Series Preview: Mets vs. Astros II

Houston Astros baseball old Astrodome logoAfter firing their manager and general manager, and remaining mired near the bottom of the NL Central, the Houston Astros season is all but over. Almost ten games out of first with 22 games to play, it would take a major miracle for the ‘stros to get into the postseason, even in the most fragile division in MLB.

That said, it should be interesting to see how Houston performs in this weekend series at Shea. Unlike the Reds, who are auditioning Pete Mackanin for the 2008 managerial job, Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper has little to no chance of returning at the helm next year — not with a new GM coming in, who likely will want to hire “his guy” to take the reigns. However, a number of veterans likely won’t be back in ’08, such as Craig Biggio (who is retiring), and potential free agents Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus and Mike Lamb.

Game 1: Mike Pelfrey (1-7, 5.43) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-12, 4.49)

Can Mike Pelfrey build off the momentum of his first win of 2007? Can the Mets reverse the curse of Wandy Rodriguez?

We can only hope that Pelfrey can pitch effectively again. We don’t need a lights-out performance, just enough to offer encouragement — something to show us that he’s advancing, making steps forward. With a boost of confidence, who knows what this kid might accomplish.

As far as Wandy goes, it’s a tossup. Without the Mets on the schedule, who knows if this guy would still be in MLB? In his last game against New York, he threw a 4-hit shutout. If he has his great curve working, it could be a similar performance. However, there is one thing going against him — a 2-9 record and 7.11 ERA away from Minute Maid Park.

Game 2: Tom Glavine (12-6, 4.06) vs. Woody Williams (8-13, 4.95)

Interesting, isn’t it, how often Glavine starts against the other team’s oldest geezer? Or does it just seem that way because we notice it every time it happens?

Anyway, Tommy is coming off two excellent starts against the Phillies and Braves, and pitched seven strong innings against the Astros earlier in the year. If the ‘stros start a lineup full of aggressive youngsters, it should be a good thing for Glavine.

Woody Williams is not the worst starting pitcher in the NL, but he’s close. Adam Eaton, Scott Olsen, Kip Wells, and Josh Fogg are probably worse … strangely, though, the Mets have had trouble with all of them. In fact, Woody’s ERA would probably be over 5 if not for the seven and two-thirds innings against the Mets on July 7th, when he gave up only three runs. Like the Wandy game, who knows what to expect? For whatever reason, the Mets don’t hit well against mediocre pitchers.

Game 3: Pedro Martinez (1-0, 3.60) vs. Roy Oswalt (14-6, 3.35)

Oswalt is having another stellar season, and pitched seven strong if unspectacular innings against the Mets back in July. If I remember correctly, however, that was one of those games that the Mets packed it in and gave up after the third inning — but then, you couldn’t blame them with Dave Williams on the mound and David Newhan batting second in the lineup. Had Williams not started and given up eight runs in four innings, the Mets might have had a shot, as they touched Oswalt in the sixth and seventh innings — but it was too little, too late.

But, we don’t really care how Oswalt pitches, do we? We’ll be concentrating on every pitch that floats from Pedro’s fingers, from the first through the 80th. Can Pedro throw 80? Can he get to 85? Will he complete five innings again? Can he get into the sixth? This will be Pedro’s first start after his first start, so everyone is wondering how he rebounds after five days of rest. What if it’s not enough? What if it’s too much? What if he regresses? This game will be less of contest and more of a litmus test.

Bottom Line

Usually, you can look at the pitching matchups and get some idea of how the series might turn out. In this case, though, nobody knows. All year, the Mets offense has flopped against mediocre pitchers such as the Wandy and Woody show, and woken up against the Roy Oswalts of the world. Mike Pelfrey is as questionable as Pedro Martinez, and Tom Glavine’s effectiveness is often directly tied to the size of the home plate umpire’s strike zone.

Carlos Delgado will be missing for the entire series, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing. Sure, the Mets will be a little stronger defensively, and have a little more speed on the bases, but Delgado was starting to heat up and provide protection and production in the middle of the lineup. Can Shawn Green and Jeff Conine pick up the slack? Will Delgado’s absence turn out to be a blessing, because Endy Chavez and Lastings Milledge will be playing more regularly?

My guess it the Mets will take two out of three from the downward spiraling ‘stros, but if they don’t, it might not matter. After all, the Braves are too far behind to be a concern, and the Phillies seem to have shot their load in their four-game sweep of the Mets last week. Unless the Phillies get hot again, it’s just a matter of time …

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.