The Mets and Phillies began their second head-t0-head match-up of the season, and New York had the tall task of facing Roy Halladay, who was a perfect 7-0 against the Amazins coming into last night’s start. He was starting opposite Jonathon Niese, and even though it didn’t look as if it was going to be a pretty game for the Mets, Jordany Valdespin gave them a happy ending.
Niese was trying to come back after his first ineffective start of the season, but he wasn’t able to return to the form that he had in his first four starts. He only gave up two runs through his five innings of work, but his control was non-existent, as he walked four batters
in addition to the four hits he surrendered, while striking out five. This performance led to 101 pitches through five frames, forcing Terry Collins’ hand to bring in the bullpen in the sixth inning.
In the first two innings, Niese allowed the lead-off man to reach base, and in both instances, they came around to score. Jimmy Rollins led the game off with a double and scored on John Mayberry, Jr.’s sacrifice fly, then Carlos Ruiz walked to start the second, and he crossed the plate on Placido Polanco‘s double. However, that was all the scoring that the struggling Philadelphia offense would be able to muster all night.
Roy Halladay was dealing all night, retiring 13 consecutive Mets at one point, but New York finally got to him in the sixth inning. With two outs, Andres Torres drew a rare walk from Halladay, followed by a single to center from Captain Kirk. That brought up David Wright, who has historically struggled against the Phillies’ ace. This time, he doubled over the third base bag, allowing both Torres and Nieuwenhuis to score, tying the game at 2.
Behind Niese, Manny Acosta threw a scoreless inning in relief, then Bobby Parnell followed suit in his 1.2 innings of work, but it was hardly easy, as he gave up four hits and walked one. Tim Brydak came on to get the last out in the eighth by way of the strikeout to bail Bobby out of the jam. Charlie Manuel called upon his new closer, Jonathan Papelbon, to keep the game tied going into the bottom of the ninth. He proceeded to strike out Daniel Murphy, walk Ike Davis, then strike out Justin Turner.
That brought up Mike Nickeas with the most important at-bat of the entire night. He entered the game after Josh Thole took a blow to the head on a play at the plate from Ty Wigginton. After getting two strikes on him quickly, Nickeas was able to foul off fastball after fastball. Once Papelbon and Ruiz had a quick conference on the mound, they decided against another heater and threw him a hanging breaking ball, which Nickeas ripped to left field for a double. With runners on second and third, that brought up Jordany Valdespin, who just got called up for a second time after New York had to put Ruben Tejada on the DL.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, he went down and got a sinker, driving it into the right-field stands for his first Major League hit, a pinch-hit, go-ahead three-run homer. Frank Francisco came on to save it in the ninth, retiring the side in order, collecting his eighth save of the year, and improving the Mets to 16-13 on the season, bringing them within 2.5 games of first.
David Wright gave New York a clutch, two-out hit to tie the game up in the late innings, but it was Jordany Valdespin that stole the spotlight with his three-run bomb off Papelbon. The excitement that Valdespin displayed as he pumped his fist around the bases shows that every ballplayer still has that little kid in them. The win gives the Mets the upper hand in the series, as they look to take their second in a row tonight.
Probable Pitchers tonight:
Miguel Batista is making his first start in place of Chris Schwinden in the rotation at Citizen’s Bank tonight as the Phillies run out Joe Blanton, who is coming off his first shutout since he was with Oakland in 2007. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.