Mets 4 Dodgers 3
This was a great win on many levels. First, winning a one-run game is always a lift. Second, winning a series is the general goal, and the series has now been won. Third, the usually demanding and critical New York crowd did an about-face for change, choosing to cheer rather than boo a player who has been remarkably unproductive of late.
The turning point in the game, and one of the most touching and fascinating moments I’ve witnessed in New York sports in a long time, came in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and men on second and third, lefty starter Eric Stults intentionally walked Jeff Conine to load the bases for Carlos Delgado, who was oh for his last eighteen. As Delgado walked to the batters box, the Shea Stadium crowd rose to its feet and began cheering heartily for the struggling slugger. By the time he took his stance, a stadium-wide standing ovation was taking place, cheering him on without any prompt nor provocation — it was a completely impulsive and spontaneous action that ripped through the park. Perhaps moved by the support, Delgado jumped on the first pitch and drove it into centerfield for a two-run single, putting the Mets up 3-zip. Needless to say, the fans remained on their feet cheering. It couldn’t have been better scripted by Hollywood.
Not to be overlooked was the performance of Orlando Hernandez, who further solidified his position as the Mets’ ace, allowing no runs and only two hits through the first six innings. He finally cracked with two outs in the seventh, allowing back to back solo homers to fellow 40-something Luis Gonzalez and youngster Russell Martin. El Duque settled down to strike out Matt Kemp looking to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Jeff Conine blasted a two-out double off the leftfield wall with David Wright running on the pitch to get back an insurance run, making the score 4-2.
Pedro Feliciano came on in relief in the top of the eighth, and allowed a Shea Hillenbrand fly ball to rightfield that Lastings Milledge misplayed into a triple. It wasn’t so bad that Millz misjudged the ball and made an ill-advised dive, but he then lollygagged after the ball after it rolled behind him, giving Hillenbrand third base. Had he run hard after the ball, Hillenbrand most likely would have stopped at second. Less than a minute later, Hillenbrand scored on a groundout to Delgado.
With Billy Wagner going through a dead arm period, Willie Randolph called on Aaron Heilman to close out the game. Heilman gave up a one-out single to Jeff Kent, but ended the game by inducing his first double play in nine years and notching his first save since 2005.
El Duque finished with 7 innings pitched, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, striking out 7.
Early in the game, Russell Martin tried to lean into an inside curveball, which prompted El Duque to say something to both Martin and the home plate umpire. Martin fired back with a comment, and the entire Mets infield gathered around the mound to calm down Hernandez. Not sure what was said, but it got El Duque fired up.
David Wright went 2-for-2 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored, and an RBI. He’s now batting .316 and emerging as an MVP candidate.
Carlos Beltran remained hot as well, going 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored.
Jose Reyes did not have a hit but stole his 70th base.
A wonderful thing to see from the Mets lately, and something they exhibited again in this game, is their ability to immediately answer the opposition’s scoring with runs of their own.
The FOX broadcast was insufferable, as usual. The one thing they do that’s occasionally mildly entertaining is having a Met give the opening lineup (I remember Paul LoDuca doing a hysterical bit one time) — but they screwed that up too, having Sean Landeta tell us the lineup. His schtick was was slightly drier than a 1990 Barolo.
But of course we had the comic relief of Tim McCarver regale us with his pearls of wisdom. For example:
– when talking about El Duque’s age: “When Hernandez started his career with the Yankees, he was forty years older than the age on his birth certificate …”
– when referring to Jose Reyes: “he’s the catalytic converter to the Mets’ machine …” Huh? I guess he wanted to refer to Reyes as a catalyst, and refer to the Mets as an engine? (FYI, a catalytic converter in an automobile actually impedes an engine’s performance, rather than enhance it, so it was a bad metaphor all around.)
The series finale takes place at 8:05 PM and will be carried by ESPN (fire Joe Morgan!). John Maine will be on the mound for the Mets at the start of the game and in the bottom of the first, David Wells will attempt to climb out of the visitor’s dugout without suffering a heart attack.