Standing Strong: Jerry Manuel Tries to Make Statement

Michael GanciCorrespondent IJune 23, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 22:  Manager Jerry Manuel of the New York Mets looks on as his team plays the St. Louis Cardinals on June 22, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 6-4.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Yesterday, I spent a while sitting in the car while driving to the Mets game, and I listened to Mike Francesa talk about how the Mets’ season is effectively over. He said, “Rather than the Mets trying to tread water, they are just trying to tread.”

While this may be an accurate statement, I am not going to be so quick to just give up on the team. That won’t solve any of our problems.

Remember what Tug McGraw said, "Ya gotta believe!"

Sure, the Mets are hobbled, but so are the Phillies. Maybe not to the same extent, but the Phillies aren’t running away with anything. Not just yet.

We all know the clock is ticking, but the Mets should just be intent on winning series. They got off to a good start last night, with a 6-4 victory over Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. That is because the role players stepped up.

Brian Stokes threw the game’s key pitch when he got Albert “The Machine” Pujols to ground into a one-six-three double play to end the eighth inning. It’s guys like Stokes who need to step up to get the job done.

Tonight, Jerry Manuel is showing some faith in the guys that started last night’s game. He is sending the same eight guys out there, with the exception being Fernando Martinez in center field over Jeremy Reed. The lineup is as follows.

1) Alex Cora SS
2) Daniel Murphy 1B
3) David Wright 3B
4) Fernando Tatis LF
5) Ryan Church RF
6) Omir Santos C
7) Fernando Martinez CF
8) Luis Castillo 2B
9) Livan Hernandez RHP (5-1, 4.18)

The Mets need to take advantage of a struggling Joel Pineiro, who has lost eight of his past nine starts. Livan Hernandez's performance in the middle of the Cardinals' order will be a big factor that will make a difference.

You can’t expect Pujols to have two straight quiet games in a row. It’s almost unfathomable. And we saw what Ryan Ludwick could do last night, when he took Tim Redding deep to make the score 4-3.

Hernandez, who stands at 5-6 with a 4.71 ERA in 17 career starts against St. Louis, will need to keep the ball down and mix up his pitches. He has fared well at Citi Field, as have the Mets, and they will look for the 10th man to help keep them going tonight.

It would be a big advantage for the Mets if they can gain some momentum heading into this weekend’s subway series.

Remember, I know times are tough, but the Mets are only 1.5 games out of first place. Anything can happen.