BALTIMORE: July 25 and 26, 2009. Seems like random dates from last year’s awful season. Those dates are actually of meaning.

It was the last time the Mets won consecutive road games. On those dates, the Mets played in Houston after losing the first game and took the series.

This time, having not won a road series this season and having not won back-to-back road games since those dates, it should come a little easier for the Mets. After all, they are already up 1-0 against a 17-44 Orioles team.

Tonight, the Mets will try and win their 10th road game of the season, with Hisanori Takahashi on the mound. They may only be the lowly Orioles, but Takahashi has not fared well after a great beginning to his starter’s role.

After doing a fantastic job against the Yankees and Phillies, he’s faltered against the Padres and Marlins his last two times out, but the Mets need for him to be solid.

Maybe they’ll be helped by Jerry Manuel’s theory of the knuckleballer throwing a team off for an entire series. If that theory works, the Mets should be fine, since R.A. Dickey passed the test last night.

When Takahashi was going well as a starter, even as a reliever, it was because of his changeup, keeping the righties off balance. He threw strikes, getting his fastball up to 90 mph, and looked like a guy who knew how to pitch.

Not that none of those qualities have been there recently, but Takahashi has not thrown first-pitch strikes at as high a rate as he had. He’s nibbled around the strike zone, and given up some home runs as a result.

The Orioles, though, are ranked 24th in baseball in hitting, and couldn’t hit a knuckleballer in Dickey, so you’d figure the veteran Takahashi can fool around with the young Orioles hitters.

This could possibly be Takahashi’s final start, as John Maine will pitch in a rehab game for Double-A Binghamton on Sunday.

He could return to open the Yankees series on Friday, or maybe since Takahashi was so good against the Yankees at Citi Field, he’ll get one more go-around. You won’t be able to really judge him based on tonight’s start against a bad team.

Facing Takahashi will be young 23-year-old left-hander Brian Matusz. Picked fourth overall in the 2008 amateur draft by the Orioles, Matusz has not enjoyed too much success in the big leagues.

Last season in eight starts, he went 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA, but this year he’s been awful. In 12 starts, he’s 2-6 with an ERA of 5.10, and he’s given up 79 hits in 67 innings.

The Mets are a team that generally feasts off of lefties, especially David Wright and Jeff Francoeur, so going up against a bad left-hander may be exactly what the Mets need to win their first road series of the season.

Last night, manager Jerry Manuel tinkered with the lineup, moving the red-hot David Wright up to third, and moving the slumping Jason Bay down to fifth. The DH was Chris Carter, who hit the three-run home run, and he batted sixth.

Manuel announced that Fernando Tatis, who only has 47 at-bats this season, will play in tonight’s game, with the only question being whether he’ll DH or play third base with Wright DH’ing.

No matter what, in all likelihood, the lineup will remain the same with Tatis batting sixth instead of Carter.

If the Mets can win this game, they’ll have a strong chance of sweeping the series with 8-1 Mike Pelfrey opposing the 0-7 Kevin Millwood on Sunday.

First things first, though, the Mets need to win a road series tonight.

Hisanori Takahashi this season as a starter (4 starts)
1-1, 4.64 ERA, 21.1 IP, 24 hits, 5 BB, 17 SO, 3 HR

Brian Matusz this season (12 starts)
2-6, 5.10 ERA, 67 IP, 79 hits, 27 BB, 57 SO, 7 HR

2010 season series (New York vs. Baltimore)

June 11: New York 5, Baltimore 1

Mets lead series 1-0

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