Inside Pitch: He's Seo good

Steve Trachsel was ready to return to the rotation. But it's Jae Seo who will face the Nationals in Friday's series opener at Shea Stadium thanks to a pair of dominating performances since his promotion.

Seo extended his scoreless-innings streak to 20 1/3 in his last start, taking a shutout bid into the seventh inning against the Dodgers, before it was snapped 3 2/3 innings shy of the longest in the NL this season, a mark set by Roger Clemens and Dontrelle Willis.

Trachsel, returning from March back surgery, instead was to make one more minor-league rehab start while Mets officials figure out what to do with six capable starting pitchers.

The Nationals will face the Mets' three most daunting pitchers during the series, with Pedro Martinez and Kris Benson also slated to pitch.

Martinez, who was five outs from the first no-hitter in franchise history in his last start, in L.A., faces the Nationals on Saturday in what promises to be a stellar matchup with Livan Hernandez. Of course, Martinez not only lost his no-hitter when Antonio Perez tripled off the wall in center Sunday, he lost the game, 2-1, when Jayson Werth followed with a two-run homer. The ace has been stuck on 12 wins since July 23, having two losses and two no-decisions since then.

The Mets took three of four against Washington at RFK the week before the All-Star break, but the excitement generated by that series quickly dissipated when they stumbled in Pittsburgh, losing two of three - including blowing a four-run lead with two out in the ninth inning of the series opener against the Pirates.


-- CF Carlos Beltran decided against surgery to repair a fractured bone in his left cheek and was back in the Mets' lineup Wednesday against the Pirates. "I really want to be out there with the team," said Beltran, who might have missed two weeks had he elected to have surgery. "I just feel good right now. It doesn't really bother me."

Doctors told Beltran he may face future difficulties if he doesn't get the bone repaired, including trouble eating, so he might have offseason surgery.

"Right now is not the time," Beltran said.

Cameron had Friday night surgery to repair a broken nose and fractures to both cheekbones. He's trying to return before the season ends, but the likelihood is that Cameron is done for 2005.

-- Manager Willie Randolph prides himself on old-school baseball values. But he may have gone a little too far last week.

After three days spent underplaying the severity of the violent outfield collision between Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran and the obvious emotions involved, Randolph apparently received a wake-up call and backtracked on his tough talk.

"The initial surprise and shock of the whole thing was kind of tough," he said Sunday. "I really commend my team and I'm proud of my team how they handled the situation, playing the game and bouncing back.

"The guys on this deserve a lot of credit for getting through the last couple of days and staying focused. It's not an easy thing."

On Thursday, as both players were in hospitals, Randolph claimed he had seen "many" similar collisions and that the players merely had to "clear the cobwebs" before playing again.

When it became apparent that both were seriously injured, he then claimed the Mets should be able to play their games without concern for their fallen teammates.

-- RHP Steve Trachsel is ready to make his first major-league start since March back surgery. But the Mets have no room in the rotation because of RHP Jae Weong Seo's success. So team officials asked Trachsel to make another minor-league start, likely Thursday for Class AAA Norfolk. "What am I going to tell them -- put me in Pedro's spot?" Trachsel asked.

-- RHP Kris Benson, whose fortitude was questioned by Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon in May, got some retribution Tuesday. Benson limited his former club to two runs and seven hits in seven innings to get the win. McClendon told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May: "I'd just like to know whose fault it will be when he doesn't get it done this season. You know it won't be his fault." He added that Benson didn't have the "heart of a lion. They'll find that out in New York."

-- 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, eligible to return from the disabled list Friday, was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment with the Class A St. Lucie Mets on Wednesday. Mientkiewicz is still suffering from lower-back discomfort two weeks after he was kneed by Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks while trying to break up a double play.

-- Former Met Todd Zeile was at Shea Stadium on Tuesday promoting the debut film of his production company, Green Diamond. Zeile plays a minor role as a drifter in "Dirty Deeds," which opens Aug. 26. Investors in the film include ex-teammates Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine and Cliff Floyd. It stars Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls) and Zoe Saldana (Drum Line, Pirates of the Caribbean).

-- Former major leaguer Dave Hollins, the hitting coach at Double-A Binghamton, was suspended indefinitely by the Eastern League for punching Portland pitching coach Fernando Arroyo in what escalated into a bench-clearing brawl.

-- RHP Pedro Martinez was five outs from a no-hitter on Sunday. Then Antonio Perez tripled and Jayson Werth homered, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 victory. "It's always hard. I felt like I was in control of the game and, all of a sudden, in two pitches I lost it," Martinez said. "It's a little bit frustrating. But I did whatever possible to get my team the win. I blew it at the end. No excuses. They just battled; they never give up."

-- OF Gerald Williams had his first home run in nearly a year when he went deep against the Dodgers on Saturday. He has been subbing for injured Mike Cameron in center field.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 1/3 -- Consecutive shutout innings by RHP Jae Seo. That streak was snapped by the Dodgers on Saturday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really commend my team and I'm proud of my team how they handled the situation, playing the game and bouncing back. The guys on this team deserve a lot of credit for getting through the last couple of days and staying focused. It's not an easy thing." -- Manager Willie Randolph, on the aftermath of the collision between outfielders Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran.

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