Daily Windup: Mets need a spark
As if the Mets don't have enough to worry about this September, what with the AWOL bullpen, the specter of '07 haunting them at every base and those pesky Phillies all in their business -- again -- there is the odd yet now too-familiar case of their leadoff man, Jose Reyes.
Though still considered one of the most electric talents in the game, a blend of speed and skills and all-around baseball awesomeness, Reyes is pulling off a second straight disappearing act in the Mets' push for a playoff spot. And, once again, it's taking the knees out of the Mets, whose standing is awfully shaky as it is.
Reyes, in a big-picture sense, is having a fine year, probably the best of his still-rising career. But this month, he's hitting just .204 with a miserable .283 on-base percentage in the first 13 games. That'd be alarming enough on its own. It's positively shocking when you compare it to Reyes circa 2007. Last year, as the Mets frittered away a seven-game lead and missed out on the playoffs, Reyes was equally as bad, hitting .205 with a .279 OBP In 27 September games.
Reyes went 0-for-3 Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to the Nationals that knocked the Mets out of first place in the National League East.
"We need to start hitting the ball," Reyes told the New York Post. "I don't know what's happened. We've got to hit a lot better if we want to win this thing. It's getting tougher and tougher every day."
With the bullpen in shambles, Fernando Tatis now out with a separated shoulder and all the other problems the Mets have, they need Reyes. They can score -- they're averaging almost 4.8 runs a game this month -- but they can't score consistently without Reyes getting on base and creating his havoc. Already this month, they've been shut out twice and scored just two runs in three other losses. They're just 7-6.
The Mets still lead the wild-card race. They still have a chance. But can they make the playoffs without Reyes? It's just another worry that Mets fans have to handle.
With 12 days left in the regular season, here are some other worries for contenders.
The Phillies have taken over the NL East lead, but left fielder Pat Burrell has been no help. Burrell went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in Tuesday's wild 8-7 win over the Braves. Since the beginning of August, he's hitting just .178 with only five homers in 41 games.
One-time fan-favorite Kosuke Fukudome has been relegated to the bench because of an extended slump, leaving do-everything fielder Mark DeRosa to ... well, do everything. DeRosa is coming up a little empty lately, though. He's just 6-for-40 (.150) in September.
New manager. Eric Gagne in the bullpen. A September, so far, from hell. Brewers' fans have plenty to complain about this September. A favorite target: Third baseman Bill Hall, who is hitting just .226 with a .292 OBP this year. And just .210/.290 since the beginning of August.
With Manny Ramirez in town and a 4 1/2-game lead in a weak division, there aren't a whole lot of worries for Dodgers fans these days. It wouldn't hurt, though, if Russell Martin got a little hot. In his last 26 games, he's hitting just .208 with just one homer in 96 at-bats.
In his last seven games, Twins closer Joe Nathan is 0-2 with three blown saves and a 5.68 ERA.
Stud of the Day
Ryan Howard, Phillies
Howard is on one of his hottest streaks of the year, and it couldn't come at a better time. The big first baseman pulled the Phillies back into the NL East lead with a humongous game against the Braves on Tuesday, which included a clutch two-out, two-run homer in the eighth to give the Phils an 8-7 win. Howard came into the game hitting only .212 against lefties. But since Aug. 27, he's hitting .433 against lefties, with five home runs, including the game-winner Tuesday night.
Dud of the Day
Francisco Liriano, Twins
When Liriano returned from the minors in early August, he was close to the phenom of '06, going 5-0 in his first eight starts with a 1.57 ERA. That all ended Tuesday. The Indians banged him around for six hits and eight runs (four earned) in just 2 2/3 innings in a killer loss for the Twins. Minnesota fought back in the game, but Cleveland's Victor Martinez hit a walkoff home run off closer Joe Nathan in the 11th to win, 12-9, and push the Twins 2 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.