BY JOE RINI
In the spirit of this Triple Crown horse racing season, the Mets stride into the quarter pole of the 2012 baseball season in fourth place, a “neck” behind third place Miami, and three “lengths” behind division leading Washington, who battles Atlanta for the lead. At 23 wins and 20 losses, the Mets are two games better than last year’s 21 and 22, in the thick of the Eastern Division race, poised in a tight field between the first place Nationals and the surprisingly lackluster yet potentially formidable Phillies at 21 and 23.
However, as Bodemeister can attest, the race isn’t settled at the quarter pole. Like thoroughbreds, history shows that teams can go “wire to wire” or jump out to big leads before getting caught down the stretch. The 1986 Mets went wire to wire but the champion 1969 Mets were a lowly 20 and 23, nine games out of first place after 43 games while three years later, the Mets with many of the same players, jumped out to a 31 and 12 start and a five game lead, before fading to a distant third place showing in 1972. More recently, the 2007 squad led the field for 159 days in first place before being nipped at the finish line by the Phillies. Given the competitive Eastern Division this season, the Mets will need to work hard and stay healthy to keep pace.
The Mets are in the middle of a 20 games in 20 days stretch, but they return to Citi Field on Thursday May 24 to play the San Diego Padres and start an 11 game homestand which will also feature series against the Phillies and Cardinals. New York has lost 6 of their last 11 but hope to make up some ground while at Citi Field, where they have a record of 14 and 7 this season.
Even after going hitless in four at bats on Tuesday, David Wright continued to lead the National League in hitting with a .403 batting average and has the fourth highest batting average since 1980 of any player at this stage of the season. At the other extreme, Ike Davis’ struggles lingered as his average fell to .156 and he was benched by manager Terry Collins against lefty Erik Bedard of Pittsburgh. Said Collins, “Besides trying to make sure we have patience with Ike, we’re also trying to win baseball games.”
R.A. Dickey earned his 6th victory in 7 decisions by striking out 11 Pirates in a 3 to 2 win on Tuesday and rookie Jeremy Hefner replaces the injured Miguel Batista in the rotation on Thursday night. A starter at Triple A Buffalo, Hefner has looked impressive in two relief appearances with the big club, allowing just two runs in eight innings. Frank Francisco bounced back to earn three saves in four appearances in the past week and the injured Ruben Tejada and Jason Bay could return to the line up by the end of May