Inside Pitch: On the road again

The Mets are 23-35 on the road. Only five teams in the National League have more losses away from home. The Mets have dropped 11 of their last 16 games on the road.

So it's hardly good news that 17 of their next 20 games will be on the road. The tough stretch starts Monday when the Mets start a four-game series at Arizona.

From there, the Mets have three games in San Francisco. Then comes a three-game series at Shea Stadium against the Marlins before a three-city, 10-game trip.

"We have to find a way to play better on the road," said manager Willie Randolph, whose team hasn't had a winning road series since early July. "At this point in the season we can't afford to slip back."

The Mets have remained in the National League wild-card race. But that could end swiftly if they continue to play poorly on the road.

"We all know what's at stake," 3B David Wright said. "It's up to us to pick it up."

The Mets will have LHP Tom Glavine (9-10, 4.26) facing RHP Brandon Webb (10-9, 3.89) on Monday.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- RHP Jae Seo won't be leaving the Mets' rotation any time soon. Seo won for the third straight time since replacing Kazuhisa Ishii in the rotation, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Nationals on Friday at Shea Stadium in the Mets' 1-0 win.

In starts against the Cubs, Dodgers and Nationals, Seo (5-1, 1.09 ERA) has allowed one run and 13 hits in 23 1/3 innings. Seo had a 20 1/3-inning scoreless streak snapped in his previous start against the Dodgers.

"I don't know how you can pitch much better," closer Braden Looper said.

Said catcher Ramon Castro: "He's throwing everything for strikes."

Seo had been nearly exclusively a fastball-changeup pitcher in past seasons with the Mets. But the right-hander from South Korea spent a three-month stint in the minors this season developing a split-fingered and cut fastball and gaining more confidence in his curveball at the urging of pitching coach Rick Peterson.

He stranded runners twice at third base in Friday's win, which moved the Mets to within 2 1/2 games of the wild-card-leading Astros.

Seo also left Steve Trachsel in a bind. Trachsel, who had back surgery during spring training to repair a herniated disc, is ready to return to the rotation, but Seo's success doesn't leave him any room, unless the Mets want to move Victor Zambrano to the bullpen.

-- Trachsel allowed two runs and five hits, striking out six and walking one, in seven innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday night at Toledo.

-- Add Zach Duke to the long list of rookie pitchers who have confounded the Mets this season. The Pirates southpaw tossed seven scoreless innings at Shea Stadium in Pittsburgh's 5-0 victory Thursday.

Duke joined Atlanta's Kyle Davies, Arizona's Brad Halsey, Oakland's Joe Blanton, Colorado's Jeff Francis and Houston's Wandy Rodriguez as rookies to beat the Mets this season.

Not that the Mets were giving Duke too much credit after he improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.87.

"I didn't think he was anything dazzling," manager Willie Randolph said. "Nothing exceptional about him."

Said third baseman David Wright: "We can't give him too much credit. We got ourselves out and swung at a lot of bad pitches early in the count. We didn't have very good at-bats."

Duke counts Mets southpaw Tom Glavine, who has 271 career victories, among those he looks up to. And Glavine was complimentary of Duke afterward.

"He's got not a lot of wasted motion, so it's easier to repeat," Glavine said.

As for how Glavine, who just celebrated his 18th anniversary in the big leagues, compared to Duke when he first came up with Atlanta, he added: "He's got much better command of his offspeed stuff than I did."

-- C Mike Piazza suffered a hairline fracture of a bone in his left hand Aug. 16 against the Pirates when Freddie Sanchez fouled off a pitch, which struck Piazza on the outside of his hand, where the glove doesn't protect well.

Piazza, who visited a hand specialist Friday, still was experiencing a dull pain at the base of his hand and finally was put on the disabled list Sunday. C Mike DiFelice was called up from Triple-A Norfolk.

Earlier, when it appeared Piazza wouldn't go on the DL but wouldn't be available to catch, the Mets promoted Mike Jacobs, the organization's 2003 minor-league player of the year, from Double-A Binghamton to fill the backup catcher role and designated reliever Jose Santiago for assignment to make room.

Piazza said he was fortunate not to have broken a larger bone. Still, he added: "I am very frustrated at this point. This is the part of the season that's fun. You know you have a shot and you're playing for something."

Jacobs hit .314 with 25 homers and 87 RBIs in 407 at-bats for the B-Mets. He repeated at the Double-A level this year so the organization could expose him to first base, but that plan had mostly been abandoned of late and Jacobs has returned predominantly to behind the plate.

-- RHP Pedro Martinez has not won since July 23, but his tough luck has bordered on the bizarre. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Aug. 14 before losing 2-1, and Saturday he left after six innings with an 8-0 lead but got a no-decision as the Mets won 9-8 in 10 innings.

-- RHP Yusmeiro Petit, who represented the Mets in the Futures Game the past two seasons, earned a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. Petit went 9-3 with a 2.91 ERA at Double-A Binghamton.

-- 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, who has now overcome the flu, was unable to begin a rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie because of continued back discomfort. The Mets are targeting Monday for him to begin the minor-league tune-up.

-- SS Jose Reyes matched career highs with three steals and four hits Friday. The base swipes came against Nationals catcher Brian Schneider, who led MLB in the percentage of runners caught the past two seasons. "I don't worry if they have a good arm," Reyes said.

-- CF Carlos Beltran stole a base in a career-high five consecutive games.

-- 2B Miguel Cairo's hitting streak ended at 10 games last week.

-- CF Carlos Beltran, who opted against surgery to repair a fracture to his left cheekbone, returned to center field Wednesday at Shea Stadium and received a resounding cheer. Beltran, who had his helmet's padding modified but didn't wear a protective shield, scored twice in the Mets' 5-1 win.

-- RF Mike Cameron was released from Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., six days after his head-to-head collision with CF Carlos Beltran. Cameron had Friday night surgery to repair fractures to both cheekbones and his nose. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon dispatched a jet to transport Cameron and his family cross-country to New York.

"He sounded like he had marbles in his mouth," said manager Willie Randolph, who spoke with Cameron, who probably is out for the season.

-- Teams ought to be advised not to intentionally walk the batter ahead of 3B David Wright. He improved to 6-for-7 with 15 RBIs in those situations when he produced a two-RBI single against Pittsburgh RHP Josh Fogg in the fourth inning Wednesday following an intentional walk to LF Cliff Floyd.

-- RHP Aaron Heilman earned his first professional save with two scoreless relief innings Wednesday. Heilman entered with two runners in scoring position and no out in the eighth and recorded two strikeouts and a pop-up out to strand both inherited runners.

-- LHP Tom Glavine earned career win No. 271 Wednesday, passing Burleigh Grimes for sole possession of 30th on the all-time list.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Earned runs allowed by RHP Jae Weong Seo in his last 30 1/3 innings. He is 5-1 with a 1.09 ERA.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's a chance that I won't be back this year, but there's a piece of me that says I'm going to come back. But I've got to be realistic with myself and realize that this was a true thing that happened. It's not like any other thing I've ever had or had to overcome. I have to really be smart." -- OF Mike Cameron on the injuries he suffered in a collision with Carlos Beltran on Aug. 11.


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