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Cardinals 12

Mets 8

ST. LOUIS - Like some terrible virus, wretched pitching by the four starters not named Johan Santana is infecting everything about the Mets right now.

Manager Jerry Manuel isn't going to wait long to find an antidote.

Fresh off a 12-8 embarrassment here by the Cardinals yesterday afternoon that completed the Mets' first three-game sweep at Busch Stadium since 2004, Manuel is giving the final four rotation spots one more turn to right their sinking ship.

quot;If it doesn't get any better, then you have to make some adjustments,quot; Manuel said after his club fell to 6-9 with its fourth straight loss. quot;It's not rocket science. If they ain't pitching, then you've got to find somebody that will pitch.quot;

Fifth starter Livan Hernandez was the rotation's latest stumblebum yesterday, giving up seven runs on nine hits - including two long homers by Albert Pujols - while lasting 4 1/3 innings.

That was firmly in keeping with a roster of non-Santana starters who couldn't give Manuel more than 5 2/3 innings in any of the three dispiriting losses here this week.

As a result, Oliver Perez, John Maine, Hernandez, and to a lesser extent Mike Pelfrey, should consider themselves on notice in the eyes of their disgusted manager. That could also extend to pitching coach Dan Warthen.

quot;We can't expect to compete if we have that type of starting pitching,quot; Manuel said.

Luckily for the Mets , they have streak-busting Santana and his 0.46 ERA going tonight at Citi Field against the lowly Nationals. But that can only take Manuel's mind off the rotation for one day.

Despite giving the rest of the rotation one more turn to prove itself, Manuel already has an immediate move in mind: an eighth member of the bullpen. Look for that move by this weekend's series.

Though it seems doubtful the Mets would give into Pedro Martinez's firm, $5 million demand or be able to pull off a longshot trade for Jake Peavy or Roy Halladay, Manuel and GM Omar Minaya will have to do something if this keeps up.

The urgency is there because the dreadful non-Santana pitching is not only wearing out an improved bullpen, but it's demoralizing the entire team.

The Mets were more like Zombie Nation here this week, and the sense of disillusion had to grow after a shuffled lineup came away with nothing but a loss to show for its eight-run, 13-hit eruption.

quot;It's frustrating,quot; said right fielder Ryan Church, who hit his first homer of the year. quot;Especially because you know the talent that we have. . . . We're a lot better than our record shows.quot;

Carlos Beltran went 3-for-5 with three RBIs (lifting his average to .404) in his first game since flip-flopping the Nos. 3 and 5 spots in the order with David Wright (an RBI single), but a lot of good that did the Mets .

Beltran's big day proved worthless because Hernandez and three relievers were punching bags for the Redbirds' blazing bats. Led by Pujols, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and four runs, St. Louis had four players with three hits each.

quot;I had nothing on the ball,quot; Hernandez said. quot;I don't know what happened. I was horrible, and I didn't give the team a chance to win.quot;

Mets starters have made similar comments far too many times already.

Manuel, for one, isn't going to listen much longer.

quot;We've got to get better starting pitching,quot; he said. quot;We have some other areas we also can improve on, but right now starting pitching is just a glaring, glaring need for us.quot;

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 24, 2009

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