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Mets (21-17) vs. Dodgers (27-13) Series Thread


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Murphy looks to break out of slump


LOS ANGELES -- At one point this spring, Mets manager Jerry Manuel had become so enamored with his rising star, Daniel Murphy, that he professed to a roomful of media that he believed Murphy was a superior hitter than five-year veteran Ryan Church.


Whatever his intended message -- to embolden Murphy, to jump-start Church, to talk for the sake of talking -- Manuel made his affection clear. And Murphy proved a worthy pupil, validating his rookie campaign by hitting .324 over the first month of this season.


Yet in the ensuing three weeks, things have changed dramatically. Murphy, even in an outfield in flux, has lost playing time due to a funk that has dropped his average more than 50 points. He has one hit in his past 18 at-bats and has started just one game in the past week.


Pitchers have found his weaknesses. And Murphy has yet to adjust.


"It's kind of what they call a sophomore jinx," Manuel said. "There's so much information with people watching you, picking out different things about you. 'Can you read this pitch? Can you read that pitch?' He's probably not used to that."


But it's critical he get used to it in a hurry. Murphy is part of a three-pronged plan at first base for the Mets, now that Carlos Delgado will be out for the indefinite future following scheduled hip surgery. As early as this week, Manuel may decide to try out Murphy at first base. But the Mets aren't under any delusions that Murphy will be a standout defender -- the experiment will only be successful if he can hit.


And to do that, Murphy may just need to stop hitting.


The young infielder-turned-outfielder-turned-infielder's work ethic has become a favored clubhouse anecdote over the past 10 months -- Murphy showing up early, Murphy staying late, Murphy cutting class back in college to spend more time at the batting cage. He's a man obsessed, and he's the first to admit it.


Yet it's possible that the same overzealous work ethic that helped Murphy reach the big leagues is now preventing him from taking that next step.


"I understand he was hitting after the game," Manuel said of one recent afternoon. "What in the world is going on? After the game? Work is over. Punch the clock. Go home."


Murphy isn't likely to play first base Tuesday evening, when John Maine and the Mets take on Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers. But he is a likely candidate to play left field, and -- the Mets hope -- to help them escape from a miniature offensive funk. They have not hit a home run in five straight games.


Pitching matchup

NYM: RHP John Maine (3-2, 4.24 ERA)

Maine recovered from a rocky first inning last Thursday against the Giants to become virtually unhittable in the middle innings, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings, all on a season-high 118 pitches. He relied largely on fastballs throughout the game, challenging the Giants to hit his best pitch. Maine's next start comes against the Dodgers, a team he beat once in two outings last season, posting a 3.14 ERA.


LAD: RHP Chad Billingsley (5-1, 2.30 ERA)

Billingsley was terrific in his last outing, as he threw a career-high 123 pitches in what wound up being a 5-3 Dodgers win in 10 innings over the Phillies last Thursday. His previous high was 118 pitches on July 30, 2008, against the Giants. Billingsley was very effective in seven innings of work, allowing only three hits and one earned run while walking four and striking out nine. He kept the ball down and kept the Phillies hitters off balance most of the game.



With a walk in the first inning Monday, Carlos Beltran reached base for the 23rd consecutive road game dating to last season. ... David Wright is hitting .453 in May. ... Manuel said that he plans on taking turns using Wright, Beltran and Gary Sheffield as his designated hitters for this weekend's three-game series in Boston.

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Now I am no Church fan, in fact I do not think he is all that good and its deploreable that a man would completely miss 3rd base, but Jerry Manuel HAS TO under ANY circumstance go out there and argue for his player. I do not care if he does not like Church, which its apparent he does not, he has to go out there.



My guess is this team will see the last of those 2 if this type thing continues.

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