Both pitchers made it to the major leagues from Cuba, and both shut down the Diamondbacks this week.
Two nights after Hernandez tossed a three-hitter in a 7-1 victory, Soler threw New York’s first complete-game shutout of the season.
“I felt very happy having a guy like El Duque, that had so much success at the major league level, right after the game he went to the mound and hugged me,” Soler said through a translator.
Hernandez has 74 major league wins in 170 career starts. Soler (2-1) has two in four starts. It may be a while before he tops this one.
“I was very happy for him,” Hernandez said. “He was very aggressive tonight. He threw everything he had with big confidence.”
It was the first shutout by a Mets rookie since Jason Jacome beat Los Angeles 3-0 on July 7, 1994.
Coming off seven innings of one-run ball Monday night at Dodger Stadium, Soler outpitched Arizona’s ace in this one. Brandon Webb (8-1) gave up four runs, one earned, in eight innings, striking out a season-high nine.
The Mets improved to 38-23, the most wins in the NL. They have won four straight and are 5-1 on their 10-game road trip. They’ll go for a four-game sweep Sunday with Pedro Martinez facing winless Russ Ortiz.
New York won for the ninth straight time at Chase Field, formerly known as Bank One Ballpark. The Mets have won the last seven games here by a combined score of 61-14.
The Diamondbacks lost their sixth straight but remained tied for first in the NL West with Los Angeles, which lost at Colorado. Arizona dropped to 0-5 since learning that federal agents had searched Jason Grimsley’s home Tuesday in an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. The team released the reliever Wednesday and doesn’t want to pay him the remainder of his $825,000 salary.
Grimsley plans to fight the decision, according to agent Joe Bick, and the players union is expected to file a grievance.
Arizona has appeared listless since the Grimsley news broke. The Diamondbacks had no answer for Soler on a night he had superb command.
“He was throwing strikes from his different pitches and mixing it up,” Shawn Green said. “He’s got a sneaky fastball and he’s got a good changeup or splitter, whatever that pitch is that’s 83 mph that was keeping our timing off.”
Soler walked three and struck out two. He gave up a double to Orlando Hudson in the third inning and a double to pinch-hitter Jeff DaVanon in the eighth. The right-hander dominated a team that touched him for seven runs in five innings May 30 at Shea Stadium.
Only one runner reached third against Soler—DaVanon, who advanced on a groundout by Craig Counsell.
“Tonight, I was throwing my pitches around the plate, and the hitters, they were the ones that were getting out,” Soler said.
If the 26-year-old Soler seems like an unknown commodity, it’s because he pitched in only 13 games in winter ball the last two years after defecting from Cuba in 2003.
“He’s a guy that, even though you don’t know who he is, you get the sense that he’s pitched a lot and knows how to pitch,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We’re finding out a lot about him as a pitcher. He needs to just continue to throw the ball the way he has.”
If Soler does that it bodes well for the Mets, who already have Martinez and Tom Glavine at the front of their rotation.
“It’s only four starts,” Randolph said. “I’m happy about it because it makes me feel better about the tail end of our rotation.”
The Mets gave Soler a 3-0 lead before he took the mound. With one out in the first, Arizona third baseman Chad Tracy was charged with a throwing error, allowing Paul Lo Duca to reach second. Lo Duca scored on a double by the streaking Carlos Beltran, his seventh hit in 10 at-bats in the series.
After Carlos Delgado flied out, Beltran stole third, his 11th stolen base. Beltran scored on a single by David Wright, who came around on Jose Valentin’s opposite-field double to the left-field corner. None of the runs were earned for Webb, whose major league-low ERA dropped eight points to 2.06.
New York made it 4-0 in the eighth when Jose Reyes singled, stole second, went to third on Lo Duca’s bunt single and scored on Delgado’s sacrifice fly.
“Every time your team gives you some run support, it’s easier for the pitchers to go out and perform,” Soler said.
New York utilityman Eli Marrero, acquired Friday from Colorado for INF Kaz Matsui, joined the Mets and wore No. 32. … It was Tracy’s sixth error of the season, tied for most on the team with SS Counsell. … New York OF Lastings Milledge got his first career stolen base.