NEW YORK - Manager Terry Collins has penciled Jordany Valdespin in as the New York Mets' leadoff hitter seven times this season -- and just about every time, he's mentioned Valdespin's power and his ability to give the Mets a quick lead as the reason why he likes putting him in the leadoff spot.
On Wednesday night, Valdespin made his manager look prescient on the very last swing of the game, when Valdespin hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the Mets to a dramatic 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 24,130 at Citi Field.
Valdespin's blast just beyond the right-field fence was the first walk-off grand slam for the Mets since Kevin McReynolds did it against the Expos on June 25, 1991, and the sixth in team history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Unofficially, it's the seventh: Robin Ventura cleared the fences for an apparent tie-breaking, game-winning grand slam in the 15th inning of Game Five of the 1999 National League Championship Series against the Braves, but was credited with only the "grand slam single" after teammates swallowed him up between first and second base.
There would be no such antics on Wednesday night as teammates waited at home for Valdespin, who pumped his fists as he ran between second and third and flung his helmet skyward between third and home before leaping twice, the second time on to home plate.
"Unfortunately I've been on the other side [of game-winning grand slams] a couple times," Collins said. "It's nice to win one for a change."
The grand slam was just the latest in a series of dramatic, all-or-nothing moments for Valdespin, who set a team record as a rookie last year with five pinch-hit home runs. Valdespin was also the only player in the majors with two pinch-hit homers in the ninth inning or later, including his first big league hit, a ninth-inning shot off Jonathan Papelbon on May 7, 2012.
But Valdespin ended last season with 26 strikeouts in his final 95 at-bats and began Wednesday with two extra-base hits, two walks and nine strikeouts in 43 plate appearances this year.
He entered the game in the eighth inning Wednesday as a pinch-hitter with two outs and Marlon Byrd, the potential game-tying run, on third base. But Valdespin swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded weakly to first base.
"He just relishes that big moment during a game," Collins said. "[After] the first at-bat, he came in and he was disgusted about it. Told [hitting coach] Dave [Hudgens] 'I'm jumping at the ball, I've got to stay back.'"
Valdespin was calmer when he got another chance in the 10th inning, which began with a leadoff single by John Buck. Ike Davis drew a four-pitch walk and Byrd followed with a bunt to advance the runners. Losing pitcher Josh Wall then intentionally walked Lucas Duda to bring up Valdespin, who took the first three pitches he saw to get ahead in the count 2-1 before crushing Wall's next offering.
"I hit the ball in the air, so the only thing I'm thinking is 'I won the game,'" Valdespin said. "Every fly ball in the outfield is a sacrifice fly to win the game."
With the Mets continually searching for a spark atop the order - six different players have batted first in the season's first 19 games - Valdespin's effort on Wednesday night is likely to earn him more starts, perhaps as soon as Thursday, when the Mets host the Dodgers in a matinee.
"The only way to keep him sharp is you've got to get him out there," Collins said. "He's a talented kid. And certainly, when he's swinging the bat like he can, he can be real dangerous."
The homer by Valdespin gave the Mets their first lead. New York trailed 1-0, 3-1 and 3-2 and stranded nine runners, including seven in scoring position, in the first eight innings before David Wright's two-out RBI single off Brandon League tied the score in the ninth.
"To come back and win a game like that, especially against their closer to get the game tied and to win it late in the game, that's going to be huge for us as we move forward," Collins said.
Bobby Parnell, the Mets' fifth pitcher, earned the win with a scoreless 10th. Four Mets relievers combined to throw no-hit ball over the final four innings.
Wright's hit spared Mets phenom Matt Harvey his first loss of the season. Harvey allowed three runs on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts in six innings.
Mets pinch-hitter Mike Baxter opened the ninth with a double, went to third on Ruben Tejada's bunt and scored when Wright laced the first pitch he saw from League into right-center field.
Matt Kemp had a replay-aided two-run homer in the sixth and finished with all three of the Dodgers' RBIs.
"It's a tough loss, there's no doubt about it, but we don't have time to think about it - we come back so quick [Thursday]," Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis said.
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly, making his first big league appearance in 11 months, allowed one run on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
NOTES: Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese, who had to leave his start Tuesday in the third inning after he was hit on the right leg by an Ellis line drive, said Wednesday he still expects to make his next start Sunday but that he might push back his usual bullpen session from Thursday to Friday. ... Right-handed pitcher Shawn Marcum was in the locker room before the game and said he's looking forward to coming off the disabled list and making his Mets debut Saturday against the Phillies. Marcum has been sidelined by nerve inflammation in his neck and shoulder. ... Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who tore a ligament in his right thumb during the World Baseball Classic on March 19, threw before the game. Manager Don Mattingly said Ramirez looked much better than the last time he threw in Baltimore last weekend. But while Ramirez expressed hope he could soon begin a three-game rehab stint and return to the Dodgers, Mattingly said he expected Ramirez would need more time in the minors before coming off the disabled list. ... Skip Schumaker replaced Crawford as the starter in left field and as the Dodgers' leadoff batter. Crawford entered Wednesday hitless in his last 14 at-bats. Crawford went 0-for-2 Wednesday as a late-inning replacement.