Wednesday night’s affair in San Francisco brought about perhaps the most inexplicable Mets win of the year. But it was a win and we’ll take all of those that we can get around here.
Twenty (20!) Mets reached base against a collection of Giants pitchers that started with Matt Cain and included four others. New York had nine hits, drew nine walks, had a batter get hit by a pitch and another reach on an error. They loaded the bases in four different innings — including the final three — and only produced one run out of those situations.
But a leadoff home run by Ruben Tejada in the first and a RBI groundout with the bases loaded in the second by Jordany Valdespin held up. That’s because for the first time in a long time the Mets pitching was great all game long. New York got seven solid innings from Jon Niese and two scoreless innings split between three relievers to close out a 2-1 win.
Niese’s outing made all the difference. Coming off a subpar effort last Friday in Phoenix, Niese bounced back to allow just one run over seven innings on three hits. He walked a couple, but struck out five and had all of his pitches working, including the nasty hook that made more than a few Giants hitters look foolish. The victory was the lefty’s eighth of the season.
On the other side, Cain looked vulnerable from the outset. Tejada got things started, launching the second pitch of the night from Cain over the left field wall. Tejada had gone 629 at-bats without a homer before taking the NL All-Star starter deep for his first dinger of the year. David Wright, who had three hits on the evening, followed two batters later by showing that the off day did him a lot of good and cranking a double to left. Ike Davis then walked to put two on with one out, but Daniel Murphy and Jason Bay stranded them.
Stranding runners and missing opportunities was a running theme for the night as the Mets left 13 men on-base, hit into four double plays and had two runners caught stealing. They got their only other run in the second after loading the bases with one out on consecutive singles from Josh Thole, Niese and Tejada. Valdespin smacked Cain’s 1-2 pitch up the line, but Marco Scutaro made a nice play on the backhand and hurried to the base to get a force as Thole score the second run. Wright followed by striking out with runners on first and second to end the inning.
The Mets put two on with nobody out in the third on walks to Davis and Murphy from an uncharacteristically wild Cain, but they couldn’t capitalize. Bay struck out swinging and Mike Baxter went down looking on a borderline 3-2 pitch that turned into a double play when Davis was caught trying to advance to third.
New York stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth and had another one there in the fifth after Wright led off the inning with a single and stole second. But when Daniel Murphy hit a soft grounder to third, Wright inexplicably tried to advance and was tagged for the second out. Murphy reached, but one pitch later he was caught trying to steal second to end the inning. That was it for Cain, who, despite limiting the Mets to just two runs, allowed them to run his pitch count up to 97 through five. He allowed seven hits, walked three and struck out two.
While the Mets offense was wasting every opportunity imaginable, Niese was busy limiting San Francisco’s. After getting out of a jam of his own creation in the first — he walked two but stranded them both — Niese rolled through the next four innings allowing just one hit, a single by Scutaro that was erased when he got the next batter to roll over for a double play.
Niese dealt with miscues from his teammates in the fourth — Hunter Pence reached on a passed ball after Niese struck him out — and fifth — a throwing error by Wright allowed Joaquin Arias to reach and advance to second — but escaped without damage.
San Francisco finally scratched on Niese with two out in the sixth when Buster Posey crushed a cutter that didn’t off the top of an ambulance beyond the left field wall. The solo shot halved the Mets lead, but it’s all the offense the Giants would muster. Niese allowed just one more hit over the next inning and a third, a two-out single by Arias in the seventh. But he got former teammate Angel Pagan, pinch hitting for the pitcher, to pop up for out number three.
The Giants bullpen afforded the Mets ample opportunities to score in the final three frames. In fact, 10 Mets reached base over the last three innings and not one of them scored. In the seventh, George Kontos put three runners on with a walk, an error and another walk. But Javier Lopez came in and got Ike Davis to bounce into a double play to end the inning.
In the eighth, Clay Hensley walked Daniel Murphy and Jason Bay, then hit Mike Baxter to load the bases. But Josh Thole bailed the Giants out with a tapper to first that Brett Pill threw home to get the first out. Posey then fired back to first, into the back of Thole, who was inexplicably out to of the baseline. Interference was called and Thole was the second out. Hensley wasn’t done yet though. He walked Turner to reload the bases before Bruce Bochy finally came to get him. Brad Penny came in and a great play by Theriot on a hard hit ground ball from Tejada put the Mets away.
Penny remained in for the ninth and loaded the bases himself with one out on a Wright single, a Davis double and an intentional walk to Murphy. Bay followed with a smash right back up the middle that Penny caught. He then flipped to first to double off Murphy and end the inning.
No matter. As lucky as Penny and his fellow Giants relievers were, the Mets bullpen created its own luck on Wednesday. Tim Byrdak relieved Parnell and got his only batter on a pop out. Jon Rauch then came in to face a couple righties and induced a fly out and ground out to send the game to the ninth. Bobby Parnell entered for the final three outs and rolled through the middle of the Giants order 1-2-3 to pick up his fourth save.
Game Ball: Ruben Tejada was robbed of a four-hit night and a couple more RBI by Theriot in the eighth, but he still finished with three base knocks, including the homer that got things started for the Mets. The three-hit game was Tejada’s tenth this season with at least that many. The guy he replaced only has five.
Turning Point: Believe it or not, it came in the first inning. Niese had walked just one batter in his last 29 innings entering tonight, but issued two free passes in the bottom of the first after Tejada spotted him a lead.
Standing at 24 pitches with two on and two out in the first and San Francisco’s shiny new acquisition Hunter Pence coming up for his first AB as a Giant in AT&T Park, Niese was at an early crossroads for his outing. He started Pence with a curveball that missed, then came back with a pair of fastballs, setting him up for another hook that Pence popped sky high. Ike Davis tracked it down in foul territory to end the inning.
Random Stache Moment: Jason Bay has been awful this year, but the dude also can’t catch a break. Perhaps the hardest ball he has hit in months went right into Brad Penny’s glove to start a 1-3 double play and bail the Giants out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth.
Next Up: The Mets and Giants complete a four-game set at AT&T Park with a Thursday matinee as the Mets look for their first series win since taking two of three from the Phillies at Citi Field almost a month ago. Chris Young (2-5, 4.58 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 34 K) goes to the mound fro the Mets making his 11th start of the season. He’ll be opposed by Barry Zito (8-7, 3.89 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 70 K). First pitch is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. and the game can be seen on SNY or heard, as always, on WFAN 660 AM.