The last time it appeared New York Mets manager Willie Randolph was about to lose his job, his club reeled off seven wins in nine games.
He could certainly use another victory Saturday when the Mets face the Texas Rangers in the middle game of their interleague series.Amid fresh reports Randolph won’t last through the series against Texas, Mets general manager Omar Minaya was noncommittal Friday when asked whether Randolph has the backing of club executives."Bottom line is, I'm just not going to answer every report that's out there," Minaya said. "This is a game of performance and you have to do certain things."The Mets (32-34), who have a $138 million payroll, are 7 1/2 games behind division-leading Philadelphia after starting the season expecting to compete for their first World Series title in 22 years. They'd appeared to be motivated after squandering a seven-game lead in the NL East with 17 to play to miss the 2007 playoffs, handing the Phillies the division crown on the final day of the season.New York doesn't appear to have recovered from that epic collapse, and Randolph seemed to be in danger of losing his job on May 26 when ownership called a meeting with him and Minaya to discuss the club's struggles.After he remained at the helm, the Mets responded with a 7-2 stretch. They then dropped six of seven, though, and pressure again mounted on Randolph.Hours after the latest report surfaced on Friday, New York rallied around its embattled manager and beat Texas 7-1 behind an outstanding effort from Oliver Perez. The left-hander allowed one run and three hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings and added two RBIs."I'm a fighter," said Randolph. "When the team's losing, I'm going to take that real personal."We scored some runs and got to breathe a little bit. It was a big contrast to the way things have been going."Now, Randolph turns to Pedro Martinez (1-0, 6.91 ERA), who looks to resume his dominance of the Rangers (34-35).The 36-year-old right-hander is 9-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 13 career starts against the Rangers, but hasn't faced them since 2005, when he was with Boston.Martinez is coming off a shaky outing in Sunday's 8-6 loss at San Diego. The three-time Cy Young Award winner allowed four runs and 10 hits in five innings, although he did not factor in the decision.That outing came five days after Martinez looked strong in yielding three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 9-6 win at San Francisco -- his first start since missing more than two months with a hamstring injury.Martinez will have to contend with Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton, who went 2-for-4 with a homer Friday and is 7-for-14 with two RBIs over his last three games. Hamilton's 18 homers lead the AL while his 72 RBIs are tops in the majors.As they try to avoid their first three-game losing streak since May 18-20, the Rangers will send Kason Gabbard (1-2, 4.75) to the mound, replacing Doug Mathis.Gabbard started the season in the rotation, but had been hit hard in his last three starts, going 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA. That poor stretch led to him being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma on May 30, two days after he was reached for five runs and five hits with six walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay.