By Mike Steffanos
Mets 7 - Braves 4
The Mets replacement ace took the mound tonight and came away with a much-needed win. Although victimized at times by home plate umpire Joe West's miniscule strike zone, Orlando Hernandez gave the Mets 5 strong innings in evening his record at 11-11 for the season. In El Duque's final tune-up before the Mets opening playoff game, he helped end a 4-game losing streak on the night that the Mets learned Pedro Martinez will miss the entire playoffs no matter how far the Mets go.
The Mets did something they haven't done very often this month -- they staked their starter to a quick lead thanks to Carlos Delgado's bases-loaded double in the first. Then they tacked on solo runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth. The defense was a little sloppy with errors by Reyes and Wright, and the bullpen wasn't great tonight, getting touched up for 3 runs, but this was an important win for a team looking to right itself.
Besides the win, the best thing to come out of tonight was Hernandez' performance. Despite dealing with some wildness and West's miserly strike calling, El Duque had an impressive final 5-inning tune-up, overcoming 5 walks by limiting the Braves to 3-hits and striking out 9. The only run scored off Hernandez was unearned. Over his last 5 starts since being drubbed in Philadelphia, he has looked like a reasonable facsimile of a number one starter:
|TOTAL (6 Games)||37.1||9||7||25||42||15||2||1.69||1.07||3-3|
The Mets playoff hopes will now depend to a large extent on Hernandez being able to put up those sorts of numbers against playoff teams. If he can, this team still has a chance to do something in the playoffs.
Carlos Beltran had a solo home run in the sixth inning that gave him 41 on the year, tying him with Todd Hundley for the team's single-season record. It was also his 80th extra base hit, which ties him with Howard Johnson for the single-season record in that category.
I'm going to get some sleep. Tomorrow we'll attempt to put the news about Pedro Martinez into perspective.