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Scattered Clouds 41° Good Evening

Francisco unavailable with sore oblique; Martin has stiff back

Don't think he chickened out.

Frank Francisco wasn't available for the middle game of the Mets' Subway Series against the Yankees Saturday night, but it wasn't because he didn't want another crack at the guys he called "chickens" before the series.

The closer said he experienced some soreness in his left oblique/rib area after he cooled down after saving Friday's 6-4 win, and things didn't improve very much Saturday.

"I felt a little sore last night after the game, but I thought it was normal and put ice on it," he said. "Today it felt a little worse. I went outside anyway to throw and see if it was something minor, and I still felt it."

Francisco said it's a type of pain he hadn't experienced previously. Terry Collins figured it stemmed from something Francisco did while on the field during batting practice. "I think he injured himself pregame doing some exercises," he said. "So our bullpen was a little thin tonight."

Francisco said he knew something wasn't right when he still felt some soreness after attempting to throw during pregame warmups. He reiterated he was pain-free during Friday's outing but didn't feel right once he left Citi Field for the night.

Collins said he had "no idea" how long the Mets will be without their closer. Francisco, who had not had any tests immediately after Saturday night's game, hopes he'll have a better idea what's wrong Sunday. "If I feel better," he said, "then go day-by-day."

Said Collins: "Right now, I don't know. It may just be a one-day thing. Hopefully he's OK for tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Russell Martin said the lower back stiffness that prompted Joe Girardi to pull him in the eighth Saturday night is a recurring issue and likely will not affect his playing time. "I've had this happen before," he said. "It normally happens a little later in the season." Martin said he woke up stiff but "it kind of just crept up on me . . . It kind of tightened up on me."

Chris Stewart likely will start with CC Sabathia pitching Sunday night, but Martin expects to be able to play. "I've dealt with this before and it hasn't kept me from being in the lineup," he said. As for whether he'd want the time off anyway, he said he'll "have to wait to see how I feel."

With Laura Albanese

New York Sports