Misch delivers complete-game shutout
Francoeur, Hernandez go deep in support of starter's gem
MIAMI -- Bobby Parnell was dressed as Goldilocks, though there is no record of her having worn a beard and shades. Lance Broadway was a nurse. Josh Thole wore long ears that stood erect; he was a Playboy bunny. Nick Evans was Minnie Mouse -- round ears, white polka dots on red and his own street shoes. Tobi Stoner was a maid. Forty-year-old rookie Ken Takahasi was a snake charmer with a boa. And Omir Santos was Robin, though this Boy Wonder was operating without a Caped Crusader on his flank.
This was the day for Mets rookies, near-rookies and two quasi-plebes to be costume-made for embarrassment. Their civvies confiscated, the egos strangled, they dressed for a trip from South Florida to Washington, D.C., and from the reality of a Mets season that can not be disguised to a fashion fantasyland. They were a sight.
The Mets might have had Pat Misch dress for the occasion as well. At 28, he had merely one year, 79 days of big league service. But Misch was granted amnesty on this baseball Sunday. Instead, he spent nine innings disguised as Tom Glavine -- left-handed, throwing offspeed stuff, pitching to minimized contact and winning.
Before the Mets could laugh at their underdressed comrades, they could smile about the shutout Misch pitched in a 4-0 victory against the Marlins in which the visitors masqueraded as a team with purpose, power and pitching. The shutout was a career first for a pitcher who never had won a big league game until Sept. 3 and never had pitched in the eighth inning in 15 big league starts.
Not that the all-but-finished Fish played with much discernible resolve in their final home game of 2009, but Misch did shut down a team with the leading hitter in the National League, a leading candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, a second baseman with 30 home runs and Mets nemesis Jorge Cantu. So the shutout was quite authentic, as real as Daniel Murphy's lovely dress and the home runs Jeff Francoeur and Anderson Hernandez hit on Misch's behalf.
Misch produced a Glavine-esque line -- eight hits and three walks, all before the sixth inning. He struck out two. And in so doing he produced the Mets' second complete game this season -- Livan Hernandez pitched the other -- and the team's first one-man shutout since Johan Santana threw nine zeroes at the Marlins one year earlier, to the day, at Shea Stadium.
"I'm glad we won today. It makes all this other stuff better," said Brian Schneider, who ordered the costumes online and, with input from Francouer and Jeremy Reed, determined who would be forced to wear what. "And I'm real happy for Misch. He did a great job."
Jerry Manuel, dressed as the winning manager for the 67th time on Sunday, had expressed some uncertainty about Misch starting against the Marlins after the Braves scored eight runs in 1 1/3 innings against him on Monday at Citi Field. But what alternatives did Manuel have?
Misch (2-4) navigated in and out of jams through the first five innings. The Marlins had two baserunners in the first through fourth innings and three in the fifth. Double plays defused three threats, and impatient at-bats by Dan Uggla ended three innings and left six runners on base. The getaway day strike zone of plate umpire Mike Estabrook helped Misch retire the final 13 batters.
Misch described his shutout as "up there" among his most gratifying achievements. "Besides getting the first win, [it was the best]," said Misch. "Someone was telling me I might not get another chance to start. I'm glad Jerry stuck with me."
Misch was challenged by the heat and humidity as well as the Marlins.
"I had to conserve energy," Misch said.
Sometimes it's beneficial not to be a max-effort pitcher.
"I was pretty excited to see what Pat did today after what happened against the Braves," Francoeur said. And the Mets' right fielder was more excited by Misch's promise to buy him a steak and some beers in Washington, D.C., as a reward.
In his start against the Braves on Monday, Misch allowed three home runs in a seven-batter sequence. He had two home run scares in this one, each produced by rookie Chris Coghlan. Angel Pagan caught the first on the warning track in left-center field in the third, and Francoeur caught the other in the seventh inning in the far endzone in right, extending his glove over the top of the wall.
"I came down with both feet in bounds," Francoeur said.
Francoeur's was the catch of the day, here in fisherman's paradise.
"It gave me a real boost," Misch said.
Francoeur had hit his 14th home run, with Hernandez on base, in the third inning against losing starting pitcher Chris Volstad. His second home run of the series was his ninth with the Mets. Now he, Carlos Beltran, Gary Sheffield and David Wright (10 each) and Murphy (11) have chances to lead the team.
Hernandez's solo shot came in the fifth inning on the fourth pitch thrown by reliever Cristhian Martinez. The Mets, spared a confrontation with Josh Johnson, who was ill, had merely five other hits, three by Wilson Valdez.
But combined with Misch's performance, seven hits and four runs were sufficient. They were components in the team's most comprehensive performance in weeks.
"When you play a game like this ... with all the parts working, it's great," Francoeur said. "We'll have to try it more often next year."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.