Marlins @ Mets Preview

Mother Nature spared the New York Mets from a chance at record-setting futility Monday afternoon, but the Florida Marlins can push the Mets to that depth in the first game of today's doubleheader at Shea Stadium. The Mets, in the midst of a National League record-tying 14-game home losing streak, hope to snap out of it as John Thomson faces Carl Pavano at 5:10 p.m.

New York, having gone more than a month since its last Shea win, is tied with the 1911 Boston Braves for the dubious mark. The major league record is 20 straight home losses by the St. Louis Browns in 1953.

The four-game series may be the Mets' best chance to turn things around. The Mets have won four of the six meetings with the Marlins in New York, and hold an 8-7 series lead. The teams split the last two games played, a 10-5 Mets win on Aug. 27 which was the team's third straight after its 12-game losing skid, then a 7-3 loss on Aug. 28 which started the current four-game slide that has New York at a season-high 12 games under .500.

Thomson was the last Met pitcher to win, getting his first victory with the team in the Aug. 27 win over Florida. Thomson (8-11, 4.80 ERA) was dominant until the ninth inning, when he gave up four of the five runs charged to him.

It was the second straight solid start for the righty acquired from Colorado just before the trade deadline, after giving up just four hits in 7 1/3 innings in a 3-1 loss to red-hot San Francisco.

Pavano (3-10, 5.68) appears to be the perfect candidate to help the Mets break out of their hitting slump. He's 0-2 since joining the team from Montreal in the trade that sent Cliff Floyd to the Expos, but in his two starts since replacing injured ex-Met A.J. Burnett, Pavano has given up 11 runs and 13 hits in eight innings.

That includes his Aug. 28 start against the Mets where he failed to last five innings, allowing three runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. But as has been the Mets' pattern, after getting nine runners on against Pavano, they managed just two in the last 4 1/3 innings against a suspect Florida bullpen.

In his only other start of the season against the Mets, April 20 at Montreal, Pavano got the win in a 7-5 Expos victory, allowing four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 shaky innings.

If the Mets can't solve Pavano, they'll face what has proven in the last couple of years to be a very tough test in Game 2: the first major-league start by Marlins rookie Justin Wayne.

The 23-year-old Honolulu native went 8-5 with a 3.12 ERA in Class AA Portland, striking out 77 and walking 45 in 141 1/3 innings. He then started twice at Class AAA Calgary, where he gave up eight runs in 11 innings, walking six and allowing three home runs.

Doesn't sound like much, but the Mets have struggled mightily against pitchers they've never seen.

The Mets counter with Mike Bacsik, 2-1 with a 4.17 ERA in seven games, six as a starter. This will be Bacsik's fourth start against the Marlins; in his first two starts of the season, he gave up five runs and 13 hits in 14 innings, beating Florida 5-3 and 8-3. He pitched well in a no-decision on Aug. 28, giving up three runs and six hits in five innings.

-- New York hopes for an offensive boost with the anticipated return of Mike Piazza. The All-Star catcher was slated to go before Monday's rainout after missing five games with a sore left wrist. Piazza is expected to play one of the games, then meet with management to determine whether to try and play with the injury or sit for a while.

The Mets will be without Tony Tarasco, who sprained his left ankle Sunday and may miss up to two weeks. Tarasco's injury clears the way for Raul Gonzalez and Jeromy Burnitz to get more at-bats.

-- Five players have joined the Mets after their recall from Class AAA Norfolk: infielder Marco Scutaro, catcher Jason Phillips and pitchers Satoru Komiyama, Tyler Walker and Pedro Feliciano, who was acquired along with Gonzalez from Cincinnati in the Shawn Estes deal.

The Mets are expected to add speedy OF Essex Sneed from Class AA Binghamton and infielder Ty Wigginton from Norfolk in time for today's games.

-- Much has happened since the Mets' last home win, a 10-0 triumph over Houston on July 31. At that point, they were 4½ games behind Los Angeles in the NL wild card chase, and were 55-41.

Since then, New York has gone 6-22 and lost 12½ games in the wild card race.

Injuries


Marlins
Benito Baez - 60 Day DL as of 3/29
Alex Gonzalez - 60 Day DL as of 5/20
Josh Beckett - 15 Day DL as of 8/23

Mets
Grant Roberts - 15 Day DL as of 7/13
John Franco - Season - as of 3/20
Kane Davis - Season - as of 5/14
Mike Piazza - Day to Day - Wrist
Tony Tarasco - Day To Day - Ankle

Last Trade Between Florida-Mets


November 20, 1998....The New York Mets traded Jorge Fabregas to the Florida Marlins for Oscar Henriquez.

Mets On This Date Last Year


September 2 - Lose vs. Marlins 5-1, 65-72, 8.5GB Of Atlanta
September 3 - Win vs. Phillies 10-7, 66-72, 8.5GB Of Atlanta
September 4 - Win vs. Phillies 5-3, 67-72, 8.5GB Of Atlanta

Former Fish


Al Leiter (1996-1997)
Mike Piazza (1996)
David Weathers (1998)

Previous Meetings In 2002


May
Fri. 24 @ New York: Mets won 5-4
Sat. 25 @ New York: Mets lose 6-5
Sun. 26 @ New York: Mets won 3-0
Mon. 27 @ New York: Mets lose 5-3

May/June
Fri. 31 @ Florida: Mets won 6-5
Sat. 1 @ Florida: Mets lose 9-7
Sun. 2 @ Florida: Mets lose 7-3

July
Thu. 4 @ Florida: Mets lose 9-7
Fri. 5 @ Florida: Mets won 5-3
Sat. 6 @ Florida: Mets lose 5-2
Sun. 7 @ Florida: Mets won 9-3
Mon. 15 @ New York: Mets won 8-3
Tue. 16 @ New York: Mets won 10-5
August
Tue. 27 @ Florida: Mets won 10-5
Wed. 28 @ Florida: Mets lose 7-3



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