Despite the highest payroll in the National League, injuries and inconsistency have lowered expectations for the New York Mets. However, Cliff Floyd’s steady offensive improvement has been a bright spot.
A resurgent Floyd looks to help New York win back-to-back road series for the first time all season as they face the Texas Rangers in the finale of their three-game series at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Floyd doesn’t particularly like the designated hitter role, but he played it well for New York in Wednesday night’s 8-2 win at Texas, going 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs.
“I give credit to designated hitters across the league.” Floyd said. “It’s not something where you can just go out there and hit. You’ve got to somehow stay loose, somehow stay focused.”
Floyd is hitting .447 (17-of-38) in his last 12 games. He has 32 RBIs in the last 35 games, after having just seven in his first 24 games with New York.
Veteran left-hander Al Leiter will be looking to bounce back from his worst regular season start with the Mets. After beating Atlanta and Philadelphia in consecutive starts, Leiter gave up eight runs and nine hits in just two innings of New York’s 13-1 loss in first game of a doubleheader sweep by the Mariners on Sunday.
Texas, which snapped a nine-game skid with a win in the series opener on Tuesday, is 3-13 since a seven-game winning streak.
Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game because of tenderness in his right elbow. The Rangers opted against using him as the designated hitter, giving him an extra day to rest the elbow. Gonzalez said his elbow has been hurting since at least June 1. He will be evaluated again Thursday.
STANDINGS: Mets - 5th place, 14 1/2 GB, NL East. Rangers - 4th place, 16 1/2 GB, AL West.
METS PROBABLE STARTER: Leiter (6-3, 5.21 ERA). Leiter has walked 19 batters in his last four starts, and his 44 on the season are tied for fourth-worst in the NL. He has not fared well against the Rangers in his career, going 1-6 with a 4.60 ERA in nine games, including seven starts.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Colby Lewis (4-4, 8.08 ERA). Lewis was hit hard in his last start against the Expos on Friday night, giving up seven runs on seven hits while lasting only three innings of a 13-10 defeat. He leads the American League with 47 walks in 59 innings, and has only one win in nine starts, and two in his last 10.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mets - Floyd, 13 HRs and 39 RBIs; Ty Wigginton, 37 runs; Roberto Alomar and Roger Cedeno, 5 SBs. Rangers - Hank Blalock, .343 avg.; Juan Gonzalez, 18 HRs and 47 RBIs; Carl Everett, 49 runs; Rodriguez, 7 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Mets - 2-3; Rangers - 1-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Mets - DH Floyd hit .333 (27-for-81) with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 20 games as a designated hitter for Boston last season. … New York skipper Art Howe has 68 interleague wins, the most by any manager since interleague play began in 1997. He has two with the Mets, and the other 66 with Oakland against the NL the previous six years. … A night after going 2-for-4 with two runs scored in his major league debut, rookie SS Jose Reyes went 0-for-3 on his 20th birthday. Rangers - OF Doug Glanville is hitting .327 (16-for-49) with two homers and six RBIs in his career against LHP Leiter. … 3B Herbert Perry, who is on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder, has been doing some baseball activities, but manager Buck Showalter doesn’t expect him to be ready to coming off the disabled list when he is eligible to Friday. … RHP Lewis is 2-2 with a 8.72 ERA in seven starts at home this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mets - 12-19 on the road; Rangers - 15-15 at home.
INJURIES: Mets - SS Rey Sanchez (thumb), 15-day DL; C Mike Piazza (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Pedro Astacio (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Strickland (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Grant Roberts (shoulder), 60-day DL; 1B Mo Vaughn (knee), 60-day DL. Rangers - INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Joaquin Benoit (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL.