Easley's wheels lead Lawrence to win
Veteran legs out inside-the-parker; starter wins first since '05
MILWAUKEE -- Summer day games often are a setting for the unusual, particularly those preceded by night games. For reasons of rest, day-game lineups often are missing regulars. Those who are playing might be manning unfamiliar positions. And, generally, players of this generation are mostly nocturnal. Night time is the right time for most of them. They fear the light more than darkness.
For some of those reasons and others, the Mets played an uncommon game Thursday when, as a preamble to their visit to Wrigley Field, they beat the daylights out of the Brewers at Miller Park, a curious place to begin with.
With David Wright and an atypical cast of characters making significant contributions, the Mets rolled over the fading Brewers. Wright was routinely productive, collecting four hits, including his 19th home run, and scoring three times in the 12-4 victory. But consider the names of his collaborators -- Brian Lawrence, Damion Easley and Jorge Sosa. Hardly bizarre, but not the usual suspects either.
Lawrence, the winning pitcher, hadn't pitched in a big-league game since the '05 playoffs; Easley, who had three hits, two RBIs and two runs while playing right field, is an understudy; and Sosa was bounced from the rotation. Anyway, his biggest contribution was made with his bat.
And to make it all a tad more uncommon, there was the home run Easley hit in the sixth inning that turned the game in the Mets' favor for good. What, in the game, is more out of the ordinary than inside-the-park?
Easley hit the second inside-the-park home run of his career and only the 24th in the 46-year history of the franchise. So uncommon, the experience took his breath away.
Inside the park and outside the box. Lawrence said he never had seen one. Ramon Castro couldn't even imagine one -- "Not if I'm running," he said. And here's the kicker: Rickey Henderson never hit one. How bizarre.
Now Damion Easley -- a baseball professional in every way, but hardly a household name -- has two.
"The ball's got to do some tricks to get one," Henderson said. "I never had that luck. I was looking for one for me. I shoulda had me one."
But quite literally, that's the way the ball bounces. In Easley's case, the ball he hit off losing pitcher Chris Capuano, his personal piñata, bounced off an odd-angle panel in the wall in right-center field after it had carried beyond the pursuit of Bill Hall, still a neophyte center fielder. The carom bounced toward left field as Easley headed toward second base and as Moises Alou, the runner on second, headed home.
Easley was thinking triple. Third-base coach Sandy Alomar saw greater potential. Easley took his word -- or his wave -- and made the third left-hand turn. Two hundred-seventy feet covered, 90 feet to go. But could his two feet get him there?
Easley, 37, still can run.
"I'm able to keep up with the young guys," he said, though the anchor leg was testing his legs.
"I was just trying to keep my running form," he said. His need: "Someone to push me."
But he scored on a popup slide with no real play made, and had his third home run and eighth hit in 12 career at-bats against Capuano (5-8). He slowly returned to the dugout. His need: medical attention. The trainer tended to him, rubbing his head with an ammonia-laced towel.
"I wasn't on life support, but I was tired," he said. "My legs were gone after that."
The home run was his ninth this season. The others have been traditional and preferred.
"I like to jog," Easley said. "It was exciting, but very taxing."
While Easley was in oxygen debt, Lawrence was two runs in the black for the second time and en route to his first victory since Aug. 16, 2005. He also was out of the game but, if need be, in the rotation. Other pitchers' needs and off-days -- the Mets have the next three Mondays off -- will dictate if and when he starts again.
Lawrence finessed it effectively enough in his five innings, covering 90 pitches. He walked none, struck out three and allowed eight hits, one the first of two home runs by Corey Hart. He was charged with three runs, but had Carlos Delgado handled an almost routine ground ball with two out in the second inning, Lawrence would have pitched a clean inning and not endured a two-run rally.
"It felt good to put on a uniform and compete again," Lawrence said.
Lawrence had undergone surgery in spring 2006 and lost the rest of that season. The Rockies accommodated his request and released him in April, and the Mets signed him to a Minor League contract in May. He won eight of 12 starts with the Triple-A New Orleans affiliate.
|"The ball's got to do some tricks to get one. I never had that luck. I was looking for one for me. I shoulda had me one."|
|-- Rickey Henderson, on inside-the-park homers|
Lawrence was replaced in the sixth by Scott Schoeneweis, who found resistance. Sosa, the second of three relievers, replaced Schoeneweis in the sixth and achieved seven outs. But his higher-profile contribution was a booming run-scoring double in the seventh, when the Mets scored three times.
They scored four more runs in the ninth, two on Jose Reyes' home run. His eighth was the traditional type; it reached the second deck in right field, and Reyes never shifted into second gear.
"I like this kind more," Reyes said. "It's easier that way."
He was responsible for the Mets' most recent inside-the-park home run before Thursday, hitting one at Shea Stadium on Sept. 7, 2006, against the Dodgers. Reyes was exhausted after his 120-yard dash. Marlon Anderson had hit one at Shea in 2005 and needed medical attention, too -- stitches in his chin made necessary by his sprawling slide into the plate.
"They're dangerous, and rare ... and fun," Anderson said.
And even Paul Lo Duca has one, hit in Dodger Stadium when that was his home park.
"Right down the line, it one-hopped the foul pole and bounced away," Lo Duca said. "They had the artificial warning track then, and it just hugged the track. But I still had to slide to make it. It was great.
"But don't tell Damion this, I didn't get a hit for a week after that."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.