By Mike Steffanos
Mets 7 - Padres 3
The Mets swept their first 3-game series of the season today behind another strong start by Orlando Hernandez and the offensive support of Jose Reyes and Jose Valentin, despite giving Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca the day off.
Hernandez has experience some troubles early in games, and today was no exception. He made a mistake to Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres best hitter, with a man on and 2 outs, and was down 2-0 in one swing. He was terrific after that, though, disposing of Padres hitters with ease. The closest the Padres came to a real threat in innings 2-6 was when Dave Roberts was gunned down at second trying to stretch a single by new Met Michael Tucker.
Meanwhile the Mets, despite squandering some opportunities against a wild Chris Young, managed to take the lead in the second when Reyes tripled home Mike DiFelice and Hernandez, then scored himself on Endy Chavez' sacrifice fly. After that the game settled into a pattern of the Mets letting Young off the hook and El Duque quickly setting down the Padres. In the seventh inning the Padres did manage to hurt Hernandez on doubles by Brian Giles and Josh Bard that knotted the game at 3-3.
The Mets came right back against the Padres bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. Reyes led off against Doug Brocail with a soft single, then Brocail misplayed Chavez' bunt into an infield hit on an extremely close play at first. Endy always hustles on those, and this time it paid off. This set off my 2-part turning point of the game, in a game that up to now was mostly about missed opportunities for the Mets.
Part 1 -- David Wright doubles home the go-ahead run on a 2-2 pitch, and not a bad breaking pitch from Brocail, either.
Part 2 -- With the bases loaded, no outs, Jose Valentin -- who was very good at the situations early, but struggling a little lately -- goes the other way beautifully to drive home both Wright and Chavez and give the Mets breathing room.
Tucker doubled home a final run to make it 7-3, then Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano got the Mets the rest of the way home, preserving a well-deserved win for El Duque. Hernandez is now 8-8 on the season, 6-4 since joining the Mets.
Thoughts on the game
How weird is it to root for Michael Tucker, and have Piazza, though he didn't play, on the other team?
Here's Orlando Hernandez' updated table:
Pretty much speaks for itself, doesn't it? You love that he's pitching deep into games, the WHIP is low and the strikeout to walk ratio is very good. With a pitcher this old you can't take anything for granted, but if the season ended today, he's my third starter for the playoffs.
David Wright and Jose Reyes both look good at the plate again, and Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez continue their recent strong hitting. I'm starting to worry about Delgado, though, he looks slow at the plate -- fouling off pitches, striking out and rolling over on weak grounders.
Heilman looked good tonight, I just wish he would come out a little more aggressively throwing strikes, particularly when he has a 4-run lead like tonight. He went full on Ben Johnson before retiring him, and the same on Mark Bellhorn before walking him. Then he settled down and threw more strikes.
Sometimes I'm frustrated with the Mets offense because they're not patient enough, but the Padres seem to be at the other end of the scale. They take a lot of pitches, including called third strikes, and my impression of the last 3 days is maybe they try a little too hard to take walks.
This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.