The New York Mets needed extra innings in their last game to avoid their longest losing streak of the season. They hope having John Maine on the mound will allow them to take care of business much quicker on Sunday.
Maine tries to help the Mets to a series win over the Washington Nationals (8-16) when the NL East rivals meet Sunday in the finale of their three-game set.
New York (14-8) had dropped back-to-back games—including a 4-3 loss in Friday’s series opener—before beating the Nationals 6-2 on Saturday thanks to two-run hits in the 12th inning from Carlos Beltran and David Wright. Pinch-hitter Julio Franco had tied the game in the ninth with an RBI single for the Mets, who improved to 14-2 in their last 16 games in Washington.
“We kept scratching and clawing,” said Mets manager Willie Randolph, who was ejected in the sixth inning for arguing a call.
The Mets are 4-0 in Maine’s four starts this season with each of those wins coming by five or more runs. The right-hander has a .169 opponent batting average, and has helped solidify a staff that is missing ace Pedro Martinez yet has a major-league leading 2.87 ERA.
Maine (3-0, 1.71 ERA) has gone at least seven innings in three of his four starts after hitting that mark just twice in 16 games last season. He is coming off his longest start of the year Monday when he held Colorado to one run and seven hits over 7 2-3 innings while striking out five in a 6-1 win.
“I’ve been working hard on conditioning, things like that, and it’s paid off,” said Maine, who is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in four career starts versus the Nationals. “My goal coming into the season was going out there and pitching at least six innings each time out there. I had a tough time with that last year.”
Jason Bergmann (0-1, 3.27 ERA) is still searching for his first win as a starter with the Nationals. The right-hander has appeared in 48 games in his career, but is 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA in 11 starts.
He held Philadelphia to one earned run and three hits over six innings with five strikeouts, but didn’t factor in the 6-3 defeat on Tuesday.
“Terrific outing,” Natonals rookie manager Manny Acta told the team’s official Web site. “He did a great job for us. We thought in that (sixth) inning, he was starting to lose it. We tried to take him out on a positive note.”
Bergmann is 1-0 with a 5.11 ERA in seven career appearances versus the Mets, including one start.
Ronnie Belliard was 3-for-6 and drove in Washington’s two runs with doubles Saturday, but that’s all the Nationals could muster as they failed to win three in a row for the first time this season.
The Mets will be without second baseman Jose Valentin, who left in the fourth inning Saturday with right knee pain and headed to New York for an MRI exam. Valentin has two homers in 19 games this season after hitting 18 in 137 games last year in his first season with New York.