05/05/07 2:10 AM ET
Maine guts way to victory
Righty bests Johnson as Mets win 12th straight in Arizona
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
And it got worse by the time he had pushed himself halfway through the second inning and most of the way through the Diamondbacks' batting order -- "And it ain't gonna get any better." There he stood Friday night, the pitching equivalent of "up the creek without a paddle," on the mound without an offspeed pitch he could command. Naked, disarmed or, at the very least, under-equipped.
The problem eventually evolved into a predicament; it never developed beyond that point, though. So Maine went to bed not only an unbeaten pitcher, not only a 5-0 pitcher, but a better one, too.
For him, the Mets' somewhat untidy 5-3 victory against the D-backs was Friday Night at the Improv. His changeup uncooperative and his slider disobedient, Maine beat the D-backs as no pitcher is supposed to beat any big-league team -- with fastballs.
"I threw two offspeed pitches all night that were strikes," he said, amazed by the truth. "And one of them was a double."
Otherwise, the changeup and slider were used for decoration.
The Diamondbacks, almost to a man, never had seen Maine. Orlando Hudson had four at-bats against him, and that was it. Now after 99 pitches in six innings, they can say they have seen him. Chances are they won't say they know him. The D-backs amassed six hits -- five of them singles -- in Maine's six innings. He walked one and struck out seven.
When it was over, he almost wondered how he had achieved that level if statistical success. The thought crossed his mind, "Maybe they expected too much."
That phenomenon hardly is without precedent, though it usually involves a more accomplished, higher-profile pitcher. Maine's fleeting fame at this point is based on his April Pitcher of the Month desigation and name atop the league leaders in earned run average -- now 1.37 -- and among the leaders in victories.
Whatever the reason, there were the Diamondbacks, taking fastballs and, seemingly protecting against Maine's secondary stuff that couldn't find the plate. "Kind of weird," he said.
While he confused his opponents, the Mets offense did enough against Randy Johnson to extend this improbable on-site dominance. The victory was the Mets' 12 straight since their last loss in the desert in May 2004. Johnson was the losing pitcher then, too.
Julio Franco, starting in Carlos Delgado's stead, and Paul Lo Duca hit home runs against Johnson, who made this third start of the season. The Mets, who beat Johnson twice and never lost in his four Yankees starts against him, scored all their runs in his seven innings.
Franco, the oldest active Mets player at 48 years, eight months and 12 days, made himself the oldest player in big-league history to hit a home run in the second, when he hit his first this season, with Lo Duca on base. Lo Duca's second '07 home run came in the fourth, and Reyes drove in a run in the fifth with the second of his three singles. Reyes had scored his daily first-inning run on a single by Carlos Beltran.
The rest was left to Ambiorix Burgos, who surrendered a questionable two-run home run by Orlando Hudson in the eighth, and Billy Wagner, who pitched the ninth and earned the 330th save of his career. Now Wagner and John Wetteland share the ninth position on the all-time saves list. The eighth position -- and Rollie Fingers -- is 11 away.
Hudson's fourth home run -- and second of the series -- nearly was caught by Endy Chavez at the wall in left field. Chavez injured his right ankle making the jump, and prevented the ball form reaching the stands ... it seemed. But third-base umpire Gary Darling ruled the ball had touched the yellow line and qualified. The Mets were more concerned about Chavez, who sat on the field after retrieving the ball. He remained in the game, batted in the ninth and had the ankle X-rayed afterward. Negative.
And that was it, a somewhat methodical victory. Like Maine, the Mets hadn't been overpowering, just good enough. He won on talent, the Mets did, too. They had enough. In his case, it's an indication of how he has progressed. In theirs, it's indication of their superiority. They still aren't playing particularly well. And their record is 18-10.
"You get by with what you've got," Willie Randolph said.
His words applied to both pitcher and team.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.