Mets cruise while honoring trailblazer
Pelfrey, Reyes and Wright star, while Sanchez makes return
NEW YORK -- The most uplifting three hours of the Mets' infant season occurred Tuesday night, when the team pushed aside the uneven play of its first 11 games and performed crisply and comprehensively while defeating the struggling Nationals. What made the 6-0 victory particularly encouraging for the Mets was that it included significant contributions from three players who began the evening carrying the burden of proof.
David Wright obscured the more compelling stories of Mike Pelfrey, Jose Reyes and Duaner Sanchez to a degree with the most productive game by a Mets player in the first dozen games -- five RBIs, three extra-base hits, including another home run, and two runs. But while little uncertainty exists in Wright's circumstances, the three others wore unseen question marks on the sleeves of their No. 42 unis.
Pelfrey, the first-round pitcher, hadn't produced results that were first-round-esque in his first 18 big league starts. Reyes, because of a left hamstring strain and -- to a lesser degree -- a tepid start, had become, if not a point of concern, at least a point of conjecture. And Sanchez hadn't pitched since before the Mets traded Xavier Nady in 2006.
On this night, each performed well. Pelfrey and Reyes pretty much matched the often unrealistic expectations heaped on them, with Pelfrey pitching seven innings and shutting out an opponent for the first time in his career, and Reyes scoring twice and contributing four hits, including a single-double-triple sequence in his first three at-bats. Twelve games into the season, Pelfrey became the first Mets pitcher with two victories.
Sanchez's achievement was more modest, a scoreless inning of relief in a lopsided game. But given his coordinates when Spring Training ended -- at the intersection of not ready and frustrated -- his was an achievement of note and gratification.
Omar Minaya, the general manager with a too-long disabled list and a lengthening list of disgruntled team followers, was delighted by the evening's development. Given a choice of "what's the best thing that happened tonight," he chose all three:
Pelfrey, because the Mets need to have a reliable starter during the no-end-in-sight absences of Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez.
Reyes, because even with Wright, he is the component that makes the Mets' offensive fuel high-octane.
Sanchez, because he can fortify the bullpen, making it deeper and more dominating.
It was with such thoughts in mind and the unbecoming Sunday loss put aside that manager Willie Randolph characterized the evening with these words: "Lots of good things happened." It also didn't hurt that his team had won, and didn't matter that the opposition was provided by a team that now has a 4-10 record. The way to get right is to get healthy, to win and have the third baseman go off. The Mets executed that hat trick.
"I pitched with conviction," Pelfrey said, borrowing a phrase from his buddy, John Maine. "Just get it to the glove. No more nibbling. Here it is. 'Do what you want, I'm gonna get an out.'"
That sort of confident talk was consistent with a different on-the-mound body language. Pelfrey worked faster, as well as longer. He allowed a double and four singles, hit a batter and walked two. He struck out four batters, including Nick Johnson to end the third with the bases loaded. He got Johnson with five successive fastballs, each thrown in the 90-mph range.
|"I pitched with conviction. Just get it to the glove. No more nibbling. Here it is. 'Do what you want, I'm gonna get an out.'"|
|-- Mike Pelfrey|
"A tasty little lick," Maine said, using his guitar jargon.
Wright said, "Everyone in here knows [Pelfrey] has that in him." That now includes Pelfrey.
Confidence hardly was the issue with Reyes, regardless of September. His hamstring strain, though diagnosed as mild, had unnerved the organization. He is irreplaceable, and Wright is indispensable.
Playing for the first time since Friday, Reyes singled and was caught stealing before Wright hit a two-run home run against losing pitcher Odalis Perez (0-3) in the first inning. He doubled and reached third in the third inning, and then tripled in the fifth. He might have scored on a scorched ground ball to third that Wright hit, but Ryan Zimmerman -- Wright's third base buddy from Virginia -- interfered with a handsome play.
With his second career cycle one long fly away -- he had his first against the Reds in 2006 -- Reyes led off for the fourth time, against left-handed reliever Ray King, and smoked a ground ball that all but devoured Cristian Guzman. The shortstop's throw to first base was wide, and Reyes reached second on the error. After King retired Ryan Church on a groundout that advanced Reyes, Luis Ayala replaced King, and Wright pulled his first double past Zimmerman. Carlos Beltran drove in Wright with a hard single to left.
Wright had a two-run double in the eighth and left the rest to Sanchez.
Pitching for the first time since July 26, 2006, Sanchez threw 19 pitches to four batters, allowing a hit and striking out one. His 19 pitches: 12 strikes, three swinging, three put into play, two fouled off, four looking. And the most important aspect of any of them was that they were thrown in a big league game.
Billy Wagner, with another game free from the strain of throwing fastballs, watched his colleague on television and complimented him afterward. The greatest compliment was this: "Welcome back."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.