With a seemingly-insurmountable lead in the National League East, the Mets are in a position to start taking things for granted. One of the exciting things about this team is that, despite the aforementioned lead, the Mets still play every game as if it's the last game of the season and they're tied for the division lead.
It'd be very easy for the team to take it easy, put it in cruise control, and start printing the playoff tickets. Say what you will about Willie Randlph, but there's no way in hell he's going to let that happen. His tactical approach to the game has been scrutinized in the past, often appropriately. One thing that has never been questioned is his understanding of ballplayers and his command of the clubhouse. Every single guy on that team respects Randolph, and that starts with Randolph himself.
It was nice to get Billy Wagner back out there for another save opportunity after blowing one on Tuesday night. Wagner last blew a save on June 21st against the Reds. From June 22nd thru July 31st, Wagner made 13 appearances:
8 sv, 1.26 ERA, 11.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.63 HR/9
It's also been good to see Aaron Heilman step it up these past two nights. With Duaner Sanchez likely done for the season, Heilman has apparently been promoted from the 7th inning to the 8th inning, becoming Wagner's primary setup man. Knowing Heilman's personality, this might be just the thing to get him going again. He's been a good soldier for the team the past two seasons, but you really get the sense that he wants more responsibility. Well, he has it now, so let's see him take it and roll.
Finally, we've got Steve Trachsel, who allowed seven hits, a walk and three earned runs in 5.2 innings last night, pitching just well enough not to lose and fortunate that the Mets scored enough runs to get him a win. He's a crusty veteran, but right now I just don't have much confidence in him throwing a decent game anytime he's out there. I feel that no lead is safe when he's pitching, and that no insomnia is incurable when he's toeing the rubber. I have a feeling he'll keep going out there as long as the Mets are winning his starts, but, even with Glavine struggling as he has, Trachsel is maybe the Mets' fifth-best starter, and I'd probably have more confidence with Darren Oliver in a big spot.
Trachsel has been a decent pitcher for the Mets for a number of years, but he's always been a guy with lousy peripherals who relied on getting positive results on balls put into play. As he has gotten older and lost whatever stuff he might have once had, those balls are being hit harder and they're not being caught by his fielders, and the product of that reality is an ERA in the fives. As long as the Mets consider Trachsel their fifth starter -- which I'm pretty sure they don't -- this isn't such a huge problem. A lot of teams would be okay with a #5 guy like Trax, and with John Maine and Orlando Hernandez pitching well of late, maybe they don't have anything to worry about.
During the regular season, there's no perceivable difference between a team's third and fifth starters. When the playoffs roll around, that difference is more obvious: does he start, or is he mop-up. I'd feel a lot better if I thought it were the latter.
UPDATE [11:24pm]: Ben over at Sportszilla and the Jabber Jocks has a like-minded (albeit more scathing) piece on Trachsel up today. Go check it out.