Last night looked like another sequel in a movie we’ve seen too often. Mets take an early lead; bullpen blows the lead, Phillies tie. Shaky Mets reliever puts a runner in scoring position to take their first lead of the game late with one of the Phillies’ bit hitters at bat…and here’s where we went off script, because Scott Schoeneweis got Chase Utley to ground into a double play with the Phillies poised to take the lead in the top of the 11th. Then, in what was really an event off-script, Jose Reyes hit a two-out double, and scored the winning run on a single by Angel Pagan, and the Mets escaped Shea with a 4-3 win in 12 innings, drawing first blood in the Mets/Phillies rivalry.
I’ll be honest, though – I think the Mets may have received a gift tonight. Replays at the plate show that Reyes may have been out, and because the game was in the 12th inning, I think umpires will be more likely to give a call like that to the home team because at that point, they just want to go home. Still, it was close enough to where I don’t believe it was a grievous error to call him safe, and hey, at this point no Met should ever refuse a win against the Phillies. After the home opener went so poorly, the Mets really needed to take the next two games, and it’s a great pick me up to finally win a close and late one like this.
I didn’t see the early parts of the game, so I can’t comment on how John Maine looked, but I can comment on how his stat line looked, and that’s not particularly good. Five hits and five walks with only one strikeout in 6+ innings means he was getting bailed out a lot. This is a patient team, a really capable hitting ballclub, so that can explain the walks, but it still seems that something may be off with Maine since the season started, because he hasn’t resembled the pitcher we saw in spring yet. It is worth pointing out that through six innings, he had only allowed three singles, a double, and the five walks, and then he got hit hard to start the 7th with a home run by Pedro Feliz and a double by Chris Coste chased him for Pedro Feliciano, and that none of that damage before the 6th allowed a run. Still, he can’t keep pitching in and out of trouble, because eventually, the runners are going to score.
Then there’s Aaron Heilman doing his best Guillermo Mota impersonation in the 8th, allowing a solo homer to Ryan Howard to start the inning (why not leave Feliciano to pitch to Howard before bringing Heilman in?) and then allowed the tying run to score. I don’t want to make excuses for Heilman, because he hasn’t pitched well at all, but I also think Willie is overusing him. He’s already pitched in five of the Mets’ eight games for a total of 6 IP. He’s also getting crushed by left-handed hitting, which makes Willie’s using him against Howard even more suspect. I wish they’d get away from 7th and 8th inning roles all together, because I feel it’s not always the best use of the Mets’ best relievers, but they really might need to consider giving Heilman a few days off and trying other pitchers for the 8th. I also have a strong feeling that Duaner Sanchez can’t come back soon enough.
Carlos Beltran continues to struggle at Shea Stadium, and while he drove in a run and scored, he also had two prime opportunities to send everybody home today late in the game and couldn’t pull the trigger. For whatever reason, Beltran hits significantly worse at Shea than he does on the road; I guess Shea just isn’t designed for his swing, for whatever reason. Hopefully, Citi Field will be more to his liking. David Wright also had an 0 for 3, and he’s cooled off considerably since starting off hot against the AAA pitching of the Florida Marlins. He did draw two walks and steal two bases, putting himself in position to score an insurance run and a game-winning run in the 8th and 10th (Jose Reyes was on third, as they both stole as part of a double steal) but Beltran and Delgado couldn’t get them home. At least these instances didn’t come back to haunt the Mets, as they so often do.
The Mets and their bullpen will get no day off, as Opening Week continues at Shea tonight against the 6-3 Milwaukee Brewers. Nelson Figueroa will get his first start for the Mets, opposite Manny Parra. I don’t think the Mets were hoping to have a tired bullpen going into this game with the Brewers, as Figueroa is untested, to say the least, but at least they should get some time off on Saturday, with Johan Santana starting. Tomorrow’s game starts at 7:10 on SNY and WFAN 660 if you’re in the car.