Mets @ Expos Thursday Game Preview

The New York Mets make their last trip north of the border to Montreal – maybe ever – for a four-game series starting tonight. After splitting Wednesday's doubleheader in Atlanta, the Mets stand at 69-76, 24 games behind the Braves, in last place in the NL East but 1½ games behind the three-team logjam in second place.

The Expos, in contention for the wild card spot until an August slide, are safe from contraction after the new labor agreement, but there is still talk that the franchise might relocate as soon as next year, with Washington, D.C., the likely target.

That would end what has become a popular road trip for Mets fans, who can pretty much sit where they like in the nearly-empty Olympic Stadium. Often, there seem to be many more Met rooters in the stands than Expos fans.

Those fans, and the Mets themselves, get their first look at right-hander Jason Middlebrook, who was obtained from San Diego at the July 31 trade deadline along with Steve Reed.

Middlebrook, once one of the Padres' top pitching prospects, started the year in Class AAA but made 12 appearances, two starts, for the Padres before being sent back to the minors in late June. Among his two starts was a 13-4 loss to the Mets on May 17 where he allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. For the season, he's 1-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 35 1/3 innings.

In five starts at Class AAA Norfolk following the trade, Middlebrook was 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA and gave up just 13 hits and one walk in 23 2/3 innings.

The Expos counter with Tomo Ohka, one of their most pleasant surprises this year. Ohka is 13-7 with a 3.18 ERA, and has walked only 44 batters in 178 1/3 innings. Take away two bad starts, where he gave up 11 earned runs in 1 inning of total work, and Ohka's ERA drops to 2.63.

The Mets have had some success against Ohka in 2002, beating him twice in three starts. In 12 1/3 innings, the Mets have nine runs and 20 hits against the veteran.

-- The Mets had hoped to have Mo Vaughn back for at least one of Wednesday's games, but the left ring finger he jammed Saturday in Philadelphia was still bothering him. He's day-to-day.

-- X-rays on the right thumb of Steve Trachsel were negative, but the Mets have recalled Pat Strange from Norfolk just in case Trachsel can't make his next scheduled start, Tuesday against the Cubs at Shea. Strange was 10-10 with a 3.82 ERA at Norfolk.

Injuries


Expos
Andres Galarraga - Day To Day (Hip Flexor)
Wil Cordero - Day To Day (Back)
Jose Macias - Season (Wrist)
Scott Stewart - Day To Day (Elbow)

Mets
Mo Vaughn - Day To Day (Hand)
John Franco - Season - as of 3/20
Kane Davis - Season - as of 5/14
Tony Tarasco - Day To Day (Ankle)

Last Trade Between Montreal-Mets


On April 5, 2002....The New York Mets traded Bruce Chen, Dicky Gonzalez, Luis Figueroa to the Montreal Expos for Scott Strickland.

Mets On This Date Last Year


September 12 - Did Not Play, 71-73, 8.0GB Atlanta
September 13 - Did Not Play, 71-73, 8.0GB Atlanta
September 14 - Did Not Play, 71-73, 8.0GB Atlanta
September 15 - Did Not Play, 71-73, 8.0GB Atlanta

Previous Meetings In 2002


April
Fri. 12 @ New York: Mets won 2-1
Sat. 13 @ New York: Mets lost 9-8
Sun. 14 @ New York: Mets won 6-4
Thu. 18 @ Montreal: Mets won 1-0
Fri. 19 @ Montreal: Mets lost 5-3
Sat. 20 @ Montreal: Mets lost 7-5
Sun. 21 @ Montreal: Mets lost 6-3

July
Wed. 17 @ Montreal: Mets won 9-6
Thu. 18 @ Montreal: Mets lost 2-1
Mon. 22 @ New York: Mets won 5-2
Tue. 23 @ New York: Mets won 4-3
Wed. 24 @ New York: Mets lost 2-1



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