Mets get homer at just the Wright time
Third baseman blasts three-run shot to cap eighth-inning rally
NEW YORK -- The remainder of the season follows the All-Star break; the Mets are looking forward to it. What stands between them and the resumption of play Friday is the rest of the season. And that, they need.
Some Mets indicated as much Sunday before they played the upstart Marlins for the fourth time in three days. They needed to put their minds and their bodies in hammocks or just get away. They needed baseball's annual coffee break as much, they said, as they needed a victory. And until a rousing rally in the eighth inning -- highlighted by a three-run home run by David Wright -- changed likely defeat into a victory, little happened to contradict their words.
The uniforms the Mets wore in their 7-6 victory look suspiciously like fatigues. The pedal-to-the-metal approach they had taken for three months had put them in first place in the National League East, more than halfway to the franchise's first division championship since 1988 and comfortably ahead of the competition. It also had drained them and pushed them dangerously close to the point of diminishing return.
Wright's decisive home run revitalized them, but only temporarily. It allowed them to win in their final at-bat for the 13th time -- Wright has had the telling hit in five of the 13. It enabled them to maintain their division lead, 12 games in front of the second-place Phillies. And it reemphasized their image as the dominant team in the league.
And while it added a 53rd victory to their record, it did nothing to restore the energy used in 815 1/3 innings, more than any team in the game.
If the Mets were a basketball team, they'd be bent over, tugging at the ends of their shorts and panting.
"You don't want to give in to it," manager Willie Randolph said. "But yeah, [the break] doesn't come at bad time for us. We're banged up a little. We've played a lot of innings, and we've played hard. This will be a nice little rest for us. It comes at a good time."
Wright's home run made it the best time. Until they reassemble for a workout in Chicago on Thursday, if they think of baseball at all, they will see nothing but positives: a lead merely 1 1/2 games less than the '86 Mets had at the break; a second-half schedule that has no three-city trips, no West Coast visits and 16 games against the Pirates, Nationals and Cubs; the scheduled return of Pedro Martinez on July 19; and the image of Wright's 20th home run clearing the left-center field wall.
"We didn't need to win -- not desperately," starting pitcher Tom Glavine said. "But this was a real good ending for the first half. We didn't need a pick-me-up, but we got one. You couldn't ask for a better thought to have as we all go our separate ways."
Wright crushed a 1-2 pitch from Logan Kensing (1-2) for the team's 10th three-run home run of the season and his third. It came after three fruitless at-bats had reduced his batting average to .314, 24 points lower than it was on June 22. It also came after a leadoff walk by Jose Valentin that Marlins manager Joe Girardi called "the big at-bat," because Valentin was down 1-2 in the count before forcing an eight-pitch walk.
Paul Lo Duca lofted a catchable fly ball to center field that Reggie Abercrombie lost in the sun. It fell, dangerously close to the center fielder's face, for a single that moved Valentin to third. The Mets' fourth run scored when Carlos Beltran's line drive glanced off the glove of shortstop Hanley Ramirez and into short center. Carlos Delgado lined to right before Wright, in his final preparation for the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby on Monday, increased his RBI total to 74, more than any Met ever had produced before the All-Star break. Mike Piazza had 72 in 264 at-bats in 2000. Wright has 339 at-bats.
"He's the guy we want up there in big spots," Xavier Nady said. "He's young and he's been struggling a little. Wait till he gets good."
"The last couple of weeks, I haven't felt that great up at the plate," Wright said, who was 8-for-43 -- a .186 average -- before the home run. "I was just trying to clear my head, just relax. ... I feel great for myself and the team."
The Marlins, the team with the best record in the National League since May 22, had come back from three runs down against the team with the best record in the league since Opening Day. They led, 5-3, through 7 1/2 innings and were in position end Glavine's winning streak at nine decisions.
Glavine was unable to gain his 12th victory for the third time, but the Mets have won 16 of his 19 starts. He allowed four runs (three earned) and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Mets' defense, an ally for five innings, undermined him to a degree in the sixth and seventh, when the Marlins scored two and three runs, respectively.
"I thought I pitched pretty well," Glavine said. "I was disappointed with the way it came out for me. With a couple of things going my way, I could have thrown a shutout."
But Valentin couldn't make a play on a two-run single by Mike Jacobs in the sixth -- the ball knuckled and spun crazily as it bounced. And Nady, who had hit a two-run home run, thrown out a runner at the plate and made a handsome catch in right, also misplayed a ball in the seventh for an error.
But it all worked out -- even the ninth inning, when Billy Wagner surrendered a home run to Miguel Olivo. The bases were empty. Wagner gained his 18th save and, team guy that he is, enabled the Mets to win by a run for 20th time. No other team has so many one-run victories.
The victory, the Mets' 11th in 24 games since their ultra-successful trip to the West and Philadelphia last month, put their at-the-break record 17 games over .500. A loss would have marked the first time they had lost three times in a four-game home sequence this season.
"If you had told us in Spring Training this is where we'd be at the break," Glavine said, "we all would have signed on. But it doesn't mean anything yet. We have to come back and finish what we've started, do the same thing in the second half.
"We've been grinding pretty good. It wears you down. Now it's time to recharge our batteries."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.