Mets wrap successful homestand

Mets Notes & Quotes for July 25: Mike Piazza leads the charge as the Mets complete a 7-3 homestand... Heath Bell sent to Norfolk to work on his change-up; Jose Santiago up... Evan MacLane throws a complete game shutout in his first taste of Double-A...

All things considered, the Mets' 10-game homestand immediately following the All-Star Break was a moderate success.

With Kris Benson throwing eight strong shutout innings Sunday, the Mets secured a series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 6-0 victory. That immediately followed a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres earlier in the week, giving them a 7-3 record on a homestand that began with a four-game split to the Atlanta Braves.

And though the Mets are playing impressive baseball – Mike Piazza homered Sunday, driving in three runs, while Cliff Floyd added a RBI double and Carlos Beltran tripled – for the most part, Willie Randolph's earlier assessment about feeling like "moonwalking" appears to be holding true.

Despite the strong homestand, the Mets enter an important seven-game road trip to Colorado and Houston still bobbling within the pack of the NL East.

New York has improved to a season-high four games over .500 at 51-47 and have escaped the division basement – the 49-47 Marlins have fallen in – but the Mets still look up at three teams in the crowded standings, with Atlanta and Washington tied for the division lead.

The Mets have played better at home (32-21) than on the road (19-26) this year, which makes this western swing of utmost importance, especially with the July 31 trade deadline looming. Much of the decision as to whether the Mets are buyers or sellers could be impacted by the Rockies series, which opens Monday night.

Mets Notes

Bullpen shuffle: Before Monday's game, the Mets plan to add Triple-A righthander Jose Santiago to the 25-man roster and option righthander Heath Bell to Norfolk.

In 26 games (15 starts) for Norfolk, the 30-year-old Santiago was 7-5 with a 4.45 ERA. In 109.1 innings, Santiago allowed 126 hits and 57 runs (54 earned), walking 34 and striking out 53.

Bell opened the season at Norfolk before being promoted to the majors in mid-April. He appeared in 37 games for the Mets, going 1-3 with a 4.35 ERA, and said he was told to work on his change-up with the Tides.

Matsui far off: Nobody seems to be hungering for Kaz Matsui's return to the Mets lineup. The infielder was expected to resume light running drills this weekend in Port St. Lucie, testing his bruised left knee, but Willie Randolph cautioned that Matsui is still "a ways away." The best case scenario for Matsui is playing in rehab games this week.

Minor League Report

TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Eric Junge (8-5) pitched six shutout innings of four-hit ball, striking out eight, and Manny Aybar, Royce Ring and Tim Hamulack slammed the door the rest of the way as Norfolk edged Richmond Sunday, 1-0. The Tides scored their only run on a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play in the fourth inning, when Mike DiFelice was hung up in a rundown long enough to allow Brian Daubach to score from third base.

DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: Evan MacLane (1-0) proved he had no problem with adjusting to the Double-A level, breaking into the Eastern League with a bang. The lefthanded MacLane threw a complete game five-hit shutout Sunday, striking out seven in a 2-0 win at Bowie. The B-Mets plated both runs in the seventh inning on a two-run single by Lastings Milledge, plating David Bacani and Jay Caliguiri. Since his promotion to Double-A, Milledge is hitting .386 (17-44), including a 1-for-5 showing Sunday.

SINGLE-A ST. LUCIE: Sunday night's game against Tampa was rained out. The two clubs will play a 5 p.m. doubleheader Monday.

SINGLE-A HAGERSTOWN: Michael Devaney (6-2) allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings as the Suns fell to Lake County, 9-2. Hagerstown's Mike Carp doubled twice to raise his average to .252, and Russ Triplett added a triple in the loss.

SINGLE-A BROOKLYN: Kevin Tomasiewicz (1-1) allowed four runs in three innings and the Cyclones couldn't catch up, falling 6-3 to Jamestown Sunday. Sal Aguilar pitched well in the final six innings, allowing two runs and five hits while striking out seven, and Jonel Pacheco went 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Cyclones.

ROOKIE-LEAGUE KINGSPORT: Kingsport rallied for two runs in the ninth inning but fell short Sunday, as Bristol held off for a 7-6 win over the K-Mets. Cory Wells hit his third home run as part of a 2-for-3, three-RBI day at the plate, while Jose Coronado and Sean Henry also stroked two hits.

VENEZUELAN SUMMER LEAGUE: The VSL Mets bombed a 14-run, 13-hit attack on the VSL Reds Sunday, winning 14-1. Yojairo Lopez hit a two-run homer and Alejandro Zuaznabar had three hits and three runs scored, plus an RBI, for the VSL Mets.

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