The New York Mets swept their NL East archrivals over the weekend and lead the division by 14 games, but an injury to a key part of their bullpen had them busy before the trade deadline.
Not content to stand pat, the Mets addressed a potential bullpen problem at the deadline, and New York looks to continue its outstanding play when it faces the Florida Marlins in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night.
The Mets (63-41) have won four straight, including a three-game sweep of Atlanta over the weekend. New York outscored the Braves 27-13, including 10-6 on Sunday as it continued to make the NL East race a foregone conclusion.
“There’s a lot of season left to play,” said center fielder Carlos Beltran, who was 6-for-15 in the Braves series with 12 RBIs and four homers. “We look forward as a team to winning as many games as we can and just to improve. We’re going to go every single day to play to win. We need to go keep ourselves focused and go win ballgames.”
The Mets were 16-9 in July, their best record in the month since going 18-9 in 1999. After suffering what could be a big loss to their pitching staff Monday, however, they moved quickly in finding help, acquiring pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez from Pittsburgh for outfielder Xavier Nady.
Hernandez, a right-handed reliever who pitched for New York last season, and Perez, a left-hander, were brought as insurance after standout setup man Duaner Sanchez dislocated his pitching shoulder in a taxi accident.
The Mets expect to learn in about a week whether Sanchez needs surgery. If he does, the right-hander would miss the rest of the season. If not, he could return in September, according to general manager Omar Minaya.
While the 40-year-old Hernandez has continued to produce this season, a major injury to Sanchez would be a blow to a Mets club that faces some questions about its pitching staff. Despite the big division lead, New York’s starters went 10-8 with a 5.20 ERA in July.
The team has seen some positive signs of late, however, as veteran Orlando Hernandez won his third straight decision Saturday, and ace Pedro Martinez came off the 15-day disabled list Friday to win his first start in more than a month.
Plus, the Mets have been encouraged by the pitching of 22-year-old right-hander Mike Pelfrey (2-1, 5.28 ERA), who will make his fourth major league start Tuesday and second against the Marlins.
After two good starts, Pelfrey struggled in his most recent outing July 23 against Houston, giving up five runs in only 4 1-3 innings of an 8-4 loss July 23.
“He looked real good in the first two innings,” Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “I thought he’d be on a roll like before, but he started to aim the ball and it caught up to him.”
The rookie made his debut against the Marlins on July 8 and gave up three runs in five innings of a 17-3 victory. He followed it up with an 8-3 win at Cincinnati on July 18, throwing six innings of two-run ball.
The Marlins (49-56) will counter with Scott Olsen (9-4, 3.79), who’s looking to win his fourth consecutive start. The 22-year-old left-hander has a 2.08 ERA over his last nine outings, and gave up two hits in six scoreless innings Thursday in a 6-1 victory over Atlanta. He struck out five and retired the last 12 batters he faced.
Olsen has 22 strikeouts in his last three starts.
The rookie’s only outing against the Mets came July 9, when he gave up three runs and struck out five in five innings, failing to earn a decision in a 7-6 loss.
Florida ended a three-game losing streak by taking the finale of a five-game series against Philadelphia on Monday, 15-2. Miguel Cabrera was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBIs.
New York leads the season series 6-3.