A (very) brief moment to cut Mets some slack

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By my unofficial count, the two most entertaining pastimes these days are (a) spotting Tiger Woods lookalikes and (b) picking on the New York Mets.

We’ve done plenty of the latter just today. Here, here and here, in fact, for those of you who missed out on the fun.

But isn’t it all starting to get a little old? Do we really need to spend the whole offseason picking at the scabs of a destitute franchise that hasn’t been to the World Series since way back in 2000? (That’s pre-9/11 folks!) A team that hasn’t been in a pennant race since 2008, and which has no exciting stars to watch (aside from Johan Santana, David Wright, Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran)?

OK, maybe the Mets don’t have it so bad after all, and I imagine the poor folks in places like Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Washington (if they cared) are rolling their eyes at the massive sound of wringing hands emanating from Queens.

So the Mets aren’t the best-run franchise in the league. And maybe they have hired these guys to head up their medical staff.

But on the bright side, they have a beautiful, almost-brand-new ballpark that probably won’t fall down for another few years, the injured Beltran should be ready to play by May, and Oliver Perez only has two more years and $24 million left on his contract. (repeat after me: the glass is half full, the glass is half full)

On top of all of this comes the good news that Johan Santana is going to take his arm for a spin on Tuesday.

Santana is scheduled to pitch Tuesday during the Mets’ three-day minicamp at their spring training complex. He expects to ready for opening day after having bone chips removed Sept. 1.

“I’m feeling good. Time will tell, but I am feeling good,” the two-time Cy Young winner said Monday. “We did a pretty good job with the offseason, working out and doing all the rehab, and I’m feeling good. Everything is on schedule.”

*So you see there is reason for hope, and there will be a new spirit of Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows in Mets-land if Santana looks sharp on Tuesday. Remember, they were only 10 or 20 injuries away from contending last season.

*The author — and CTB in general — reserve the right to resume poking fun at the Mets without notice whenever it is deemed necessary.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.