New York (83-66) at Washington (57-93)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 34° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Tue Sep 16, 2008
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New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel says he hasn’t had to address all the talk surrounding his team’s late-season collapse last year.

With his club’s lead in the NL East down to the slimmest of margins, now may be the time for that discussion.

The Mets look to maintain their hold on first place and avoid their first three-game skid in six weeks Tuesday night when they continue a four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

One of the most indelible memories from last season was the historic collapse by the Mets (83-66). Leading the East by seven games with 17 to play, New York went 5-12 and lost the division to Philadelphia on the final day of the season and missed the playoffs altogether.

“That’s a big subject here,” Manuel said before Monday night’s loss. “It’s, unfortunately, just a part of who we are as long as we’re in a race and competing. Until we win it or get into the playoffs, that’s something we have to deal with.

“I haven’t addressed it—not recently,” he said. “I hope I don’t have to address it. If I have to, I will. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Although the Mets haven’t had anything close to a seven-game lead this season, they are in the process of coughing up a season-high 3 1/2-game edge to the Phillies. The Mets held that advantage as recently as Wednesday, but Monday’s 7-2 loss—their third in four games—to lowly Washington (57-93) drew Philadelphia within one-half game.

The Mets won’t get much of a break the rest of the way, playing 13 games in 13 days without a rest. Along with Washington, they finish with the Braves, the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and Florida.

With closer Billy Wagner sidelined, an ineffective bullpen that has blown 27 saves—11 in the ninth inning—has been the Mets’ biggest problem. Monday’s loss, however, rests with an offense that managed one hit in the first seven innings.

New York’s Nos. 3-5 hitters—David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado—went a combined 0-for-11 with four strikeouts on the night.

“You’ve got to forget about this one and go out and get them tomorrow. There’s no panic,” Wright said. “We know what’s at stake. This is a time where these little bumps in the road—we’ve got to keep them to a minimum. We can’t allow this to carry over the next couple of games.”

Washington, which ended a five-game losing streak, needs to win half of its remaining 12 games to avoid the franchise’s first 100-loss season since the Montreal Expos lost 107 in 1976.

Coming off his worst start in a month, Mike Pelfrey (13-9, 3.77 ERA) hopes to rebound when he faces the Nationals for the second straight outing.

The right-hander was tagged for five runs and eight hits over five innings against Washington on Wednesday, but escaped without a decision as the Mets pulled out a 13-10 victory. Pelfrey, who failed to record a strikeout for only the second time in 29 starts this season, was 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in his five previous starts.

He is 2-2 with a 4.29 ERA in seven career starts—six at home—against the Nationals.

Odalis Perez (6-10, 4.48) was matched up against Pelfrey and the Mets on Wednesday and also didn’t fare well. He lasted three innings and was reached for seven runs—six earned—and eight hits.

Perez pitched effectively in his first start this season against the Mets, but is 1-0 with a 7.63 ERA in his last three meetings.

Beltran is batting .529 (9-for-17) against the left-hander while Wright is 7-for-14 with a pair of homers and two doubles.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Pelfrey Min vs. O. Perez Was
13-11 Record 7-12
3.72 ERA 4.34
110 K 119
64 BB 55
1.36 WHIP 1.48

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Sep 16