With makeshift bullpen, Mets hold off Padres
NEW YORK (AP)—After mixing and matching his way through a nervous ninth inning, Mets manager Jerry Manuel sat down behind the microphone and took a long drink.
“I feel like I need to be turning that water into wine,” he said with a chuckle, holding up his plastic bottle for effect.
Hours after the Mets put All-Star closer Billy Wagner on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left forearm, New York’s makeshift bullpen managed to close out the San Diego Padres 6-5 Tuesday night.
But it wasn’t easy.
By the time it was over, Manuel wasn’t sure who his closer would be going forward.
“I’m going to have to be very careful, cautious, with handling this bullpen situation,” he said. “I don’t want to discourage anyone, but at the same time I want people to step up.”
Wagner’s injury is a major blow to New York as it pursues a playoff spot, even though the lefty has squandered seven of 34 save chances. Schoeneweis became the first Mets reliever besides Wagner to earn a save this season when he retired Brian Giles on his only pitch.
Mike Pelfrey (10-7) pitched effectively into the seventh inning to help the Mets end a four-game skid.
Before the game, Manuel said Heilman, his struggling setup man, would get the first shot at closing duties in Wagner’s absence. It didn’t last long.
Handed a four-run cushion when he entered to start the ninth, Heilman walked his first batter on four pitches and gave up a three-run shot to Jody Gerut with one out.
At that point, Manuel had seen enough. He popped out of the dugout to lift Heilman, booed loudly by the crowd of 52,130.
“It’s certainly frustrating,” Heilman said. “You want to go out there and do well.”
Joe Smith retired Tadahito Iguchi on a foul popup, and Manuel brought in Schoeneweis to face Giles in a lefty-on-lefty matchup. Giles’ well-hit drive to center was caught by Carlos Beltran, securing Schoeneweis’ ninth major league save.
San Diego gave the Mets what turned out to be an important insurance run in the eighth when Gerut’s throwing error from center made it 6-2.
With the Mets back home following a 1-5 road trip that knocked them out of first place in the NL East, Pelfrey held the punchless Padres in check on nine hits through 6 2-3 innings. He is 4-0 with a 0.98 ERA in his past five starts at Shea Stadium, where New York is 12-2 in its last 14 games.
The last-place Padres, who pulled off a four-game sweep against the Mets in early June, dropped to 18-36 on the road.
San Diego starter Chris Young was pulled after yielding only one hit in 5 1-3 innings. He walked five, though.
Young was making his second start since coming off the disabled list—he missed more than two months with a broken nose and fractured skull after getting hit in the face by Albert Pujols’ line drive on May 21.
“In certain in ways, I’m lucky to be out there,” Young said. “I threw all right. My movement was a little bit off.”
A former basketball star at Princeton, the 6-foot-10 right-hander limited New York to Tatis’ solo shot in the fourth before he was lifted by manager Bud Black after 98 pitches.
With Young out of the game, the Mets quickly made their move.
After striking out twice against Young, Beltran singled off Mike Adams (1-1) to put runners at first and second. Tatis then hooked a 2-2 pitch into the left-field corner for his 101st major league homer and ninth this season, giving New York a 4-2 lead.
With the crowd chanting his name, Tatis came out for a curtain call. He tossed his head back to soak it all in and pointed two fingers toward the sky.
“All of Shea Stadium cheering for my name—it’s unbelievable,” Tatis said. “It’s amazing for me.”
Tatis extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his eighth career multihomer game and first since Sept. 16, 2000, with St. Louis.
Out of baseball from 2004-05, the 33-year-old Tatis has given the Mets a crucial and surprising boost since he was called up from the minors May 13. Filling in regularly for injured outfielders Moises Alou and Ryan Church, Tatis has piled up 33 RBIs with a string of clutch homers and hits.
“It’s been a nice resurrection for them—and for him,” Black said.
Daniel Murphy added a run-scoring double in the seventh off Clay Hensley for his first extra-base hit and RBI in the majors.
Adams allowed his first runs since July 4. … With Shea Stadium set to be demolished after this season, fans and collectors can buy seats from the 44-year-old ballpark—for $869 per pair—online at Mets.com beginning Aug. 25.