NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The Mets’ lineup will likely have a much different look when they return home from their upcoming 10-game road trip on August 1.
At the center of trade talk all around New York — and baseball — is Carlos Beltran. The switch-hitting slugger is perhaps the biggest prize available on the market as the July 31 non-waiver deadline approaches.
So Thursday afternoon might be Mets fans’ last chance to glimpse the All-Star in blue and orange at Citi Field. As WFAN’s Craig Carton is calling it: “Bye-Bye Beltran Day.”
Multiple reports have the Red Sox and Phillies as Beltran’s most aggressive suitors. The Giants and Indians have also been mentioned to be in the mix. Wherever he goes — if he does — general manager Sandy Alderson will be looking for the best package of prospects in return.
“I cannot assume anything right now,” Beltran said on Wednesday. “Nobody’s talked to me. Nobody’s said anything to me.”
The Mets, meanwhile, are back above .500 and in position to sweep the struggling Cardinals at home for the first time in nearly five years.
“What’s the option, give up? Let us take it down a different path? We want to make it hard for the front office,” pitcher R.A. Dickey said.
Beltran, who homered Wednesday and is batting .366 with five home runs and 17 RBIs his last 18 games, is not worrying about his future.
“Not really thinking about it. I hear what you hear, but I have to prepare myself and help the team any way I can,” he said.
“He’s a human being,” manager Terry Collins said about Beltran. “He’s dealt with it before. In his heart, he wants to be here. It’s where he wants to play.”
While Beltran remains in the Mets’ mix, teammate Jason Bay could be out after leaving Wednesday’s game with a tight right hamstring. Bay has hit .108 (4 for 37) his last 11 games.
Angel Pagan homered in the 10th inning to help New York (49-48) rally from an early four-run deficit and win 6-5 on Wednesday. Winners in 15 of 21 at home versus St. Louis, the Mets have a chance to sweep the Cardinals for the first time since Aug. 22-24, 2006.
Jonathon Niese (9-7, 3.73 ERA) will be trying to win his third straight start. The left-hander improved to 6-2 with a 2.81 ERA over his last nine starts after he allowed one earned in seven innings of an 11-2 win over Philadelphia on Saturday.
“He is getting tougher,” Collins said.
Though Niese suffered a season-ending hamstring injury while going just 1 2-3 innings against St. Louis on Aug. 5, 2009, he allowed one run in six innings of an 8-2 win over the Cardinals at Citi Field last July 27.
Niese will face Albert Pujols, who is 1 for 4 with a double against him and expected back in the lineup after going 0 for 2 off the bench Wednesday. Pujols is 0 for 10 his last three games and batting .136 (3 for 22) his last five at Citi Field, but will try to help the Cardinals (50-47) avoid a fourth consecutive loss.
Matt Holliday had three hits with two RBIs on Wednesday for the Cardinals, who are 13-22 since June 8.
“You’ve got to start winning games,” said Holliday, batting .357 with 11 RBIs his last 11 games. “But at the same time, you don’t panic and start doubting yourself.”
Scheduled Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook (7-4, 5.26) has not lost since June 12, but is 1-0 with a 5.53 ERA in five starts since that defeat at Milwaukee.
The right-hander has not factored in the decision of his last two starts – both against Cincinnati. He allowed a pair of solo homers and struck out five in five innings of a 6-5 loss to the Reds on Friday.
Westbrook did not have much success as he yielded five runs and 11 hits over seven innings of a 6-4 loss in his only appearance versus New York while with Cleveland on June 17, 2010.
After resting Pujols to start Wednesday, manager Tony La Russa may do the same with slugger Lance Berkman, batting .219 (7 for 32) with three homers and four RBIs his last 10 games.
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