Talk about breaking it open.
Behind the spectacular pitching of John Maine, it appeared that the Mets would grind out another good-baseball, well-executed win against their former closer Braden Looper. What began as a pitchers’ duel quickly became a laugher as Looper fatigued in the sixth, and the St. Louis relief corps was pounded and pillaged by the Mets’ batters.
The Mets exploded for ten runs over innings six through eight, highlighted by two homeruns by Carlos Beltran and another by Jose Reyes. Three runs in the sixth gave Maine his first lead, two more in the seventh added insurance, then another five in the eighth put the game away for good. Five Met batters had at least two hits in the game, and Beltran and Reyes combined for seven RBI. Even Shawn Green was impressive, stroking two hits and driving in a run. I guess he’s bought himself another day before being run off the team by the Milledgers.
John Maine was beyond impressive, spotting his 90-MPH fastball at the knees and mixing in an effective assortment of change-ups and sliders, keeping the Cardinals guessing all night long. Clearly, this was not the same pitcher who dominated them in the NLCS — in fact, he was much better. The “old” Maine was quite predictable: fastball, fastball, fastball. The new Maine was anything but. In addition, Maine was remarkably efficient for most of the game, averaging between ten and 12 pitches per inning through the first six innings. His only “bad” inning was the fifth, when he allowed a leadoff single to Scott Rolen followed by a walk to Jim Edmonds. That was the closest the Cardinals came to a rally, as Maine mowed down the St. Louis batters from that point forward. When it was all said and done, Maine pitched seven innings, allowing one hit and two walks, and striking out six. He threw 97 pitches, 65 for strikes.
While Maine was the main story on the mound, it was good to see was Ambiorix Burgos making his Mets debut. Burgos pitched a perfect eighth, striking out one. He threw 13 pitches, 10 for strikes.
Also making his Mets debut was Aaron Sele, whose performance was nearly as auspicious. He struck out the first batter he faced (David Eckstein), gave up a long double to Chris Duncan, came right back to strike out Albert Pujols looking, then retired Scott Rolen on a weak ground ball. Two things struck me about his appearance: 1. he displayed a hellacious 12-6 curveball; and 2. he showed no fear in going right after Albert Pujols. Granted, he had a ten-run lead, but it’s surprising how many hurlers will still pitch around a Pujols or Bonds in that situation.
The Mets remain undefeated and in first place in the NL East. They have Thursday night off, then travel to Atlanta to begin a three-game weekend series against the Braves. Friday night’s game begins at 7:35 PM and pits Oliver Perez vs. Mark Redman.