Notes: Delgado batting sixth
Randolph tries to help usual cleanup hitter snap slump
ATLANTA -- The Mets had played 206 games from the beginning of last season through their loss to the Braves on Tuesday night, and Carlos Delgado had started 183 times. He had batted fifth once, third 18 times and fourth so often, 164 times, that manager Willie Randolph characterized the cleanup position as Delgado's "customary spot."
That characterization came Wednesday afternoon, hours after Randolph had signed a lineup card that had Delgado batting in a position mostly unfamiliar to him -- sixth -- mostly because little about the numbers Delgado had produced this season is customary.
A week after Delgado won two games with RBIs in the ninth inning, and two weeks after Randolph all but denied the existence of "slumps," he dropped his "big boy" two places in the batting order, hoping to put an end to whatever it is -- slump, karma, bio-rhythms -- that has rendered Delgado's bat mostly unproductive.
With the Mets opposed by left-hander Chuck James, and with Delgado having been more effective against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching this season, Randolph moved David Wright to the cleanup position, batted Paul Lo Duca fifth and Shawn Green second. The different batting order was the 20th deployed by Randolph in 45 games this season.
"This is going to be a kind of temporary thing," the manager said.
Chances are his fingers were crossed as he made that prediction.
Delgado's batting average stood at .209 when he took batting practice Wednesday, 73 points lower than the career average he took into this, his 12th season. Moreover, his slugging percentage, .313, was 245 points lower than his pre-'07 average, and lower than that of any National League first baseman with at least 58 at-bats and lower than all but eight of the NL players with at last 125 plate appearances.
He had hit three home runs and driven in 23 runs, three of which came last week in final-pitch victories.
Delgado, who last batted sixth in 1997, expressed neither surprise nor offense, rather the hope that he would begin producing.
"Nothing's going to help if I don't feel comfortable," he said.
And through Tuesday night, when he went hitless in four at-bats, he had been no more comfortable than he had been productive in 184 plate appearances.
"We've got to get him going," Randolph said with no tone of urgency in words that read urgent. "He's my No. 4 hitter.
"I'm not looking for six [hits] out of 15 [at-bats] or seven out of 14," but Randolph is looking to see, "what his at-bats look like. ... Does he look like himself?"
Delgado didn't last week when Randolph saw him swing flat-footed, as if Delgado was intent on merely making contact and not driving the ball. Randolph suggested the change in the order was "not a Delgado thing," noting that Wright's batting fourth might reduce the number of breaking balls thrown to Carlos Beltran, who has slumped as well.
The manager wondered, too, whether moving Delgado down in the order might reduce whatever urgency he might experience in the batting order position he has filled for most of his career.
Delgado has been more productive in more difficult circumstances, though; he was batting .316 with runners in scoring position and two out, and .172 with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. So go figure.
Turn around: Green regularly batted second with the Blue Jays in 1998. He recalled popping up a bunt, being scolded by then-manager Tim Johnson and then being shifted to the No. 3 spot. But Randolph said he wasn't batting Green second expecting him to take pitches and advance runners.
"Just do what he's been doing is what we need," Randolph said.
He didn't expect Green to pull pitches through the unprotected right side with the first baseman holding Jose Reyes just because he was batting second. Just as well, the unofficial batting order posted in the Mets' clubhouse had Green listed as a right-handed hitter.
"That goes back," Green said. "I was a switch-hitter till I was 14."
That date in Mets history -- May 24: The Mets' scoreless streak reached 20 innings in a 5-0 loss to Bob Bruce and the Houston Colt 45's in Colt Stadium in 1964. They scored 19 runs in their following game. ... A year later, Warren Spahn and Frank Lary, the former Yankees killer, were the winning pitchers in the Mets' doubleheader sweep of the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. The losing pitchers were Jim Bunning and Chris Short, who had respective 3-4 and 4-5 records after the sweep, and seemingly hadn't recovered from the previous season when, together, they made 20 starts after Aug. 29 and were the two primary pieces in the Phillies' spectacular collapse.
In 1973, the Mets and Dodgers played 19 innings -- five hours, 42 minutes -- in a night game in Los Angeles. The Mets scored four times in the 19th to win, 7-3. Ed Kranepool entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and had 18 putouts at first base. Manny Mota was hitless in nine at-bats. The game ended at 3:42 a.m. ET. ... David Cone pitched his fourth shutout in six starts in 1992. He limited the Giants to four hits in the Mets' 6-0 victory in Candlestick Park, walking none and striking out 10. He had shut out two opponents in his last four starts of 1991, giving him six -- one of them a one-hitter -- in 14 starts over two seasons.
Coming up: It's the pursuit of 300 or 200, depending on where you sit. For those with allegiance to the Mets, the Mets-Braves game Thursday at 7:37 p.m. is about Tom Glavine seeking the 296th victory of his career. For Braves backers, it's about John Smoltz taking his first shot at the 200th victory of his career. The two friends oppose each other for the third time this season. They'd really rather not.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.