New York Mets: Vinny Rottino

Mets morning briefing 6.28.12

June, 28, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Daniel Murphy's drought without a homer ended in a big way with two long balls and Ike Davis crossed .200 for the first time this season as the Mets routed the Cubs, 17-1, Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field to salvage the series finale.

The Mets snapped a four-game losing streak as they prepared to head to L.A. -- albeit after a several-hour delay at the airport trying to leave the Windy City. The Mets finally touched down in Cali about 3:30 a.m. ET., despite having played a day game at Wrigley Field.

As for his team's erratic spurts -- from series sweeps to getting swept, to sloppy play in two games against the Cubs, to a laugher in the finale, Terry Collins said: “If this was a team that had huge expectations, it could bother you. But because we weren’t expected to be very good, you can let some of the stuff go because you know that you’re dealing with young guys that are learning on the job here.”

Now, Chris Young (1-1, 3.42 ERA) takes on former teammate Chris Capuano (9-2, 2.60) in Thursday's 10:10 p.m. ET series opener at Dodger Stadium. Capuano capitalized on last season's success with the Mets to sign a two-year, $10 million deal in L.A., essentially pricing himself out of the Mets' appetite. He earned $3.925 million with the Mets last season, including incentives.

"That's how guys make what they make -- because of what they did a year ago," Collins said. "And Cappy pitched great for us. Absolutely great. Wonderful guy. He's a tremendous person, one of the hardest workers you've ever been around in your life. I'm really, really happy for him."

Last season, Capuano typically struggled the more he faced a batter in a game, suggesting he might be better in multi-inning relief work. The first time through the order as a starting pitcher, opponents hit .221 in 2011. That jumped to .268 the second time through the lineup, followed by .300 the third time, and .667 beyond that. That still holds somewhat true with the Dodgers -- it's .194, .183 and .318 the first three times through -- but Capuano has enjoyed wild success.

"I think he's another year removed from the surgeries and probably stronger and more confident in what he's doing," Collins said.

Thursday's news reports:

• Murphy downplayed homering in consecutive plate appearances after going 352 at-bats without a long ball. But, he allowed about the two shots beyond the ivy-covered outfield wall: “It was funny, I guess, if you go that long. I don’t know the at-bats, but apparently it was a long time.” It was the first two-homer game of Murphy's major league career.

• Writes columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post:

The baseball season serves as one huge math problem. You expect a certain level of production from every player, and when one player doesn’t deliver, another has to contribute more than you anticipate. That the Mets are still in the playoff conversation is a tribute to R.A. Dickey, Scott Hairston and even David Wright, all of whom have overachieved. That trio could keep going, yet you don’t want to bet on that in the marathon of a 162-game season. You’d rather be prepared for their slowdowns and have guys ready to accelerate. Enter Murphy and Davis, and maybe Josh Thole, too. And perhaps even some of the struggling relievers, just by luck. They can provide the safety net this team could need.

• From the classic lede department, Mike Puma in the Post writes: If the Friendly Confines were any friendlier to them yesterday, the Mets would have each needed a postgame cigarette. Read other game recaps in Newsday, the Star-Ledger, Times, Journal and Daily News.

• Not only did Davis cross .200, he also made amends with umpire Manny Gonzalez, whom Davis touched with his glove arguing a call Tuesday. Davis has yet to hear the amount of his fine and whether he will steer clear of a modest suspension. Read more in the Record.

• Collins lamented losing Vinny Rottino to the Cleveland Indians. Rottino had been removed from the 40-man roster to clear room for left-hander Justin Hampson. He therefore needed to be exposed to waivers before being optioned to Triple-A Buffalo. “It does sting a little bit,” Collins said. “He’s a good little player. I told him when I sent him out that he would be back. As I said the other night, once we know that Ruben [Tejada]’s legs are going to be OK, there’s a spot for guys like Vinny Rottino. So I’m really disappointed we lost him. And I hope he gets a chance to get more playing time and be a major leaguer for the rest of his career. A right-handed hitter that was having a big year in Triple-A -- I’ll tell you, a guy like him that gives you that third catcher and can play other positions, they’re huge.”

Andre Ethier departed Wednesday's Dodgers game with an oblique injury, meaning the Mets should be spared having to face L.A.'s two most potent sluggers -- Matt Kemp and Ethier. L.A. was shut out in all three games in San Francisco and has not scored in 30 innings. Writes Dylan Hernandez in the Los Angeles Times:

Ethier felt what he described as a "cramp or tight pinch" in his left rib cage when checking his swing to draw a first-inning walk against Tim Lincecum. He was removed from the game after Juan Rivera grounded into an inning-ending double play. "It just didn't get any better," said Ethier, who ranks second in the NL with 55 runs batted in. Ethier and trainer Sue Falsone said they wouldn't know if he would have to be put on the disabled list until he underwent an MRI exam Thursday. But if Ethier is sidelined, he figures to be out awhile: Position players usually take about a month to recover from oblique muscle strains.

Jon Niese posted a 1.89 ERA in June. A scout watching the Mets at Wrigley Field noted that losing streaks ought not be too long with R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana and Niese in the rotation, no matter what is going on otherwise with the team.

Valentino Pascucci broke out of a 1-for-22 rut with five RBIs as Buffalo snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 9-4 win against Louisville. Before the game, Pascucci as well as Matt Harvey and closer Fernando Cabrera officially were selected as the Bisons' representatives for the July 11 Triple-A All-Star Game, which Buffalo will host. Read Wednesday's full minor league recap here.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, in a 3-for-26 rut, sat Wednesday against right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Nieuwenhuis could be out again Thursday with the Mets facing the southpaw Capuano, although fellow-lefty-hitter Murphy figures to start at second base off Wednesday's two-homer performance. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.

TRIVIA: Who was the Mets first baseman who had the errant throw home on May 18, 2009 that allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the 11th at Dodger Stadium?

Wednesday's answer: Capuano had the higher base salary in 2011 -- $1.5 million, to Young's $1.1 million. Both contracts maxed out at $4.5 million, but Young achieved no performance bonuses because he made only four starts before shoulder difficulty sidelined him.

Indians claim Rottino, drop Schwinden

June, 27, 2012
CHICAGO -- Vinny Rottino, who was designated for assignment to free a 40-man roster spot for left-hander Justin Hampson, has been claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians. Rottino has options remaining and can be sent to Triple-A Columbus.

The Indians designated for assignment right-hander Chris Schwinden, another ex-Met, in order to free up the 40-man roster spot for Rottino. Schwinden originally was claimed off waivers from the Mets by the Blue Jays, and then grabbed again by the Indians off waivers days later.

Mets morning briefing 6.25.12

June, 25, 2012
R.A. Dickey's streak without allowing an earned run ended at 44 2/3 innings when Mark Teixeira had a sacrifice fly in the third inning and Nick Swisher belted a three-run homer later in the frame. The Mets did rally in the sixth to even the score at 5 and take Dickey off the hook, but Miguel Batista surrendered a tiebreaking eighth-inning solo homer to Robinson Cano as the Yankees beat the Mets, 6-5, in Sunday's Subway Series rubber game before a Citi Field-record crowd of 42,364.

"Not bad for a bunch of chickens," Swisher crowed afterward.

Dickey's streak was the second longest in franchise history without allowing an earned run, narrowly shy of Dwight Gooden's franchise-record 49 innings in 1985. The knuckleballer's streak without allowing an earned run was the longest in the majors since Orel Hershiser posted his MLB-record 59-inning streak without allowing any runs in '88. (Hershiser was Dickey's pitching coach with the Rangers when Dickey went from conventional pitcher to committing full time to the knuckleball.)

According to Elias, Dickey had held opposing batters without an extra-base hit in 105 consecutive at-bats before Swisher's long ball, the longest streak in the majors this season. Dickey also was charged with his first wild pitch this season.

The Mets completed a stretch of eight straight series against teams with winning records -- versus the Phillies, Cardinals, Nationals, Yankees, Rays, Reds, Orioles and Yankees again -- with a 12-13 record (including 1-5 against their Bronx rivals).

The Amazin's now open a three-game series at Wrigley Field at 8:05 p.m. Monday, with Johan Santana (5-3, 3.00 ERA) opposing left-hander Travis Wood (1-3, 4.14). The Cubs are an MLB-worst 24-48.

Monday's news reports:

• Read game recaps in the Post, Star-Ledger, Record, Times, Newsday, Daily News and Journal.

Frank Francisco landed on the disabled list before Sunday's series finale with a left oblique strain. The Mets also demoted Jordany Valdespin, freeing roster spots for the returns of shortstop Ruben Tejada and reliever Ramon Ramirez from the disabled list. Terry Collins had indicated Bobby Parnell would get the first crack at closing in Francisco's absence Sunday, but the opportunity did not materialize. Valdespin's playing time would have been minimal with the number of middle infielders active -- Tejada, Ronny Cedeño, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Omar Quintanilla. Quintanilla is out of options, and team officials had been concerned they would lose him off waivers if they tried to get him through in order to attempt to send him to Triple-A Buffalo. Read more in Newsday, the Post, Record and Star-Ledger.

• Tejada went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and committed a throwing error in his return. Read more in the Post, Record and Star-Ledger.

• In obvious need of a second-lefty in the bullpen to pair with Tim Byrdak, which was made even clearer after Cano took Batista deep, the Mets designated for assignment Vinny Rottino postgame and called up ex-Padre Justin Hampson. Writes columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post about Terry Collins' own regret in hindsight for not using Byrdak to face Cano:

These are the torturous tests you endure sometimes as a manager. We already know how many headaches and how much heartburn the Mets’ bullpen has given Terry Collins -- and anyone else with a remote interest in the team’s fortunes. We already knew they have only one left-handed arm, Tim Byrdak’s, in that bullpen. And we already knew they were playing a man down, since Frank Francisco was placed on the disabled list early last night. We all know that. And Terry Collins knows that. We can get irrational about managers sometimes, so it’s best to think about them the way you think about commercial airline pilots if you happen to have a fear of flying: The man in the cockpit doesn’t want to crash, either.

Read more from columnist John Harper in the Daily News.

As for external assistance, Buster Olney tweeted: "Mets need bullpen help, but there aren't many sellers now, so they'll probably wait until the All-Star break before they dig into the market."

Little Jerry Seinfeld will lead a long life, at least by poultry standards. The chicken -- purchased by a clubhouse attendant in Chinatown for $8 at Byrdak's request for a gag, after Francisco called the Yankees "chickens" -- was presented to Farm Sanctuary of Watkins Glen, N.Y., in a pregame ceremony Sunday outside the clubhouse. Even Jerry Seinfeld seemed to embrace the ridiculousness. As the Mets rallied Sunday night, the devout-Mets-fan Seinfeld tweeted: "Yes! @mets #rallychicken comes through!!"

Francisco, by the way, maintained he own a chicken farm in his native Dominican Republic. David Waldstein of the Times reported via Twitter that Francisco raises fighting chickens. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Journal and Newsday.

• Dickey, whose ERA rose to 2.31 although he remained 11-1, said about his knuckleball Sunday: "It was coming out kind of wobbly a little bit and I kept searching for it through the innings."

Writes columnist Steve Politi in the Star-Ledger:

They don’t sing country songs about knuckleball pitchers, but R.A. Dickey sure sounded like he writing a couple stanzas as he reflected on pitching like an actual human being again. “I was going to live and die with my girl,” he said. “She’d been nice so far. That’s just the way of it, you know?” Well, that she left him last night, of all nights, was downright cruel. This was a nationally televised game. This was the largest crowd in Citi Field history. This was against the hated Yankees. But even if Dickey had controlled her over his previous five starts like no pitcher in baseball history, there is no pitch in the sport as fickle as a knuckleball, relying on whims and winds to sneak past batters.

Writes columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record about the hyped Dickey-CC Sabathia matchup:

How did his best pitch suddenly become so vulnerable? The answer speak to the volatility of the pitch itself, especially at the speeds Dickey throws it. He’s got an 80-mph freak of nature on his hands, and make no mistake the butterfly effect of Dickey’s knuckleball has turned him an All-Star this year. But try to squeeze even an extra mile or two out of the pitch, overthrow it by just a little, and the ball loses its mystery. And that seemed to be what sabotaged Dickey over the next four innings -- a clear case of too much adrenaline, too much arm-speed, which kept him to doing all the little things that’s previously made his knuckleball a nightmare for hitters. “You have to remember that throwing the knuckleball properly is like a symphony of micro-movements -- the back, the legs, the arm,” Jim Bouton was saying over the weekend. “All of it has to be perfect. That’s the thing about a knuckleball. You can be a little off with your fastball; it comes in at 89 instead of 92. But a knuckleball that’s a little off turns into a home run.”

Read more about Dickey's outing in the Times, Newsday, Daily News and Post.

• The three-game series drew a combined attendance of 124,677. The Mets had been averaging 28,279 per game entering the series. (It's fair to note that the season average includes midweek/bad-weather games earlier in the year, whereas the Yankees series fell during a time attendance would naturally be higher anyway -- although not as high, obviously, had the Bombers not been visiting Queens.)

ESPN's Jayson Stark notes the Subway Series, and other natural rivalries, now are slated to be reduced to four games a season -- two apiece in each ballpark -- rather than the six games a season that has been the norm.

Ike Davis was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day with a suspected case of food poisoning, which he believes is related to bad oysters. Davis pinch hit for Turner with two out in the ninth and Lucas Duda on first base. Yankees closer Rafael Soriano retired Davis on flyout to right field.

• The two-week program to prepare Jenrry Mejia at Triple-A Buffalo for major league bullpen readiness is now complete, Bisons manager Wally Backman said, via broacaster Ben Wagner's tweet. However, that does not mean Mejia will be an imminent call-up. Mejia has struggled in the role, allowing seven runs (six earned) on nine hits, three walks and a hit batter in four innings spanning five appearances since the June 15 conversion. "When you have that natural cutter like he’s got, you’ve got to be able to command it," Collins told reporters Sunday. "And Wally said right now everything’s in the middle."

Matt Harvey allowed two runs in five innings in a no-decision with Buffalo, while Robert Carson recorded a five-out save for Binghamton and Cam Maron's South Atlantic League hitting streak ended at 16 games. Read the full minor league here.

• Dickey's knuckleball likely will pave the way for others to follow in his footsteps. There are only two minor leaguers throwing the pitch right now -- Double-A Akron's Steven Wright (Cleveland Indians) and Class A Boise's Joe Zeller (Chicago Cubs).

Brittany Viola, the daughter of Frank Viola, qualified for the Olympics in diving by winning the 10-meter platform competition at the U.S. trials. The ex-Met currently serves as the pitching coach for the organization's Class A Savannah affiliate. Read more in the Miami Herald and Newsday.

• With David Wright and Dickey likely representatives already and Santana at only 5-3, it seems unlikely the southpaw would make the All-Star squad. Regardless, GM Sandy Alderson told Mark Hale in the Post that the team would not stand in the way of Santana participating if selected, even though Santana missed last season with shoulder surgery. (New MLB guidelines make it tougher for players to wriggle free if selected anyway. They must be injured or excused, per the new CBA.)

TRIVIA: Who hit the homers for the Mets in a Sept. 25, 2004 game against the Cubs at Shea Stadium that dealt a critical blow to Chicago's postseason aspirations?

Sunday's answer: Jon Rauch was tied with Houston's Fernando Rodriguez for the MLB lead in losses by a reliever, with seven.

Rottino out, Hampson up

June, 25, 2012

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Justin Hampson last pitched in the majors for the San Diego Padres in 2008.

In desperate need of a second left-hander in the bullpen to pair with Tim Byrdak, the Mets designated for assignment Vinny Rottino in the early morning hours and called up southpaw Justin Hampson.

Hampson, 32, was 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 79 appearances (one start) for the Rockies and Padres from 2006 to 2008.

This season, he was 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA and two saves in 28 appearances with Triple-A Buffalo. He did allow two runs in two innings -- including a solo homer to lefty hitting Matt Mangini -- Sunday night at Durham and suffered the loss. Overall, lefty batters are hitting .218 against Hampson this season, versus .233 for right-handers.

The Mets were stung by Robinson Cano's game-deciding homer Sunday night against Miguel Batista, which may not have been the matchup had Terry Collins had a second lefty at his disposal in the bullpen. The Mets did have left-hander Robert Carson briefly in the bullpen earlier this season, but Collins did not appear comfortable inserting the rookie in pivotal spots.

Rottino was DFA'd rather than optioned so that a 40-man roster spot could be opened for Hampson. Now Rottino must be exposed to waivers if the Mets want to send him to Buffalo. The move also restores the Mets' bullpen to seven relievers, after a weekend of playing with an extra bench player.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 4, Orioles 3

June, 20, 2012

WHAT IT MEANS: Dillon Gee limited Baltimore to three hits -- one by the opposing pitcher, no less -- and took a scoreless effort into the eighth as the Orioles were swept out of Citi Field with a 4-3 loss Wednesday.

Frank Francisco officially converted his 17th save in 20 chances despite the Orioles loading the bases in the ninth, then Francisco walking Steve Pearce on four pitches to force in a run.

The Mets ran their scoreless streak to a season-high 29 innings before Gee allowed a leadoff single to Nick Johnson, then served up a two-run homer to Wilson Betemit in the eighth.

The Mets had won a pair of 5-0 games to open the series, and had taken a 4-0 lead into the eighth inning Wednesday.

They were bidding for their second three-game series sweep without allowing a run in three years. During a May 25-27, 2010, visit by the Philadelphia Phillies to Citi Field, the Mets posted three straight shutouts behind starts from R.A. Dickey, Hisanori Takahashi and Mike Pelfrey.

Gee was pulled after a one-out walk in the eighth followed Betemit's long ball. The 7 1/3-inning outing was the third longest of Gee's career. He matched a career high with nine strikeouts.

Bobby Parnell completed the eighth to preserve a two-run lead, although fans had to hold their breath as Chris Davis sent a shot to the track in left field with two aboard that Scott Hairston ultimately corralled.

The Mets’ 29-inning scoreless streak passed by one inning their previous long of the season (28 from May 25-28).

Semi-humorously, the lone hit allowed by Gee through seven innings came on a two-out single in the third by Brian Matusz. It was the AL pitcher’s first professional hit. In preparation for National League play last week, Matusz had bunted a ball into his face, bruising and bloodying his nose, and forcing a scheduled start to be pushed back two days.

The second hit surrendered by Gee did not come until Johnson led off the eighth with an infield single, which snapped a streak of 13 straight batters retired and preceded Betemit’s homer.

Gee posted his first win in five starts. The drought came despite having not allowed more than three earned runs in any outing since a May 25 victory against the San Diego Padres.

The sweep continued a topsy-turvy pattern for the Mets: They were swept by the Yankees in the Bronx, swept the Rays, were swept by the Reds and now have swept the Orioles.

FOUR SCORE: Mike Nickeas drove in the opening run in the fourth inning, when his sinking liner in right-center went in and then out of the glove of fully extended center fielder Adam Jones.

An inning later, the Mets upped their lead to 3-0 against Matusz -- on a run-scoring double by Hairston, then a fielder’s choice RBI groundout from Ike Davis, when Vinny Rottino’s takeout slide at second base thwarted a double-play attempt.

David Wright had an RBI double against ex-Met Luis Ayala in the sixth that made it 4-0.

OUCH: Nickeas took a foul ball underneath his mask in the ninth on a foul ball off Betemit's bat, but he remained in the game.

WHAT’S NEXT: After an off-day Thursday, the Yankees visit Citi Field for the weekend. Jon Niese (4-3, 3.82 ERA) opposes fellow southpaw Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.77) in the series opener.

Mets morning briefing 6.11.12

June, 11, 2012
For only the second time since the annual Subway Series began in 1997, the Mets were swept in the Bronx portion. Russell Martin's second homer of the game, in the bottom of the ninth against Jon Rauch, lifted the Yankees to a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at the Stadium.

The Mets now have an off-day in Tampa to regroup, with many players heading to Busch Gardens with their families. The Amazin's then open a three-game series Tuesday at the Trop against the AL East-leading Rays.

Chris Young (0-0, 3.60 ERA) opposes right-hander Alex Cobb (2-2, 4.12) in the opener. On Wednesday, R.A. Dickey (9-1, 2.44) takes a 24 2/3-inning scoreless streak into a matchup with left-hander David Price (8-3, 2.40). Dickey is within seven innings of matching Jerry Koosman's franchise record, which was set in 1973. Johan Santana (3-3, 2.96), pitching with one extra day of rest this time, like the rest of the staff, tries to bounce back from a four-homer barrage in the Bronx when he opposes right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-2, 2.65) in the 1:10 p.m. series finale Thursday.

Monday's news reports:

David Wright and Omar Quintanilla each committed errors to open the door for a late-inning comeback by the Yankees from a three-run deficit. After the Mets fell behind, 4-3, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis did deliver back-to-back doubles in the ninth against Rafael Soriano to pull the Mets even. But a half-inning later Martin ended the game with the shot off Rauch on a hanging slider. Read game recaps in the Post, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record, Journal and Daily News.

• Columnist David Lennon in Newsday wonders if the Mets' ship is starting to sink. Writes Lennon:

Here's another thing the Mets should be feeling right around now: worried. We'll hold off on panic for the time being, but it's getting close, with three games against the Rays at Tropicana Field coming up starting Tuesday. Next is the Reds at Citi Field , followed by the Orioles and a Flushing rematch with the Yankees. For what it's worth, the Mets also dropped to 4 1/2 games behind the surging Nationals -- the Mets' largest NL East deficit of the season. More troubling, however, is the team's flawed roster. Already on their fourth shortstop, the Mets are struggling to find consistent power sources besides Wright, and the bullpen -- with 13 blown saves -- isn't inspiring much confidence. All of those problems were on display.

Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post agrees. Writes Davidoff:

We’re not here to talk about heart or grit or resiliency, because the Mets are plenty good at that stuff, starting with their manager. We’re here to talk about the stark reality of a 162-game season. This simply is not a very talented club, especially relative to the competitive NL East. The Mets have scored 262 runs and allowed 281 runs, and that produces a winning record only with the help of some good breaks and unsustainable performances.

Writes columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News:

As the Mets’ manager had to concede, his team had no one to blame but itself for Sunday’s loss. For one, the Mets failed to build on the three-run lead the lineup of scrubs put up against Andy Pettitte in the second inning, and then it was their mistakes in the field that allowed the Yankees, who had previously sputtered a few times in scoring opportunities against Niese, to get back in the game in the seventh and then briefly go ahead in the eighth.

Terry Collins hopes Davis' ninth-inning double, which came a half-inning after entering at first base as a defensive replacement for Vinny Rottino, is another sign Davis is emerging from his season-long funk. That better be the case, for Davis' sake. Otherwise, when the Mets return to NL play Friday against the Reds at Citi Field, Collins may feel compelled to use Lucas Duda at first base. Read more on Davis in Newsday, the Star-Ledger, Times and Record.

• Rauch, testy after the game, said the elbow issue that caused him to miss the Nats series was a non-factor in surrendering the game-ending long ball. Read more on the reliever's postgame reaction to surrendering the homer in the Post, Record and Daily News.

Jenrry Mejia, after an unofficial rehab tour as a starter in the minors, will shift to bullpen work once he has enough days off following a start Saturday for Triple-A Buffalo, Bisons manager Wally Backman said. Mejia likely will need a couple of weeks in that role in the minors before contributing at the major league level in a relief capacity. Mejia missed most of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 16, 2011.

Justin Hampson, Manny Acosta and Fernando Cabrera combined for 4 1/3 scoreless relief innings as Buffalo beat Miguel Tejada and the Norfolk Tides, 4-2. Read Sunday's full minor league recap here.

• The Mets are selling game-used items from Santana's no-hitter, in addition to reprinted tickets. Read more in Newsday.

Frankie Vanderka tossed a complete-game three-hitter to stymie LSU as Stony Brook reached the College World Series for the first time in the program's history.

TRIVIA: Who were the other two players involved in the July 30, 2004 trade that sent Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano?

Sunday's answer: Quintanilla played college baseball at the University of Texas. He was the 33rd overall pick in 2003 by the Oakland A's.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 5, Mets 4

June, 10, 2012
WHAT IT MEANS: The euphoria generated by Johan Santana’s no-hitter nine days ago officially is extinguished.

A pair of infield miscues opened the door for a Yankees comeback as the Mets failed to protect a three-run lead over the final three innings. The Amazin’s ultimately were swept in the Subway Series with a 5-4 loss Sunday. Russell Martin delivered the walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff homer against Jon Rauch.

The Mets (32-29) were swept in the Bronx for only the second time since the inception of the Subway Series in 1997.

Having squandered a three-run lead, the Mets opened the ninth with consecutive doubles by Lucas Duda and Ike Davis against Rafael Soriano to pull even at 4 -- with Duda’s shot misread by center fielder Curtis Granderson. Davis, who produced his first ninth-inning hit in nine at-bats this season, then was erased at third base on a grounder to shortstop.

Where did things unravel?

With the Mets leading 3-2, Omar Quintanilla had a grounder from Derek Jeter roll under his glove to begin the bottom of the eighth, and the Yankee captain hustled to second base. Jeter ultimately scored the tying run on Mark Teixeira’s single up the middle against Bobby Parnell. Alex Rodriguez followed by driving in the go-ahead run with a bloop single to shallow right field.

The Mets held a 3-0 lead with two out into the seventh behind Jon Niese, when David Wright’s two-out throwing error, which Vinny Rottino could not handle at first base, allowed Andruw Jones to reach. Martin followed with a two-run homer to the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium for a pair of unearned runs that pulled the Yankees within a run.

Now at the midpoint of a stretch of eight straight series against teams with winning records, the Mets still have series with the Rays, Reds, Orioles and Yankees remaining in that stretch. So far against the Phillies, Cardinals, Nationals and Yankees, the Mets are 5-8.

Three of the wins came in the four-game series against the Cardinals that included Santana’s no-hitter.

Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information notes that six times this season Parnell has induced a groundball that has resulted in the batter reaching via error. (Jeter’s technically was scored a single, with the error allowing him to reach second base.) Thirty-five of the 84 balls his in the ballpark against Parnell have been hits or errors -- an amazingly high total.

THEY WERE HEROES: Using a makeshift lineup, the Mets received contributions from Rottino and Jordany Valdespin, who combined to drive in three runs in the second inning.

That rally actually stalled when Jason Bay and Wright consecutively struck out with the bases loaded. Bay is 0-for-11 since returning from the DL.

Scott Hairston continued to torment left-handed pitching as well as the Mets built the early lead. Hairston doubled and scored in the second inning on Rottino’s single. Hairston then singled in his next at-bat, although Andy Pettitte’s pickoff move froze him and led to a caught stealing (as was the case with Wright two innings later).

Rottino was starting at first base over Davis against the southpaw. Davis entered as a defensive replacement for the bottom of the eighth with the Mets trying to protect a one-run lead -- one inning after Rottino could not handle Wright’s throw at first base.

Hairston went 2-for-3 against Pettitte, upping his average against left-handed pitching this season to .364 (24-for-66). He also has started to see more action against righties, starting not only Thursday’s series finale in D.C. once Bay was scratched but also Friday’s series opener in the Bronx as well against Hiroki Kuroda.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Mets plan to fly to Tampa after the game and spend an off-day with their families in Florida. They return to action Tuesday against the Rays, with Chris Young making his second major league start since returning from shoulder surgery. Young (0-0, 3.60 ERA) opposes right-hander Alex Cobb (2-2, 4.12).

Mets morning briefing 5.29.12

May, 29, 2012
Ex-Met Ty Wigginton produced six RBIs, including a three-run homer in the ninth inning against Manny Acosta, and the Mets opened a stretch of eight straight series against opponents with winning records with an 8-4 loss to the Phillies on Memorial Day at Citi Field.

Jeremy Hefner (0-2, 6.17 ERA) makes his second major league start in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. game, opposite Philadelphia right-hander Joe Blanton (2-2, 4.55).

Tuesday's news reports:

Justin Turner suffered what the team announced is a right-ankle sprain. Turner jammed the leg on the first base bag during a rundown that ended the third inning. Turner's departure, coupled with Ronny Cedeño's unavailability because of continued calf issues, prompted Terry Collins to use David Wright at shortstop for the second time in Wright's professional career.

Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty Images
Omar Quintanilla should be the Mets' starting shortstop on Tuesday. He would be the fifth player to start at the position already this season, joining Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeño, Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin. Only Jose Reyes and Tejada started for the Mets at shortstop last season.

The Mets will promote Omar Quintanilla and Chris Schwinden for Tuesday's game, with Quintanilla -- a former Rockie and Ranger -- expected to start at shortstop. To clear roster room, the Mets are expected to designate Acosta (11.86 ERA) for assignment and place Turner on the disabled list. Quintanilla fouled a ball off a foot Sunday, but played Monday for Triple-A Buffalo without issue. He was hitting .282 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 156 at-bats with the Bisons. Schwinden tossed 99 pitches for Buffalo on Sunday, but presumably would be asked to step in if Hefner has a short outing today in his second major league start. Collins noted the Mets sure can use Thursday's day off, which comes after a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Read more on the injury front and roster maneuvers in the Post, Newsday and Star-Ledger.

Josh Thole (concussion) caught five innings in an extended spring training game Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Jason Bay (rib) and Ruben Tejada (quadriceps) only batted in that game. Miguel Batista (oblique/back), meanwhile, is scheduled for a rehab start Tuesday with Double-A Binghamton, at Reading. Thole could advance to Buffalo quickly and be activated as soon as this weekend.

Jon Niese walked five batters, three of whom scored, in Monday's loss. The Mets twice rallied from deficits in the defeat, getting game-tying two-run homers in consecutive innings from Vinny Rottino and Scott Hairston. Wright capped an 0-for-4 day by stranding the tying run at third base in the eighth with a groundout. He is now 0-for-his-last-14 as his average has slipped to .383. Read game recaps in the Times, Post, Journal, Record, Star-Ledger, Newsday and Daily News.

• Niese called his five walks "pretty embarrassing." Collins said he sent Niese out for the sixth, when John Mayberry Jr. delivered a two-run homer, because the southpaw had a 1-2-3 fifth as well as because Rottino had already tied the score with a homer, making pinch-hitting for Niese with two out and none aboard in the bottom of the fifth unnecessary. Read more in the Post and Daily News.

• Columnist David Lennon in Newsday notes the Mets' depth continues to be tested with the depletion of shortstops. Writes Lennon:

We already knew depth would be an issue for the Mets. But it reached the crisis level Monday when David Wright was forced to play shortstop for six innings -- the most time he's spent there since his senior year at Hickory High. It's not often that teams run out of shortstops. But with Ruben Tejada still recovering in Port St. Lucie and Ronny Cedeño nursing a calf strain that initially was described as a more benign cramp, the Mets couldn't afford an injury to Justin Turner, who also happened to be their leadoff hitter on Memorial Day. So when Turner went down with what the Mets called an ankle sprain -- he looked to be in much more pain than that -- it was not the easiest blow to absorb, for Monday's game as well as the weeks ahead.

Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post is skeptical the Mets can sustain their current level of play. Writes Sherman:

Nevertheless, if forced to speculate, I would still say the Mets are not ready to be six-month contenders. They continue to lack depth, notably beyond the main cogs in the rotation, but really everywhere. Injuries forced them to start a lineup yesterday -- Justin Turner leading off, Scott Hairston at cleanup -- more befitting St. Lucie in March than Citi Field in May.

Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post writes the Mets are "a team running on fumes." Bill Madden in the Daily News and Jeff Bradley in the Star-Ledger offer their takes as well.

• Mets statistical analyst Ben Baumer is leaving the organization to teach mathematics at Smith College in Massachusetts, Sandy Alderson confirmed to

Andres Torres' wife Soannie gave birth to the couple's second child, daughter Mia Carolina, at 6:30 a.m. Monday at a hospital near Central Park. Torres, working on an hour of sleep, made it to Citi Field and delivered a pinch-hit double in the eighth that put him in position to be the potential tying run.

Jordany Valdespin produced a three-run homer and Dylan Owen limited Columbus to one run and two hits in six innings as Triple-A Buffalo won, 7-1. Read Monday's full minor league recap here.

• The Mets will recognize Carlos Beltran with the same type of understated video tribute Friday when the Cardinals come to town that the organization did for Jose Reyes when he visited as an opponent last month for the first time since departing.

• Right-hander Jack Egbert recorded the final two outs of the top of the ninth inning in his first major league action since 2009 with the White Sox -- on a liner by Freddy Galvis and fly ball by Brian Schneider. Egbert, who hails from Rutherford and played at Rutgers, was acquired by the Mets in a late-September waiver claim in '09. He decided to stick with the organization as a minor league free agent after a 2010 season in which he did not pitch while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. "Obviously, I got a few days to settle in here, which helps, instead of kind of running out there the first day," Egbert told Mike Kerwick in the Record. "But after a while, you (want) to get out there. ... My last time up (with the White Sox) it seemed like everything was a hit. It was nice to catch somewhat of a break there on the first one, and then I kind of settled down, made a couple of better pitches to the second guy."

• The Mets conducted a late-day workout for prospective draft picks at Citi Field on Monday. Several Mets executives were on hand, including Paul DePodesta. The list of amateurs working out included Ole Miss signee Stryker Trahan, he tweeted. Trahan, from Lafayette, La., is considered the top catching prospect out of high school.

TRIVIA: How many ex-Mets appeared in the game for Philadelphia in Monday's series opener?

Monday's answer: Steve Carlton had the most career losses against the Mets -- 36. Of course, he also had 30 wins in his 76 starts, during which he compiled a 3.12 ERA.

Rapid Reaction: Phillies 8, Mets 4

May, 28, 2012

Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: David Wright -- forced into shortstop duty for only the second time in his pro career, with Justin Turner departing with an ankle injury and Ronny Cedeño unavailable -- seemed to have a costly misstep. And the Mets ultimately opened a stretch of eight straight series against teams with winning records with an 8-4 loss to the Phillies on Memorial Day.

Wright uneventfully handled his first chance at shortstop, a leadoff grounder in the fifth by Placido Polanco. But with the score tied at 4, Wright was not touching second base when he accepted a seventh-inning throw from Bobby Parnell while trying to force out Jimmy Rollins at second base and initiate a double play. The Mets only were credited with the out at first base, with Rollins ruled safe.

Ex-Met Ty Wigginton eventually plated Rollins with a two-out single to give the Phillies the decisive lead. (Wright postgame said he purposely cut off the throw because Rollins would have been safe on the hit-and-run, and Wright wanted to make sure to get at least one out, at first base.)

Regardless, Wright had a chance to make amends with Andres Torres on third base and two out in the eighth, but he grounded out against Cole Hamels. Wright is now hitless in his last 14 at-bats as his average has dipped to .373.

Manny Acosta -- whose place on the roster is dangling by a thread, especially with Miguel Batista, Pedro Beato, Chris Young and Jenrry Mejia all viable promotions within a couple of weeks -- served up a three-run homer to Wigginton in the ninth. Wigginton finished with a career-high six RBIs. He is fourth player this season with a six-RBI game against the Mets, joining J.P. Arencibia, Chris Johnson and Carlos Gonzalez. Acosta's ERA swelled to 11.86. There have been only 11 six-plus-RBI games against other MLB teams this season.

FATHER'S DAY: Torres, whose wife gave birth at 6:30 this morning, had hustled to leg out a pinch-hit double to open the eighth inning with the Mets trailing 5-4. He advanced to third on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' groundout, but was stranded there when first Daniel Murphy with the infield in and then Wright grounded out.

THUMPS OFF COLE: Vinny Rottino and Scott Hairston delivered two-run homers in consecutive innings against Hamels, both of which evened the score. Rottino's fifth-inning shot, which made it 2-all, struck above the orange line in the left-field corner and would not have been a homer under the former Citi Field dimensions. Hairston's homer off Hamels in the sixth made it 4-4.

FREE PASSES: Jon Niese's wildness proved costly as three of the four Phillies who scored against him reached via walk.

Niese issued two-out walks to Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino in the third inning ahead of Wigginton's two-run double, which snapped the Mets' 28-inning scoreless streak. Then, a half-inning after the Mets had knotted the score at 2 on Rottino's long ball, Niese opened the sixth by walking Wigginton ahead of a two-run homer by John Mayberry Jr.

Niese's final line in a 115-pitch effort: 5-plus IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 7 K.

WELCOME: Jack Egbert, who hails from Rutherford, N.J., and pitched at Rutgers, made his Mets debut, completing the ninth inning in place of Acosta and recorded the final two outs. Egbert had appeared in two games with the Chicago White Sox in 2009. Egbert missed the 2010 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

MORE WRIGHT STUFF: Wright committed an error, but it came at third base, before he shifted to shortstop. Wright's error was one of two in the first inning. Murphy also committed one. Niese stranded the bases loaded that frame by coaxing a flyout from Mayberry.

WHAT’S NEXT: Jeremy Hefner, whose outing fell apart after a 68-minute rain delay in his first major league start, gets another shot Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. Hefner (0-2, 6.17 ERA) opposes Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton (2-2, 4.55).

Notebook: The offensive stars

May, 26, 2012
NEW YORK -- Ike Davis doesn't want to make too much out of one at-bat, but the signs of improvement are starting to show for the Mets' struggling first baseman.

Since the team announced it would not be demoting him to Triple-A Buffalo, Davis has recorded at least one RBI in each of the three games against San Diego, including a pinch-hit RBI double in Saturday's 9-0 win. Davis now has four hits in his last nine at-bats.

"I feel a lot better," Davis said. "Obviously, you can tell the swings are a lot better."

AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIIke Davis ripped a run-scoring double and scored on Mike Nickeas' grand slam.

Davis is only hitting .173, but he has a four-game hitting streak -- and the support of manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson.

"There's no reason to think he's not (turning the corner)," Collins said. "I salute Sandy for sticking by this guy. He's got his confidence back and I think Ike Davis is off and running."

SIMPLY GRAND: Mike Nickeas couldn't have asked for a better day. The catcher caught a complete game shutout from Johan Santana and added the first grand slam of his career.

"Johan was awesome. That's the most gratifying thing, when a guy can go CG shutout after being however long it was since he last did that," Nickeas said. "The grand slam was the icing."

Santana, who missed the 2011 season after shoulder surgery, hadn't thrown a shutout since Aug. 12, 2010.

Nickeas entered the game batting .160 with no home runs, but he made his first homer memorable. With the team up 5-0 in the eighth and the bases loaded with two outs, he swatted a home run over the left-field wall.

"You grind out through this game a lot. That's part of this game. That's part of baseball," Nickeas said. "I've struggled hitting at home a little bit, so it was a tremendous feeling to go and do something to kind of get the weight off my shoulders."

FIRST FOR ROTTINO: Six years into his major league career, Vinny Rottino finally had the sweet feeling of jogging around the bases. The 32-year-old hit the first home run of his career. He had 46 career at-bats without a homer before his drive to left-center.

"It's a pretty special feeling," Rottino said. "When you run around the bases, you don't feel like you're running around the bases. You're just kind of floating."

As he grinded through the minors and had some brief stints in the majors, none lasting more than nine games, Rottino said his love for the game kept him in it. His solo home run gave the Mets a 4-0 lead. His two hits were a career-high.

CEDENO FINE: Shortstop Ronny Cedeño left the game in the eighth inning with a leg cramp, but he is fine, according to Collins.

MEJIA UP: Jenrry Mejia was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo and his next start is scheduled for Wednesday against Columbus.

Farm report: Leathersich rocketing

May, 23, 2012
Left-hander Jack Leathersich owns the Division II UMass Lowell single-season strikeout record. His gaudy K totals have continued as a pro, since getting drafted in the fifth round last June.

Leathersich, who made his high-A St. Lucie debut on Tuesday night, has now fanned 66 batters in 39 1/3 pro relief innings through stops with Brooklyn, Savannah and now in the Florida State League. He has surrendered only 18 hits. Not bad for a kid who threw 85 mph as a high school senior and described himself as "tiny" back then -- 5-foot-8, 150 pounds.

Courtesy of New York MetsJack Leathersich

Leathersich's fastball now sits at 91-93 mph and tops out at 95-96 mph when he's aiming for a strikeout. He also throws a circle change as well as what he describes as a slurve -- "kind of in the middle … not really like a 12-to-6 (curveball), but not like a hard slider. It kind of comes in diagonal."

Said Leathersich: "I don’t really go out there trying to strike people out. I never really have. Getting ahead is the biggest thing for me. When I get ahead 0-1, 1-2, 0-2, I do try to put them away. I try to get them out of there. But I've been working actually a lot this year on not going so deep in the counts -- trying to get one-, two-pitch outs."

Leathersich burst onto the radar while competing in the prestigious Cape Cod League during college. He was one of only the three or four Division II players invited, by his count. That's where he picked up his nickname -- "Rocket." His Twitter handle remains @LeatherRocket.

"My buddy, Marcus Stroman -- he's going to be a top-10 pick this year, from Duke -- he just started calling me that," Leathersich said. "We were roommates. He pitched the ninth inning and I pitched the eighth normally. I don't know. It kind of just stuck."

Leathersich's best experience as a pro so far? That would have to be his Aug. 30 appearance for Brooklyn last season. The Lowell Spinners are in that league, and share a stadium with Leathersich's college program. Pitching as a pro on the field where he was a college standout, Leathersich tossed two scoreless innings, striking out the side in his first frame.

"That was crazy," Leathersich said. "That was definitely a pretty cool moment in my life. Everybody was there. I mean, everybody from my town (Beverly, Mass.), which is only a half-hour away. And everybody from Lowell, where I went to school. The place was pretty packed. It was a rush when I got called into the game."

In his Florida State League debut Tuesday, Leathersich surrendered his first professional homer. He was charged with two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out three in 2 2/3 innings.

"Anybody, I feel, who says that they don't have to work on anything is lying to you," Leathersich said. "I've definitely been working on my offspeed a lot -- changeup, curveball, throwing it in any count for a strike. That's what (Savannah pitching coach) Frank Viola and I were really working on when I was down there. He's helped me out tremendously with everything. … I'm just going to keep working on my offspeed pitches and holding runners, fielding my position and all of the stuff I had been working on in Savannah."

Organization leaders

Average: Bobby Scales, Buffalo, .339; T.J. Rivera, Savannah, .333; Jefry Marte, Binghamton, .321; Matt den Dekker, Binghamton, .310; Eric Campbell, Binghamton, .310; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, .310; Vinny Rottino, Buffalo, .307; Matt Tuiasosopo, Buffalo, .301; Juan Lagares, Binghamton, .293; Danny Muno, St. Lucie, .283.

Homers: Valentino Pascucci, Buffalo, 11; Travis Taijeron, Savannah, 8; Cory Vaughn, St. Lucie, 8; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, 7.

RBI: Valentino Pascucci, Buffalo, 34; Aderlin Rodriguez, Savannah, 29; Travis Taijeron, Savannah, 27; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, 25; Vinny Rottino, Buffalo, 25.

Steals: Luis Nieves, Savannah, 9; Cesar Puello, St. Lucie, 9; Wilfredo Tovar, St. Lucie, 9; Pedro Zapata, Binghamton, 8.

ERA: Zack Wheeler, Binghamton, 2.15; Collin McHugh, Binghamton, 2.15; Tyler Pill, Savannah, 2.29; Angel Cuan, St. Lucie, 2.37; Alex Panteliodis, Savannah, 2.63; Rafael Montero, Savannah, 2.64; Chase Huchingson, St. Lucie, 2.68; Jeremy Hefner, Buffalo, 2.72; Chris Schwinden, Buffalo, 2.72; Dylan Owen, Buffalo, 3.19.

Wins: Chase Huchingson, St. Lucie, 5.

Saves: Adrian Rosario, Binghamton, 12; Fernando Cabrera, Buffalo, 9; T.J. Chism, Savannah, 6; Adam Kolarek, St. Lucie, 4.

Strikeouts: Matt Harvey, Buffalo, 49; Garrett Olson, Buffalo, 49; Jeurys Familia, Buffalo, 45; Collin McHugh, Binghamton, 45; Zack Wheeler, Binghamton, 45.

Short hops

• Infielder Danny Muno, the Mets' eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Fresno State, was suspended 50 games for a positive test for a metabolite of Drostanolone, a performance-enhancing drug, Major League Baseball announced Friday. Muno, 23, had been hitting .283 with five homers and 23 RBIs while batting leadoff and manning second base for Class A St. Lucie. Robbie Shields, a third-round pick in 2009 from Florida Southern College, has taken over at second base for the Florida State League club. Alonzo Harris Jr. has assumed the vacated leadoff spot. Since Muno's suspension, Harris is hitting .391 (9-for-23) with five runs scored in five games. That has upped the Mississippi high school product's average 38 points, to .271.

• Left-hander Josh Edgin opened enough eyes in spring training that he formally was added to camp in March after initially not receiving an invite. Now, he has not allowed an earned run in his past six relief appearances with Triple-A Buffalo. Edgin touched 95 mph with his fastball Monday, then tossed a no-hit inning with two strikeouts Tuesday against Indianapolis.

• Right-hander Collin McHugh (4-3, 2.15 ERA in nine starts) has been a bright spot in a Double-A Binghamton rotation that largely has struggled of late. He had completed at least seven innings in each of his past three outings, until that streak ended Tuesday when McHugh served up a solo homer to open the seventh inning at New Britain that broke a scoreless tie, then hit a batter with the next pitch and was ejected. "My ejection from the game tonight was completely absurd!" McHugh tweeted afterward. "I did not throw at ANYONE, nor would I consider it in a 1 run game in the 7th."

McHugh, an 18th-round pick in 2008 out of Berry College, has allowed only six earned runs in 27 1/3 innings during his past four starts. McHugh made his Double-A debut on May 31, 2011. In what is now a full year in the Eastern League, the Atlanta native has compiled a 12-5 record and 2.62 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts).

• Right-hander Elvin Ramirez, the former Rule 5 pick returned to the Mets after spending a season on the Nationals' 40-man roster with shoulder woes, has yet to allow a run in seven Triple-A appearances. In nine scoreless innings, he has limited opponents to three hits while striking out 10, walking none and hitting one batter. Opponents are hitting .100 (3-for-30) against him. Ramirez began the season with Binghamton.

Josh Satin is 6-for-his-last-14 with eight walks during that stretch. He nearly exclusively has played first base with the Bisons.

Jordany Valdespin delivered a pinch-hit homer Saturday for Buffalo, on the day he awoke in Toronto and then was demoted to clear a roster spot for Jeremy Hefner. In two subsequent games while starting at second base, though, Valdespin went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. He committed two errors Sunday. Brad Emaus started at second base Tuesday, and Valdespin was retired as a pinch hitter.

Fernando Cabrera is 9-for-9 in save opportunities with the Bisons.

• The Mets released 22-year-old right-hander Eduardo Aldama. He went 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA at Class A Brooklyn last season.

(Read full post)

Mets morning briefing 5.22.12

May, 22, 2012
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a communications gaffe on an eighth-inning fly ball, resulting in a three-base error, and Clint Barmes followed with a game-deciding sacrifice fly as the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Mets, 5-4, Monday at PNC Park.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was Pittsburgh's biggest come-from-behind victory since June 1, 2009, also against the Mets -- when a five-run lead for the Amazin's turned into an 8-5 loss that included five straight batters reaching against J.J. Putz in a five-run eighth. Putz made only one more appearance as a Met, also in that series, before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery.

The Pirates' string of 160 straight games trailing by four-plus runs without a comeback victory was the second-longest in MLB history, according to Elias. Only the the Washington Senators, who had 178 straight losses when they trailed by four-plus runs from 1906 to 1910, had a longer drought.

Tuesday's news reports:

Johan Santana could not hold a four-run lead. He surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to No. 8 hitter Michael McKenry in the seventh. His record stands at 1-2 after nine starts this season.

• Read game recaps in the Post, Record, Star-Ledger, Newsday, Times and Daily News.

Josh Thole and Jason Bay have headed to Florida to ramp up activity, while Ruben Tejada could be the first of trio to return from the disabled list -- as soon as next weekend. Thole, cleared for baseball activities two weeks after suffering a concussion, is aiming to appear in a minor league game for the first time May 28. Tejada (quadriceps) has been running in Port St. Lucie. He could be in a minor league rehab game as soon as Wednesday. Bay (fractured rib) is due to start taking batting practice from coaches that day, and soon thereafter may advance to minor league action, initially as a DH. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

Andres Torres is 1-for-his-last-29. Terry Collins plans to sit him Tuesday and start Nieuwenhuis in center, with Baxter in left field.

Ike Davis sat against another left-hander, Erik Bedard, but entered Monday for defense in the sixth inning and eventually struck out in both of his ensuing at-bats. Davis is now hitting .161. A demotion may be looming, potentially coinciding with the return of a player from the DL. Collins met with Davis in the visiting manager's office at PNC Park before Monday's game. Read more in the Journal, Post, Newsday, Times and Daily News.

Vinny Rottino rejoined the Mets on Monday from Triple-A Buffalo and made his first major league start at first base. Chris Schwinden was optioned back to the Bisons. With Miguel Batista landing on the DL, Jeremy Hefner has been confirmed as Thursday's starter against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field.

Terry Collins expressed appreciation for umpire Brian Knight acknowledging missing Saturday night's call, when Baxter was ruled out at second base in Toronto.

Michael Salfino in the Journal tries to reconcile the Mets' winning record with their run differential. He notes a few lopsided losses skew the results somewhat, but counters that the Mets have been outslugged with homers by a wide margin. Writes Salfino:

In the standings, they look like a contender. Entering Monday, they were a surprising 22-19. But on the stat sheet -- and we're not talking doctorate-level statistics here -- they look overmatched. They've been outscored by 31 runs, the fifth-worst mark in baseball. Even the 15-25 Colorado Rockies (minus-27) have been better. The Mets are on pace to finish 87-75 while being outscored by 122 runs. This would be a rather historic achievement: All-time, the worst run differential by a winning team belonged to the 1905 Detroit Tigers (minus-90), who went 79-74. The Mets' current record is about five games better than what's expected from a team with that poor of a run differential, according to

• Salfino also notes in the Journal that the Mets bullpen has protected leads for R.A. Dickey remarkably well -- in 21 of 22 games in which the knuckleballer has left in a position to win during his Mets career. According to the article, the bullpen has failed to hold 14 of 50 potential wins for Santana during his Mets career.

• Pitching coach Dan Warthen wants Jon Niese to prepare more for unfamiliar opponents, Mike Puma writes in the Post. "He’s had a couple of poor games against teams he doesn’t know very well,” Warthen told Puma. “A couple of us talked to him the other day and told him he could do a little bit better with the studying of hitters.”

TRIVIA: Who holds the record for career runs scored in a Mets uniform?

Monday's answer: The yellow bridge spanning the Allegheny River adjacent to PNC Park is named for the late Roberto Clemente.

Rapid Reaction: Pirates 5, Mets 4

May, 21, 2012
WHAT IT MEANS: Johan Santana could not protect a four-run lead and the Mets dropped the ball in the eighth inning -- literally -- en route to 5-4 loss against Pittsburgh in Monday’s series opener.

Santana served up a game-tying two-run homer to No. 8 hitter Michael McKenry in seventh inning.

In the eighth, after each pinch-hitting in the top half, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter headed to the outfield. They miscommunicated on Neil Walker’s leadoff fly ball to left-center and Nieuwenhuis dropped it for a three-base error. Walker then scored the decisive run on a sacrifice fly by Clint Barmes against Jon Rauch narrowly ahead of a throw from right fielder Lucas Duda.

It was the second time this season Nieuwenhuis had a high-profile drop while manning center field. Against the Giants on April 21, Nieuwenhuis overran a ball to prolong the game, although the Mets salvaged that one, 5-4, on San Francisco miscues.

NOT WRIGHT: David Wright went 2-for-4 with a walk and RBI to lift his average to .415, but he also committed his second and third errors this season.

Wright’s RBI single had lifted the Mets to a 4-0 lead against Pirates starter Erik Bedard.

Neither error proved costly. With the bases loaded in the fourth inning shortly after Wright’s throwing miscue to first base, Santana coaxed a 6-4-3 DP to preserve a two-run lead. In the seventh, after Santana served up the game-tying two-run homer and a walk, Wright misfielded a grounder that advanced the potential go-ahead run into scoring position. But Bobby Parnell struck out Andrew McCutchen and Tim Byrdak fanned Pedro Alvarez to keep the score tied.

LEADING MAN? Andres Torres went 0-for-4 with a walk. He twice struck out and also popped out on a bunt. Torres is now hitless in 14 at-bats and 2-for-38 in his last 11 games. His eighth-inning fielder’s choice stranded the go-ahead run at third in the eighth.

OUT: Scott Hairston was pulled for the bottom of the sixth inning, with Vinny Rottino moving from first base to left field and Ike Davis entering the game.

It was not immediately known if that was a strategic move or Hairston needed to be removed.

Davis and Lucas Duda consecutively were retired in the top of the seventh inning with two runners aboard while facing lefty reliever Tony Watson as the Mets failed to build on a 4-2 lead at the time.

AHOY: Ronny Cedeno returned to Pittsburgh, where he had been the starting shortstop last season and hit .249. He went 2-for-4.

WHAT’S NEXT: R.A. Dickey (5-1, 3.76 ERA) opposes right-hander James McDonald (3-2, 2.68) on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.

Thole, Bay, Tejada progressing

May, 21, 2012

US Presswire/Getty Images
Josh Thole, Jason Bay and Ruben Tejada are inching closer to activation from the disabled list.
PITTSBURGH -- Josh Thole did not experience a recurrence of concussion symptoms while doing cardiovascular workouts such as running and stationary bicycle riding during the weekend, so Mets doctors cleared him to travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to begin baseball activities, Terry Collins said Monday afternoon.

Thole suffered the concussion -- possibly the fourth of his professional career -- in a plate collision with Ty Wigginton in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

Collins said the Mets are eyeing Thole catching five innings in minor league games May 28 and 29, with an eye toward being activated from the disabled list shortly thereafter.

Jason Bay, on the disabled list since fracturing a rib April 23 on an attempted catch in left field, traveled to the Mets' Florida complex as well on Monday.

Bay has been hitting off a tee. He is due to take batting practice from coaches Wednesday for the first time.

Collins said Bay initially will play minor league rehab games at DH in order to guard against him being overaggressive in the outfield and attempting to make another play that could jeopardize the rib's healing.

Ruben Tejada (quadriceps) was due to continue running in Port St. Lucie on Monday. Collins said the shortstop could begin minor league games midweek and, under the most optimistic scenario, be activated from the DL next weekend.

Rob Johnson's thumb continues to throb as the result of a foul ball that struck his glove in a vulnerable spot while catching in Miami during the last road trip. Mike Nickeas will start two games this series behind the plate, with Johnson in all likelihood still starting the other game.

Collins did request that newly promoted Vinny Rottino play games this past weekend at catcher with Triple-A Buffalo before his activation to be ready as an in-game replacement. It remains unlikely, though, that Rottino would start a game at the major league level at catcher.

Official: Schwinden out, Rottino up

May, 21, 2012
PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Chris Schwinden officially has been optioned back to Triple-A Buffalo after a one-day major league stay in which he did not appear. Utility man Vinny Rottino is back with the Mets.

Rottino is 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at the major league level this season, but is hitting .307 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 140 at-bats at the Triple-A level. He had a three-homer game with Buffalo on Saturday. He had enjoyed a 20-game hitting streak in the International League until it was halted Friday.

Rottino, who had solely played outfield early in the season with Buffalo, served as catcher his last two games with the Triple-A club before the call-up, so perhaps Terry Collins now will feel comfortable using him in that role -- or, at least, as a third catcher to free up being able to pinch hit for Mike Nickeas or Rob Johnson if needed.



Daniel Murphy
.299 9 52 70
HRL. Duda 23
RBIL. Duda 69
RD. Murphy 70
OPSL. Duda .841
WB. Colon 11
ERAZ. Wheeler 3.48
SOZ. Wheeler 148