Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Around the Horn
At 21-10, the Mets lead the Phillies (17-14) by 4 games and the Braves (13-18) by 8.
The heart of the rotation - Pedro Martinez (5-0. 2,72), Tom Glavine (4-2, 1.94) and Steve Trachsel (2-2, 4.96) - will face the Phillies, a solid-hitting squad with Chase Utley (.325, 7 HRs, 24 RBI), Bobby Abreau (.276, 4, 23), Pat Burrell (.283, 9, 26), Ryan Howard (.306, 8, 21) and Aaron Rowand (.311, 6, 16) in the middle of the lineup.
The Phillies will counter with three righthanders - Brett Myers (2-1, 3.11), Cory Lidle (3-3, 4.17) and Gavin Floyd (3-2, 6.16).
The middle of the Mets order - Carlos Beltran (.286, 8, 16), Carlos Delgado (.291, 11, 25), David Wright (.305, 5, 22), Cliff Floyd (.186, 3, 14) and Xavier Nady (.288, 7, 15) - will need to start hitting more consistently if they Mets are to overcome their sudden shortage of starters.
The pitchers for the opening two games of the weekend series against the Brewers - the 4th and 5th starters - have yet to be announced, but most likely Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez will get the call. Martinez will pitch the final game of that series.
In a virtual first-place tie with the Red Sox for the last week, this series will catapult one team to the top of the Al East. Here are the pitching match-ups:
Randy Johnson (5-2, 5.02) vs. Josh Beckett (3-1, 4.86)
Mike Mussina (5-1, 2.35) vs. Curt Schilling (5-1, 3.02)
Shawn Chacon (4-1, 3.94) vs. Tim Wakefield (1-4, 3.97)
The Yanks will be without Gary Sheffield (bruised left wrist). Jason Giambi (.295, 10, 30) leads the offense, followed by tablesetters Derek Jeter (.342, 3.23) and Johnny Damon (.300, 4, 19). Most likely Bernie Williams (.268, 1, 11) will fill in for Sheffield.
After sitting out last night's game against the Astros, Bonds (.262, 5, 12) will probably play the next two nights and take Thursday's day game off. He's one HR away from tying Babe Ruth's 714-mark for 2nd-most in baseball history. The Cubs (14-17) will send lefty Rich Hill (0-1, 11.25) today and righty Carlos Zambrano (0-2, 4.43) tomorrow to face the last-place Giants (15-17).
After belting his 713th on Sunday night against the Phillies, Bonds became embroiled in yet another controversy - this one over the ball caught by a serviceman that apparently Bonds refused to sign. But my brother Barry Bloom, who's covering Bonds for MLB.com, told me: "Bonds took a photo with guy, but didn't sign the ball that I know of. The guy seemed pretty content with the hand shake and the picture, though."
The notoriously media-shy slugger sat down for a lengthy press conference after the game, broadcast on ESPN. Bonds responded to questions with short answers, quips and barbs, especially when the subject of steroids was raised. "Are we having a baseball conversation," Bonds asked, "or a steroids conversation?" He praised Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, and pointed to Alex Rodriguez as the most-likely candidate to challenge the all-time HR record after he finishes his chase of Aaron's 755. Bonds predicted that Albert Pujols will be walked too many times to be a serious challenger.
To top off a busy night on the diamond, High Times' Bonghitters (2-0) play the first "away" game of the season tonight vs. The New Yorker in Central Park's North Meadow. Fifteen years ago, The New Yorker challenged High Times to a softball match. We'd never played, but assembled a team, ate some acid and lost. Roger Angell threw out the first pitch. Since then, the Bonghitters are 10-0-1 against the literary giants. We won last year, 7-4. Gametime is 7 pm.