For the second time in 3 nights, a 40-something Mets starter toyed with the Cards’ batting order, and was the beneficiary of multiple double-plays (3 tonight) ; Orlando Hernandez (7 IP, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 2 walks) was nothing short of masterful on the mound in New York’s 4-1 defeat of St. Louis, and he wasn’t half bad at the plate either, doubling his career RBI total with a 2-run double off Kip Wells.

Nursing that same 4-1 advantage, Aaron Heilman retired Albert Pujols with runners on corners, inherited from Scott Schoenweis in the 8th. Billy Wagner pitched a perfect 9th to record his first save of 2007, while Jose Reyes scored a pair of unearned runs as Wells and teammate Skip Schumaker didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory during the 2nd contest of the season for both clubs.

Newsday’s David Lennon writes “the training wheels are off” for the back end of the Mets rotation, as he surveys the uncertainty surrounding John Maine and Oliver Perez.

I don’t think that my leash is very long,” said Maine, who was 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 15 starts and one relief appearance for the Mets last season. “I think I have to go out and pitch well.”

The Mets are worried more about Perez than Maine. While the 6-3 lefthander can be more dominant, he also is more erratic than Maine, and it tends to be difficult to rein him in. Pitching coach Rick Peterson raves about Perez’s electric stuff, but staying focused is an issue, and that’s the biggest obstacle for the 25-year-old. The bottom line is that Perez always runs the risk of getting derailed by his emotions on the mound.

“I think he does,” Tom Glavine said. “That’s my opinion. When you watch him pitch, you can see at times where things are going well and he kind of gets caught up in the momentum of what’s going on.”

When Perez held the Cardinals to four hits and one run in six innings in Game 7 of the NLCS, they pictured him in their 2007 rotation.

No one knows for sure how long Maine and Perez will remain there, however.

“I’m assuming they’re going to go out and pitch well and play well, so I’m hoping that leash is the end of the season,” manager Willie Randolph said. “I don’t have them on any type of trial or anything like that. They’re my starters. They’re going to be my starters from now until hopefully the World Series.”

While San Diego’s Jake Peavy was pacifying the Giants Wednesday afternoon, Mike Krukow made a few curious remarks about San Francisco’s young mayor. “He knows the game, he’s a player,” insisted Krukow of Joanna Newsom’s cousin Gavin. “He knows both leagues.”

As euphamisms are concerned, I suppose you could do worse.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer
reports the pending sale of the Tribune Corp., and subsequent peddling of the Cubbies, have thrown a wrench into the Carlos Zambrano contract talks. Which must be very comforting to Big Z — the TribCo. hung in there long enough to throw a boatload of money at Ted Lilly, but Zambrano’s big payday might still be be on hold for a while.