By Mike Steffanos
Mets 6 - Reds 2
The Mets toyed around with the idea of making Eric Milton look good today, but David Wright took matters into his own hands with a pair of 2-run homers to allow the Mets to limp out of Shea Stadium with their dignity intact. A 3-4 homestand looks okay when you consider the alternatives, and the Phillies have done their part by allowing the Mets to actually widen their lead to 10 games.
Today's game wasn't without concerns. Pedro walked the bases loaded in the fourth and walked 2 more in the fifth before coming back to strike out the side in the sixth to exit in style. Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa had a small strike zone, but he was consistent. You have to worry a little about his struggles to find his control after dinging up that hip in Florida, but I give him a lot of credit for fighting through it and giving his team a chance to win.
Meanwhile, Jose Reyes lifted his batting average to .286 with another 2 hits. He scored another run to up his major league leading total to 62, and stole 2 bases to raise his major league leading total to 32. Still, Wright stole the show with the 2 blasts in consecutive innings off Eric Milton. The Mets were struggling for offense again, shut out going into the fourth inning by Milton, who had actually been pitching decent this year. Cincinnati had a 2-0 lead, and looked poised to embarrass the Mets by taking 3 of 4. Wright had other ideas, though, and after Beltran walked on a close 3-2 pitch, Wright got ahead of Milton 2-0 and launched his next pitch to deep left-center field. In the fifth, with Beltran on base after driving in Reyes to put the Mets up 4-2, Wright took Milton out to right-center to give the Mets breathing room.
Heath Bell came in to pitch the seventh and made it somewhat interesting by giving up a solid base hit to Juan Castro and a weak bleeder to Quinton McCracken, but came back to retire Ryan Freel on a force at second, and then induced Felipe Lopez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Jose Feliciano also got into a little trouble in the eighth by allowing Adam Dunn a 2-out single and Brandon Phillips' ground-rule double, but Chad Bradford came in to get David Ross on strikes to end that threat, and then worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.
Thoughts on the game
I couldn't help wonder, watching Pedro labor through 6 innings today, how he will fare against Boston's lineup in Fenway without his best control. I know he's a proud man, and that might be enough to help him pick up his game.
Nady actually produced in an important spot, driving in the third run to put them ahead with a nice piece of hitting -- taking a curveball to RF. Rome wasn't built in a day, hopefully he keeps learning.
Jose Reyes made a terrific baserunning play in the fifth. On a hit-and-run with Jose on first, Woody hits a chopper to Juan Castro at third. Jose is motoring into second and noted how far away from the base Castro had to go to field the ball. Without hesitation, he continues on to third, advancing two bases on Woodward's ground out. Beltran drives him home to put the Mets up 4-2, and important run in the game. Wright's ensuing 2-run blast seals the deal, but that play may very well have unnerved a faltering Milton.
After a 1-game slipup, Chad Bradford again refused to allow the two runners he inherited to score. This is easily the best bullpen top to bottom the Mets have ever had -- even with Wagner's struggles.
Carlos Beltran, who has missed 10 of the team's first 72 games, and pinch-hit in 3 others, has 55 runs scored to go with his 56 RBIs.
I've been right about a few things that I predicted this year, including what would happen to the Braves if they didn't get serious about getting a reasonable closer -- although in my wildest dreams I didn't think they'd fall apart like this -- but whenever I want to pat myself on the back I remind myself how I teased Omar for the Julio Franco signing. 2 hits today, another stolen base, a run scored -- Franco keeps rolling along, and I stay very humble.