Mets 4, Dodgers 1
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Alay Soler found fewer distractions in his first start on the road.
“I was more relaxed today, especially when the team gave me those three runs and it was 3-0 in the first inning,” Soler said through a translator. “My concentration was much better and I had a better rhythm than the two times before. I was more focused and thinking about every pitch.”
Soler (1-1) scattered six hits, struck out seven and walked one in his third big league start. The 26-year-old right-hander, who defected from Cuba in November 2003 and made the jump from Double-A to the Mets on May 22, shut down the NL’s highest-scoring team after giving up nine earned runs over 11 innings in his first two outings. He also singled in the fourth for his first hit in the majors.
Soler avoided the first-inning problems that plagued him in his first two starts, although Nomar Garciaparra singled his first time up to stretch his streak of reaching base to 29 games. The Dodgers managed four hits until the sixth, when rookie Willy Aybar extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his second homer of the season.
“He pitched real well,” manager Willie Randolph said. “He made pitches when he had to. He hit his spots and did a great job of mixing in his changeup. Maybe the first couple of times out, it was all about the jitters and settling down. He threw some good changeups and used his fastball effectively. It was just a matter of him getting through the first couple of innings.”
Chad Bradford replaced Pedro Feliciano in the eighth with two outs and runners at the corners, and retired Olmedo Saenz on a grounder to third with his first pitch. Bradford pitched a perfect ninth, converting his first save opportunity in the National League. His previous save was June 18, 2004, with the Athletics.
“He’s got the pop, so I was really trying to make him swing at my pitch because I didn’t want to fall behind him,” Bradford said of Saenz. “I was just hoping he’s be a little aggressive and go after my pitch.”
Bradford, a right-hander with an unorthodox submarine delivery, has allowed only one of his 19 inherited runners to score.
“Anytime I face somebody I’ve never faced before, I’m hoping that they have to take a couple of pitches to kind of see where I’m coming from,” Bradford said. “Guys that have seen me before, they know the arm angle with the slider, sinker and changeup. So maybe I had an advantage there.”
Four-time All-Star closer Billy Wagner, who has 295 career saves and is 11-for-14 this season, was surprised that he spent the ninth inning in the bullpen. But the Dodgers sent up three right-handed hitters, and Randolph liked the matchups.
“I was warming up, but Willie decided to stay with Bradford and it worked out,” said an obviously perturbed Wagner, one of only five left-handed closers in the majors. “A win is a win.”
Brett Tomko (5-4) lost his third straight start, allowing four runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings without striking out a batter. The right-hander has allowed 15 earned runs and four homers in 13 innings over his last three outings.
Tomko found himself behind 3-0 against the NL East leaders after 17 pitches. First, the switch-hitting Reyes hit his sixth home run of the year and third career leadoff homer. Carlos Beltran singled one out later and Delgado followed with his 16th homer.
“The pitch to Delgado was a mistake,” Tomko said. “He’s the kind of hitter that if you make a mistake to him, he’ll punish you for it.”
Lastings Milledge, who made a lasting impression among the fans at Shea Stadium on Sunday when he high-fived a bunch of them following his first major league home run, made it 4-0 in the sixth with an RBI single. Milledge, the Mets’ first-round draft pick in June 2003, is 6-for-19 with four RBIs in six games since his promotion from Triple-A Norfolk on May 30.
The Mets are 117-101 since Willie Randolph took over as manager. The last Mets manager who had a better record in his first 218 games was Bud Harrelson, who was 122-96 between 1990 and 1991. Davey Johnson, who guided the team to its last World Series championship in 1986, also started out 122-96. … Soler faced the Dodgers in spring training, surrendering four runs in 1 2-3 innings on March 5 at Vero Beach.