Mets battle, but Rockies prevail in eighth
Giambi breaks tie vs. Stokes; Francoeur hits 12th homer
DENVER -- The Mets kept pace with the Rockies for 7 1/2 innings Wednesday, taking a tied game into the late innings, before Colorado's expanded bench dealt the Mets a 5-2 defeat. The big blow came on Jason Giambi's first swing of the bat in a Rockies uniform, a bases-loaded single that broke a 2-2 tie and sparked a three-run rally.Tim Redding gave the Mets exactly what they needed Wednesday night, pitching into the seventh in a duel with Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Though the Mets' struggling starting staff may have had second billing to the Wild Card-leading Rockies, Redding proved the perfect antidote to such concerns. "It's just a tough game, facing a guy like Ubaldo, who obviously is one of the premier power throwers in the game," Redding said. "He keeps you off-guard. He's got just a good enough off-speed pitch that you can't sit dead-red all the time. He made some pitches.
"I was just happy that I battled through some of the long innings I had and tried to pick up the team the best I could from yesterday. Unfortunately we ended up on the wrong end."Redding pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk, matching Jimenez inning-by-inning as his club took an early lead, then saw the Rockies catch them in back-to-back frames and pull ahead in the third before the Mets drew even again in the fourth. Redding's only problem was his pitch count, which was up to 114 when he left with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. "He's given us a couple good outings in a row," manager Jerry Manuel said of his starter. "He's pitched extremely well. We felt we'd push him out there one more inning, he gave us that inning, and I was impressed with the way he pitched, the way he battled." The Mets started quickly out of the gate, with Angel Pagan doubling to lead off the first and going to third on an infield single to the pitcher by Luis Castillo. Daniel Murphy lofted a sacrifice fly to left to send Pagan home and put the Mets ahead. Colorado tied it with a single swing of the bat in the bottom of the inning, as Seth Smith launched a round-tripper into the right-field bullpen. Redding's only walk of the game came with two outs in the third and Smith at the plate again. Smith came around to score after back-to-back singles from Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki gave the Rockies the lead. Jeff Francoeur knotted the game in the fourth with a long home run to left field, his 12th of the season and his second career hit in 16 career at-bats against Jimenez -- both homers, both this season, making him the only player to go deep twice off the fireballer this year. "He throws 98, and he's throwing sliders," Francoeur said in wonder of the pitch he hit. The Mets staged a rally in the eighth with the game still tied, when Jeremy Reed pinch-hit for Wilson Valdez and singled to center. Anderson Hernandez pinch-hit for reliever Pedro Feliciano and dropped a bunt in front of the plate that catcher Yorvit Torrealba scooped up and threw to second, just nabbing Reed. "That was a big play," Manuel said. "We've got to bunt out there a little further. Those are the little things we have to continue to harp on and see if we can get better execution at. It doesn't necessarily mean we drive in a run, but at least it puts a little pressure on the opposition. The one good thing was that [Hernandez] was able to steal [second] and give us a shot at it, but we weren't able to get it done." In the bottom of the eighth, Brian Stokes stumbled, walking Tulowitzki with one out and then yielding a double to left by Brad Hawpe. An intentional walk to Ian Stewart set up Giambi's second successive pinch-hit appearance with the bases loaded since signing with the Rockies and joining the club with the expanded September rosters. On Tuesday night, Giambi walked in a run, never swinging the bat. "If we throw strikes, I'm fine," Manuel had said of Giambi's threat before the game Wednesday. "If we don't, then he could be a big asset for them like last night, and he didn't even swing the bat." Giambi swung at the first pitch he saw Wednesday, driving it just out of reach of a leaping Hernandez at shortstop and into center for a two-run single that would prove to be the game-winner. "We were playing him just right, we just weren't tall enough," Manuel said. Torrealba plated Stewart with a single to left and stole his first base of the year. Stokes walked the bases full before giving way to Francisco Rodriguez, who retired both batters he faced. "The eighth inning is always a crucial inning in baseball, and sometimes there's a lot more pressure in that inning than the ninth," Manuel said, noting the struggles Mets setup men have had this year. "Brian has pitched extremely well for us all year. He's been in that role a number of times and did exceptionally well. He just hit a little bump in the road right now." Wednesday night, the big bump came from Giambi, who helped the Rockies maintain their one-game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card race, proving his value after struggling in his return to Oakland, where he hit .193 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 80 games before being released. "He's a professional hitter," Gary Sheffield said of his former teammate. "He doesn't panic in that situation. You've got to make quality pitches to get him out. You never know when he's going to take and give you a patient at bat. Tonight he came out swinging."
Owen Perkins is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.