NEW YORK -- Six-year free agents and big-league free agents kept their distances from the Mets last winter. Their sense was the Mets were too deep, too talented, that they didn't have enough holes to fill. So why sign with them? That thinking has handicapped the Mets' Triple-A Norfolk affiliate with a lack of depth.
And now the big-league team will dip into the shallow pool for the second time in a week. With John Maine unable to make a second start as an understudy for Brian Bannister, Jose Lima will serve as an understudy to the understudy and start against the Braves on Sunday afternoon.
Lima, 33, has made six starts for Norfolk, losing three and winning two, with an ERA of 5.10. He got a no-decision in his most recent start on Thursday, because he was limited to two innings since the club, aware of the problem with Maine's finger, anticipated a need for Lima to pitch Sunday.
Lima makes his first start since last season with the Royals opposite veteran John Smoltz who was moved up in the Braves' rotation because scheduled Sunday starter Jorge Sosa pitched in relief Friday night. Smoltz will be pitching on three days' rest, one day less than normal. He has done so 17 times in his career but not since Aug. 13, 1997 ,when he pitched a complete game and lost to the Pirates.
He has a 6-7 record and 5.17 ERA in those 17 games.
Furthermore: Jose Reyes has eight hits and a walk in his last 13 plate appearances. .... The Mets have won eight of 11 series this season. They split two. The one they lost was to the Braves. ... The Mets have walked with the bases loaded in three straight games.
This date in Mets history -- May 7: The lowly Mets of 1963 weren't yet lowly on May 7. In fact, they began a four-game winning streak, their second of the year, on this date. They defeated the Phillies, 3-1, behind Al Jackson at Shea and completed a three-game sweep with two 3-2 victories, followed by a 3-2 victory against the Reds that pushed their record to 13-15. They wound up losing 111 games.
Tommie Agee hit a two-run home run off Ed Acosta in the 10th inning in the Mets' 8-6 victory against the Padres at Shea on May 7, 1972.
One of the most often overlooked home runs in Mets history was the one Darryl Strawberry off Nolan Ryan in Game 5 of the 1986 National League Championship Series. Ryan mostly toyed with Strawberry. He struck him out 15 times in their 35 regular-season confrontations. But on this date in 1986, Strawberry hit a two-run home run off Ryan, the critical hit in the Mets' 3-2 victory at Shea. The victory, Sid Fernandez's fourth without a loss, was the fourth in a sequence if seven straight that put the Mets' record at 20-4.
And last year on May 7, Carlos Beltran hit two home runs and drove in four runs in support of Pedro Martinez's fourth victory in the Mets' 7-5 victory in Milwaukee.
Coming up: How much has this game's pitching matchup changed? It could have been Maine against Sosa on Sunday. Together, they have made 75 big-league starts -- 66 by Sosa. Lima and Smoltz have combined for 631, 400 by Smoltz.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.