So Maine did what any good pitcher does in that circumstance. He kept the Twins off balance with a sharp slider and got the jump on most of their batters.
And when he was done, Minnesota had managed just four hits against him in 7 1-3 innings as the Mets beat Minnesota 8-1.
“They’re a good hitting team,” Maine said. “They put the bat on the ball. They make contact.”
So what was Maine’s defense against all that?
“I threw a lot more strikes,” he said.
The Twins noticed.
“You don’t know a pitcher, you haven’t seen him before, you try to adjust,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was throwing first-pitch strikes.”
Of the 115 pitches Maine threw, 77 were strikes.
Even though Maine had won only one of his last seven starts, he’d been keeping the Mets in games. New York was 8-5 in games he had started this season, and for a team that entered with just three wins in June, that was a major positive.
For manager Willie Randolph, watching his team struggle was not pleasant. But he felt all along the Mets would hit. The key, he said, was getting some solid pitching. Maine provided that.
“He stayed focused,” the manager said. “He kept pushing. We’re going to hit. Pitching is the key. Pitching keeps you in the game.”
Maine (7-4) took a three-hit shutout into the eighth inning and, just as Randolph promised, the Mets hit. Home runs by Carlos Delgado, who batted .189 on the road trip, and Ricky Ledee highlighted a 15-hit outburst.
Delgado gave New York the lead with his 11th home run in the second inning. He connected on a 1-1 pitch from starter Carlos Silva (4-8).
Two innings later, Delgado singled and reached third on a double by Shawn Green, who went 3-for-22 on the road trip. Delgado was thrown out trying to score on Jose Valentin’s grounder to shortstop, but Ledee delivered a two-out single, scoring Green to make it 2-0.
In the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs on a single by Valentin and walks to Ledee and Jose Reyes. Paul Lo Duca then hit a two-strike pitch from Silva for a two-run single, making it 4-0.
“I got a hit when it counted finally,” Lo Duca said. “That’s the best game we’ve played in a long time. It’s good to get everybody going.”
The Mets broke it open in the eighth. Ledee hit his first home run of the season off reliever Juan Rincon. Reyes then singled and stole his 38th base. After shortstop Jason Bartlett booted Lo Duca’s grounder for an error, Carlos Beltran doubled for one run and David Wright followed with another double, his third straight hit, to make it 7-1. Carlos Gomez, a late defensive replacement, added a sacrifice fly.
Maine had gone 1-4 with two no-decisions since winning five of his first six starts this season. He lost his last start at Los Angeles on June 12, when he allowed home runs on three straight pitches in a 4-1 defeat.
This time, he gave up just four singles before leaving with one out in the eighth. The Twins got on the board in that inning on a pinch-hit single by Jason Tyner, an infield out and a two-out hit by Michael Cuddyer against reliever Pedro Feliciano.
Maine struck out four and walked two, retiring 10 straight batters during one stretch.
It was the ninth time in 14 starts this season that Maine has pitched at least six innings and the 10th time he has permitted two earned runs or less.
The Mets made frequent public address appeals for votes for Lo Duca for the All-Star team, urging each fan to cast five votes for the catcher, who is currently second in the balloting. … Silva pitched complete games in two of his last three starts and was coming off a 6-0 shutout of Atlanta. … Former NFL general manager Ernie Accorsi was at the game. … The Twins made three sparkling defensive plays in the fifth, with RF Cuddyer robbing Reyes of an extra-base hit at the wall, 2B Luis Castillo turning Beltran’s grounder up the middle into an out and LF Jason Kubel making a diving catch on Delgado’s fly ball in the corner with two on. … Castillo’s 32-game hitting streak at Shea Stadium ended.