Mets explode in ninth
Easley, Wright deliver three-run homers in decisive frame
PHOENIX -- It's not the product necessarily; sometimes it's the process that makes something special. So it is that Damion Easley has come to carry the nickname "Hit Man," not a particularly clever -- or original -- pseudonym. But how it came to be hung on the Mets' latest, late-inning hero is what makes it fun. And how Easley has produced of late is what makes it perfectly apropos.
He is not the son of Mike Easler, the former big-league slasher who hit line drives for the Pirates, Yankees and Red Sox and coached at the big-league level after he had taken his last active rips. But the surnames -- Easley and Easler -- are only a typo away from each other. And when Easley played with the Marlins two seasons ago, players there made the mistake. And because Easler was "Hit Man," Easley became "Hit Man."
"They thought I was his son," Easley said Thursday night.
Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado, also Marlins in 2005, brought that misinformation to the Mets' clubhouse, and when Omar Minaya brought Easley to the clubhouse, man and mistake were reunited. "Yeah, but it's an honest mistake that's worked out perfectly now," Lo Duca said. "I don't care how he got it, he is our 'Hit Man' now."
All of that came to light late Thursday in the rush of emotion prompted by the Mets' rather remarkable victory against the Diamondbacks, a victory made possible by Easley. He crushed a three-run home run in the ninth inning to change a one-run deficit into a two-run lead. And before this one was over, it too had changed identity -- Mets 9, Diamondbacks 4.
After eight innings of offensive insufficiency, a factor in Tom Glavine's inability to gain his 294th career victory, the Mets reverted to the MO that had produced 10 successive victories in Chase Field, nee Bank One Ballpark. They buried the Snakes. A six-run inning in the desert -- this one included a three-run homer by David Wright, too -- hardly is a novel approach for the Mets. It's SOP.
They had outscored the D-backs, 76-16, in sweeping four-game series in 2005 and last season.
"Yes, I do recall," Easley said. He had been in the wrong dugout last season when the Mets beat the D-backs 7-1, 10-6, 5-0 and 15-2 at Chase. "They boat-raced us here," he said. "It was non-competitive."
So dominant had the Mets been here that when the D-backs scored in the second inning on Thursday night, it marked their first lead in this park against the Mets in 80 innings. "I wasn't aware of all that," Easley said. "I knew it was bad."
The Mets might never had had the chance to erupt if not for an error by Easley's close friend Tony Clark. Shawn Green reached base on an error at first base by Clark after losing pitcher Jose Valverde had retired the first batter. Lo Duca, down 0-2 in the count to the D-backs closer, worked a walk that appeared to unnerve Valverde. And when Valverde (0-2) fell behind 2-0 on Easley, the Hit Man sensed the next pitch would be fastball with a lot of the plate.
"Name or no name," Lo Duca said, "he hits the ball as hard as anyone. That's why the name fit so well."
Easley hit this one to left-center field, for his third homer, his first game winner, his second game saver. He had hit one in the 10th inning to tie the score against the Rockies at Shea on April 24.
A walk to pinch-hitter Julio Franco, a single by Jose Reyes, a pitching change -- Dustin Nippert replaced Valverde -- followed before Wright hit his second home run of the season -- and the week. The boat race was over.
The six runs came too late to fuel Glavine's push to 300, but they made a winning pitcher of beleaguered Aaron Heilman (2-2) and spared Glavine his 193rd loss. He had surrendered a home run to Orlando Hudson in the sixth that came a half inning after Carlos Beltran had tied the score with his seventh home run, against rookie Micah Owings, a Georgia-born, Glavine devotee. It was the sixth home run allowed by Glavine this season in what now is 41 1/3 innings. He had four other hits and walked none.
Glavine had prospered against the Diamondbacks entering Thursday, winning 10 of 13 decisions against them and eight of nine in desert.
"I usually pitch well here and almost did tonight," Glavine said. "But it is a hitters' park."
"It's got a great hitters' backdrop, the ball carries well and they keep the grass short," Lo Duca said. "It's made for our team."
"It has deep gaps. Hitters like them," Hit Man said.
And some times the gaps don't matter.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.