Mets act ho-hum about loss
El Duque's first start back turns into a short night's work
NEW YORK -- The final stroke of a six-run rally, a well-struck three-run home run by Mark Teixeira, sailed beyond the right-field wall and beyond what the Mets considered a deficit that they could overcome. The Braves had a commanding nine-run lead. Tension gone, and the likelihood of a victory obliterated. One of those games was under way.
Everything changes when the score jumps up to that degree. In the bullpen, closer Billy Wagner had finished the in-game conditioning and stretching he does every day. It would be a stretch to think that he would be summoned.
For the rest of the night, "I did what starting pitchers do," Wagner said.
In the dugout, Tom Glavine watched, fidgeted, mulled retirement, mulled returning and called it all, "Nothing." He also added, "I basically did nothing. I did what a closer does in a game like this."
Even the Mets who did participate on Tuesday night didn't do much, and they witnessed the 13-5 defeat that grew from a 9-0 deficit. David Wright drove in a run with a double, Paul Lo Duca and Moises Alou each hit home runs and Jose Reyes contributed three doubles, equaling a club record. But what did it all matter.
The first four Mets pitchers allowed runs, with Orlando Hernandez surrendering eight.
"It's hard to look good when your pitching doesn't keep you in the game," manager Willie Randolph said.
Wright called it a "chalk it up" game, and he also chalked it up to the force that makes sure that even the best teams lose at least 60 games each year. The Mets are one of the best teams -- their record indicates that they are the best team in the National League. And this eyesore game was their 62nd loss.
The Mets took it all with a not-too-worry response. They had won nine of their previous 10 games and restored the six-game lead in the process. And because the Phillies lost, too, to the Rockies on Tuesday, the Mets even enhanced their standing in what is supposed to be the NL East race. Their clinching number is 13. Moreover, the Phillies have verbally conceded this race and turned their focus to the NL Wild Card -- not that their altered perspective was all that evident.
Hernandez's performance undermined the Mets the most. Pitching for the first time in 12 days, El Duque lacked command of his pitches. The sprained ligament in his right foot, the reason he missed a start and came back late for the start he did make, wasn't an issue. Time lost because of it was.
"You could see he was frustrated," Lo Duca said. "He's such a feel pitcher. When he doesn't throw for 11 days, it has to affect him."
Hernandez (9-5) faced 19 batters in three-plus innings, allowing six hits and four walks. And he hit Andruw Jones. The Mets were not more concerned with his performance than they were with the score.
"He'll be fine," Randolph said with some sense of conviction. "It was just one of those nights."
One night after the Braves had slid into sixth place in the NL Wild Card race, they partied like it was 1999. They had 13 hits, one a two-run home run off El Duque by fellow Cuban defector Yunel Escobar in the third inning.
Hernandez had won seven of his past eight starts at Shea Stadium, and he had been so effective against right-handed hitters. But before Hernandez was removed, he was hit hard -- six hits and four walks.
At the same time, the Mets did little against Braves starter Buddy Carlyle. A sacrifice fly by Jeff Conine and a two-run home run by Lo Duca off Carlyle produced three runs in the fourth. Carlyle couldn't finish the fifth inning -- he needed two outs to qualify for what seemed like a rather secure victory. Braves reliever Peter Moylan, who followed Carlyle and pitched 1 2/3 innings, was awarded the victory.
And the Mets were awarded the loss, not that it mattered much to them. Nor did the Phillies' loss.
"I could care less what the Phillies do," Wright said. "We don't want anyone else to handle our business. We want to pilot our own ship."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.