Mets 10 Pirates 8
The Mets went seven innings without scoring a run. Luckily, they managed five runs on each of the bookends of the game to get past the Pirates.
The Mets exploded for a five-run first, thanks to doubles by David Wright and Carlos Delgado and another homerun by red-hot Moises Alou. But that was the extent of the offense for the next seven innings, and in the meantime the Bucs chipped away to eventually make it a 5-4 game in the sixth.
New York starter John Maine had another shaky outing, allowing three runs on five hits and three walks in only five innings of work. By the time he was lifted, he had thrown 117 pitches — mostly because he had trouble putting away the Pittsburgh hitters. That may seem like a strange statement, considering he struck out eight in the five innings. However, the Bucs batters fouled off several pitches after falling behind, driving up the count. It didn’t help that Maine walked three, two after going to full count. Maine did not have good command of his slider, which was breaking too early and too far off the plate to entice swings and misses.
The game remained 5-4 until the top of the ninth, and then the Mets offense woke up again. Lastings Milledge started the excitement with a seemingly harmless leadoff single, and was sacrificed to second by Jose Reyes and then stole third. Luis Castillo then hit a high chopper back through the box, which reliever Shawn Chacon threw away — scoring Milledge and giving Castillo first base. Wright then singled, chasing Castillo to third, and Chacon was replaced by lefty Damaso Marte, who gave up a two-run double to Carlos Beltran. Pinch-hitter Damion Easley hit another double to score Beltran, and Alou followed with another near-double, scoring Easley but getting thrown out at second. Marte, obviously frustrated, then hit Shawn Green on purpose — a dumb decision, considering Green’s anemic average against lefties and his 0-for-4 night — before striking out Mike DiFelice to end the onslaught.
With the score 10-4 going into the ninth, Aaron Sele came in for what should have been an easy end to the game. Instead, he gave up two quick singles then hit the next batter to load the bases for Adam LaRoche, who grounded to first to score the Bucs’ fifth run. No big deal, except Jason Bay then blasted a two-run double to put the Pirates within three. At this point, the game again became a save situation and Willie Randolph called on his closer Billy Wagner to put out the fire. Wagner gave up an RBI single to Jose Castillo before striking out Xavier Nady to save the game.
Originally, “Country Time” had gotten up during the top of the ninth to be ready to come in and close out a one-run game. However, once the Mets started scoring runs, Willie sat down Wags and summoned Sele to get warm. My guess is that Sele — who still is not the type of guy who can get warmed up quickly — wasn’t ready at the start of his appearance, and that’s why he was so ineffective. My guess is he had about five minutes of preparation, and he’s still on a starting pitcher’s clock of needing closer to ten or fifteen minutes.
Alou was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI. He is on fire.
Milledge’s hit in the ninth and steal of third both gave the team a spark, and with Green going 0-for-4 it’s looking like LMillz is taking the rightfield job away from the veteran.
The finale pits Brian Lawrence vs. Tony Armas, Jr. After taking the first two, the Mets must put the hammer down and take this “gimme” game. Hopefully Lawrence can use his black magic for another five or six innings. Armas is only slightly better than a BP pitcher at this point, so the offense should tee off. If they don’t, a PI must be hired to find out if their breakfast was tainted or their coffee was doped. Game time is 7:05 PM.