Mets pour it on without benefit of homer
Amazin's down Braves, set team record with 10-hit fourth
NEW YORK -- It's one of those baseball axioms that sounds as if Yogi or Casey was the first to put it in words: "A home run can kill a rally." As oxymoronic as it sounds, it does makes sense. And when Jeff Francouer offered his variation on that theme Tuesday night -- "You know, a home run can be a rally killer" -- it made perfect sense. But these are the 2009 Mets; no need to worry.
The team with the fewest home runs in the big leagues hadn't turned on the power. Or couldn't. But it had scored eight runs in an inning and beaten the Braves, proving, to some small degree, the wisdom behind those words. In a 13-batter sequence in the fourth inning, the Mets produced seven singles, three doubles and eight runs, but nary one fly ball that prompted play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen even to reach for his "outta here" button.
In winning, 9-4, the Mets overcame a four-run deficit and made a winning pitcher of Oliver Perez for first time in 41 days, neither a readily accomplished feat. And they did accumulate more hits in an inning than any team in franchise history and more runs in an inning than they had in the preceding 161 games. They batted around for the 12th time this season. But not once did they add to their paltry home run total -- it's 71 -- and imperil their rally.
"A home run kills your momentum," Francoeur said. "You know, it clears the bases and lets the pitcher kind of get refocused."
But the Mets played it smart. Gary Sheffield hit two doubles in the inning but neither threatened the folks in the seats. Francoeur hit one double in the fourth (and another in the eighth).
"They were just home runs in Philly," Francoeur said, not in the spacious Citi.
So the Mets did without and won for the fifth time in 10 games against the Braves this season and the seventh time in 19 games overall. Their season, already peculiar in so many ways, had taken another almost preposterous and quite prosperous turn. Unfathomable? Not quite. But when the Mets scored eight times in one inning -- no matter how they did it -- it is at least outside convention and almost beyond comprehension.
This unexpected onslaught came one night after they had strained to score once and amassed eight hits, seven of them singles, against the Giants. Nine of the 10 hits and all the runs in the fourth Tuesday were the responsibility of Derek Lowe, who had allowed two baserunners in the first three innings. And The Inning came after Perez had put the Mets four runs in arrears by allowing a three-run home run by Matt Diaz in the second and a bases-empty home run by Adam LaRoche in the fourth.
"It was so cool to see us come back." Francoeur said. "It was pretty exciting in the dugout, especially after [Monday] night when we had so much trouble."
The inning began with a single by Angel Pagan off Lowe's glove that temporarily caused a problem. But after a visit with the trainers and a test pitch, Lowe resumed. And so did the Mets. A single to right by Luis Castillo put Pagan on third, and Sheffield's first double, a boomer to right-center, scored both runners.
Daniel Murphy, who made the first and third outs of the inning, grounded out and Sheffield moved to third. The double by Francoeur scored Sheffield and initiated a sequence of five straight hits -- a run-scoring single by Fernando Tatis, a single by Omir Santos, a run-scoring single by Anderson Hernandez and another by Perez.
"That's when I knew it was gonna be a special night. That was the cue," Sheffield said.
Pagan's infield out -- it should have been a double play -- scored Santos, and the second of Castillo's three hits scored Hernandez and ended the evening for Lowe (12-8). Francoeur and Sheffield also had three hits each.
And all this without so much as one total base from the missing core of the Mets. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were hitless again.
"We cut the excess fat out of the lineup and poured it on," Wright said, smiling. He's felling better.
For all the strained offense Jerry Manuel has endured this season, the manager hardly seemed impressed by what he had witnessed.
"I don't put as much stake in a game like that as I do in pitching well," Manuel said. "I want us to pitch well. Hitting comes and goes."
In the case of the Mets, it often goes and comes. So pitching is critical. Not that Perez (3-3) had set much of an example. Manuel pointed out that the team had won Perez's three most recent starts, even though it had won only his two most recent. But the Mets have won three of his last four. And in this start, Perez had to deal with pain. He aggravated the right knee injury that, the club said, caused his May 2-July 8 assignment to the disabled list, covering first base in the fourth.
His next start is not in certain jeopardy; moreover, he pitched one more inning and ran the bases after the awkward defensive play.
Regardless of Manuel's druthers, this one was about the offense. Seventeen hits, eight runs in an inning. The Citi diamond was worn thin.
"It's nice to win one like this," Francoeur said. "It's just nice to win." Period.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.