On the last day of July, Tom Glavine had his first shot at 300 wins. Glavine left the game with a lead only to see the bullpen allow the tying run. The Mets lost the game in extra innings, which dropped their record to 13-14 for the month. While it was slightly better than their 12-15 mark in June, two consecutive months of sub .500 baseball means that a post-season berth is no longer a given, even though they still lead the NL East by three games over the Phillies and 3.5 over the Braves.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Carlos Delgado enjoyed his best month of the year. He batted .323/.414/.525 in 27 games. The most encouraging aspect was that he registered 14 walks in July. He had just 24 walks in the first three months of the season.
Ruben Gotay put up tremendous offensive numbers filling in for Jose Valentin. Gotay hit .397/.408/.515 in 25 games. His defense was less than brilliant, which helped convince Omar Minaya to trade for Luis Castillo, who is in no jeopardy to post a .500+ slugging percentage anytime soon. If Castillo hits enough to remain in the lineup, Gotay should provide a valuable bat for the bench.
David Wright had another fine month. He posted .333/.402/.500 marks in 27 games. Remember when everyone was panicking about his slow start? Since May 1st, Wright is batting .316 with 18 homers and 60 RBIs. And he’s played great in the field all season long.
Lastings Milledge is finally getting a chance to play everyday and is showing flashes of his enormous potential. He had a nine-game hitting streak snapped in the final day of the month and has taken over as the everyday center fielder with Carlos Beltran hitting the disabled list. For the month, Milledge batted .273/..319/.470 in 17 games. Ordinarily, those numbers wouldn’t merit a mention, but if nothing else they should give an indication that he can hit better than Shawn Green, which hopefully will influence manager Willie Randolph to shift Milledge over to right field when Beltran returns from the DL.
Billy Wagner continued his outstanding season. He recorded eight saves in nine games and did not give up a run the entire month. It’s too bad that Randolph couldn’t find a way to get him into the 13-inning loss to the Brewers on the 31st. Did anyone think Aaron Sele was going to pitch multiple scoreless innings?
Orlando Hernandez, John Maine and Oliver Perez combined to go 8-3 for the month. Pedro Martinez is slated to make his first rehab start of the season on August 1st and is on track for his August return to the club. Yet some still think the Mets need a starting pitcher. You think these experts could watch the games or look at a stat sheet before saying stuff like that…
WHAT WENT WRONG: Carlos Beltran batted just .208 for the month and ended July on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle. He continued to hit for good power, as he delivered 10 extra-base hits, including five home runs, in 77 at-bats.
Green and Paul Lo Duca continued to stink up the joint in July. Green batted .255/.278/.340 in 24 games. Since May 1st, Green is batting .237 with 4 HRs and 14 RBIs in 236 at-bats. And offense is the strength of his game. He still had a better month than Blowduca, who hit .217/.239/.304 in 18 games. Meanwhile, Ramon Castro posted a .410/.429/.718 line but got just 39 at-bats.
The clock has struck midnight on Jorge Sosa and he’s gone back into being a pumpkin. He went 0-3 with a 6.50 ERA in July and easily could have picked up the loss in the extra-inning game against the Brewers. With his multi-inning outing out of the bullpen, Sosa is seemingly out of the starting rotation. But he gave the team a shot in the arm in May and early June and went a long way to helping the Mets to the lead they enjoy now.
Pedro Feliciano had a tough month, giving up seven runs in 9.1 innings.
Now, I’d like to update a column I wrote on the Mets in the end of March, in which I made five predictions for the club. Let’s see how those have fared after four months worth of games.
1. The back end of the rotation will not be a problem. Maine and Perez have been rotation rocks. The former has pitched at All-Star levels while the latter should be the Comeback Player of the Year Award winner.
2. No pitcher as bad as Jose Lima will start a game in 2007. I’m going to admit defeat on this one. Chan Ho Park, Jason Vargas and Dave Williams have been Lima-esque this season. The good news is the trio has combined for just four starts, the total that Lima did last season.
3. The team will not duplicate last year’s one-run record. The Mets were 3-2 in one-run games in July, bringing their season record to 14-6. Last year they were 31-16 in one-run games.
4. Carlos Delgado will enjoy a better season than his first one in Flushing. There’s still time for this one to pan out. Since his dismal April, Delgado is batting .272 with 16 HRs and 46 RBIs. Or basically what he did last season. If Delgado carries his strong July into the next two months, the Mets will be in fine shape. I’m willing to give him a mulligan for April, in which he missed time in Spring Training while recovering from off-season surgery and was coping with the distractions from the birth of his first child.
5. Paul Lo Duca will be dropped from the second spot in the lineup. I believe the Luis Castillo trade all but clinches this one. But in a way it’s a hollow victory because Castillo is very similar to Blowduca in that he has no power and needs to hit .300 to be effective. At least he shouldn’t hit into as many double plays as Lo Duca and I have more confidence in Castillo being able to maintain a high average. Plus he might even steal a base or two along the way.
Finally, many fans are worried about the Braves after they acquired Mark Teixeira at the trading deadline and made several moves to upgrade their bullpen. Atlanta is better, no doubt about it, but Teixeira alone is not going to make a difference in the race. He’s not going to be able to make up a four-game deficit by himself in 55 games. If the Mets work Moises Alou and Carlos Beltran back into the outfield and get an upgrade in the fifth starter’s slot from Pedro Martinez, they still hold the upper hand in the NL East race.