By Mike Steffanos
Mets 8 - Phillies 1
John Maine managed to shake off the rust of ten days between starts and extended his scoreless inning streak to 23, while Jose Reyes provided the offensive spark with a long grand slam homer in the pivotal fourth inning.
Maine's string of zeros was in jeopardy right off the bat, as Dellucci hit a 1-out double in the first and Utley followed with a soft liner to shortstop that Reyes mistimed his leap on, bouncing off his glove for a single. Maine came back to strike out Ryan Howard and retire Pat Burrell on a pop out to shortstop. Maine settled down nicely after that, but the Mets managed only Jose Valentin's 2-out double in the third against Phillies rookie Scott Mathieson.
When the Mets broke through in the bottom of the fourth, it was once again aided by a poor throw from the Phillies pitcher. The red-hot Paul Lo Duca led off the inning with a double, then after inducing a fly out from Beltran, Mathieson walked Delgado on 5 pitches. Wright hit an RBI double down the third base line to drive home the game's first run and advance Delgado to third. Jose Valentin tapped a 2-0 changeup back just to the third base side of the mound, but Mathieson's high throw and Ryan Howard's awkward play caused the ball to bounce away for an error. Delgado scored and Valentin and Wright advanced to second and third. Mathieson pitched around Endy Chavez, walking him on 4 pitches and bringing up eighth place hitter Lastings Milledge with 1 out and the pitcher on deck in what was probably the turning point of the game.
Milledge lined a 1-0 outside fastball up the middle to score Wright and reload the bases. Maine -- who appears in limited at bats to be another extremely weak hitting pitcher -- struck out for the second out, but then Mathieson fell behind Jose Reyes 2-0 and tried to come inside with a fastball. Reyes turned on it and lashed a majestic home run into the right field bull pen to effectively bust the game open. Jose Valentin's long home run in the fifth completed the Mets scoring.
Maine fought his control in the fifth, but survived back-to-back walks to Lieberthal and Nunez to emerge unscathed, and 2 more baserunners in the sixth by striking out Burrell and Rowand back to back. Maine gave way to Ring, Bradford and Oliver to finish the game out. Ring got touched up for 3 hits, including Lieberthal's solo home run in an inning and a third, while Bradford worked a perfect 2/3 of an inning and Oliver a perfect ninth.
Thoughts on the game
I thought Maine had a nice performance tonight, especially after going so long between starts. I suspect that the excessive layoff caused some of his control problems. Still, the final numbers weren't too bad -- of the 107 pitches he threw in 6 innings, 67 were strikes and 40 were balls. When he did lose it a little in the fifth and sixth, he was able to get it back and finish the inning. That was impressive. Lets look at what Maine has done in 5 starts so far:
He's obviously been impressive so far, and should benefit from getting regular starts -- although I suspect he will eventually give up runs. He's been aggressive, and is starting to get some mileage out of his slider and changeup. Even though he hasn't been getting a ton of strikeouts, he has knack for getting them in key situations. I like this kid, I think he has a chance to help this team and possibly supplant Trachsel in the playoff rotation.
I don't know about you, my fellow Mets fans, but I'm not so worried about Lo Duca's second half swoon. His average is up to .322 now. He's been amazing. If Castro returns soon Willie should be able to give him more than enough days off down the stretch.
This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.