August 8th, 2011
by Andrew Rizzi

With their ace starting pitcher, star young first baseman, star closer, and star outfielder already gone via injury or trade, the Mets have now lost two more very important pieces of their team for extended periods. Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy, number one and five respectively in the NL batting race, both left Sunday’s game due to injury, and both appear headed to the disabled list. Reyes is projected to miss the next 2-3 weeks with another hamstring strain, while Murphy is lost for the season with an MCL tear. Ruben Tejada and Mike Baxter have been recalled from the minors to replace the latest injured Mets.

Unfortunately it’s a familiar story for a franchise that has been “snake bitten” for years now. It’s the third straight season the Mets have been decimated by injuries, but they have to find a way to keep on trucking. They are back under .500, and after dropping 2 of 3 to Atlanta sit 9 games out of the wild card. For all intents and purposes their run at the playoffs is over, and the Mets are now playing for pride.

The 7 game home stand now continues without Reyes and Murph, as the San Diego Padres come to Citi Field. At first glance this appears to be an easy series for the Amazins. After all, the Padres are in last place in the NL West at 13 games under .500, and are 27th out of 30 in the Majors in runs scored. But the San Diego team that is coming to Queens tonight is apparently a much different team. They are actually scorching hot, on a 4 game winning streak in which they have outscored their opponents 38-10. They effectively ended the Pittsburgh Pirates season over the weekend with a sweep, and now they will try to put the final nail in Mr. Met’s coffin.

The Mets continue to play atrocious ball in their home park, as their 23 home wins are good for last in all of baseball. They went 3-3 against San Diego in 2010.

Pitching Matchups:

8/8/11- Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.48 ERA) vs. Tim Stauffer (7-8, 2.96 ERA)

8/9/11- Chris Capuano (9-10, 4.44 ERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 4.98 ERA)

8/10/11- R.A. Dickey (5-10, 3.72 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (10-3, 3.91 ERA)

8/11/11- Jon Niese (11-8, 4.12 ERA) vs. Cory Luebke (4-6, 3.06 ERA)

A few years ago Heath Bell was a mediocre middle reliever for the Mets. Now he may be the best closer in the National League.

Padres Player to Watch: Heath Bell

The former Met reliever has been a perennial All-Star with San Diego, and his personal vendetta against the club that gave him up still burns bright. Bell has 31 saves in 33 tries with a tiny 2.24 ERA. He is an absolute rock at the end of the pen. Over the course of the season the Padres have found themselves trailing at the end of most games. But if they can go into the 9th with a lead at Citi Field odds are they will win the game. The Mets need to make sure Heath Bell doesn’t see the pitcher’s mound this week.

Mets Player to Watch: Mike Baxter

Ladies and gentleman in the Mets fan community, meet your new outfielder. Baxter was claimed off waivers from believe it or not the Padres, and with Reyes and Murphy hitting the DL he is being recalled from AAA. Baxter is a Queens native, and if he produces at all could quickly become a fan favorite. The odds of him taking over New York may not be too high, but perhaps he could quickly contribute. Here is part of Baxter’s scouting report on Amazin Avenue:

“As far as his ability, he’s not a stud — as evidenced by a career .278 average in the minors. In fairness he probably isn’t exactly a true ‘prospect’, but as a minor leaguer about to join the major league roster, close enough. What makes him intriguing, intriguing enough for the Mets to snap up, was his excellent .301/382/.517 year at Triple-A in 2010, which also included 18 hrs and 22 sb’s. He clearly features a nice power/speed game, he doesn’t strike out much and best of all he’s got outstanding plate discipline from the left side.”

Baxter will wear #23 with the Mets. Bernard Gilkey could not be reached for comment on how he feels about his number being given away.

Rizzi’s Rant:

Well, Murphy and Reyes going down pretty much took the competitive spirit away from me in 2011. Hopefully it didn’t do the same for the Mets and they continue to play hard for Terry Collins and the fans. There is virtually no hope for a wild card run, but it would still be nice to finish at or above .500. I know the Padres are playing great lately,  but they are still a last place team. Winning 3 out of 4 would be a really nice way to get me back into the season. Every time the Mets have floundered out of it they have gotten hot and sucked me back in. Can they possibly do it again with all their stars (minus David Wright) off the field?

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