Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/7/12

By Dave Buscema

The Sports Xchange

NEW YORK -- The ball started to fall, dropping into what New York Mets starter Dillon Gee called "the Bermuda Triangle," in shallow left-center field.

Gee watched it on television in the trainer's room, his victory and his team's in jeopardy in the top of the ninth inning as Chicago Cubs right fielder Bryan LaHair's blooper seemed destined to fall and put the tying run on base.

There was one out and a runner on second in what would eventually be a 3-1 win for the Mets on Saturday at Citi Field, but the game seemed set to get tense.

Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis had no shot at the ball. Left fielder Scott Hairston sprinted in, but the ball was too shallow. Shortstop Ruben Tejada sprinted out, but it appeared too deep.

From his spot at first base, Ike Davis, who had hit a two-run homer to give the Mets a 3-0 lead in the third, thought "Oh no," as he recalled later. "It looked like it was going to drop."

Jordany Valdespin, who had given the Mets a 1-0 lead with his second homer in as many games, was more optimistic, thinking that, with his odds-defying team lately, there was always a shot.

Tejada thought he had one, too. He got a good break on the ball and relied on "instinct," he said later. He knew his team was in a "no-doubles" defense, so it was up to him.

So he kept running, then fully extended his glove hand to snare the ball with a spectacular, over-the-shoulder catch.

As the Mets neared the All-Star break, the shortstop who replaced their former All-Star, Jose Reyes, had once again made a stunning play for a team full of surprises in the season's first half.

"I didn't think he was going to get to it, but I tell you, big-time players make big-time plays," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Tejada, whose two hits raised his average to .327. "That was a big-time play. He showed right there he could play with the elite at shortstop."

And the Mets continued to try to show they could play with the elite in the National League, pushing their record to 46-39, currently good for the second wild card.

The Cubs would be frustrated not only by Tejada's catch, but a called third strike on Steve Clevenger to end the game. Clevenger had battled through a seven-pitch at-bat against Bobby Parnell, who earned his second save of the season, despite allowing a double to Anthony Rizzo to start the ninth.

After falling behind 0-2 to Parnell, who topped 101 mph on the final pitch, Clevenger ran the count to 3-2 before getting called out on strikes.

"It was a shame a great at-bat by Clevenger ended … I'll stop myself, but it's a shame a guy has an at-bat like that and it ends," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's awful."

Said Clevenger of the called third strike: "You take two pitches that were closer, then you get rung up on that one. It was kind of disappointing."

Gee (6-7) left the Cubs hitters disappointed through eight innings, limiting them to one run on seven hits. Chicago scored its lone run in the sixth on David DeJesus' RBI single.

Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (6-8) didn't give up much more than the two homers, looking far more impressive than he did when he allowed nine runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings in the Mets' 17-1 thrashing of the Cubs on June 27.

He allowed all three runs on seven hits in seven innings while walking two and striking out four. That followed his last start, when he gave up one run in seven innings in a win against the Atlanta Braves.

"He did great. Last two outings before the break, he pitched really, really good," Sveum said. "The confidence level … he's definitely going into the second half with a good frame of mind."

Collins' decision to stack the lineup with an extra left-handed hitter in Valdespin, who started in left field for just the third time this season, paid off.

"That's what I've been doing, waiting for my opportunity to play, said Valdespin, who went 2-for-3 after Collins said he wanted to give him more at-bats. "And showing to him, and everybody, I can play and do my job."

After his average remained under .200 for most of the first half, Davis has done his job lately.

Davis' 12th homer of the season in the third inning was an impressive one, banging off the second deck in right field.

"It's nice to feel like I'm doing stuff," said Davis, who has raised his average 47 points in the past month, to .205. "For two-and-a-half months, I felt like I wasn't really helping the team or doing a whole lot of anything."

NOTES: Left-hander Johan Santana will get the Mets' first start coming out of the All-Star break next Friday, manager Terry Collins said, adding the condition that Santana's ankle wasn't an issue. Santana said the ankle was sore after getting stepped on covering first Friday, but didn't expect it to be an issue. R.A. Dickey will follow Santana with either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee next and Chris Young taking the fifth spot. … Closer Frank Francisco (left oblique strain) threw off a mound Saturday for the first time since going on the disabled list on June 23. Collins said he hoped Francisco could make a rehab appearance next Wednesday. … Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, who will be activated from the DL to start Sunday, will also open the second half on Friday after the All-Star break, manager Dale Sveum said. The rest of the rotation will be: Paul Maholm, Matt Garza, Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija.

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