By Mike Steffanos
Mets 4 - Pirates 3 (12)
Billy Wagner blew his third save of the season, spoiling terrific efforts from both Pedro and Aaron Heilman, but the rest of the bullpen came up big and Carlos Delgado's 12th inning walkoff homer salvaged a win for the Mets.
Despite abysmal conditions with rain and wind for most of regulation play, Martinez was amazing. Giving up a solo home run to Freddy Sanchez in the first was Martinez' only hiccup. His amazing curveball and masterful changeup danced through the raindrops, mesmerizing helpless Buccos. He held the Pirates to 3 hits in 6 innings, striking out 9 and walking only 1. It seemed like it might go for naught as the Mets once again struggled to mount an offense against a young pitcher.
After Carlos Delgado doubled in Kaz Matsui to tie the game in the first, Ian Snell frustrated the Mets ailing offense. They had better at bats tonight than last night, and had some chances, but couldn't cash in anything until the sixth, when Cliff Floyd led off with a single. Castro bunted him over to second, bringing up Endy Chavez, who already had a pair of hits. Chavez' opposite field double scored Floyd to put the Mets up 2-1, but Willie Randolph still elected to pinch-hit for Pedro. After the game, Randolph admitted the move had as much to do with getting Pedro out of those dangerous conditions as scoring another run. Jose Valentin struck out, but Reyes' triple plated Chavez for a 3-1 lead. Matsui followed and lay down a perfect bunt, but slipped on the sloppy baseline and was called out at first. To add insult to injury, replays show the first baseman's foot was off the bag. The run that should have scored but didn't came back to haunt the Mets.
Things looked good for a while, however, as Heilman gave the Mets 2 perfect innings despite the sloppy mound to get the ball to Wagner in the ninth. Sadly, for the third time this season Wagner was unequal to the task. Struggling with his control and home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman's strike zone, Wagner walked Jack Wilson to lead off the frame. Freddy Sanchez hit a slow grounder to Wright, whose only play was to first with Wilson advancing to second. Wagner pitches carefully to Jason Bay and walked him, putting the tying run on base, and causing me to mutter things unfit for mixed company. Wagner came back to strike out pinch-hitter Craig Wilson, but then allowed consecutive ground ball singles to Jose Hernandez and Ronny Paulino to tie the game. He retired Jose Castillo on a grounder to third, but Pedro's sixth win had disappeared into the damp Shea night.
Salomon Torres had no problems with Beltran, Delgado and Wright in the ninth, sending it to bonus frames. Duaner Sanchez escaped an error by Matsui (tough call by the official scorer) in the top of the tenth, Roberto Hernandez stymied his former club in the bottom of the tenth. Chad Bradford held the Buccs in the eleventh aided by a terrific diving catch by Endy Chavez. Pirates' closer Mike Gonzalez pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the eleventh. Bradford remained in the game for the twelfth and got consecutive tappers hit back to him and a weak groundout to SS. It was Bradford's finest performance of the season. Mike Gonzalez had stayed in the game, but not for long. Delgado took a 1-1 pitch the opposite way for the walkoff homer, taking Wagner off the hook.
Thoughts on the game
The Mets offense was still not great, but it was better. More long at-bats, but Wright and Floyd still look bad. Cliff tried a different look with the stirrups going up to the knee for a Juan Pierre/Alfonso Soriano fashion statement. I doubt his 1-5 will tempt him to keep that look for tomorrow. Wright did have a nice hit up the middle, but was also 1-5 with 3 strikeouts.
Xavier Pipp: Chavez had 4 hits, could have had 5 if not for a tough scoring decision. The fans were chanting his name during the game, and also when he was the post-game on the field interview.
The fans booed Wagner when he blew the save. The honeymoon is over.
Other than the tough error, Matsui was good in the field again. After a hot start he's scuffling at the plate like almost everyone else, especially with RISP.
When he's on, it's fun to watch Chad Bradford stymie right-handed hitters with a 80 mph fastball and a 69 mph slider.
This was another one of those character wins. The Mets have maintained their solid defense and good fundamental style of play, and its bailing them out with some wins during a two week slump with the bats. The Phillies beat the Braves tonight, so they remain five back of the 18-9 Mets, while the Braves drop to six games back.
The Pirates send lefty Paul Maholm to the mound tomorrow night at 7:10. Glavine goes for the Mets, looking for his 4th win of the year.