BY JOE RINI
A sinking post All-Star game stretch, the early curtailment of Johan Santana’s season, the Houston Astros final trip to New York as a National League team, and the possibility that Triple-A farmhands could get married by Elvis Presley impersonators are among the swirling story lines facing the Mets this week.
After dropping four of six to the first place Reds and Nationals last week, there was hope for better outcomes as the Mets began a seven game homestand against the struggling Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros. However, the Rockies took the first two games at Citi Field on Monday and Tuesday by scores of 3-1 and 6- 2 in games marred by quiet bats and lapses in the field and on the bases by the New Yorkers.
Addressing a question after Tuesday’s game about whether the team, which has dropped 26 of 37 games since the All-Star break, had “packed it in” on 2012, manager Terry Collins said no, “But as I told the guys, in our game perception is reality, and when you sit in the outside and you watch a game like tonight, the perception is, ‘They’ve packed it in.’ And I won’t stand for it.’ ”
Earlier in the day, the Mets faced the prospect of an early shutdown to Johan Santana’s season as they awaited the results of a MRI taken of their ace’s back on Tuesday. Santana marveled the baseball world with his successful comeback from shoulder surgery by pitching the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1, but a combination of fatigue and injuries has caused Santana to lose 7 of his last 10 decisions. By allowing at least six runs in his last five starts, Santana has seen his record drop to 6-9 and his ERA rise to 4.85 in 21 starts.
On a more historical note, the Houston Astros take on the Mets at Citi Field this weekend in their final trip as a National League franchise before departing for the American League’s Western
division in 2013. Fifty summers ago, both teams played their inaugural seasons as expansion teams in the National League as the 120 loss Mets landed in last place and baseball history while the then Houston Colt 45’s lost a less unsightly and more anonymous 96 games.
The team from Houston was marginally more successful than the Mets in the early days of their existence as they brought up younger players more quickly than the original Mets, which featured aging stars. A look at the boxscore of May 2, 1963 shows a 19 year-old future Met Rusty Staub playing at the Polo Grounds for the first time for Houston while the Mets lineup included 39- year old Gil Hodges, three days before his final game as a major leaguer (Mets won that day 10-3).
A notable game occurred on April 15, 1968 when the Astros defeated the Mets 1-0 in 24 innings, the longest shutout in baseball history. Mets center fielder Tommy Agee, who entered the game batting .313, left the game batting .192 as he went 0 for 10 and didn’t see .200 until September. However, when it mattered most, the Mets clinched a trip to the 1986 World Series with a dramatic 7-6 victory in 16 innings over the Astros at the Astrodome. Overall, the Mets have been the more successful of the two franchises with four World Series appearances and two championships while the Astros lone trip to the World Series in 2005 resulted in a four game sweep by the Chicago White Sox.
Finally, there was speculation that should the Mets fail to reach a contract extension with their Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, they could be forced into an affiliation with the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League in 2013. Las Vegas is famous for its buffets and for being a difficult place to develop pitchers as the current squad in Las Vegas has a team batting average of .313.
The Mets enter play on Wednesday with a record of 57-66 in third place and begin a nine game road trip August 28 against Philadelphia, Miami, and St. Louis after concluding the current homestand.