By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 8, 2001
7:15 p.m. tonight, 4:15 p.m. Saturday, 1:15 p.m. Sunday
SEASON IN REVIEW: The defending National League champions have not been above .500 since April 6. The Mets were swept by the Expos in the second series of the season and have been playing catch-up ever since. They have not had a winning streak of more than three games. It has not helped that outfielders Benny Agbayani, Timo Perez, Darryl Hamilton and Jay Payton have been on the disabled list at various times.
SCOUTING REPORT: Much has been made about New York's failure to re-sign Mike Hampton or replace him in the rotation, but the team's biggest problem has been offense. The Mets are 29th in the majors in batting average. They lack power and speed, and their outfield might be the weakest in the league. Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo are having subpar years, and none of their teammates has picked up the slack. The rotation has been fairly solid, but no one has assumed Hampton's role as ace.
EX-RAYS: Reliever Rick White, who resurrected his career with the Rays, has a 3.31 ERA in 13 appearances for the Mets. White, who went to New York in the trade that brought Jason Tyner and Paul Wilson to Tampa Bay, is fourth on Tampa Bay's all-time list for appearances and saves. Steve Trachsel was traded by the Rays to Toronto in July and signed with the Mets in the off-season.
SERIES HISTORY: If nothing else, the Rays have been consistent against the Mets. In each of the past three seasons, Tampa Bay has gone 1-2 against them. At least the Rays have been competitive. Five of the nine games have been decided by one run, and seven have been decided by two runs or fewer. The last time the Mets came to Tropicana Field was 1999.
WHO'S HOT: His overall numbers are down, but Piazza is beginning to heat up. Piazza was hitting .357 with 5 home runs, 10 RBI and 10 runs scored in his previous 10 games going into Thursday night.
WHO'S NOT: Perez was 4-for-23 (.174) on the Mets' road trip going into Thursday night. His average has dropped from .253 to .238 in the past week.