Notes: Alou plays in rehab game

Notes: Alou plays in the Minors

SAN DIEGO -- A continent away from each other, two Mets outfielders moved closer to the day when they might be in the same lineup. Moises Alou played -- something he hadn't done since May 12 -- in Port St. Lucie on Monday. And Lastings Milledge started the first game of the Mets' third West Coast tour Monday night. He was in the outfield for the fifth consecutive game and, for the first time this season, he batted second.

What's next for either -- tomorrow, next week or next month -- is an unknown. Milledge's track record is short. Alou's isn't, but most of what he has done with the Mets is add to his already-high number of career days assigned to the disabled list. So manager Willie Randolph is counting on neither as his team approaches its 100th game.

Just the same, the Mets manager knows either could be an integral part of what the Mets accomplish in their final 71 games. Alou, a proven run producer when he isn't a patient, could be the Mets left fielder for 50-60 more games and make them less susceptible to left-handed pitching -- and right-handed pitching as well. And Milledge, if he is ready to blossom, could be the player to spell Alou and Shawn Green and begin to tighten his grasp on an outfield assignment for next year.

For what it's worth -- and it means little -- Alou had a single, a home run and a walk in four plate appearances as the designated hitter for the Gulf Coast Mets against the Nationals' affiliate in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. How his troublesome left quadriceps muscle responds to playing is a more critical element than his run production for now. He is to play the field Tuesday.

By then, Milledge will have added to his second first impression. He entered the game Monday against the Padres with a double, a home run, two runs and five RBIs in his 15 at-bats since he was summoned from the Minor Leagues last week. He has made two ill-conceived throws, but mostly, he has brought energy and offense to a team that needs both.

The energy, as much, as the offense, is what prompted Randolph to have Milledge bat second, against David Wells. He had batted eighth in his first four games. He became the 13th player to bat second for Randolph this season.

More Alou: Randolph acknowledges the loss of Alou, who has played merely 30 games, has undermined the Mets' offense. "When we lost Moises, you wanted players to step up," he said. "And we haven't."

Randolph noted there was no immediate drop in production. But when Gary Carter missed an extended sequence of games in the summer of 1986, manager Davey Johnson said the impact usually is delayed. He noted that when a primary run producer is unable to play, others may compensate for his absence at first. But as more opposing pitchers recognize the absence, they challenge the other hitters less. And unless those hitters are selective, they begin to swing at pitches off the plate and get themselves out.

Cause and effect? The Mets' on-base average leading off innings, .340, was tied for the highest in the National League, but their batting averages with runners on base (.259) and with runners in scoring position (.249) were 10th and 11th, respectively, in the league. And they had scored the 10th-most runs.

The pitching isn't to blame. Entering the series against the Padres, the Mets starting pitchers' 4.02 ERA ranked fourth in the league, and their relievers' ERA, 3.55, also ranked fourth. The Padres led the league in both areas -- 3.45 ERA by the starters and 2.53 by the bullpen.

And there is this piece of statistical wow. Green began the game Monday with four home runs and 15 RBIs in his most recent 191 at-bats. Ruben Gotay had same run and home run production since his recall April 30 -- in 102 fewer at-bats.

Overcome? A loss Monday night would put the Mets' record at 51-41 and the Padres' 51-40 and make the Tuesday night game the Mets' first against a National League opponent with a better record since May 13. The Mets entered their game against the Brewers that day with a 22-13 record. The Brewers' record was 25-11. ... A loss Monday would put the Mets' record since May 13 at 29-28.

Easley away: Damion Easley wasn't with the team. He was in nearby Riverside, Calif. with his father who is ill.

This date in Mets history -- July 17: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And that explains this: With their record already 18 games under .500 and another 100-loss season in the offing, the '67 Mets swept a doubleheader from the eventual National League champions on this date. They defeated the Cardinals, 2-1 and 8-5, in St. Louis. Ed Kranepool hit a two-run home run against Ray Washburn to win the first game and hit another in a five-run rally that was decisive in the second game.

Two years later on this date, the second-place Mets knocked out the great Ferguson Jenkins in the second inning and went on to beat the Cubs, 9-5, at Wrigley Field to move within four games of the division leaders. Al Weis hit his second home run in two days. It was his second and last home run of the season and the sixth of the seven he would hit in his career. ... One month after his debut as a Met in 1977, Steve Henderson hit a two-run home run, his third home run in seven games, against Goose Gossage in the seventh inning of what became a 5-3 Mets victory against the Pirates at Shea Stadium. Acquired in the Tom Seaver trade, Henderson would finish second to Andre Dawson in the balloting for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. ... Carter drove in four runs and Dwight Gooden pitched a seven-hitter in the Mets' 9-0 victory against the Reds at Shea in 1987. Gooden struck out two. Keith Hernandez has 15 putouts at first base.

Coming up: The Mets get to face Jake Peavy, the All-Star starter, Tuesday night (10:05 p.m ET), because his first post-All-Star break start was pushed back two days because of a sore biceps and "feeling achy" in one inning in San Francisco last week. Orlando Hernandez starts for the Mets.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.