And if the Mets learn the absence of Billy Wagner will extend beyond next weekend, Manuel may need to explore the possibility to a greater degree. For now, though, Maine is in a job assignment he clearly prefers. But he wouldn't close to the door on serving as a closer.
Before he learned of the Ayala trade and some 24 hours before he was to start against the Pirates, Maine discussed the still low-probability possibility: "I'll do it. If it's beneficial for the team while we're waiting for Billy to get back, I can't say no."
Maine added, "It'd be different," and that difference intrigued him more than it appealed to him.
"I made three slop appearances with the Orioles," he said. "The score wasn't close, so I don't know what it would be like. I've never been in a close situation without me starting the game. And I don't know how I would handle getting up and sitting down. Not the physical part of it, the emotional part of gearing up and then not getting in the game. I guess you get used to it. But I don't know. And I don't know how I'd react to being responsible for someone else's stuff [a starting pitcher's potential victory]." Ever since Maine came to the Mets after the 2005 season, people in the organization have speculated about him as a closer. His swing-and-miss repertoire make him an attractive possibility. How he responds to a less-than-successful performance also might be an issue. He is particularly hard on himself, even when he wins.
But chances are, the opportunity will not be presented. And there is some ambivalence in him because of that.
"When things go bad down there [in the bullpen], I'd love to be a guy who could help," he said. "But I like starting. And anyway, who knows if they'd welcome me down there?"Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP John Maine (10-7, 3.97 ERA)
Maine was in command in his first start -- albeit abbreviated -- following an assignment to the disabled list because of soreness in his right rotator cuff. He allowed no runs, one hit and four walks in five innings against the Nationals on Wednesday night in Washington. Now, he opposes a team he hasn't faced since last season. He has a 2-2 record with a 3.95 ERA in four career starts against the Pirates. PIT: LHP Paul Maholm (8-7, 3.69 ERA)
Maholm has taken hold of that "ace" label and run with it. He allowed two runs in eight innings in his most recent start, Tuesday against the Reds. He now has pitched through the sixth inning in 18 consecutive starts, allowing two or fewer runs in seven of his last nine. The consistency of all four of his pitches continues to improve. Consequently, he's maintaining greater efficiency. He threw 22 first-pitch strikes against the Reds. Maholm has a 3-1 record with a 2.16 ERA in four career starts against the Mets, who have a 24-13 record in games in which they have opposed a left-handed starter. David Wright is batting .388 against left-handed pitching, but he has a .182 average in 11 career at-bats against Maholm. Tidbits
Wagner was examined at his home in Connecticut by Mets doctor Struan Coleman on Sunday. The doctors noted the Mets closer had stiffness in his left elbow. The plan is to have him take off Monday and be examined Tuesday in Manhattan. ... Having given Wright off on Sunday, Manuel said he will rest Jose Reyes on Monday. Damion Easley will play shortstop. ... Ryan Church was evacuated from Florida because of the threat of severe weather. He will continue his rehab -- he is to play right field on Monday -- with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. This date in Mets history: Aug. 18
Roger Craig suffered his 19th defeat on this date in 1962, in the Mets' 7-4 loss to the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds. The Mets' record stood at 30-90 after their eighth straight loss. They would lose five more before winning to put their winning percentage at .240, 10 points lower than it would be at season's end. A year later, when they again were the doormat team in the National League, their 125-game percentage was .320.
John Milner had a grand slam among his four hits in the Mets' 12-1 victory against the Reds at Shea Stadium on this date in 1973. The victory was one of four in 12 regular-season games against the eventual NL West champions, the team the Mets beat three times in the best-of-five NL Championship series.
Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, Todd Hundley and Brian McRae hit home runs in the second-place Mets' victory in the first game of a doubleheader sweep (6-2 and 6-3) of the Rockies at Shea on this date in 1998. They were 13 games over .500 and 14 games behind the first-place Braves after the sweep.
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Tuesday: Mets (Oliver Perez, 9-7, 3.91) vs. Braves (Jo-Jo Reyes, 3-9, 5.33), 7:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 11-8, 3.91) vs. Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 11-8, 3.15), 7:10 p.m. ET
Thursday: Mets (Pedro Martinez, 4-3, 4.96) vs. Braves (Mike Hampton, 2-1, 6.92), 7:10 p.m. ET
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.