Tatis, Mets turn fortune around
Tiebreaking single caps three-run eighth to beat Dodgers
NEW YORK -- Two runs, for an offense advertised as one of the finest in the league, is no daunting deficit. But for the Mets, two runs have seemed like so much more. Might as well be game over -- go home, try again tomorrow. Until now.
"The last couple of weeks, when we fell behind, as a team, we felt like we couldn't get back," center fielder Carlos Beltran said. "Now, the past five days, we felt, as a team, that we could get back into the ballgame. I don't know what it is, but I know we felt that way."
Whatever the reason, and whatever the belief, it's worked. The Mets, down two runs and working with six precious outs on Saturday, completely changed the complexion of this game -- and this week -- in the span of mere minutes. By the time Fernando Tatis singled home the go-ahead run at Shea Stadium, the Mets were well on their way to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers, and to forgetting their close brush with a second straight loss.
"We've been trying to do it all year long," catcher Brian Schneider said. "We just haven't been able to do it. We've been getting some big hits, and that's what we have to do. We can't expect to have the lead the whole game and put them away. There are going to be times where we have to come back from behind, and obviously, we did that the last couple of games. That was a big one today."
Big, because for most of the game, the Mets seemed destined to do anything but win it. They knew going in that to have a chance, they would need starter Mike Pelfrey -- fighting for his job, and shaking off nerves because of it -- to provide a solid outing. He did, but New York was still trailing seven innings into the game.
That's when Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley took a seat in the dugout, and that's when the Mets turned their offensive faucet from a trickle to a flood. David Wright greeted Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton with a double, and the next batter, Beltran, dumped a slider into the right-field bullpen to tie the game at 2.
"As soon as I hit it," Beltran said, "I knew."
The victory, at that point, seemed imminent. Moments later, it became reality.
Fernando Tatis laced a single up the middle to plate Nick Evans -- pinch-running for Carlos Delgado -- and the Mets took a one-run lead. They needed only three more outs to seal the victory, and Billy Wagner produced all three on strikeouts.
As if this victory needed an exclamation mark.
"It's amazing," Tatis said. "We need to win. We need to play hard and play like we're playing. We needed a game like this."
No Met needed it more than Pelfrey, who, knowing that Pedro Martinez remains set to rejoin the rotation on Tuesday, had to pitch well to keep his spot on the roster. He didn't appear to do so early, when he allowed leadoff hitter Juan Pierre to reach base and score in the first -- nor when he allowed the rest of the Dodgers to spray bullets all over the field throughout the opening innings.
Yet after giving up his second run in the fourth inning, Pelfrey recovered to retire the final 12 batters he faced. He may still find a plane ticket to Triple-A New Orleans stuffed into his luggage, but on this day, Pelfrey made his case. That was all he could do.
He didn't earn a victory, simply because the offense gave him no support. And Duaner Sanchez, who pitched one inning in relief to record the win, made sure he knew it. With one of his best performances of the year behind him, Pelfrey could endure the joke.
"I'm just glad I didn't get the loss," he said.
Pelfrey wasn't alone. Consider how a second straight loss would have looked to the Mets, only days after they strung together a three-game winning streak. A loss would have erased nearly all of that progress and slumped their confidence back to record lows.
But a win -- and an emotionally-charged, come-from-behind win, at that -- kept this week on an upward trend. No Met had an explanation, though a few mustered guesses. Beltran, for one, said that this is all still relief from knowing that manager Willie Randolph is keeping his job. Not knowing was a distraction, and quite possibly the distraction.
"I don't know how to describe it, really," Wagner said. "It's one of those situations that we knew we weren't playing up to our standards, and, heck, we almost got our manager fired because we weren't playing. I think guys just stepped it up, focused, and we're a little bit more aware of the situations where we have to step it up and play up to our potential."
They might never fully meet expectations, but they're giving it a go. And make no mistake: this is no illusion. The Mets don't simply look better because they're winning. They feel better, too.
"It's these close games," Wright said. "The close games are the ones that decide the difference between an average good team and a championship great team. To go out here and win one of these close games, especially coming from behind late against this bullpen, was a big win for us. This is the type of win that can give you some momentum and springboard you into the next game, hopefully, and the next series."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.