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09/25/08 1:39 AM ET

Mets need a push from Pedro in finale

Chicago (96-61) at New York (87-71), Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- Excuse manager Jerry Manuel if he's suddenly anxious to win in bunches. While he has said recently that those who scratch and claw reap the benefits, he certainly wouldn't mind cracking the playoff threshold with a vigorous push.

In their past 10 games, the Mets have gone 4-6. All the while, the Phillies have been unable to pull away in the National League East driver's seat, and the Brewers are tied with the Mets for first place in the NL Wild Card standings.

"I think we have been a streaky team, but we haven't put together a real good stretch," Manuel said. "Now is the time to put together a good stretch. I would hope that it starts with starting pitching to keep these streaks going."

With playoff scenarios suddenly taking shape, Manuel has had much to ponder when it comes to his pitching staff. With the way the rotation lines up, his ace, Johan Santana, will likely remain idle until his next start on Sunday -- even if he likes the "fight" he saw in the lefty after a career-high 125 pitches on Tuesday and one balls-and-strikes argument.

Add John Maine to the bullpen mix instead. And after Oliver Perez's 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday, the bullpen has been stretched heading to Thursday's Cubs finale, and Manuel wouldn't rule out throwing his power pitcher -- who often after two days' rest tells him, "If you need me, I'm ready" -- out of bullpen for a crucial out or two later this week.

"Pedro [Martinez], in his earlier days, could have done that," Manuel said.

While Martinez might not have the same makeup now, Manuel will look to him Thursday for a split with the Cubs. Martinez has lost three straight decisions, allowing 14 runs over his past 16 innings. Also, with the possibility of rainouts over the next the three days, the pitching rotation that Manuel so dearly wants to keep in order could be tampered with.

"That would be tough, that would be really tough," Manuel said. "We would like to keep everyone on schedule. If it could possibly cause us to move people into positions that they aren't used to being in, that would be tough."

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Pedro Martinez (5-6, 5.50 ERA)
Martinez's third straight loss was similar to the one before it, albeit with some slightly better control. The most vexing coincidence was the fact that Martinez again allowed runs in the first inning -- this time, three of them -- and that the Mets never recovered from that deficit. It's a trend that neither Martinez nor Manuel could explain, but that has ruined some otherwise fine outings this season. He'll look to do better against the Cubs, whom he has not faced this decade.

CHC: RHP Rich Harden (10-2, 2.03 ERA)
Harden had what he called an "ugly" game against the Brewers. He only gave up one hit over five innings but walked six. He also struck out seven, and he had to be pulled because his pitch count had reached 115. Harden had a long layoff before the Milwaukee game because of the Hurricane Ike hiatus, and he should do better on a regular routine.

Again, Santana will have to fight Manuel for a short-rest appearance before his next scheduled start. But with his $137.5 million contract, the Mets' manager jokingly said he could be convinced otherwise. "Guy is making $137 million," Manuel said, laughing. "I can be had." ... While Manuel wouldn't pin Saturday's start on any one name, he did acknowledge that Jonathon Niese, Brandon Knight and Nelson Figueroa were among those being considered. According to Manuel, Bobby Parnell, who has allowed one run in 4 2/3 relief innings, is not "stretched enough" to warrant consideration at this time. "In reality," Manuel said, "we don't have a lot of options. We are trying to hold off as long as possible, then we'll make a decision."

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Up next
• Friday: Marlins (Chris Volstad, 5-4, 3.10) at Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 13-10, 3.70), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Marlins (Ricky Nolasco, 15-7, 3.55) at Mets (TBD), 1:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Mets (Johan Santana, 15-7, 2.64) vs. Marlins (Scott Olsen, 8-11, 4.23), 1:10 p.m. ET

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.