Blinded by the light

Mike Piazza returns to the Mets' lineup Monday against the Florida Marlins, and even though it's too late to save the season, his presence gives a boost to a club that has been dragging through the motions recently. <P> Cliff Floyd complained last week that there was "no light at the end of the tunnel," but maybe Piazza's return is it. At least Art Howe no longer has to bat players like Gerald Williams in the top half of the lineup.

Piazza, who spent the last two weeks at the Mets' training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., will be asked to play first base for the majority of the remainder of this season.

While the Mets' foremost concern is to alleviate some of the stress on the inflamed left knee that landed Piazza on the disabled list to begin with, the Mets are also cognizant of the fact that the first base experiment hasn't worked out as planned.

The next five weeks could do a lot to sway the Mets' thinking for 2005, depending on whether or not Piazza shows that he is capable of playing a passable defensive first base and how he reacts to showing up for work each day with yet another Mets club that is playing meaningless September games.

Perhaps the only positive of this weekend's series loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the fact that there are only two meaningless August games remaining on the schedule.

Sunday's 10-2 loss was by far the ugliest, with Robin Ventura cracking his 17th career grand slam and Floyd muffing a fly ball in the fourth inning because, in his words, "I don't want to get hit in the face."

Floyd then air-mailed a throw home on a sacrifice fly by Brent Mayne, allowing Ventura to move into scoring position, where of course he'd later score.

But the topper was free-agent-to-be Kris Benson – who still insists that he's amenable to re-signing with the Mets after this season, despite a horrid 6.43 ERA since the July 30 trade – being booed off the field by what remained of the paying crowd at Shea Stadium.

Here come the Marlins.

Mets Notes

  • Scott Kazmir's second start went far less smoothly than his first, as the 20-year-old lefthander – traded by the Mets on July 30 in the deal for Victor Zambrano – was knocked out in the fourth inning by the Oakland Athletics Sunday.

    The first three batters to face Kazmir scored, including a throwing error by the pitcher. In total, Kazmir allowed six runs on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts over three-plus innings.

  • Jeff Keppinger slugged his second career home run Sunday, going deep in the ninth inning.

  • Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories