Mets eye chance to catch up on Nats

New York Mets Notes & Quotes for July 4: The Mets finish the midway point at 40-41, entering an all-important four-game series at Washington; three players selected for the All-Star Game; Norfolk's Ron Calloway cracks a three-run homer in a win Sunday.

At the official midway point of the season, the Mets find themselves a game under .500 at 40-41, settled back into last place in the National League East.

The close-to-.500 record was about what could have been expected from the Mets to this point. This is a team that overall does some things very well - such as winning games when Pedro Martinez pitches, or their collective outfield defense and offense – and does other things poorly.

That spells average, and in numerical form, average translates to right around .500 – winning just as many games as they'll lose.

What couldn't have been expected was that the Mets' 40-41 record would not be good enough to escape the cellar in the division, with an even less likely chance that it'd be the Washington Nationals at the top of the heap.

The Mets have a prime chance to make up a little ground on the leaders with a patriotic four-game series that kicks off July 4 in the nation's capitol, and manager Willie Randolph solidly believes that his club can pick it up a notch for what he considers a 'big' series.

"There should be a little more intensity," Randolph said. "I think we should bring intensity every day, but they're important games, that's all.

"To me, good teams see a feel for the moment and the schedule and the series. Good teams have a certain type of energy."

The Mets saw plenty of the Nationals during the Grapefruit League exhibition schedule, due to the club's relative proximity on Florida's Treasure Coast, but that was different – back then, people were simply chatting about the club's new home and new uniforms.

Now, there's really something to talk about with the Nats, and Randolph says he isn't surprised the Mets are playing Washington to make up some divisional ground.

"I knew they were a scrappy team, a tough little team," Randolph said. "I can't say I'm surprised. I know the way they play, they're going to be there. That's the way they are."

On the way to Detroit: In final All-Star voting released early Sunday, the Mets learned that they'll be represented by three players in the July 12 All-Star Game at Detroit's Comerica Park; catcher Mike Piazza, outfielder Carlos Beltran and pitcher Pedro Martinez.

Piazza and Beltran were voted in on the fan balloting, while Martinez was selected by the player voting and by St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. Piazza was flattered and a little surprised by the selection, while Beltran accepted the nomination with grace. Martinez – who pitches the Sunday before the All-Star Game – said he wasn't sure if he'd make the trip.

"I'll have to get together with my coaches and see what's more convenient for the team and organization for the future," Martinez said.

Missing the cut was another deserving Met, outfielder Cliff Floyd, who finished his season's first half hitting .288 with 21 home runs and 53 RBI in 73 games. After dabbling around eighth and ninth among NL outfielders, Floyd finally finished 13th in the balloting, a number he considered "low."

"If it came down to a choice," Floyd said, "between going to the All-Star Game and having the first half I've had -- it's a first half that should have gotten me to go -- I'll take the good first half. Every year."

Minor League Report

TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Ron Calloway cracked a three-run homer and four Norfolk players collected two hits apiece as the Tides defeated visiting Syracuse Sunday, 7-5. Jason Scobie (W, 10-4) went 5-2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, including a pair of home runs, while All-Star Juan Padilla pitched the ninth inning for his ninth save.

DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: Brian Bannister allowed just a two-run homer in the seventh inning and the B-Mets managed just two hits, falling Sunday at Akron, 2-0. Bannister (L, 9-3) went seven innings and scattered five hits, striking out seven.

SINGLE-A ST. LUCIE: Shawn Bowman hit a two-run homer and Blake Whealy had three RBI as St. Lucie trumped Vero Beach Sunday, 5-3. Dan Foli (W, 3-1) tossed 3-2/3 innings in relief of Miguel Pinango, striking out five, for the win. Henry Owens got the side in the ninth for his third save.

SINGLE-A HAGERSTOWN: Lakewood rallied for five runs (four earned) off of Carlos Muniz (L, 3-4) in the eighth and ninth innings, coming from behind to defeat the Suns Sunday, 6-2. Starter Gaby Hernandez went five innings, allowing a run on four hits and striking out eight to lower his ERA to 2.57, and Russ Triplett doubled twice and scored a run in the loss.

SINGLE-A BROOKLYN: Jorge Reyes (W, 1-1) and Sal Aguilar combined for a six-hit shutout as the Cyclones defeated visiting New Jersey, 4-0, on Sunday. Designated hitter Caleb Stewart doubled and scored a run for Brooklyn.

ROOKIE-LEAGUE GULF COAST: Brandon Wilson (L, 0-1) allowed seven runs (six earned) and nine hits over four innings as the Mets fell to the visiting GCL Dodgers, 12-1. The Mets managed just two hits in the contest against four Dodgers hurlers.

ROOKIE-LEAGUE KINGSPORT: Riky Oliveros slugged a solo home run in the top of the 10th inning, leading Kingsport to a 7-6 win over Johnson City on Sunday. Sean Henry and Luis Santana also homered for the K-Mets, who received a strong 5-2/3 inning, one-run, two-hit start from German Marte.

On Deck

The Mets open an all-important four-game series with the division-leading Washington Nationals. Kazuhisa Ishii (2-7, 5.68 ERA) and John Patterson (3-2, 3.17 ERA) face off in a patriotic July 4 matinee in the opener.

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