In Los Angeles, fans leave before the ninth inning because there's something better to do. In New York, fans leave before the ninth because they don't want to see the Mets blow another lead.
Okay, maybe the Metropolitan faithful don't take the early exit all that often, but that could be changing. Aaron Heilman blew up again Monday and Scott Schoeneweis couldn't bail him out, leading to the repeating conclusion of the Mets' second half - another blown game in the ninth. Manager Jerry Manuel is grasping at straws right now, trying to figure out how his club finishes games while Billy Wagner sits on the DL. "Everything from here on out is a possibility," an exasperated Manuel told the New York Daily News. "I'll try anything." The skipper got tossed from this game in the ninth, for what it's worth; the "mad as hell, not going to take it anymore" speech could come later in the week.
Heilman is the convenient scapegoat here, but there's plenty of blame to pass around. Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano struggled in middle-relief Monday, giving up three runs. Duaner Sanchez retired four straight batters but his velocity has been up-and-down all year and Manuel doesn't seem to trust him that much. Perhaps Eddie Kunz will get a shot, though he's been ordinary in three major-league appearances (2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K; Chase Headley's homer hasn't landed yet). There's a chance Wagner could be ready to pitch early next week, but that sounds pretty optimistic. For those considering a pick-up right now in a deeper league, I'd gamble on Kunz - but I also think we'll see Wagner returning at some point in August.
• Jonathan Broxton didn't have perfect command of his slider and fastball Monday, but he was good enough to get the final four outs for the Dodgers en route to his eighth save. Broxton did allow a pair of somewhat-cheap runs (a Shane Victorino infield single and a Chase Utley blooper kept the frame going), but at the end of the night he got the handshake, so we'll take it. The laboring stint took 33 pitches (26 strikes), which means Hong-Chih Kuo could be a temporary closer Tuesday if the Dodgers have another late lead to protect.
• For Derek Lowe, his 2008 story has become "Chavez Ravine, or otherwise obscene." He picked up his seventh win with a tidy start at LA Monday (where he carries a 2.83 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP), but the balloon bursts when he heads on the road (5.88, 1.66). Fortunately for Lowe Nation, he's got another home start lined up this weekend when Milwaukee comes to town. It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers make a serious effort to sign the 35-year-old sinker specialist in the offseason.
• Do you think the Rays regret their inactivity at the trading deadline? First they lost Carl Crawford and now it's Evan Longoria stepping aside - the hotshot rookie has a fractured wrist and is DL-bound. The best-case scenario would have Longoria missing 2-3 weeks. Willy Aybar takes over and is worth AL-only consideration, but that's it.
• Pedro Martinez had another solid six-inning turn Monday, and over his last five starts he's got a snappy 2.70 ERA. But history will show the Mets didn't really get their money's worth from the $52 million deal they threw at him after the 2004 season; Pedro was super in 2005, but hasn't been trustable since. Sure, injuries have played into Martinez's struggles, but we're talking about a pitcher in his declining years who had a history of high maintenance at the end of his Boston run. It wasn't that difficult to connect the dots on this one.
• Speed Round: John Grabow worked a clean ninth to secure Pittsburgh's victory, and you have to imagine he's getting a grip on the committee chair at least, though a waiver deal is always a possibility . . . Despite my Astros bias, I'll mention that Ty Wigginton homered again Monday, he carries three positions of eligibility in Y! leagues (soon to be four), and he's free in a ton of mixers out there . . . John Danks was brilliant for most of his Monday turn, no-hitting the Red Sox into the seventh. Alas, two hits and a walk in that inning ruined his night and tagged him with a loss, but the entire line works for most fantasy owners (2 R, 2 BB, 9 K) . . . Glen Perkins was hit hard for three straight starts into Monday, so it wasn't easy to trust him against the Yanks. Alas, the young lefty got the job done, using 15 ground-ball outs en route to an eight-inning gem (4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K) . . . Clay Buchholz is on a five-game bender, but Terry Francona is still going to roll him out there against the Blue Jays Friday . . . Shaun Marcum located his breaking pitch well at Detroit (6 IP, 2 R), and appears to be rounding back into form after a rough three-start patch . . . I know you might want to talk about the Adam Dunn trade; Andy Behrens is waiting for you here.
• Dave Bush has been useful in six of his last nine starts, and two of the bad outings came against Chicago and at Arizona. That's enough for me, I'll use him in mixers going forward unless the assignment is particularly daunting. He didn't have any problem with the Nats Monday (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K) . . . Stephanie Rice was certainly worthy of a mention at last month's Aussie Night but I was behind the curve at the time. Ah, the joys of learning.
• Injury Lap: A slightly-sore wrist kept David Ortiz out of the lineup Monday at Chicago . . . Ryan Braun (ribs) still hopes to avoid the DL but he's not expected to play Tuesday . . . Rick Ankiel (abdominal) got back into the mix Monday and went 2-for-3 . . . If only Freddy Sanchez could stay healthy. He's been swinging pretty well for a few weeks, but a sore back held him back, then a sore shoulder scratched him Monday . . . Hideki Matsui (knee) did some baserunning Monday and should begin a rehab start later in the week . . . C.J. Wilson is officially headed for elbow surgery, so use your DL spot on someone else . . . Chris Carpenter (triceps) will be re-examined Tuesday and won't throw on the side, as originally intended. I'll be stunned if he makes his start this week . . . Nomar Garciaparra (knee) should come off the DL Tuesday, while Andruw Jones (knee) might go on the shelf . . . Andy LaRoche (thumb) returned to action Monday, going 0-for-3 . . . Marcus Thames had an MRI on his shoulder and could he headed to the DL.
• Gary Sheffield isn't thrilled about his role in Detroit, and he said as much to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently. Jim Leyland wasn't thrilled to hear about Sheff's discontent, and fired back with some pointed comments. Sheffield had a couple of homers last week, but the average isn't going anywhere; a Monday collar dropped him to .219.
• A handful of winning clubs padded the score in their last at-bat Monday, which puts a kibosh on ninth-inning save chances. Joe Nathan still worked for the Twins, striking out three Yankees to protect Minnesota's 4-0 win. The Red Sox did the same with Jonathan Papelbon, and he worked a clean ninth to preserve Josh Beckett's 5-1 victory. Conventional handshakes apply to Jose Valverde (29) and Chris Perez (2; one walk, two strikeouts).
• I haven't stayed all that current with music in the new decade - my wheelhouse falls with the 70s and 90s - but Spoon had me from the first listen. We'll pick up on that and the rest of the utensil drawer Wednesday; Dr. Behrens is your tour guide Tuesday night.