Jerry Manuel has never managed a visiting team at Shea Stadium, but he certainly knows what it feels like to have boos directed at his team there.
Manuel, set to manage the New York Mets at home for the first time since taking over for the fired Willie Randolph, will try to bring some much-needed optimism to Shea Stadium in the opener of a three-game interleague series with the Seattle Mariners.
As manager of the Chicago White Sox from 1998-03, Manuel never traveled to Shea Stadium. Ill feelings from the home crowd there are usually reserved for the visiting team, but Manuel and the Mets (37-37) have often been the target through what has been a disappointing first half of the season.
New York has failed to meet expectations and Randolph’s job security was constantly in question before he was finally fired last Monday. He was replaced by Manuel, who will hold the job the rest of the season.
The Mets lost Manuel’s debut, but rebounded to beat the Los Angeles Angels before taking two of three against Colorado over the weekend. He’s hoping New York will be able to carry that momentum to Shea.
“We still have to prove we can be consistent and we still have to show we can be good at home,” he said. “The jury is out. We have three big games with Seattle and then the Yankees. I would like to see us more consistent offensively before I make that statement.”
Carlos Beltran, who hit a two-run homer to lead the Mets past the Rockies 3-1 on Sunday, believes the team is headed in the right direction.
“Aren’t we winning games?” he said. “We are doing things right.”
New York has a good opportunity open this series on a positive note, with two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana (7-5, 3.04 ERA) taking the mound against major league-worst Seattle (26-49). The Mariners also changed managers last week, firing John McLaren on Thursday and replacing him with Jim Riggleman.
That probably won’t help Seattle’s chances against Santana, though. Santana is 6-0 with a 2.42 ERA in his last eight starts versus the Mariners, and 7-1 with a 2.92 ERA in nine starts and seven relief appearances all-time against them.
New York, though, has lost each of Santana’s last three starts. He took the mound Tuesday in Manuel’s managerial debut with the Mets, allowing five runs - four earned - and eight hits in six innings as New York lost 6-1 to the Angels.
The left-hander is 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA in two interleague starts this season.
Seattle will counter with Felix Hernandez (6-5, 2.87), who has posted a 0.95 ERA and a .184 opponents batting average en route to winning four straight starts.
Hernandez gave up four runs - three earned - and six hits while striking out nine in 7 1-3 innings as Seattle beat Florida 5-4 on Tuesday night. He had gone 22 straight innings without allowing an earned run before giving up a home run in the second.
The right-hander is 5-3 with a 4.43 ERA in 10 interleague outings. This will be his first appearance against the Mets.
Adrian Beltre may be behind Hernandez at third base after missing two straight games with a bruised left index finger. Riggleman said the slugger could be back for this series’ opener.
Miguel Cairo, Beltre’s replacement at third base, went 0-for-3 in an 8-3 loss at Atlanta on Sunday. Seattle dropped the final two contests of that three-game series after winning three of its previous four road games.
The Mariners are 5-1 all-time against the Mets. These teams are meeting at Shea Stadium for the first time since Seattle took two of three games in June 2003.