2006 NEWS

2006 News > 4/15/06

WITH 11 STRIKEOUTS, GLAVINE BATTLES FRIEND AND FOE

By Ben Shpigel, NY Times
Original Article HERE

The digital scoreboard in right field celebrates strikeouts with K's, but the bulbs flash with greater frequency when anyone other than Tom Glavine is pitching. His cunning style is more conducive to ground balls or pop-ups. He is more frustrating than overpowering.

Glavine revealed a seldom-seen side of himself last night, relying on the strikeout to befuddle the Milwaukee Brewers. He notched 11 in six commanding innings, and the bullpen preserved his strong outing, as the Mets defeated the Brewers, 4-3, at soggy Shea Stadium for their seventh consecutive victory.

The Mets have equaled the 1985 team for the best start (8-1) through nine games in franchise history.

Glavine won his 277th career game, allowing an unearned run and walking one. He wound up with the victory despite a tenuous seventh inning, in which Aaron Heilman allowed two runs that permitted the Brewers to close within 4-3.

Duaner Sánchez, the Mets' most effective reliever so far, cleaned up Heilman's mess and escaped one of his own in the eighth, and Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth, striking out cleanup hitter Carlos Lee on a nasty slider to punctuate the victory.

As Wagner walked by Glavine's locker after the game, someone mentioned that it was Glavine, perhaps, who should be considered the strikeout artist of the team. Wagner guffawed. Glavine replied, "You can call me a lot of things, but not that."

The Mets' lineup supplied just enough offense for Glavine. Xavier Nady launched a solo homer onto the tent beyond the left-field bleachers, and Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado added run-scoring hits with two outs.

From the beginning, the odds were not in the Brewers' favor last night. Despite boasting a potent lineup, with Lee and the young slugger Prince Fielder, the Brewers entered last night having scored 34 runs, the fewest in the major leagues. The Mets pitching staff has allowed 27 runs, also the fewest in the majors, and Glavine has been a major part of its early success.

Glavine set the tone on opening day, when he allowed an earned run in six innings in a victory against the Washington Nationals, and he matched the Florida Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis through six innings last Sunday, keeping the Mets in the game long enough to snatch a victory in the bottom of the ninth.

After a rain delay of 1 hour 32 minutes, Glavine looked fresh, setting down the side on 11 pitches, 10 strikes, while recording his first two strikeouts. He relied mostly on his changeup, which was excellent, and a cutter to jam right-handed hitters. He did not throw the curveball, a component of his expanded repertory, because the Brewers' aggressive hitters feast on breaking balls that dive toward them, as Glavine's does.

He allowed six hits, but none were tagged particularly hard, and, as he did in the second and fourth innings, consistently made the right pitch in escaping two-out, two-on jams. In those instances, he induced ground-outs. They were rare last night. He struck out two batters in every inning but the second, and struck out Geoff Jenkins three times.

His second-inning strikeout of Bill Hall, coming on his changeup, was the 2,363rd of his career. It moved him ahead of Charlie Hough and into 38th place on the career list. His 11 strikeouts were one short of his career high, set June 19, 1991, in Philadelphia.

"That's three games worth of strikeouts for me," Glavine said.

After José Reyes singled with two outs in the third, Milwaukee starter Chris Capuano spent more time ensuring he would not steal than he did focusing on the batter, Lo Duca. Capuano, who led the major leagues with 12 pickoffs last season, threw three times to first base, but Reyes never shortened his lead. After the third pickoff, Capuano threw two balls, pushing the count to 3-1, and then Lo Duca guided a double down the left-field line, easily scoring Reyes. Delgado followed with a sharp single that barely cleared the glove of the leaping shortstop, J. J. Hardy, scoring Lo Duca and increasing the Mets' lead to 3-0.

A day after Cliff Floyd went 2 for 5 with a homer and 2 runs batted in and said he thought he was breaking out of his 4-for-22 season-opening skid, Manager Willie Randolph started Víctor Díaz, a right-handed hitter, in Floyd's place to get him some at-bats.

Díaz went 1 for 3 with two strikeouts and committed an error in the fifth when Capuano's soft single skidded between his legs to the warning track. Capuano advanced to second and later scored on Hardy's single.

Díaz was removed after striking out in the sixth, replaced by Endy Chávez in a double switch.

Although Glavine threw 107 pitches, 70 for strikes, and probably could have pitched the seventh, Randolph turned to the bullpen. It almost cost the Mets, but a loss would not have been an appropriate conclusion to Glavine's evening.