Mets pour on the offense in win over Cards
Club scores season-high 11 runs to back Nieve's solid outing
NEW YORK -- Late in the seventh inning Wednesday night, Mets general manager Omar Minaya called the dugout to inquire about the condition of David Wright. Minaya had noticed Wright take an awkward, perhaps compromised, step when he crossed first base on an infield hit and saw his third baseman downshift as he approached third base on an ensuing double. In this Mets season of pulls and pains and tears and strains, it only was proper for Minaya to cross his fingers, dial the trainer and hold his breath.
An hour later, after the Mets had thoroughly steamrolled the Cardinals, Wright himself responded to other inquiries about his body. He promised to be in the lineup Thursday afternoon when the Mets and Cardinals engage each other for the fourth time in four days, which of course didn't answer the question of "Did you hurt your leg?" All we know for certain is that he didn't hurt himself sidestepping the questions.
Turns out the Mets need Wright's legs as well as his bat. The National League's leading hitter contributed four hits to the Mets' most lopsided victory this season, an 11-0 thrashing of the team that had shut them out the previous evening. And he played a primary role in the synthetic, but quite convincing Reyes Run the Mets scored in the sixth inning.
With Jose Reyes still assigned to the disabled list, Wright led off with a single. He advanced to second base on an infield out and stole third, forcing the Cardinals (40-33) to play their infield in. He scored when Fernando Tatis pulled a single through the left side, a hit that might not have happened if the infield had been deployed at normal depth.
Call it a Wright Run, if you want, but understand how much of a role he played in its manufacture and that it was produced under duress, as most Mets runs are these Days of the Disabled. The Mets had scored five times by the time Tatis delivered Wright. And no offense to winning pitcher Fernando Nieve, but 5-0 leads have been known to disappear (See Mets at Pirates, June 4). So the run hardly constituted superfluous scoring. And how it was manufactured was equally important.
"You do whatever you can," Wright said. "I can be sneaky. I can't get around the bases on pure speed like Jose. With me, it's a sneak attack."
With the Carlos Brothers, Reyes and Gary Sheffield not in the batting order, the Mets hardly have a scratch-and-claw image. But there was Wright in the afterglow Wednesday, his claws showing as much as his league-leading .356 batting average and his reluctance to acknowledge pain equally apparent.
"I'll be in there tomorrow," he said three times.
More than they had Monday night, when they amassed 14 hits and six runs, the Mets demonstrated offensive resourcefulness -- Wright's Reyes Run and three opposite-field hits by No. 4 hitter Ryan Church, one of them a Citi Field double, which is to say Church might have hit his third home run if the Mets' new home had been built with shorter walls or allies. "A Citizen Bank home run," Church said, invoking the Phillies' home run-friendlier field. He drove in two runs, one less than Tatis.
Indeed, Brian Schneider might have hit his third three-run home run in a week, but he directed his double in the sixth to where the right-field wall angles away from the plate and demands more umph. "But I'm happy with a two-out hit," Schneider said.
Nick Evans did go beyond the walls of the Citi (Should the outfield seats be considered suburbia?). Starting at first base, he hit the third home run of his big league career, with a runner on base in the fourth against losing pitcher Brad Thompson (2-3). The three-run fourth provided Nieve (3-0) a four-run lead that allowed him to survive six innings after he had thrown 69 pitches in the first three. He allowed three hits and four walks and tightened his grasp on a place in the rotation. Manager Jerry Manuel said as much.
The Mets (36-34) produced 16 hits, their second-highest figure this season, and the most lopsided shutout victory since Aug. 13 last year when they defeated the Nationals, 12-0. So lopsided was this one that Manuel used Livan Hernandez as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. And this after they had been shut out on two hits Tuesday.
So the Mets' peculiar June -- exasperating at times, exhilarating in other instances -- continues. They have won eight of 21 games since their stellar May and maintained a hold on second place in the mediocre National League East, and done so through a spate of injuries that have diminished to a point that scoring 11 runs had seemed beyond them.
But who can say what is beyond them -- good or bad? In two games, they totaled 30 hits and 17 runs. In the game in between they managed two and none. The line that separates optimistic and realistic is thinly drawn for this team and subject to blurring, based on the effectiveness of the starting pitcher. Even Manuel acknowledged that negatives of Tuesday "temper everything," because he knows Thursday could be another Tuesday. Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals' starter Thursday, could be another Joel Pineiro. And the Mets can be Oliver Perez -- positively pendulum-ic -- at the drop of a hat. Or a popup.
As Church said the other day, "It's not easy to guess the outcome with us."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.