Mets Back At Shea Flying High

NEW YORK -- The Mets return to New York flying high after a thrilling road trip that saw them take an improbable series from the Houston Astros, including snatching a victory out of arch-nemesis Roger Clemens' back pocket.

A solid road performance has the Mets actually believing they can make a run at the division-leading Florida Marlins, and in fact they can on this homestand that brings the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies to Shea Stadium: New York begins play Tuesday night just 3-1/2 games out of first place in the NL East, despite the fact that they are two games under .500 at 18-20.

The exuberance of the clubhouse was at its highest point Sunday afternoon in Houston, with the Mets one strike away from losing the final two games of the Astros series to Andy Pettitte and Clemens, respectively. Mike Piazza crushed a 1-2 fastball from Octavio Dotel into the Astros bullpen to tie the game, and Jason Phillips came through with a solo shot in the 13th to win it.

Suddenly, a series that the Mets were widely prognosticated to be swept in by Houston's big three of Roy Oswalt and the aforementioned two starters, had turned New York's way.

Could this be a turning point for the season? Manager Art Howe – who actually showed some uncharacteristic fire in arguing a call with second base umpire Larry Young on Sunday – thought so.

"Why not?" Howe told reporters. "We've got Cliff (Floyd) back now, and it seems like the guys are starting to swing the bats a little bit better."

Our take? Hold on - it's a little early to judge a team's competitiveness through 38 games – but it's nice to see the team actually on track for a record approaching the .500 mark. It also certainly did wonders to invigorate the Mets' front office.

The Newark Star-Ledger reports in Tuesday's editions that the Mets are eyeing several front-line star players to upgrade a team that has hung tough through crippling injuries to Floyd and second baseman Jose Reyes, the latter of whom still hasn't appeared in a regular-season game and is on no exact timetable to do so.

Among the stars are Pirates ace Kris Benson, Mariners pitcher Freddy Garcia, the Rangers' Alfonso Soriano (the trade that won't go away) and Kansas City's Carlos Beltran.

There may be something indeed to the Garcia and Beltran reports – a rumor circulated through the hallways at Yankee Stadium last week that would have had Garcia and Beltran, both free agents after this season, dealt to the Royals and Red Sox, respectively.

Other Notes

  • Grant Roberts will have his shoulder surgery after all, according to a report in the New York Daily News. Roberts told this week that he was literally pulled off of the operating table minutes before doctors were to perform an exploratory arthroscopic procedure on his ailing right shoulder; the Mets did not believe Roberts needed the surgery and instructed him to report to Triple-A Norfolk.

    Roberts did, but said that there was no way he could pitch with his shoulder as it is – the Mets have finally relented and will allow a doctor to proceed on his frayed labrum, according to the Daily News.

  • We've probably seen the last of James Baldwin, although you're never certain. Baldwin, 0-2 with a 15.00 ERA in two starts, was designated for assignment by the Mets to make room for righty Matt Ginter, but says that he'll accept an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk if sent there.

    It's not out of the realm of possibility that the 32-year-old Baldwin could head back to the International League and pitch well, thus earning himself another shot at New York's rotation, but you'd have to think he's fallen behind on the depth chart.

    Certainly, if there was a need for another starter, Aaron Heilman would be a potential candidate, and Randy Keisler pitched well (7.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H) in his last outing for the Tides.

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