By Mike Steffanos
Mets 9 - Phillies 7
It could have been a cakewalk, but turned into a nail biter. The Mets survived Tom Glavine's second straight bad outing to open up a 7-1/2 game lead on the Phillies. The free-falling, stick-a-fork-in-them Braves also lost again, and are now 11 games off the pace. It wasn't pretty, but it sure was sweet.
Glavine didn't make it out of the fifth inning for the Mets. He gave up 4 solo home runs and left with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Chad Bradford got him off the hook by getting Rowand to pop out and David Bell to ground to David Wright. The Mets struck quickly in the top of the sixth on David Wright's homer, then took advantage of sloppy Philadelphia fielding to push 4 more runs across. With a 5-run lead things were looking good, especially when the ever-more-valuable Pedro Feliciano gave them scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh.
But the Mets failed to take advantage of opportunities to tack on runs, and the Phillies were able to get back into it when Aaron Heilman struggled again in the eighth inning. He's still not locating his fastball, and his changeup has lost some effectiveness. He allowed a one-out single to David Bell, then Sal Fasano scorched a double past right. He got an outside fastball up to PH David Dellucci, and Dellucci went the opposite way for one of those can-of-corn flyball home runs to left field to cut the lead to 9-7. When Heilman walked Jimmy Rollins, Willie had seen enough and brought Wagner in for a 5-out save.
Wagner, seemingly too concerned with Rollins, fell behind Chase Utley 3-0, but came back with gas to strike him out on 3 pitches. Rollins was running on the 3-2 pitch, and Lo Duca's strong throw and a great tag by Reyes got them out of the inning. The Mets would lose a final opportunity for breathing room in the ninth when Beltran took a called third strike with the bases loaded, and Wagner came back out to nail down the game.
Bobby Abreu worked him for a walk, and Met-killer Pat Burrell was the tying run at the plate. Wagner fell behind again 2-1, then Burrell scorched what looked like a sure double down the left field line. Wright made a web-gem stop, then fired to Chris Woodward at second who made a great turn to complete the double play. The drama wasn't finished, however, as Howard singled off a visibly tiring Wagner. Aaron Rowand had a couple of good cuts at fastballs that were down around 90 mph, but Wagner got him to swing at a slider in the dirt to nail down his lucky 13th save.
Thoughts on the game
Beltran and Delgado went back-to-back again in the game to stake Glavine to a 4-2 lead he would eventually give back. Glavine gets a little slack as all 4 home runs were Citizen Bank Ballpark specials, but it's obvious that he's struggling with his command right now. It didn't help anything that home plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt had a tiny strike zone.
Jose Feliciano and Chad Bradford are both stepping up to take important roles with this team now that both Heilman and Sanchez are struggling. This team has a way of picking up each other that we haven't seen around these parts in some time.
The Phillies committed 3 errors in the climactic 5 run sixth inning for the Mets. Ryan Howard can rake, but in the field he looks like David Ortiz. If you've ever seen Ortiz butchering plays at 1B, you know that's not a compliment.
Lastings Milledge seems to be pressing at the plate again. It might not hurt to give him a day off if Cliff can come back.