Green lifts Mets to win in extras
Right fielder blasts walk-off homer in 11th inning vs. Cards
NEW YORK -- Like a tailor with a tape measure, Shawn Green gathered information about the pitcher and his pitches. Green's baseball mind, trained to make assessments and adjustments, processed what his eyes had witnessed. The 2-0 fastball he had taken for strike one, thinking it might lead to a leadoff walk in the 11th inning, had been the kind of pitch he could have driven. For a scant moment, Green lamented his patience. Then, he resumed his research.
He hit a foul home run on a cutter and took ball three, all steps in becoming a hero for a night. He was confident he had properly measured his man, Cardinals reliever Russ Springer. Another fastball was in the offing, Green was certain. And when he swung at it, he got the measure of the man and became the Met of the moment.
It's an old baseball phrase -- "measuring the pitcher." Mel Allen used it when Yogi Berra was pulling home runs foul. And that was what Green had done before he hit the skyscraping homer that turned an extended evening into a happy ending.
He had gathered as much vital information as he could about Springer, the Cardinals' third pitcher, and he used it against him. As the Mets' 34th batter, Green produced their third hit and knocked over the first domino. A run begat a 2-1, 11-inning victory, which begat a four-game winning streak, which begat more joy in a clubhouse of a seemingly back-on-track division leader.
"He knew what he was doing up there. You could tell," Paul Lo Duca said, some 40 minutes after Green had made his most dramatic contribution to a victory since joining the Mets in August. It didn't quite measure up to Jason Giambi's grand slam in the rain. But it did reinforce Green's image as a factor, a component of the Mets.
"It felt great to do that," he said, "to deliver the big hit. I was just tryng to drive it. I hadn't pulled one like that in a long time. It felt as good as going deep can feel."
The home run was his seventh and the Mets' second of the game. Rookie Carlos Gomez had hit one in the third inning, following his own foul home run against new Cardinals starter Mike Maroth. He had measured Maroth.
Green's was the Mets' second final-pitch home run this season -- Carlos Delgado provided the first -- and the second final-pitch home run of his career. The first had come six years and one team earlier. The Mets have won in the final at-bat 11 times this season, twice in their three most recent games.
They are reverting to what they were early in the season -- a good team that gets better as the game goes longer.
Billy Wagner already had that impression before Green struck Monday night and before David Wright's double and Ramon Castro's 60-yard dash against the A's in the ninth inning Saturday night.
"There's something here in this park," Wagner said. "Night games, and especially extra-inning games at night -- you feel we're going to win. I felt it when we used to come in here. I mean, it's not legendary, like the ghosts of Yankee Sradium, but I feel it now. The longer it goes, the more a game belongs to us."
This one, the Mets' fourth victory in six extra-inning games, reached the 11th in part because Wagner and his three fellow relievers were brilliant after starter Jorge Sosa had pitched effectively -- one run on six hits -- for six innings. With a two-out help from Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith extricated himself from self-made peril in the seventh. He departed with the bases loaded, and Feliciano retired Mets nemesis Scott Spiezio on a rocket that would have had to go through the middle of Feliciano's body to go through the middle.
"Straight Patrick Roy," Lo Duca said. "He didn't put his body in front of it. He didn't have to. It was right there, but he made no attempt to get out of the way. He decided the ball wasn't getting through."
Feliciano pitched a clean eighth, and Wagner blitzed through the ninth and 10th -- six batters, six outs, three on swinging third strikes. There was no measuring Wagner.
Aaron Heilman pitched the 11th, striking out the Cardinals' last two batters with a runner in first. He became the winning pitcher in the Mets' fourth victory in four games against the Cardinals this season when Green struck. No reliever in the game has as many victories as Heilman (6-4).
As gallant as Green had been, the more critical aspect of this victory was the relief pitching -- five innings, four baserunners, one of them deliberately put on base. In the bigger picture, that was the bigger bonus. A dominating bullpen can have more impact than any isolated home run. On this night, the Mets had both and the measure of the Cardinals.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.