Inside Pitch: Mets head for Wrigley

After a successful stay in Milwaukee, the Mets finish up their road trip with three games at Wrigley Field starting on Monday.

The Friendly Confines haven't been very hospitable to the New Yorkers. The Mets haven't won at Wrigley Field since 2002. Last year was particularly ugly as the Mets were outscored 10-2 in three games.

The Mets have rejuvenated RHP Aaron Heilman starting on Monday. He is 3-2 with a 4.19 ERA. Once considered a first-round flop, Heilman has changed his delivery and struck out 28 in 34 1/3 innings this season. The Indiana native attended Notre Dame and expects a large crowd of family and friends at the game.

RHP Kris Benson will start on Tuesday. He went 4 2/3 innings and struck out six on Thursday in his first game after coming off the disabled list. His pitch count limit has been elevated to around 100. Benson had been sidelined with a strained muscle on the right side of his chest.

Struggling RHP Victor Zambrano (2-3, 5.63) will face Cubs ace Mark Prior on Wednesday.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • In an impressive return to form, Mike Piazza smashed two long home runs to drive in three runs as the Mets beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4 Friday at Miller Park.

    Piazza was hitting a shocking .198 after going 0 for 3 on Wednesday. He is 6 for 9 with three home runs and six RBI since. For the first time in his career he homered in three consecutive at-bats.

    "This game, you can't explain it," Piazza said. "You have to be philosophical about it. I was picking up some bad habits because I was pressing, but then you come full circle and you bounce back."

    Piazza said he has kept his hands back, allowing him to wait on pitches and pull the ball with power. Both of the home runs Friday night were line drives to left field.

    "One little thing," Piazza said. "I just know when I have it and I know when I don't. Hopefully you keep the momentum and ride it as long as you can."

    Piazza has 383 home runs, 49th all-time.

  • OF Cliff Floyd's 20-game hit streak was snapped Friday when he was 0 for 4. The streak was the longest of his career. "It's over and now I don't have to think about it," he said. "It wasn't like I was going to catch Joe DiMaggio."

  • RHP Kris Benson made a successful 2005 debut -- even if he didn't get a victory Thursday.

    Benson went 4 2/3 innings in his first game of the season, allowing two runs in New York's 7-5 victory over Philadelphia. He allowed five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

    Out all season with a strained muscle on the right side of his chest, Benson was on a tight pitch count. The Mets hoped he would get through five innings. But when Benson hit Pat Burrell with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fifth, he was lifted.

    Benson threw 88 pitches, three more than the Mets wanted. But he said there was no lingering soreness and he expects to throw around 100 in his next start.

    With No. 2 starter Tom Glavine struggling, the Mets are hoping Benson will emerge as a reliable sidekick to ace Pedro Martinez.

  • OF Mike Cameron played his first game of the season, starting in right field and going 2 for 4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Playing right field for the first time since 2000, Cameron slipped fielding a single and was charged with an error. Cameron missed the first 28 games of the season with tendinitis in his left wrist. He was officially activated off the disabled list before the game.

  • C Mike Piazza snapped out of a 1-for-22 skid by going 4 for 5. He hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, his first extra-base hit since April 25.

  • RHP Aaron Heilman continued his shocking revival. Once a flop, the former first-round pick has pitched well in four of his six appearances this season. He threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on Thursday, striking out five and allowing one hit. Heilman is 3-2 with a 4.19 ERA and figures to stay with the team in some capacity, even when LHP Kazuhisa Ishii comes off the disabled list.

  • The Mets decided before Jae Weong Seo took the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night that he would be optioned back to Class AAA Norfolk when the game was over so Kris Benson could be activated off the disabled list.

    What if Seo had thrown a no-hitter?

    "It wouldn't have mattered," manager Willie Randolph said. "OK, I might have had second thoughts. Maybe a perfect game."

    Randolph was joking. But Seo wasn't fooling around with the Philadelphia hitters. He threw seven shutout innings, allowing one hit as the Mets beat the Phillies 3-2.

    It wasn't a perfect game. But for Seo it was his best performance in his four years with the Mets.

    Seo matched his career high with eight strikeouts and allowed only one hit, a single by David Bell with two outs in the fifth. In the 11 days since he was called up, Seo was 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA.

    "The management has to make their decisions. I did the best I could," Seo said. "Hopefully I will get another chance."

    Count on that. Seo has learned to expand the strike zone on two-strike counts rather than giving the hitter something to work with. He also has developed better command of his fastball, which in turn improves his changeup.

  • OF Mike Cameron will be activated off the disabled list on Thursday and is expected to start in right field. He played his final rehab game Wednesday, going 1 for 4 with a two-run triple and a walk for Class AAA Norfolk.

    "I've felt good for five, six, seven days now," said Cameron, who has been sidelined with a sore left wrist. "We'll see how I do." Cameron hasn't played right field in a major league game since 2000, when he was in Seattle.

  • RHP Kris Benson will be activated off the disabled list Thursday and start against the Phillies. Benson will be limited to around 80 pitches. The 30-year-old right-hander has been out all season with a strained muscle on the right side of his chest.

    "Physically I feel fine," Benson said. "I don't feel like I should have any problem pitching as much as they want me to."

  • OF Cliff Floyd extended his hitting streak to 20 games with an RBI single and a long home run. It is the longest hitting streak in the majors this season. "I'm not even thinking about anything," Floyd said. "I'm just riding it. I'm enjoying myself." Floyd is 30 of 76 (.395) during the streak with seven homers and 23 RBI. The streak is tied for seventh longest in team history, four off the record of 24 set by Mike Piazza in 1999. He has a .701 slugging percentage.

  • As expected, Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy denied the protest filed by the Mets over the field conditions in Washington on Saturday.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Number of home runs Carlos Beltran has hit in the seven games Pedro Martinez has started. "I need to start helping out the other pitchers," he said. "I can't explain it."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everything is clicking, everybody knows their roles. There are a lot of positives. We're not going to say anything; we're going to just keep going." -- RHP Pedro Martinez on the Mets' success.

    ROSTER REPORT

       ROTATION:
       1. RHP Pedro Martinez
       2. LHP Tom Glavine
       3. RHP Kris Benson
       4. RHP Victor Zambrano
       5. RHP Aaron Heilman
     
       BULLPEN:
       RHP Braden Looper (closer)
       RHP Mike DeJean
       RHP Heath Bell
       LHP Dae-Sung Koo
       RHP Roberto Hernandez
       RHP Manny Aybar
     
       LINEUP:
       1. SS Jose Reyes
       2. 2B Kazuo Matsui
       3. CF Carlos Beltran
       4. C Mike Piazza
       5. LF Cliff Floyd
       6. RF Mike Cameron
       7. 1B Doug Mientkiewicz
       8. 3B David Wright
     
       RESERVES:
       C Ramon Castro
       INF Miguel Cairo
       INF Chris Woodward
       INF/OF Marlon Anderson
       OF Eric Valent
       OF Victor Diaz

    MEDICAL WATCH:

    April 22: LHP Kaz Ishii, pulled muscle in left side, 15-day DL.
    April 19: LHP Felix Heredia, strained left thumb, 15-day DL.
    April 8: RF Mike Cameron was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 1, because of tendinitis in his left wrist.
    RHP Kris Benson, strained pectoral muscle, 15-day DL.
    RHP Steve Trachsel underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back on March 19 and will miss at least three months.
    RHP Tyler Yates, who showed promise as a reliever, was lost for the season when he had shoulder surgery in February.


  • Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories