Wright hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning after the Mets’ bullpen blew another late lead for Johan Santana, lifting New York over the San Diego Padres 5-3 Thursday.
Mets players tumbled out of the dugout to pile on Wright following the first game-ending homer of his major league career.
“I don’t know if it was a release of emotion or it just was everybody’s chance to get some free shots in on me. I think guys were taking advantage of giving me some rib shots and some jabs,” Wright said. “I’m always celebrating everybody’s else’s at home plate, and to get to be the one that jumps into the pile is pretty fun.”
Just 9-7 in his first season with the Mets, Santana left with a 3-1 lead and two on in the eighth. But Adrian Gonzalez singled in a run off Pedro Feliciano, and Jody Gerut homered with one out in the ninth against Scott Schoeneweis.
It was the sixth time in 24 starts this season that the bullpen cost Santana a potential win, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Five of those collapses came in the ninth inning. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner has eight no-decisions, and in seven of those he allowed two runs or fewer.
“It wasn’t my fault. It’s Johan’s,” Schoeneweis said playfully. “It’s his bad luck. The karma just carried over.”
Santana, who applauded from the dugout when second baseman Argenis Reyes started a spectacular, inning-ending double play to preserve the lead in the eighth, watched the ninth unfold from the clubhouse.
“It was numb,” he said.
Aaron Heilman (2-6) got two outs in the ninth for the win.
Wright’s drive off a breaking ball from Heath Bell (6-5) was his 21st homer this season. Wright made base running blunders in each of the first two games of the series and a costly error in Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss. Mets manager Jerry Manuel had broached the idea of a day off.
“He was asking about some of the mental mistakes that I’ve made, and I told him it was a one-time deal and it wouldn’t happen again,” Wright said.
Santana gave up two runs and four hits in seven-plus innings but has a pedestrian record to go along with a 2.85 ERA.
Manuel was booed when he pulled Santana after 104 pitches. Manuel understood the fans’ frustration but was worried that Santana, who reached 100 pitches for the 17th time this year, is being pushed too hard. He also thinks at some level Santana is frustrated but called him “the ultimate team player.”
“It’s difficult, being his first year here,” Manuel said. “Everybody when they come here to New York wants to prove in a statistical manner that they belong.”
Schoeneweis put it another way.
“It will turn around for him. And if it doesn’t but we win the game, what can you do? It’s not like he’s scuffling for a job or something,” he said.
New York, which had lost five of its previous six games, closed within two games of NL East-leading Philadelphia. But with closer Billy Wagner on the disabled list due to a strained left forearm, the relievers are flopping.
Of the 102 homers off Schoeneweis in his career, Gerut’s was just the 13th by a left-handed hitter. Schoeneweis reeled off the humorous remarks and defended the relief corps.
“If you guys think this bullpen is bad, go follow some other teams around and see what you come up with,” he said.
It was an eventful afternoon for San Diego, too.
Gerut and Chase Headley homered for the second straight game. Headley’s second-inning drive, on an 80 mph changeup over the middle of the plate, was the 19th home run off Santana this year.
Padres manager Bud Black and bench coach Craig Colbert were ejected in the middle of the eighth after umpires wouldn’t allow a double switch. Black held up two fingers while shaking a hand, meaning he wanted reliever Brian Corey to hit in the No. 2 hole. Plate umpire Todd Tichenor thought Black was signaling for “straight up.”
“He misinterpreted what we wanted to do,” Black said. “I thought I had made it clear.”
New York built a 3-1 lead on RBI singles by Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans in the fourth, and Evans’ sacrifice fly in the sixth.
But just before the argument, San Diego nearly went ahead. After Gonzalez’s single made it 3-2, Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a hard grounder near second with the bases loaded. Reyes made a diving stop to get it and flipped to shortstop Jose Reyes, who then threw to first, where Evans stretched to the outfield side and fell as he made the grab.
Black argued that one with first-base umpire Brian Gorman.
“He said when he caught the ball, his foot was on the bag and his momentum took him off,” Black said. “I didn’t see it that way.”
Padres starter Josh Banks gave up three runs and nine hits in five-plus innings. He is winless in 10 starts since beating San Francisco with a six-hitter on May 31. … The Mets said ticket sales had reached 3.86 million, the third straight season they set a team record. New York projects it will draw 4 million in its final season at Shea Stadium. … Mets C Ramon Castro left in the fifth because of a sore right ankle.