Sunday, June 11, 2006


Road warriors

It's been quite a road trip for the Mets. First, they took 2 out of 3 from the Dodgers. Now, they've won 3 in a row in Arizona, making it a 5-game streak. Virtually every game they've staked the starter to a comfortable lead and then coasted to victory. Last night was a particularly bracing example. In their first at bat, the Mets reached D-Backs ace Brandon Webb (he was 8-0) for 3 runs. They added 2 more in the 8th and 9th. And what does Alay Soler do? Toss a complete-game 2-hitter. Amazing!

GM Omar Minaya is looking like a genius right about now. He's solved the Mets' back-end-of-the-rotation problem with Soler's promotion from the minors and the trade for "El Duque" Hernandez, who threw his own complete-game 3-hitter in the opening game of the Arizona series. Suddenly, the Mets have the best staff in baseball.

And they're hitting on most cylinders. David Wright continues to tear it up (.339, 43 RBI) and Carlos Beltran is on his own tear (.293, 17 HRs, 45 RBI). Carlos Delgado snapped out of his HR drought with 2 round-trippers (leads the team with 18) on the Western swing. Jose Valentin, Endy Chavez (filling in for Cliff Floyd - sprained ankle) and Lastings Milledge (filling in for Xavier Nady - appendectomy) have been terrific in the 6th-to-8th slots in the order.

The Mets (38-23) have the biggest divisional lead in the majors. They're 5.5 games ahead of the Phillies and 9 ahead of the (fading?) Braves. They go for the sweep in AZ today: Pedro Martinez (5-2) vs. Russ Ortiz (0-4), 4:40 pm start on Ch. 11 & WFAN.

• The Yankees (35-25) have lost 3 straight, the last 2 to the A's at home. They'll attempt to prevent a sweep today: Shawn Chacon (4-1) vs. Barry Zito (6-3), 1:05 pm start on YES & WCBS Radio.
• Game 2 tonight in the NBA finals, 9 pm start on ESPN. It's pretty much a must-win for the Heat, who lost the opener to the Mavs.

El Duque was a terrific acquisition on a number of levels. While the Yankees as a team have developed a rather consistent persona during the Torre years, the personality of Mets teams can sometimes change considerably from one year to another. The 2006 edition of the team looks like it's going to have lots of personality and charisma. And, this year at least, it looks like October will be lots more fun in Queens than in the Bronx.
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