Brian Bannister showed off his magician skills today, working himself out of several jams, including a bases loaded with no outs situation. X-Man drove in three, with a homer and sacrifice fly, and LoDuca drove in one as well.
Jose Valentin struck out in a pinch-hit opportunity, and Howie Rose speculated that he's the odd-man out when Metsui returns from the DL. Finally, a reason to root for Matsui... Anyway, after five innings, it was 4-1 Mets and a fatigued Bannister handed the game over to the bullpen to try and preserve the lead.
Against Darren Oliver, Corey Hart led off the sixth with a pinch hit. Oliver should have gotten out of the inning unscathed, because he had Hart picked off. Corey "never surrendered" though, and lasted in a rundown long enough for Delgado to make a throwing error, allowing Hart to get all the way to third. Jenkins then hit a two-out homer to narrow the lead to 4-3. Chad Bradford came in and induced a groundout by Carlos Lee to end the half-inning.
Heilman did a nice job in relief, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks over two innings in a tight game. But in the bottom of the eighth, Carlos Delgado hit a three run homer to extend the Mets lead and make it a 7-3 game. Howie Rose said Delgado's shot, a line drive, reminded him of Darryl Strawberry's homer off Nolan Ryan in Game 5 of the 1986 LCS.
Earlier I said Victor Diaz should be sent to Norfolk to get him regular at-bats and preserve his trade value. Well, Diaz got into the game on a double switch, and in his second at-bat he put the game out of reach with a two-run double, making it a 9-3 game. Perhaps he is valuable off the bench after all?
Billy Wagner was all set to come into the game even when Delgado's homer made it a four run lead. But then, after Diaz broke open the game, Willie decided to bring in Jorge Julio. I've decided to stop comparing Julio to Armando Benitez. That's too much of an insult to Benitez. After all, like my buddy Tubby and I were discussing, Benitez only seemed to fail in big spots, and against the Yankees and Braves. Julio stinks pretty much all the time. Even though he resembles Benitez in pitching style, he's much more like Mel Rojas in his ineffectiveness.
As Julio began pitching, broadcaster Tom McCarthy talked about how "flat" Julio's fastball was. Julio retired the leadoff batter Koskie, but Bill Hall teed off on a fastball for a long double. Julio's heater comes in at around 95 mph, but McCarthy and Rose noted that any major league hitter can hit a fastball, no matter how fast, if it has no movement to it. Julio did get Prince Fielder to strikeout on a fastball for the second out.
Julio threw a slider (or splitter?) in the dirt that got away from LoDuca, allowing Hall to reach third, but Damien Miller eventually flied out to center to end the game. Mets win 9-3, and are now 9-2 on the season, their best start in franchise history.
Maybe Julio gains some confidence after this outing and starts to be more successful? I'm not betting on it.
Meanwhile. the Mets have won all four series they've played so far this season, and are set to take on the Braves tomorrow. Pedro Martinez goes for win #200 against Jorge Sosa. Lets Go Mets!