The Mets bullpen was a huge strength all season. Lately though, the pitching out of the pen has been for lack of a better term, miserable. How big a concern is this heading down the stretch and into October?
Well, the Braves couldn't complete the sweep of the Nationals after taking the first two games of the series. Atlanta looked to have the game in hand but one too many hanging curveballs from Lance Cormier gave up the lead and the bullpen just lengthened that lead. The attention now turns to a must-win series against the Mets; the toughest of our final opponents. At least 2/3 would seem to be a must to have any chance at the playoffs, this team just can't afford to lose many more games. To give a Mets fan's perspective on their team, D.J. Short of Mets Blog was nice enough to answer a couple questions for us.
No question about it, the bridge to Billy Wagner is a concern and it is far less stable than it was last fall. I'm not afraid to admit that the Mets miss Chad Bradford. I can also tell you that most Met fans would be happy to never see Guillermo Mota or Scott Schoeneweis in orange-and-blue ever again.
To be fair, Aaron Heilman looked brilliant on Saturday vs. the Astros, striking out three consecutive batters. I'm hoping he's getting hot at the right time. Pedro Feliciano had a dominant first-half, but struggled during the month of July. He has bounced back quite nicely of late, including two innings of five strikeout ball vs. the Braves on September 1st. It was his best outing of the season. The emergence of ex-Brave Jorge Sosa has been a big boost. He simply carves righties up. Billy Wagner, as you know, had a nightmare August. This is mostly due to what was called a "tired arm." He nailed down a save on Saturday, which is a positive sign considering he had allowed at least one earned run in five consecutive appearances before that.
2. Luis Castillo was the biggest deadline move for the Mets front office. What does he add that the team wasn't getting from Ruben Gotay?
Let's see: defense, experience, two World Series championship rings, competence as a number two hitter and the ability to lay down a quality bunt. I could go on and on. Gotay doesn't really cut it from the right side of the plate, which may prevent him from being an everyday player on the Mets -- at least right now, anyway. One downside is that Castillo is hampered by bad knees and you can often see him wincing after legging out a ground ball or going for the extra base. It's almost painful to watch. However, it never prevents him from playing hard. I couldn't be happier with Castillo, and I'd like to see the Mets make an effort to re-sign him during the off-season.
3. Jose Reyes took a bit of a negative turn from 2006 in his performance this year, but lately his numbers have been plummeting. Is there anything noticeable that is to blame for this extended slump? An injury?
Nothing particularly noticeable, besides the fact that he just looks lethargic out there. I mean, he has only two RBI's in his last 22 games! It's hard to pinpoint why he has tailed off so sharply. As they say, "speed doesn't slump," but Reyes continually pops the ball up in the air. It's pretty frustrating. If he learned to take advantage of his speed, much like Ichiro, he could easily add at least another 25 hits every season.
4. Carlos Delgado has been a big disappointment this season. It seems every time he starts hitting, he drops back into a rut. Where is he lately in terms of his hitting?
Well, lately he's been sitting on the bench. He was batting .389 with four homers and 10 RBI on the recent roadtrip before straining his right hip last Tuesday vs. the Reds. Of course, this has to happen as soon as he starts hitting. Initially, it was believed that he would be out 7-10 days, but it appears that the timetable will be a bit longer now. He was quoted on Friday as saying he's hoping to be ready for the playoffs, which raised a lot of eyebrows in Met-land. For now, Shawn Green is manning first base. If he's still there should the Mets make it to the playoffs, color me worried.
5. What is the biggest concern for Mets fans about this team, heading into the post-season?
Many Met fans are not sold on Wagner's ability to close out a big game. If the Mets are to make it far into the playoffs, he'll have to do it quite a few times.
You can read my answers to his questions here