2006 NEWS

2006 News > 9/20/06

TOM HAS PLENTY LEFT FOR PLAYOFFS

By Johnette Howard, Newsday

You couldn't blame Tom Glavine if he felt a little strange last night when he took the mound against the Florida Marlins. Not a single Mets regular was in the starting lineup. There was still a giddy, woozy, slightly hung-over feeling at Shea Stadium just a day after the Mets clinched their first division title in 18 years.

Everyone in the clubhouse seemed to be still laughing and reliving scenes from the celebration. Did Paul Lo Duca really spray fans with an infield hose until an alarmed member of the grounds crew cut off the water? Was Jose Reyes really wearing swimming goggles to keep the champagne out of his eyes? Did you see how David Wright's face was frozen in a goofy grin the entire ninth inning as the fans at Shea howled and howled in anticipation of the final out?

"All I remember when we got two outs is Reyes threw the ball around to David at third, and he was so giddy I was [waiting] there like, 'Gimme the ball, let's go, gimme the ball, man, let's go - I mean, I could make this -- interesting," Mets closer Billy Wagner recalled with a laugh last night, mocking his nerve-wracking habit of wobbling through saves as much as Wright's trance-like euphoria.

But if Glavine, who had been through seven division title celebrations with the Atlanta Braves, had any problems fronting what Mets manager Willie Randolph referred to as "our A-minus lineup" last night, it never showed. "It did feel like one of those spring training games you play after a long bus ride," Glavine conceded, thinking back to a starting infield that included rookie Anderson Hernandez at shortstop and Julio Franco, of all people, at third for only the second time in his 19-year big- league career.

But Glavine didn't get to the doorstep of the Hall of Fame by giving starts away. And the Mets made the eight-inning, four-hit gem he threw last night count for his 289th career win when they scored two runs in the eighth for a 3-2 comeback win.

"It was nice for Tommy to get the victory after the way he pitched," Randolph said.

Better yet, it added to the feeling that the Mets' few remaining worries heading into the postseason are falling away one by one.

Had Glavine walked out and stunk last night, it wouldn't have been the end of the world - especially not in a start that he admittedly approached as more of a laboratory session to get his entire arsenal of pitches "squared away for the postseason" than he did a must win.

But now that the Mets have their postseason berth officially locked up, a lot of Mets fans have merely moved on to the next thing to worry about: the postseason trustworthiness of three-fourths of the starting rotation. Orlando Hernandez has been fine, but Pedro Martinez, Glavine and Steve Trachsel have all had their issues in the last few weeks. Martinez and Glavine each missed a series of recent starts with health issues, and Trachsel had two shaky starts before his masterful performance Monday.

Such paranoia about the Mets can seem odd, considering they've already won 92 games and are neck-and-neck with the Yankees for the best record in the majors. But Trachsel laughed last night and said it's not strange at all.

"It's all just part of being in New York," said Trachsel, whose locker is smack between Martinez's and Glavine's. "And oh yeah, oh yeah, you hear it - 'We don't have any power arms,' this and that. Well, what is our team ERA - second in the league, right? Maybe we don't need power arms when we have power defense and a power bullpen and power hitting. Power arms don't mean anything if you can't throw the ball where you need to. Or you don't know how to win."

Glavine has always been proof of that. And the performance Glavine put together last night has set this up to be a nerve-soothing week if Martinez can keep pace tomorrow in just his second start since missing a month with a strained right calf.

If Martinez, who seems to drink in melodrama or stir one up himself if one isn't in sight, drags his bones out tomorrow and matches Trachsel and Glavine gem for gem, it won't guarantee it'll happen again in the postseason. But it could go a long way toward making people feel better about the chances of the Mets' avoiding the morning-after hangover that an early playoff ouster would bring after a season that's been so magical.