Strange play may sideline Beltran

Strange play may sideline Beltran

MILWAUKEE -- By the time the Mets batted in the ninth inning on Monday, Jerry Manuel was using a different set of signs, communicated by fingers that were crossed. By that point, the Mets manager was aware of the pain in the right knee of Carlos Beltran. By that point, he had allowed himself to look ahead to the second and third games of the Mets series here and picture playing them without Beltran.

That scenario could develop as a consequence of a strange occurrence in the eighth inning of the Mets' 4-2 victory against the Brewers. Beltran scored the game's final run from first base on a double to left-center field by Ryan Church and suffered an injury that went essentially undiagnosed. He was removed from the game in the ninth and was examined by the Brewers medical staff.

The Mets will wait until Beltran returns to Miller Park on Tuesday to decide whether their center fielder will play.

"To lose him at this point would be tough," Manuel said.

Beltran had slid across the plate, his hand making the necessary contact, and his right leg colliding with the shin guard of -- not Brewers catcher Jason Kendall -- but that of plate umpire Ed Rapuano. His left leg under his right, Beltran felt his right leg fold under him, so that the back of his right foot was against his rump. And he felt a pinch behind his knee.

He played in the outfield in the bottom of the inning but thought his leg was unstable and was removed for what the Mets initially identified as a bruise. Beltran later described what he had felt as a pinch. The knee was treated with ice and no additional examination was planned. He had been told by the doctors that he suffered no structural damage.

"I felt it when I tried to stand up [after the collision]" Beltran said.

The relay to the play was cut off at the pitcher's mound, surprising some observers. Rapuano may have been expecting a play at the plate. He was in position to make a call but appeared to move forward toward the plate when the throw was cut off.

Beltran said a brief conversation with Rapuano ensued. "He asked me, 'How do you feel?'" Beltran said. "I said, 'Look at me, I'm limping.'"

Beltran said he was neither upset nor worried.

"It's unusual. But it happened," he said.

If he is unavailable for the second game of the series on Tuesday night, the Mets could play Endy Chavez in center field. He is their best defensive outfielder. But that would expose Chavez, a left-handed hitter, to left-handed starter Manny Parra and compromise the offense. Chavez and now-disabld Angel Pagan have started two games each in center. Beltran has started the other 134. Ryan Church has played center field, so he could shift to the position, and Fernando Tatis could start in right as he has in 33 games.

Mixed Beginnings
Highly regarded pitching prospects who made their big-league debuts with the Mets have had varying degrees of success in first starts. Of the 15 included here, only Dwight Gooden, Bobby Jones, and Mike Pelfrey won their first starts. Five others lost, and Grant Roberts avoided a loss despite allowing seven runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Nolan Ryan*9-18-66AstrosHou.144-423Lost
Tom Seaver4-13-67PiratesShea5 1/362-248ND/ Mets won
Jerry Koosman*9-17-67AstrosHou.762-252ND/ Mets lost
Jon Matlack**7-11-71RedsCin.762-201ND/ Mets lost
Ron Darling9-06-83PhilliesShea6 1/351-116Lost
Dwight Gooden4-07-84AstrosHou.531-125Won
Rick Aguilera*6-16-85ExposMon.4 1/366-651Lost
Bobby Jones8-14-93PhilliesPhi.675-113Won
Bill Pulsipher6-17-95AstrosShea797-763Lost
Jason Isringhausen7-17-95CubsChi.722-226ND/ Mets won
Paul Wilson4-04-96CardinalsShea663-326ND/ Mets won
Octavio Dotel6-26-99BravesAtl.4 1/356-653Lost
Grant Roberts7-27-00ExposShea1 1/367-630ND/ Mets won
Alay Soler5-24-06PhilliesShea653-245ND/ Mets won
Mike Pelfrey7-08-06MarlinsShea533-243Won
* Had pitched in relief previously

** Seaver lost the game in relief

The Mets may be compromised at a different position. Left-handed pitcher Jonathan Niese is to make his big league debut, facing the Brewers' predominantly right-handed batting order. Losing a game in which they were opposed by a left-handed starter, Johan Santana, Monday put the Brewers record at 31-14 -- still the best in the National League -- in games in which the opposing starter has been left-handed.

The Mets wouldn't allow reporters to interview the 21-year-old rookie on Monday.

The organization rarely has used an untested pitcher in a pennant race. The adjacent graphic provides the dates -- and other data -- from the big league debuts of 15 other pitchers the organization had developed. Three -- Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman and Ron Darling -- made their debuts in September, but the team wasn't in contention. Rick Aguliuera, Mike Pelfrey, Grant Roberts and Alay Soler made starts in seasons when the Mets were legitimate contenders, but none made their debuts after Aug. 1.

One notable instance does exist. Julio Valera, who turned out to be an unremarkable pitcher, made his first three big league appearances -- all starts -- in September 1990 as the Mets and Pirates were engaged in a close race. He won his first, against the Giants on Sept. 1, allowed five runs in two-plus innings against the Pirates in a loss that completed a three-game sweep on Sept. 6 and was uninvolved in the decision in a Mets victory on Sept. 11.

Pitching matchup
NYM: LHP Jonathon Niese, (0-0, -.--)
Bobby Valentine measured a young player's readiness for the big leagues by asking whether he had "left Triple-A behind." Niese clearly has moved in that direction since his July promotion from Double-A by winning five of the seven starts he made with the Mets' Triple-A New Orleans affiliate. He lost one of his six decisions and produced a 3.40 ERA in 39 2/3 innings. Niese, 21, allowed 34 hits and walked 14. His curveball, bigger than most, will require an adjustment from the Brewers hitters. The Brewers have won 31 of 45 games in which they have been opposed by left-handed starters.

MIL: LHP Manny Parra (10-6, 4.00 ERA)
After winning each of his five starts in June, Parra has lost four of six decisions in an 11-start sequence. The Brewers' record in those 11 games is 3-8. He beat the Astros on Aug. 20 and pitched more effectively seven days later in a no-decision -- the Brewers lost -- against the Cardinals. Parra was the Brewers' starter in the Mets' lone victory in a three-game series at Shea Stadium in April. He allowed three runs in the fourth inning and was removed. Right-handed hitters have batted .281 in 477 at-bats against Parra this season, while left-handed hitters have batted .208 in 96 at-bats.

The Mets said Billy Wagner threw 15-20 pitches, some off a mound, at Shea Stadium on Monday in what they saw as a positive development. ... Pedro Martinez returned to New York, rather than accompany the team to Milwaukee, to work with a personal trainer.

This date in Mets history
Sept. 2: Reds rookie Pete Rose hit the first pitch of the game from Jay Hook for a home run, the lone run in the Mets' 1-0 loss at the Polo Grounds on this date in 1962. Jim Maloney struck out 13 Mets. ... The Mets surpassed 1 million fans in paid attendance on this date in 1963 when a crowd of 19,273 paid to see them split a doubleheader with the Reds at the Polo Grounds. ... Mets uniform No. 37 was retired in honor of Casey Stengel, their first manager and one-man promotions department, in ceremonies at Shea Stadium on Sept. 2, 1965. The Yankees had retired No. 37 for Stengel, too. The number is retired by no other franchise.

A 7-4 Mets loss in St. Louis was interrupted by a bench-clearing fracas ignited by an altercation between Felix Millan and Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver on Sept. 2, 1973. ... Todd Hundley hit a grand slam to lift the Mets to an 8-3 win at Wrigley Field on this date in 1993. ... Florida's Braden Looper, working in his 66th relief appearance of the season, extended the Mets' home losing streak to 15 games in a 12-inning, 3-2 Marlins victory in the first game of a doubleheader on this date in 2002. Former Mets outfielder Preston Wilson tied the score in the ninth with a homer against Armando Benitez, and Juan Encarnacion won the game with an RBI double against Scott Strickland. The Mets won the second game, 11-5, with Mike Piazza hitting a pinch-hit, three-run home run. The victory ended the longest home losing streak in the National League since 1911.

With Tom Glavine beating John Smoltz and David Wright hitting a two-run home run, the Mets completed a three-game sweep of the Braves with a 3-2 victory in Atlanta on this date last year. The sweep followed the Phillies' four-game sweep of the Mets and put the Mets' lead at four games over the second-place Phillies.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Mets (Oliver Perez, 9-7, 3.90) at Brewers (Dave Bush, 9-9, 4.12), 2:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Phillies (Brett Myers (8-10, 4.40) at Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 13-8, 3.66), 7:10 p.m. ET

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