I had the opportunity to exchange some questions with one the bloggers over at MetsBlog about our respective teams and our upcoming series together. Here are my questions answered by D.J. Short of MetsBlog. They will have my responses to their questions posted later in the day.
Q: What is it like entering this crucial Braves series having been swept in four games by the Phillies and facing a team that has won every series against you this year?
A: HA. Nice shot. Well, obviously, it doesn't feel very good at all. I mean, the Mets suffered three brutal, heart-breaking losses in succession. That said, I don't expect the Mets to hang their heads at all. They have played some very intense games over the past ten days with the Padres, Dodgers and Phillies, respectively. It definitely hasn't been boring. A big complaint last September was that the Mets weren't "battle-tested." When the smoke clears this time around, we won't have that crutch any longer.
Even though the Mets are 3-7 over their last 10 games, they have fought pretty hard. They showed some great moxie coming back from 5-0 and 8-5 deficits on Thursday when they could have easily packed it in for Atlanta. Personally, I'm thrilled to see David Wright stepping up as the unquestioned leader of this team. He has been incredible of late.
The two most alarming things about this team are as follows:
- The Mets scored six runs in the first three games of the Phillies series in Citizens Bank Park -- against the Phillies pitching staff. THAT, my friend, is what you call alarming.
- The Mets bullpen is in tatters. Billy Wagner has a tired arm and has blown his last two save opportunities. He has an ERA over 5.00 this month. It's scary when Jorge Sosa might be the guy you trust the most out of the pen.
A: The word is out on him. Opposing pitchers have been throwing Milledge a steady diet of breaking balls. As a result, he has been striking out at quite a prodigious rate. At one point, he struck out in seven consecutive plate appearances. He is a smart kid, though. He will make the proper adjustments at the plate. A positive sign was a pinch-hit RBI single he hit in yesterday's game. The single came on a breaking pitch. I'm confident that he'll be fine. He is still in the long-term plans with this club. Let's not forget, he is only 22 years old.
Q: If Pedro comes back will he be able to help you?
A: I think his presence alone will change things. He is a powerful personality who often raises the level of performance of his teammates. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today in Atlanta which will be evaluated by pitching coach Rick Peterson. Then, he is off to Brooklyn for his final rehab start. If all is well, we could see him against the Astros next weekend. His true value may be seen in the playoffs (if the Mets make it) -- a starter like Oliver Perez or John Maine could be moved to the bullpen, which may pay big dividends given the pen's struggles.
Q: Do you think the Phillies can win the division?
A: I tend to think of the Phillies as a tease. They look like a powerhouse at times, but can be inept at others. If they make it to the playoffs, they could certainly make things interesting. I don't think they have the pitching, either in the rotation or bullpen, to make it happen. Hamels is a question mark down the stretch. If they played every game in CBP they might stand a chance of outslugging everyone, but thankfully it doesn't work that way.
Q: Do you think the Braves can win the division?
A: The Braves scare me more than the Phillies, simply because of Hudson and Smoltz. I think the Phillies and Braves lineups compare favorably. I don't like the idea of a closer-by-committee, which it appears the Braves are employing right now.
Q: If the Mets can't make the playoffs, which team, the Phillies or the Braves, would you rather see make the playoffs?
A: Where is the "none of the above" option?
Q: Is there any one thing that you can point to that has gone wrong for the Mets lately?
A: A week ago we were marveling at the Mets scoring five runs or more in 12 consecutive games -- the largest such stretch of any team in the majors since Texas did it in 2005. Today we are wondering where that all went. Baseball is a funny game and I am constantly reminded that it's impossible to predict anything.
You can read my answers to his questions here.