Notes: El Duque's foot still not right

Notes: El Duque's foot still not right

NEW YORK -- Hardly emphasized by the Mets when they acquired Orlando Hernandez last season was his postseason experience and resume. It would have been presumptuous in May to speak of October. But the Mets knew what they were getting. Or thought they knew.

Hernandez missed the postseason last year because of calf strain suffered the day before the National League Division Series. And now his readiness for the 2007 postseason is an issue because of persistent pain in right foot.

The Mets provided no prognosis so ominous Saturday when they addressed the problem; Willie Randolph didn't even acknowledge concern, issuing his standard "It is what it is." But El Duque has pitched merely six innings since Aug. 25 and his foot still hurts.

His next scheduled start, Monday in Washington, hardly is a certainty at this point. Randolph said Hernandez will be reevaluated on Sunday.

Hernandez has more than enough time to prepare for the postseason, but he has to pitch to be prepared.

"I feel pain in the arch," he said Saturday morning. "I don't feel it when I run, I feel it when I push off."

His foot hurt enough Friday night that he cut short his work in the bullpen. Randolph called it a "modified workout" Saturday. He hadn't been told of the change immediately on Friday.

The Mets have no problem starting Mike Pelfrey in El Duque's stead Monday, but Monday isn't the issue.

The club's medical staff seems perplexed by Hernandez. A person familiar with the diagnosis -- initially said to be an irritated tendon and later identified as a spained ligament -- said Saturday the problem may be a bunion that has caused El Duque to walk differently, and that the change has caused pain on the top of the foot.

Thick as thieves: When the Mets stole four bases in the third inning Saturday -- two by Carlos Beltran and one each by Shawn Green and Luis Castillo -- the Mets' season total increased to 191, the third most in the big leagues since 1996. Opponents had stolen eight bases in 14 attempts against Phillies starter Kyle Lohse before Saturday. The Mets stole four in four attempts.

The six steals in the game equaled a club record. The Mets have stolen six three times previously, most recently in 1991.

The Mets had stolen four bases in an inning twice previously, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Tommie Agee and Donn Clendenon executed two double steals -- in the same at-bat, Ron Swoboda's -- in the seventh inning of the May 27, 1970, game against the Cardinals. And in a Sept. 9 game in 1963, the Mets executed a triple steal against the Phillies. After John Boozer was summoned to pitch with runners on first and third with two out, Tim Harkness stole second. Norm Sherry walked to load the bases, and then Dick Smith stole home, Harkness stole third and Sherry stole second.

Otherwise in that season, the Mets stole 38 bases in 89 attempts.

Playing the percentages: Distinction can be fleeting. Or it can last at least until all the way to next season. So it is for Pedro Martinez. Assuming he has three more starts this season and doesn't lose two of them, he will enter the postseason with the highest career winning percentage by a pitcher with at least 300 decisions.

The distinction is his -- for now. By winning his first two decisions this season, Martinez reached 300 career decisions with a 208-92 record and .693 percentage, nearly three points higher than that of Whitey Ford (236-106, .6900584) who has had the distinction forever. A loss in either start since his return would have put Martinez's percentage at .690 -- .0584 behind Ford's.

That's how close it is.

Should Martinez lose to the Phillies on Saturday afternoon, his percentage still would be higher than Ford's, at 6.91. But a loss in a subsequent decision would put his season-ending career percentage at .6887417, if he had no decision in the third start, or .6897689 if he won the third start.

His percentage will be .692 if his last three starts produce a victory, a loss and a no-decision. A loss and two no-decisions would produce a .691.

And no matter what he does before the end of the season, it can all change next season.

Among active pitchers, only Johan Santana is close to Martinez in percentage -- .689. But he has only 135 big league decisions. Ford remains Martinez's only competition, and he hasn't lost a game in 40 years.

What's going on down there? If performance in the Minor Leagues is an accurate indicator of the immediate future, the Mets are in for some lean years. According to Bill Arnold of Sports Features Group, the Mets' overall Minor League winning percentage was the lowest in the game at .442.

Arnold added the wins and losses of all the Triple-A, Double-A, Class A, Rookie League, Dominican and Venezuelan League affiliates and calculated the percentages for all 30 franchises. The Mets' nine teams -- only the Cardinals have as many -- produced a composite 393-497 record.

The Mets' Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs affiliate, swept by Sacramento in the best-of-five championship round of the Pacific Coast League playoffs, produced a 75-69 record in the regular season.

Coming up -- Part I: Now that the New Orleans season is complete, the Mets will add four more players to their big league roster. Joe Smith, David Newhan, Anderson Hernandez and Brian Lawrence are to be promoted. Ramon Castro was activated Saturday.

This date in Mets history -- Sept. 16: Roger Craig, who lost 24 games in 1962, won for the second time in three days on this date that year. Two days after he earned a victory in relief in the Mets' final-pitch, 10-9 victory against the Reds -- Choo Choo Coleman's home run was the difference -- Craig pitched a complete game in the Mets' 8-2 victory over 20-game winner Joey Jay. The Mets' two improbable victories at the Polo Grounds left the Reds six games behind the Dodgers with 10 to play.

Tug McGraw continued his remarkable September run on this date in 1973. He was the winning pitcher in the Mets' 4-3 victory over the Cubs at Shea Stadium. McGraw had a 5-0 record with 12 saves and a 0.88 ERA in his last 19 appearances. He allowed merely 22 hits in 41 innings, and opponents batted .157 against him in that period. He pitched more than an inning in nine of the 12 saves. The victory, the Mets' 12th in 17 games, put them 2 1/2 games from first place, despite their 73-76 record, but behind three teams.

Dwight Gooden pitched an 11-strikeout two-hitter and drove in two runs in the Mets' 9-0 victory over the Phillies at Shea on Sept. 16, 1985, to keep his team one game behind the Cardinals. ... Three years later, Gregg Jefferies drove home the winning run in the ninth inning of a 4-3 victory against the Expos at Shea to reduce the Mets' magic number to five.

Coming up -- Part II: The Mets play the Phillies on Sunday in their final game against a team other than the Nationals, Marlins or Cardinals (one makeup game). Oliver Perez is in position to become the seventh Mets pitcher in the last 10 years to win at least 15 games. The others are Tom Glavine (last year), Steve Trachsel (last year and 2003), Pedro Martinez (last year), Al Leiter (2003, 2000 and 1998), Mike Hampton (2000) and Rick Reed (1998). Perez opposes Adam Eaton at 1:10 p.m ET.

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