Mets 6, Phillies 5, 1st game

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—El Duque walked around the mound muttering unprintable words before the game. Once it started, he made hitters do the same.

Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes homered, Orlando Hernandez pitched six strong innings and the New York Mets held on for a 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on Friday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.

When Phillies manager Charlie Manuel asked umpires to check Hernandez’s cap before the bottom of the first because he thought there was resin on it, the 41-year-old right-hander wasn’t pleased. No foreign substance was found, and the move may have fired up Hernandez.

“Oh yeah. He was speaking Spanglish,” catcher Ramon Castro said.

Hernandez said he simply concentrated on pitching.

“Ask him,” he repeated when asked why Manuel questioned his cap.

Hernandez (4-3) baffled the Phillies with a variety of off-speed pitches. He gave up two runs and three hits, including solo homers to Aaron Rowand and pinch-hitter Chris Coste. Hernandez struck out seven, though he barely reached 80 mph and mostly threw in the 60s and low 70s.

“I was glad they did that,” manager Willie Randolph said of the pregame tactic. “They did us a favor. He competes either way, but it’s good to get lathered up.”

J.D. Durbin’s first appearance with the Phillies, his fourth team this season, showed why the right-hander often changes uniforms. Released from three organizations before the second week of April, Durbin (0-1) struggled in his second career start. He allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings.

“He has a pretty good arm,” Manuel said. “He had a little trouble getting his breaking ball over.”

Guillermo Mota allowed a two-run homer to Wes Helms in the seventh that got the Phillies within 6-4. Pinch-hitter Pat Burrell’s RBI single off Aaron Heilman cut it to 6-5 in the eighth. But Billy Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth for his 16th save in 17 chances.

The NL East-leading Mets moved four games ahead of the injury-riddled Phillies, who are using three rookie pitchers in this pivotal four-game series.

“It’s no fun to face those guys because they are the best hitters in the league,” Wagner said. “You have to pitch perfect.”

Durbin struck out the side in the first inning, freezing Reyes and Carlos Beltran on called third strikes.

It was downhill from there.

David Wright doubled to right-center leading off the second and Delgado followed with a drive that landed in Philadelphia’s bullpen in right-center to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Rowand hit a hanging curve ball into the left-field seats to cut it to 2-1 in the second. But Reyes answered with a solo shot in the third to make it 3-1.

Durbin unraveled in the fourth.

A two-out double by Ramon Castro drove in Delgado, who also had doubled. Ricky Ledee walked and Castro scored on Hernandez’s single to left. Ledee scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-1.

A second-round pick by Minnesota in 2000, Durbin went to spring training with the Twins. He was claimed off waivers by Arizona on March 29 and allowed seven runs in two-thirds of an inning in his only appearance for the Diamondbacks. Boston claimed Durbin, only to cut him a day later, and the Phillies picked him up on April 13.

“It’s not really an audition. It’s something where you’ve got to go out and perform,” Durbin said. “I’ve got to avoid the big inning.”

The Phillies are trying to contend with minor leaguers pitching important games. J.A. Happ makes his major league debut on Saturday and Kyle Kendrick starts his fourth career game Sunday.

The Phillies have lost Jon Lieber (foot) and two-time All-Star Freddy Garcia (shoulder), both likely for the season, and closer Tom Gordon (shoulder) and starter-turned-closer Brett Myers (shoulder) remain sidelined. ^Notes: For the fourth time in two weeks, the Phillies (41-38) failed to move a season-best five games above .500. … Manuel, a consistent target for criticism in Philadelphia, drew cheers when he asked for the check on Hernandez’s cap. … Durbin’s only other start was for Minnesota against Cleveland on Sept. 23, 2004. He lasted three innings, allowing five runs. … Coste’s pinch-hit homer was the first of his career and the fourth for the Phillies this season. … Reyes was thrown out trying to steal second base by C Rod Barajas in the seventh. … Helms has two homers in 174 at-bats. … Mets starters are 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in the last seven games.

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