Mets @ Angels Series Preview

Fans of both the Mets and Anaheim have been wearing the same shell-shocked expression this year. Both teams started off the year with a lot of optimistic expectations, and have fallen flat on their faces so far. Both the Rally Monkey and Mr. Met have been seen drowning their sorrows in bars after games. "Baseball Tonight" even called them the most disappointing teams of the season so far.

Anaheim fans had a lot of reasons to be ready to order playoff tickets this post-season, since the entire nucleus of last season's Series champion returned with the exception of bench players Orlando (Don't Call Me Raffy) Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa. Things started off ominously when staff ace Jarrod Washburn began the season on the disabled list and things got worse. They've spent the season struggling to get to .500 and in the process have dug themselves a 9 game hole in the extremely tough American League West Division.

For the most part, hitting has been the Angels strength again, with their heavy hitters like Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus and Garrett Anderson all hitting near their career levels. Sparkplug David Eckstein has struggled, hitting nearly .260, not the .280-.290 that the Angels need from him.

The pitching has struggled, both starting and relief. Wunderkind reliever Francisco Rodriguez has plummeted from his Mount Olympus status from last year's postseason. John Lackey hasn't shown the poise that earned him the nod to start Game 7 of the World Series last year. Troy Percival has spent time on the disabled list, and though he has returned, he won't get to pitch to Mo Vaughn to make him eat his words from last year.

Now, the Mets. What hasn't been written about the astonishing mediocrity of this team, one of the richest in baseball? Now they are in upheaval in the front office as well as on the field, with Fred Wilpon finally firing Steve Phillips on June 12th (will those who had that day in the office pool please go to the front desk to claim your winnings?). They have fashioned a two-game winning streak, but do not be fooled by that. They are close to shedding two of their bigger contracts in Roberto Alomar and Armando Benitez and starting a youth movement that was started with the calling up of Jose Reyes.

Cliff Floyd has been one of the few bright spots, hitting three home runs during the past week and has raised his average to .282.

Still, untangling the unholy mess that this team has become will be a difficult task for interim-GM Jim Duquette and most likely for whoever succeeds him.

The Mets will be fielding a line-up that still has: a catcher playing first base, a right-fielder playing center field and other assorted oddities.

Without further ado, the pitching match-ups:

Friday: Aaron Sele (3-3, 6.60) vs Mike Bacsik (0-1,14.62)

Bacsik is probably still smarting from the spanking that the Mariners gave him in Sunday's doubleheader loss, and Anaheim's line-up is not going to make things any easier for the lefthander. He must be aggressive and throw strikes, since the Angels' patience at the plate often causes pitchers to get frustrated and eventually lose focus, opening the gates for a big inning. Sele has been mediocre for the Angels this year, with an overblown e.r.a, but many pitchers can find themselves back on track after pitching against this Mets team.

Saturday: Ramon Ortiz (6-5, 5.65) vs. Jeremy Griffiths (0-0,5.14)

The Mets signs of waving the white flag continue with the starting of Griffiths, who is only pitching because of the uncertainty of Tom Glavine's elbow. Ramon (Not Russ) Ortiz has a lot of talent, but he has been erratic this season, and it shows in his 6-5 record. He has an E.R.A. over 5. This will be a litmus test for Griffiths.

Sunday: Jarrod Washburn (6-6, 3.13) vs. Steve Trachsel (4-4, 5.38)

Washburn may only have a .500 record, but he's been one of the Angels most consistent pitchers, with an E.R.A. near 3, and Trachsel has also been one of the Mets most consistent pitchers. He has to be careful with the Angels line-up, as they have a propensity to get on base. Angels fans better be careful too, because if there are a lot of baserunners, Trachsel becomes very slow and methodical. This could be a 5-hour nine inning game if that's the case.

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