2006 NEWS

2006 News > 9/8/06

GLAVINE ARTFUL AGAINST DODGERS

By Steven Popper, NorthJersey.com

NEW YORK -- Tom Glavine hadn't been on the mound at Shea Stadium in more than a month, his only appearances being at emotional news conferences to first consider the end of his career and then to deliver the good news that the circulatory problems would just cost him two weeks.

So he walked out to the mound at the start of Thursday's game against Los Angeles and looked around.

"It was funny because when I went out there in the first inning I was thinking, 'Man, I haven't pitched here in awhile,' " he recalled. "I wasn't as nervous as I was the other night in Houston. I always have some jitters when I go out there and pitch. But the other night in Houston was different. It was more than I've had in a long time. Tonight was a little more than what I'm accustomed. But walking out there it was a weird feeling."

The scare was behind him. The first start back last week in Houston was over. And now all he had to do was pitch, which he did in the fashion that should assure both Glavine and the Mets that he is ready for the postseason, combining with a trio of relievers to shut out the Dodgers, 7-0.

Jose Reyes capped the night with an inside-the-park homer in the sixth inning.

Last week, in his first game back from his 16-day absence, Glavine showed the rust of the time off, getting pelted for six runs in five innings and making uncharacteristic mistakes. But there was no sign of that rust on this night.

Maybe Willie Randolph felt it was coming as he joked before the start of the game that maybe Glavine would toss a no-hitter. He didn't accomplish that, but left little else undone as he coasted through 61/3 innings, allowing just five hits and no walks, shutting out the Dodgers in a masterful performance.

Glavine had seemed ready for this all season long until the health scare, recapturing the form of his youth with the wisdom of a grizzled veteran. After struggling through the start of his tenure in New York, he has been the Mets' best starting pitcher most of the season. That only made the sudden appearance of coldness in his ring finger as disappointing as it was frightening. But this start provided a hint that maybe all is right again.

Greg Maddux, who paired with Glavine in the Braves' rotation for so long, said, "He's more of a pitcher now. He mixes it up more than he used to. I enjoy sitting back watching him pitch. He's more entertaining."

While only Maddux might recall a time when Glavine wasn't a craftsman on the mound, the 40-year-old left-hander delivered a reminder of the craftsmanship that Maddux spoke of.

As he carved his way through the record book, upping his record to 13-6 on the season and moving into a tie with Tommy John for 23rd place all time with 288 wins, there was little to differentiate between this and his Cy Young performances of 15 years and eight years ago.

"When Tommy has a good game like that you look at him and he's the consummate pitcher," Randolph said. "He knows exactly what he's doing.

"It's good to see him come back with this type of performance. To get Tommy back in for a couple of starts after the scare we had a couple of weeks ago, it's just comforting to have him back out there.

"It looks like he didn't skip a beat really," Randolph added, "just seemed like it gave him a chance to get a breather physically."

Glavine gave up back-to-back singles with one out in the first inning, but got out of that jam by slipping a 2-2 change-up past J.D. Drew for a called strike three and then retiring Jeff Kent on a fly to left. The Dodgers never threatened after that and it never really mattered anyway.

As is the case on most nights, the Mets' offense provided enough cushion for the starting pitcher to coast through an effortless evening.

The first four Mets all had hits and they plated two runs in the first. Jose Valentin added a solo home run in the second inning and Glavine kept that lead intact until the sixth inning when the Mets began to pile on Dodgers starter Brad Penny.

A walk to David Wright started the inning and Shawn Green belted his second double of the game. One run scored on a fielder's choice when Valentin hit a ground ball to second with a drawn-in infield and Wright still beat the throw to the plate. Then Reyes belted a drive that bounced off the center field walland back toward the infield as the Dodgers' outfielders gave chase. Reyes scored without a throw for the first inside-the-park home run of his major league career.

Reyes said after the game that it was the first inside-the-park homer he's had at any level.