Giants @ Mets Series Preview: Mike's Back (Maybe)

This is a series that would have been a serious rivalry as recently as 2001. Now it's just one of seemingly endless series before the end of September. The Mets are not going to stage a miracle comeback and win the division. The Giants are just trying to pad their already double-digit division lead over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

The only bright spot is the anticipated return to the line-up of Mike Piazza, who has been out for a good portion of the season with a groin tear. Piazza suffered the tear against the Giants in San Francisco, and it seems only fitting that he will return agains them. Be ready for a loud ovation. There is a chance Piazza might miss this series, though, continuing to extend his rehab in the minors instead.

Edgardo Alfonzo will limp back to Shea, hitting .252. This average actually shows a sharp uptick as he was in the .220s almost all of the season. He hasn't reaped the benefits of having Barry Bonds in the line-up. Bonds is still his otherworldly self, hitting .335 with 35 home runs. Alfonzo hasn't helped Giants fans forget Jeff Kent, though.

The Giants have gotten contributions from other hitters, like Marquis Grissom, who has been a consummate professional his entire career, and Jose Cruz Jr.

Pitching has been the name of the game, and the Giants got stronger at the trade deadline, trading for Baltimore Oriole ace Sidney Ponson. Ponson rounds off a rotation of Jason Schmidt, Kirk Reuter, Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams. Add Felipe Alou's calm demeanor, and this team is ready to go deep into October again.

You can be sure that Alou won't be giving the starter the Game Ball in the middle of Game Six this year.

Now the pitching match-ups:

Game One: Sidney Ponson (0-1, 2.45) Vs. Aaron Heilman (1-5, 7.75)

Ponson is the hired gun that the Giants traded for to get them a World Series ring. He may walk after the end of the season, being a free agent. Heilman is the rookie pitcher, still learning how to keep his composure on the mound and keeping to a game plan even if the results aren't there. It'll be interesting to see how he handles pitching to Bonds.

Game Two: Jerome Williams (5-2, 2.96) vs. Steve Trachsel (10-7, 4.58)

Like Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins, Williams has come into the league and made a big splash, pitching well for a tender 21-year old (he won't turn 22 until this December). He has excellent control for a power pitcher. This is a good match-up as Trachsel has been the best Mets pitcher this season, and he's coming off a strong outing against the Astros in his last start. Watch this one.

Game Three: Jesse Foppert (8-8, 5.08) vs. Tom Glavine (7-11, 4.93)

Foppert has had the luxury of learning how to pitch while playing for a strong veteran squad. Glavine didn't have that when he first came into the league in '88. He lost 17 games that year, and didn't make the leap until '91, when he won 20 games. Glavine has struggled this year, however, and that could help Foppert have an easier game.

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