By Mike Steffanos
Mets 7 - Phillies 2
Behind some strong pitching from John Maine and the bullpen, and 3 home runs from the Carloses, the Mets were able to leave Philadelphia with a little dignity and a 13 game lead in the division.
Unlike the first three games of the series, the Mets actually jumped out to a lead when Carlos Delgado was able to come up with a fly ball with a runner on third. They tacked on another couple of runs in the second against Phillies starter Scott Mathieson, again with some timely small ball. Jose Valentin singled, and then Lastings Milledge tried to bunt for a base hit. He was out at first, but was credited with a sacrifice. The weak-hitting Mike DiFelice managed a single to right field to bring home Valentin. DiFelice was bunted over to second by John Maine, and scored on Jose Reyes' single to right. David Dellucci must not have much of an arm, as the Mets seemed willing to run on him all day.
The Mets added another run in the fourth on a solo home run by Carlos Delgado to dead center field. Meanwhile, John Maine was keeping the Phillies off the board, allowing only a pair of singles in the first three innings. He ran into trouble in the fourth when Chase Utley hit solid double in the gap and Ryan Howard followed with an opposite field Citizens Bank Park special to cut the lead to 4-2. Maine retired the next 3 to escape further damage, and the Mets got the 2 runs back in the fifth on solo homers by Beltran and Delgado that chased Mathieson.
After an easy fifth, Maine ran into trouble again in the sixth when Victorino led off with an infield single and Utley followed with a soft single to center. He got Ryan Howard on a long fly ball to Beltran, then got Burrell to pop out to Wright and struck out Dellucci swinging. After the Mets added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, soft hits again proved to be Maine's undoing in the bottom of the frame, when Lieberthal led off with an infield hit and Abraham Nunez blooped one over second.
With Maine closing in on 100 pitches, Willie brought in Chad Bradford to face pinch hitter Aaron Rowand. Bradford struck him out on 3 pitches, then got Rollins to pop out to Wright for the second out. Shane Victorino's infield single off the pitcher's foot chased Bradford, and Pedro Feliciano came in to face Utley with the bases loaded. He got ahead of Utley 1-2, then froze him with a good slider for called strike 3. That was the turning point of the game -- if Utley got on, Howard would have come up with the tying run.
Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, and the Mets got to leave Philadelphia feeling a lot better about themselves.
Thoughts on the game
Jose Valentin had to leave the game with what was characterized as a minor hamstring strain. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a minor hamstring problem for a 36-year-old player. We probably won't know for sure if Valentin will be DL'ed until tomorrow.
I found the first three runs the Mets scored with some nice small ball every bit as satisfying as the next 3 they scored on solo home runs. They're going to need to scratch more runs, especially when they get to the playoffs against good pitching staffs. I'd like to see them get better at making the opposing starter work harder and throw more pitches.
Maine was terrific in an important game today, doing what he always does, challenging hitters and throwing strikes. We're going to change the way we do the charts for the starters, now. We'll start with August to get a clear picture as we get closer to the playoffs who's hot and who's not. Here's what Maine had done in his 3 starts since August 1:
He's always going to give up some home runs, but he limits the damage by throwing strikes and walking so few batters. He was fairly unlucky today in giving up 8 hits, as none of the last 4 was hit particularly hard. Certainly, he has to still be in the running for post-season starts. He gets himself out of some jams, which managers love to see from a young pitcher. It will be interesting to watch him evolve these next 6 weeks.
Bradford was great again today, and Feliciano really embarrassed Utley with that crucial strikeout. Heilman was keeping the ball low in the zone and getting great movement on it.
Delgado and Beltran combined to go 7 for 9 with a double, triple and 3 home runs. They scored 4 runs and drove in 5. If Delgado can start raking in the middle of the order it will take a lot of pressure of Beltran and Wright. Wright had another awful day at the plate today. Keith thinks he badly needs a day off, and I would tend to agree. It would also be nice if David would humor me and skip that Home Run Derby next year. I swear that thing is death to the swings of line-drive hitters.
This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.