10/10/06 7:35 PM ET
Best-laid plans don't materialize
Several starters for NLCS aren't supposed to be here
The pioneer in this regard, 19-game loser Albie Lopez, was so-so in two postseason starts for the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, who won a World Series."Oliver Perez is the kind of kid who has electric stuff," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "At any given time, he can spin up a gem." Reyes is also often described as having "electric" stuff. Heck, there may not even be any need to turn on the New Busch Stadium lights for their Sunday meeting. Perez was also penciled in to start Game 4 of the Division Series, which wasn't required. This time, there will be a Game 4, no matter how hard some of the Mets pray. Cliff Floyd doubtless meant no disrespect when he'd said of the prospects of Perez having to face the Dodgers, "Everybody's hope is that we don't go to Game 4 and we don't have to worry about it." You know what Floyd meant, that Steve Trachsel would be able to close the deal with a Game 3 victory. Still, it didn't come off as a ringing endorsement of Perez. New York general manager Omar Minaya knows that there is even less remorse than crying in baseball. "Did I expect these guys to possibly be key guys in the playoffs?" Minaya posed, referring to Maine and Perez. "That wasn't my hope. But they are. But one thing about them -- they're not afraid to take the ball." And as Randolph said of Perez, "He's the best we have right now. And that's good enough." That can serve as the motto for both managers in a series that must unfold without Pedro Martinez, Mark Mulder and Hernandez. And, in St. Louis' case, closer Jason Isringhausen.
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Isringhausen may not be the one who tilts the Series in the Mets' favor. But his absence does influence the teams' game plans.The Mets want to get to their bullpen as early as reasonably possible. After all, didn't they just manage a Division Series sweep while getting a total of 13 2/3 innings from three starters? "That's all they want to do," St. Louis shortstop David Eckstein noted. "Their setup guys have done a great job, and they've got Billy Wagner waiting at the end." The Cardinals want to avoid going to the bullpen as long as possible. Unless they are convinced the Division Series work of replacement closer Adam Wainwright and crew wasn't a flash. The relievers were nothing short of brilliant against the Padres: 13 1/3 shutout innings, nine hits, six walks and 16 strikeouts. That performance was in amazing contrast to the last month of the regular season. Perhaps the Cards were just dealing with the shock of losing Isringhausen, who had to undergo surgery on an arthritic left hip, and got their heads on straight by the time they got into October. Amazin'? You've got a roster-full of it in the New York dugout, by adopted nickname. You may also get it nightly from the mound, by deed.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.