how it appeared -- "like we shot all our bullets in Arizona." But the manager didn't much care for how it appeared: "I don't care how many runs we scored if we don't win."

Nor does he care how many they score when they do.

"All I know," Randolph said, "is that we won five out of seven. That's pretty good. We'll take it and get out of town.

i think the final quote said it best...the road trip was 5-2 and now they have a quick 3 game set against the Phillies before they go on a huge road trip through Florida, Atlanta and St. Louis..if they can win 6 of 10 i will be happy but i will always take more wins..this trip will determine if they can keep pace or if they will be playing from behind once they get home...

Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 74 56 .569 -
Phillies 70 61 .534 4.5
Marlins 69 61 .531 5.0
Mets 68 62 .523 6.0
Nationals 67 63 .515 7.0

Team W L PCT. GB
Phillies 70 61 .534 -
Marlins 69 61 .531 0.5
Astros 68 62 .523 1.5
Mets 68 62 .523 1.5
Nationals 67 63 .515 2.5
Brewers 64 67 .489 6.0


Freestyler Xtreme

Steve Trachsel waits for a baseball after allowing a home run on Monday afternoon. (Gregory Smith/AP)

Mets drop series opener in Atlanta
Jones, Turner Field continue to haunt New York
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones and Turner Field -- to the Mets, they constitute a rock and a hard place to win. They are a most formidable tandem, a combination that would make any boxer envious. As that old baseball sage Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, "If the right don't get ya, then the left one will." And now, because Jones has crushed the Mets yet again and Turner Field has smothered them one more time, the race for the Wild Card is another day older and the Mets are deeper in debt.
They were double-teamed on Monday -- tripled-teamed if a monster home run by Andruw Jones, an apprentice Mets nemesis, is factored in. Chipper did his home run act, this time in the eighth inning, to provide the margin of victory. And Turner once again served as a straitjacket for the Mets.

The Mets were resilient, though, and resourceful and gallant and all the things a team with postseason aspirations ought to be. Alas, in the end, they were unsuccessful, too. The Braves hung a 4-2 loss on them, and in the process, picked at the Mets' organizational scabs of 1998, 1999 and 2001, years when the Mets' seasons ended in this stadium -- either literally or for all intents and purposes.

The Mets' season is far from over -- 25 games remain. But they left the ballpark in fifth place in the Wild Card race, three games behind the Phillies. The Mets of the late 1990s usually were closer when they invaded Turner.

This Mets team isn't equipped as those were, so there probably was more at stake then than now. Mike Piazza and, to a lesser degree, Steve Trachsel are the lone links to those Mets. But that doesn't mean that this set of Mets didn't exit the visiting clubhouse with the same emptiness and blank stares that were so evident in the days of Robin Ventura, Al Leiter and John Franco -- and that the postgame silence Monday wasn't just as deafening as it used to be.

"I followed the Mets as a kid, so I know something about what happened here to them," David Wright said. "But I think Mike [Piazza] and -- who else -- Trachs are the only ones who know what it was like. We didn't come in scared of them. But we do know they're a good team."

Good enough to lead the division by a comfortable margin, good enough to have won eight of their last 12 games, good enough to have beaten the Mets six times in seven games here this season, and good enough that the dots of five and six years passed can be connected to the dots of this season, at least when the Mets are involved.

The Mets are 20-49 all-time at Turner Field, including a September record of 6-18. The .250 winning percentage that record yields is equal to that of the woeful '62 Mets.

These Mets may be blissfully unaware of all that, but they're learning how it was six and seven years ago and why, in 1999, Piazza referred to this place as "Death Valley for us." And again, it's Chipper delivering the lesson.

Chipper's 34th career home run against them sent the Mets to their seventh loss in nine games. Among active players, only Barry Bonds (35) has hit more against this franchise. Chipper put a low fastball from Trachsel over the wall in center field for his 16th home run this season and his second against the Mets.

It came only minutes after the Mets had tied the score at two on a sacrifice fly by Ramon Castro against Blaine Boyer.

"They always have an answer, it seems," Wright said.

Chipper, of course, buried the Mets in 1999 -- his MVP season -- hitting four home runs and driving in seven runs in nine at-bats in a three-game sweep of the Mets that turned their one-game deficit into a four-game gap. What happened Monday wasn't comparable. But there are two games remaining in this series.

Mets manager Willie Randolph met with Trachsel before Chipper's at-bat in the eighth. Trachsel told his manager he felt sufficiently confident and strong to go after the Braves' third baseman. Chipper was batting .246 with six home runs in 61 career at-bats against Trachsel, who urged Randolph to have another pitcher ready to face the next batter, Andruw, who had a .400 mark with five home runs in 60 career at-bats against Trachsel.

"That was going to be his last batter," Randolph said. "Unfortunately, it didn't matter."

Randolph already knew Andruw could hurt Trachsel. He had witnessed the home run Andruw crushed leading off the fourth. Jones' Major league-leading 45th homer, good for his league-leading 111th RBI, was estimated to have traveled 452 feet to left-center field. The Braves identified it as the fifth-longest in the history of Turner Field and the longest by a Brave.

The Mets eventually offset that run on Castro's sacrifice fly. And they nearly did that in the seventh. They had the bases loaded, including Victor Diaz on third base, with one out when Carlos Beltran hit a fly ball to right that was caught first by a head wind and then by Jeff Francoeur, the Braves' strong-armed right fielder. Diaz tagged up, but he was a victim of Francoeur's all-but-perfect no-bounce throw. Francoeur has 11 assists, as many as any National League outfielder in merely 48 games.

"Give credit to the kid," Mets third base coach Manny Acta said. "Just because he's among the leaders in assists doesn't mean you can't run on him. We took a chance. We took a chance on the next one, too, [when Wright scored on Castro's fly ball]."

With two runs on Monday, the Mets have scored two or fewer runs seven times in 10 games. And they will face John Smoltz on Tuesday and Tim Hudson on Wednesday. And Jones and Turner both nights.

it does not matter what year it is or who is on the team it seems like the mets just cant beat the braves, and that psychological edge will be what will separate us from winning..so far the trip has been less than stellar...2-5 so far including the phillies series....we def need to suk it up...win 2 here and maybe win 3 from st louis...given that we seem to do well in 4 game series...for now..no one is running away with this thing so we just need to keep it close..

Team W L Pct GB
Braves 79 59 .572 -
Phillies 73 65 .529 6
Marlins 72 65 .526 6 ½
Nationals 72 66 .522 7
Mets 70 67 .511 8 ½

Team GB
Astros -
Phillies ½
Marlins 1
Nationals 1 ½
Mets 3


Freestyler Xtreme

Mets starter Kris Benson allowed three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. (Scott Rovak/Cardinals)

Mets can't solve Carpenter
Benson pitches well in loss to Cardinals
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- It was an unspeakable defeat, so most of the Mets preferred not to speak about it. That was Wednesday night in the aftermath of their vexing 10-inning loss to the Braves. Then it was Thursday afternoon, and the Mets reassembled to meet the demands of the National League schedule and confront the league's elite team. Willie Randolph sensed little Turner Field hangover in his players, but unspeakable still was an appropriate adjective in the Mets' increasingly frustrating world.
And the words unspoken were these: Wild Card. And "the race," the Astros, Marlins, Phillies and any words that pertained to them. They didn't get a mention in the Mets' clubhouse and were conspicuous in their absence. The Mets are not about to concede. Randolph won't tolerate. But no one can prevent them from ignoring the race.

On the day after Atlanta, the Mets not only ignored it, they further removed themselves from it. The slippery slope that has been their September denied them any semblance of traction again Thursday night when they lost, 5-0, to the Cardinals. If it wasn't residual effects of the Braves series, then it was that they overindulged on that famous Midwest concoction, the Carpenter-Pujols. Whatever the cause, the results were familiar -- another offensive shortfall and another loss, their 10th in 12 games.

The Mets saw the likely National League Cy Young Award winner in Chris Carpenter and got a double dose of Albert Pujols, a strong MVP candidate, in a loss that seemed more one-sided than the final score indicated.

Carpenter shut the Mets out on three hits and a walk for seven innings and earned his 21st victory, and Pujols hit two home runs, his 38th and 39th, as the Cardinals pushed the Mets back to .500, some eight days after they were within a half a game of the Wild Card lead.

Three of the Mets' first four batters reached base, and Carpenter threw a wild pitch in that sequence, but the Mets didn't score when the league's only 21-game winner asserted himself. Carpenter struck out David Wright -- as he would two more times -- to begin a sequence of 16 successive outs. And by the time Carlos Beltran singled to lead off the seventh, Pujols had struck, and the leaders in the National League Central were well on their way to their 89th victory and their 16th in Carpenter's last 16 starts.

The Cardinals don't talk about "the race" either, mostly because it doesn't exist. Their lead, 13 games, is greater than their magic number, 10.

The Mets' numbers now are irrelevant, made so by their invisible offense. Randolph diplomatically has called their collective slump a "little funk," which is to call the nearby Mississippi a stream. The shutout was their 11th. They have scored two or fewer runs in nine of their last 13 games.

Their challenge now is to escape last place and overcome the gravitational pull of .500. They are a team of the 70's now, 70-70, a team hitting like the Mets teams of the late 70's -- inadequately.

The .500 burns Randolph as much as anything. He knows the limitations of his team, without Mike Cameron and Mike Piazza, and he worries that he has pushed his players to where the next push will have no impact. But he had hoped to avoid a fallback.

Winning managers often measure overall success in terms of 10's of games over .500. The Mets were eight over, 68-60, when they won their fifth straight road game, in San Francisco on Aug. 26.

"I knew we had a chance at 10 over," Randolph said. "I thought it might take us some time. But I didn't think we'd have to start over. I thought we were better than that. But we're moonwalking again."

Kris Benson, who surrendered both home runs by Pujols, was the losing pitcher. He was removed after two outs in the seventh. His replacement, Tim Hamulack, allowed a home run to his first batter, rookie John Gall, in his second Major League appearance.

Benson (9-7) has lost three straight decisions and hasn't won in four starts. He allowed seven hits and three walks. Three of the four runs against him were earned.

Although I am still a fan and never give up until the end, this road trip has convinced me that the Mets are not ready to compete with the big boys. We have only won one gae so far on this road trip and it could be a possibility that we are buried by the time we even make it to the final homestand of the season. We are not eliminated, but for now, I am content watching the football season and the yankees lose to the devil rays as another lonely october rolls around.

Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 81 59 .579 -
Marlins 75 65 .536 6.0
Phillies 73 67 .521 8.0
Nationals 72 69 .511 9.5
Mets 70 70 .500 11.0

Team W L PCT. GB
Astros 75 64 .540 -
Marlins 75 65 .536 0.5
Phillies 73 67 .521 2.5
Nationals 72 69 .511 4.0
Mets 70 70 .500 5.5


Freestyler Xtreme

Pedro Martinez did not allow a run until the eighth inning. (Tom Gannam/AP)

Pedro's gem ends Mets' skid
Beltran, Diaz homer in victory over Cardinals
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Mets' recovery from an unbecoming, late-summer slide they hope never to endure again began Sunday afternoon in an arena they never will see again against a team they won't oppose again this season. Shown up for three nights in the "Show Me" State, they bid farewell to the Cardinals, Busch Stadium Jr. and, they hope, to the kind of punchless baseball that put a serious damper on their chances to play in the postseason. And they won, too.
They returned home Sunday night after what seemed like a month-long excursion, their season damaged, their record below sea level and their August run offset by their September stumble. And after a 7-2 victory behind Pedro Martinez, a victory separated from its predecessor by six unsettling defeats, they were talking of rebuilding that which had been torn apart by 12 losses in 15 games.

As foreign and out of place as it sounded in their last-place, 71-72 clubhouse, some veteran Mets wondered aloud what the season's final three weeks might bring. Martinez pointed out that the team's longest losing streak -- until Saturday night -- had been the five-gamer that opened the season and that after it, the Mets had executed a U-turn.

"If we did that now," Martinez said, "we could get back in it."

And Tom Glavine, his personal season clearly in a renaissance, asked where the Mets stood in the Wild Card race and said, "If we could do at home what we did on this trip ... you never know."

Glavine pointed out that, aside from the Braves, the teams the Mets play in their next 15 games, the Nationals (six times), Marlins and Phillies (three times each) are within reach in the National League East.

Amazing what one victory can accomplish! Neither Martinez nor Glavine was aware of the Mets' standing in the Wild Card competition, but each thought the team had enough time and pitching to push its way back into the playoff picture. Of course, neither considered the Astros, who still lead the race, or the Cubs and Brewers, teams that had stood even with the Mets before games Sunday.

Details. Details.

But hope somehow has returned to the Mets' clubhouse, regenerated by Martinez's winning for only the second time in nine starts since July 28, and by an offensive output that exceeded by at least four runs what the Mets had done in 11 of the previous 16 games. Without Cliff Floyd (tight left hamstring) and Mike Piazza, the recovering concussion victim, the Mets believed they had relocated their offense.

If they can't make the improbable climb to the top of the Wild Card standings, a .500 record or an escape from last place could serve as the Mets' carrot. They need to win 11 of 19 to finish at the break-even mark. And 12 of 19 would push their record one victory beyond the 2001 total, not to mention 12 victories beyond the total of last season.

"Five hundred has to be our worst-case scenario," Glavine said. "It would go a long way toward shedding the image people outside this organization have. It would set a tone."

Martinez wasn't so sure about the significance of .500.

"It's not a goal to be half good and half bad," Martinez said.

And manager Willie Randolph said, "It's foreign to me to root to finish .500. I just want to win as much as possible."

And Floyd wanted at least that much.

"If we don't finish better than .500," Floyd said, "then everything we did this year is good for nothing. But we've won one now, let's see where it takes us."

In ending their losing streak at six games and their Busch losing streak at 11 games -- they still managed to finish with a winning record in the soon-to-demolished ballpark -- the Mets also ended a disappointing road trip. Their victory Sunday was their second in 10 games since they last played at Shea Stadium.

Martinez (14-7) pitched eight innings and surrendered both runs in his final inning, allowing eight hits and two walks, striking out seven. The Mets scored more than two runs for only the fifth time in 16 games. The seven runs marked the third time they have scored more than four runs in 17 games since they crushed the Diamondbacks, scoring 32 total runs in successive games on Aug. 23 and 24.

The first four runs Sunday came against Matt Morris (14-8), who pitched 6 1/3 innings. Successive doubles by Mike Jacobs and Ramon Castro with none out in the fifth produced the first run, and a leadoff double by David Wright and a one-out double by Jacobs produced a run in the sixth. Jose Reyes' 16th triple, a sacrifice fly by Kaz Matsui and Carlos Beltran's 15th home run came in the seventh. A three-run home run by Victor Diaz, his 11th long ball, came in the ninth.

This offensive demonstration may have strained the right arm of third-base coach Manny Acta and allowed the Mets to rethink the playoff race.

"Everything looks better when you hit," Floyd said.

Just when you thought the Mets turned the corner on Road trips, they turn out a stinker. The road trip pretty much proved the undoing of the Mets going 2-8 to get to the homestand. There is still hope, 9 games against their division can bring them back in it, although right now it is looking tough. Until the Mets are officially out of it, there is still hope.

Team W L PCT. GB
Braves 83 60 .580 -
Marlins 76 67 .531 7.0
Phillies 75 68 .524 8.0
Nationals 73 71 .507 10.5
Mets 71 72 .497 12.0

Team GB
Astros -
Marlins ½
Phillies 1 ½
Nationals 4
Mets 5 ½
Cubs 5 ½
Brewers 5 ½


Freestyler Xtreme

Pedro Martinez reacts to cheering fans after his first shutout in more than a year. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Pedro stifles Braves for first shutout
Martinez strikes out 10 in his fourth complete game of the year
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- As much as the Mets enjoyed their 4-0 victory and the demonstration of expertise Pedro Martinez provided on Friday night, they knew how delicious it all would have been if the game had been one of true consequence for them, if they still had been a factor in the Wild Card race or -- dare they be so bold -- in the division race.
Imagine how Shea would have shook if, say, the Mets had won merely half of their preceding 18 games instead of only three. Imagine if they had done more than that and entered this three-game series against the perennial division leaders with 82 victories rather than 71.

Martinez's mastery fed the fantasy as the game unfolded. The Braves didn't score in the first or second innings. Then Mike Jacobs hit a two-run home run against John Smoltz, and the fantasy shifted into second gear.

"It would have been like 'Wow!'" Cliff Floyd said. "I've always wanted to see this place on a night like that."

Another man on the Mets' bench had. Howard Johnson, now a Minor League hitting coach spending time with the Major League team, knew what it was like. As Martinez navigated through the batting order that had beaten him 10 days earlier in Atlanta, Johnson couldn't help but think of a home Friday night game 20 summers earlier.

"I thought of Doc [Gooden]," Johnson said. "He loved Friday nights at home. Remember how that was? Man."

In the ninth inning Friday, when the Braves were menacing Martinez's first Mets shutout, it could have been Doc vs. Jack Clark for an instant. And Shea Stadium loved it. It demanded not only success, but dominance, too.

"They love to see greatness," Willie Randolph said.

The first two batters, Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles, reached first and third. Or was that Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith? Chipper Jones -- or was it Willie McGee? -- was next, then Andruw Jones -- or was it Clark?

As he removed his uniform later, Randolph let his mind roam. "I'll probably sit in the car on the way home and think 'Wow! How great that would have been if we had won some of the close ones on the trip,'" he said.

The Pedro-Chipper confrontation produced a called third strike and an explosion in the stands that belied the Mets' Wild Card plight -- they're separated from the lead by seven games with 15 to play and six teams ahead of them. And when Andruw Jones swung and missed for strike three, even the 2-8 road trip didn't matter to many among the 37,519 patrons.

"I felt I was needed to give the fans a different look," Martinez said. "They've been supportive of us all year. I wanted to guide my teammates and give them a positive attitude to win a ballgame and change the whole atmosphere we were in. I felt like I had to change the atmosphere and the looks from the fans and the feelings and give them something positive, something to feel good about. It was in my hands to do it, and I wanted to do it."

Martinez walked Adam LaRoche, a three-strikeout victim to that point, loading the bases. The veteran righty already had thrown 120 pitches, a season high. Would Davey let Doc continue? Would Willie summon Victor Zambrano, the lone reliever warmed up?

"He felt good, he was throwing well," Randolph said. "We stayed with him."

The 122nd pitch produced a fly ball by Jeff Francouer, a 27th out, Martinez's 17th career shutout and some of the "feel good" Martinez had sought.

The Mets could celebrate -- such as it was. And they could be, as Tom Glavine said they were at times, "a little bummed out about it because it reminded us of what we could have done."

Through much of the preceding 19 days, the Mets were left to ponder such things in a smaller "what if?" scale. What if that run hadn't scored? They might have won that game. What if that ball hadn't curved foul?

On Friday night, the "what ifs?" engulfed them. What if the season hadn't turned against them for two weeks? "This would have been a lot more fun tonight," David Wright said.

And a lot less bummed out.

But as Randolph has been forced to say more often than he has wanted of late, it is what it is, and this is where the Mets are after winning for just the fourth time since Aug. 27. They still have a mathematical chance of catching the Braves, though losses Saturday and Sunday would end the process of elimination. After beating the Braves for the fifth time in 17 tries this year, the Mets are assured of a statistical improvement over the 2004 team (71-91) and they have enhanced their chance of finishing with a winning record. Now they must win 10 of their final 15 to do so.

Martinez (15-7) probably will start three of the 15. He could reach 200 career victories in the last home series. If he pitches as he did Friday, he probably will finish with 18 victories. But nine shutout innings are no guarantee these days.

His numbers Friday night were good, not great -- six hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts, half of them in the last two innings. But the outcome was precisely what he and his team needed. He had won merely two times in nine starts. What if the Mets had won seven of those nine? But it is what it is.

The victory put Martinez's record in four starts against Smoltz at 2-2. Smoltz has the same record in those games. Martinez now has an 8-8 career record against the Braves. So he is getting even.

Well if there is one good thing to say about September, is that Pedro has looked strong all year and that is a good thing as we look forward to next season. We are not out of the race, but there are too many teams in the race for us to be considered competitive. It has been a tough month here at Shea, but like all things, there is hope that 2006 will be a much better year with the right moves.

We are 4 games away from being eliminated from a National League title and 9 games away from being eliminated from the wild card. So technically speaking, we should be officially out of it by September 26 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Team W L Pct GB
Braves 84 64 .568 -
Phillies 79 69 .534 5
Marlins 78 70 .527 6
Nationals 77 71 .520 7
Mets 72 75 .490 11 ½

Team GB
Astros -
Phillies ½
Marlins 1 ½
Nationals 2 ½
Brewers 6
Cubs 6 ½
Mets 7