Wright hit two more home runs off Brad Penny and the newly inspired New York Mets dampened Joe Torre’s return home, taking advantage of a rare catcher’s interference call to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday night.
The Mets won their third in a row and sent the Dodgers to their fourth straight loss.
“A three-game winning streak, we’ll take that. Back to .500, that’s what we want to push from,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We’ve got to sustain it. We’ve been up and down.”
Always popular in town, Torre managed his first game in New York since parting ways with the Yankees last October after 12 winning seasons. Many fans in the crowd of 52,886 at Shea Stadium stood and cheered when he made a pitching change in the seventh inning, and Torre waved and doffed his cap while walking back to the dugout.
“That made me feel good. Considering the game, it made me feel good,” Torre said. “It was nice. The fact that I started it here. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but I look at the calendar, and it was.”
Torre saw something else strange in the fourth inning with the Mets leading 2-0.
The Mets had two outs and none on when Vargas apparently grounded out—it looked so routine, Vargas basically stopped jogging halfway down the line and the Dodgers began to run off the field.
“I knew something was funky about it,” Randolph said.
He was right.
Catcher Russell Martin was called for tipping Vargas’ bat, and the career .082 hitter was awarded first base.
“Sometimes you hear it, sometimes you see it, sometimes you do both. I could see it and I heard it. It was pretty clear,” plate umpire Bill Welke said. “Once or twice a year.”
Martin “was mad. He banged his glove on his thigh. Body language helps tell you what’s going on, too,” Welke said.
Said Vargas: “First time I’ve gotten on base this year. It’s like I had to cheat or something.”
“I should have known he has a long swing like that,” Martin said of Vargas. “Take away that blunder that I had, it’s a different ballgame. I take responsibility for that.”
Wright had his first multihomer game of the season and eighth of his career. He picked on a familiar victim, improving to 11-for-19 (.579) with four home runs and five walks against Penny (5-6).
“It’s no secret that his best pitch is a fastball. When he gets behind, I gear up for a fastball,” Wright said. “I’ve gotten lucky a lot of times.”
Penny’s problems at Shea continued as he fell to 1-10 lifetime at the ballpark that’s in its final year. The two-time All-Star didn’t fare any better against the Mets three weeks ago at home when they tagged him for a career-high 10 runs in 4 2-3 innings.
“It’s not the place,” Penny said. “I’m behind in the count, everybody’s a tough hitter—I’m a tough hitter.”
Wright launched a drive into the left-center bleachers for a two-run homer in the third. His next home run, coming on another 93 mph fastball from Penny, capped the unlikely four-run burst in the fourth.
That was all for the Dodgers, who have lost six of seven and scored only 12 runs in that span. Before the game, Torre and his team held a regular preseries meeting, and he insisted there was no special message.
“I don’t think anything I said initiated any of the aggressiveness. These guys are tired of getting slapped around, you know, basically,” he said.
Reyes singled twice and has reached base in 29 straight games. … Wright grounded out and struck out in his final two at-bats. No Met has hit three home runs in a game at Shea. … While Martin was charged with an error for the catcher’s interference that let Vargas reach, the runs that scored after the two-out play were officially earned. According to scoring rules, it couldn’t be assumed that Vargas would have made the third out.