Manuel making all the right moves
The New York Mets are on a great homestand mainly because of Jerry Manuel, their much-maligned manager. He has made some great decisions, and he's got the right attitude during a time when people thought all was lost.
The Mets were 3-7 before winning an epic 20-inning game against the Cardinals, and Manuel actually outmanaged Tony La Russa. It was an ugly victory, but it was a victory nonetheless. After that, key decisions -- like calling up first baseman Ike Davis -- were made collectively with general manager Omar Minaya. Initially, Davis was being preserved in the minor leagues for financial reasons. There's usually a collective frown on big-market teams when a manager decides not to bring a young kid up because the team might have to pay him too much when he becomes a free agent. So it's a good thing the front office decided to bring him up. Davis personifies the ideal first baseman: He's tall, left-handed and has pedigree; his father, Ron Davis, was a big league reliever for 11 seasons.
Manuel also exhibited poise in making the very difficult and unpopular decision to move leadoff hitter Jose Reyes to the third spot in the batting order.
And despite the loss of Ryota Igarashi -- who was pitching well until he pulled a hamstring -- Manuel has managed his bullpen perfectly. Manuel has the ability to put guys in the right spots to get the right outs and to ultimately build a confident baseball team.
The entire division is less-than-stellar, but the Mets are one of the teams that will continue to get better. They have won six of seven since Davis joined the team and three in row with Reyes batting in the 3-hole. New York now looks like one of the teams to beat in the National League East.
If Manuel continues to make the right moves, this team could go pretty far -- and hopefully he'll stay off the hot seat.
Bobby Valentine is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."
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|Colby Rasmus, StL||6||ATL||Bot 7: 2-2, 0 Outs. None on.||Hudson|
|Miguel Cabrera, DET||5||TEX||Top 9: 2-1, 1 Out. None on.||Feliz|
|Casey McGehee, MIL||5||PITF||Bot 8: 0-0, 2 Outs. Grand Slam.||Donnelly|
|Dan Uggla, FLA||5||SD||Bot 4: 3-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.||Gallagher|
|Jose Bautista, TOR||4||BOS||Bot 3: 0-0, 1 Out. 2 on.||Beckett|
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Flyin' Ryan Braun
MONDAY'S BEST AND WORST
BESTJosh Johnson, RHP, Marlins
Johnson tossed a career-best three-hitter, fanned a career-best 12 batters and, for good measure, drove in three runs with three singles in the Marlins' 10-1 romp over the visiting Padres. He is now batting .300 on the season.
WORSTJosh Beckett, RHP, Red Sox
Beckett was knocked around again, this time by the Blue Jays. The Red Sox right-hander allowed eight earned runs in three innings, his ERA soaring to 7.22. He has given up a total of 15 earned runs in his last two starts, a span of 10 innings.
TUESDAY'S TOP MATCHUPS
Twins at Tigers, 7:05 ET
Twins lefty Francisco Liriano, who is holding opponents to a .192 average, is looking more and more like the Francisco Liriano of old. Justin Verlander wishes he could say the same. The Tigers' ace had to throw 125 pitches in five innings to get the win in his last start.
Braves at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET
Diamondbacks at Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET
Ryan Howard's $125 million contract extension appears risky for the Phillies. The home run numbers look pretty good when projecting his statistics, as do the RBIs. But the latter is mostly a function of Howard's hitting in the middle of a great lineup. And those on-base percentage and slugging numbers should begin declining steadily in 2013. Large, hulking sluggers aren't known for aging particularly well, and Howard will be 32 before the new contract even goes into effect.A long-term projection of Howard's career using ZiPS:
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