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Glavine has been all aces this October

ST. LOUIS -- Theoretically, we suppose, it's possible to win a World Series with a one-man starting rotation.

As long as the one man is Pud Galvin. Or Old Hoss Radbourne. Or one of those old-time, mustachioed twirlers of yesteryear who could start nine or 10 games a week.

But the way the New York Mets are trying to do it these days? Now that's doing it the hard way.

So the best thing that happened to the Mets on Monday was that the known-quantity portion of their rotation, Tom Glavine, got bailed out by the weather gods.

The worst thing that happened, though, is that while Monday's rainout meant Glavine could start Game 5 of the NLCS on normal rest Tuesday, he's as unavailable as ever to start Games 6 and 7 on zero days' rest.

Turns out that Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden and David Cone are also as unavailable as ever for those games. So the Mets will just have to go on slapping together a pitching staff the way they've been doing it all month -- by sending in the jugglers.

Here we have a team that was built to do nothing less than win a World Series. Yet it just got finished running a Game 4 starter out there (Oliver Perez) who had won one game in the big leagues in the previous 151 days.

But that's nothing compared to what's coming. Now the Mets might be getting ready to try a Game 7 starter (Darren Oliver) who hasn't started one game all season. Not one.

Trust us. When they teach that How to Win the World Series 101 course at the National Institute of General Managing, this is not lesson No. 1. Or lesson No. 2. Or lesson Nos. 3 through 1,896, either.

"You know, it's funny," pitching coach Rick Peterson said. "From the outside looking in, we won 97 games -- and look at the lead we had in our division [winning it by 12 games]. From the outside, it looks like we just put the sail up and sat back and let the wind blow us back toward the shore. But in reality, it was a year of constant turnover and injuries."

And now here they are, playing the biggest games of their year, with all their sails flapping and a rotation that's basically changing arms on the fly.

Imagine a team like this, starting Perez, John Maine and Oliver in Games 4, 6 and 7 -- three pitchers who combined for seven wins as starting pitchers for this team this year. Boy, apparently, $101 million just doesn't buy what it used to. Does it?

But these Mets remain incredibly confident, astonishingly secure that not even the train wreck that ate their rotation will keep them from finishing the mission they were constructed to complete.

"We just have to look at it as, 'We are going to do this,'" Peterson said. "The alternative is not an option. This is what we're going to do."

They have no other way to look at it, of course. It's too late to trade for Barry Zito. It's too late to stuff Gooden, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez through the nearest time machine. And it's too late to surrender.

So they will pray that Glavine (October ERA: 0.00) stays on the greatest postseason roll of his career. Then they will hope that somebody else, anybody else can win one more game and get them to the World Series. Where El Duque now is vowing to make his Willis Reed-esque triumphant return. But that's a story for another day.

The story for this day, on the other hand, just about defies comprehension. So far in this postseason, Glavine has started two of the Mets' seven games -- and has gobbled up 39 outs. Until Perez made it into the sixth inning of Game 4, the pitchers who had started the Mets' other games in this postseason -- Maine twice and Steve Trachsel twice -- had gotten 39 outs combined.

Let's just say that when Oliver Perez establishes himself as your second-most dependable October starter -- 15 weeks after being sent to the minors by the team with the worst record in his league (the Pirates) -- that's not a good sign.

But it's even a worse sign when your prospective Game 7 starter is a mysterious fellow named Who The Heck Knows.

It would, in theory, be Trachsel's day. But Trachsel has a 14.54 October ERA, a bruised thigh and next to no rope left with his teammates after his three-out, 10-baserunner Game 3 debacle. So it won't be him.

There is increasing speculation, though, that it could be Oliver, who relieved Trachsel and may have rescued the Mets' season -- by joining Pedro Martinez (1999 Red Sox) as the only pitchers in the last 35 years to spin at least six shutout innings out of the bullpen in a postseason game.

But as Glavine observed Monday, "Darren hasn't had to do that [pitch six innings] all year. So there's no telling how he's going to bounce back from the other night."

Which means that, if there is a Game 7, "Meet the Mets" could be this team's theme song in more ways than one.

"The best way to phrase where we stand [for Game 7] is this," Peterson said. "Tom Glavine is starting Game 5, and the only guy who is not available is John Maine, because he's starting Game 6. … Then John Maine will start Game 6, and everybody but Tom Glavine at that point is available for Game 6. And then we'll see who's available for Game 7."

What he'd like to say, obviously, is: "We'd rather head the North Korea diplomatic team than actually play a Game 7." But there is more than one form of diplomacy this time of year.

Only Glavine found a way to put this honestly.

"There's no question," he said, "that if we do get to a Game 7, they [the Cardinals] would be in a little better situation than us."

So with all of these plot lines swirling, think how much weight is being heaped on Glavine's 40-year-old left shoulder Tuesday night.

Glavine is too intelligent not to be aware of that weight. But after accumulating 12 postseasons worth of October wisdom, he's also aware that he can only be himself -- not himself, Pedro and El Duque put together.

"I understand that there's a different feeling when I take the mound now, because, I guess, with those guys not being here, I've assumed a little bit more of the No. 1 guy, so to speak. ... But that doesn't change what I do or what I try to do out there on the field. I mean, all I can do is try my very best to give our guys an honest chance to win the game."
-- Tom Glavine

"I understand that there's a different feeling when I take the mound now," he said, "because, I guess, with those guys not being here, I've assumed a little bit more of the No. 1 guy, so to speak. … But that doesn't change what I do or what I try to do out there on the field. I mean, all I can do is try my very best to give our guys an honest chance to win the game.

"You know, so far I've been able to do that in the postseason. But I honestly believe it's because I've resisted that temptation to go out there and try to be something more than I am because of the absence of those guys. I mean, I am what I am, and it's not going to get a whole lot different than what I've done for the last 20 years."

What he has done for the last 20 years, if you'd like to calculate along at home, is win 290 regular-season games and pile up more postseason wins (14) than all but one pitcher in history (his old pal, John Smoltz, leads him by one). But one thing Glavine hasn't done for the last 20 years is pitch real well in October on three days' rest.

In his seven postseason starts on short rest, he is just 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA. And the Elias Sports Bureau reports that's the highest ERA of any of the 39 pitchers in history to make at least four career postseason starts on three days' rest. So Glavine showed no signs of complaining Monday that he wouldn't get to work on that line on his stat sheet.

He was a little puzzled, though, that the two rainouts in this series have both come on the days he was supposed to start.

"I've turned into the rain man this year," he said with a laugh. "Hopefully, the results will be as good as the last time we got rained out."

The last time they got rained out, for the record, Glavine unfurled seven artful shutout innings in Game 1. But something like that always seems to happen when the Mets get rained out in October.

They've had five postseason games weathered out in franchise history now. They went 4-0 after the first four rainouts -- including a fairly memorable victory in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series.

So maybe the Mets' best-case scenario is to have Glavine win Game 5, then get four more rainouts and have Glavine come back to start Game 6. But that's a lot to ask of those weather gods.

Which means the rest of this staff is going to be what it has been all month on non-Glavine days: on its own.

History tells us that the last time the Mets won a World Series, in '86, their rotation was so good and so deep that they couldn't even find a spot to cram their fifth starter, Rick Aguilera, into it. On this team, Aguilera would look like Grover Cleveland Alexander about now.

But Aguilera won't be available the rest of this postseason, either. Nor will Grover Cleveland Alexander, Cy Young or even Bobby Jones.

So we hope that Mets bullpen enjoyed its night off. From here to the finish line, this team might be seeing more relief pitchers than raindrops.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.