2007 NEWS

2007 News > 7/15/07


By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

NEW YORK -- Tom Glavine had thrown 104 pitches, just two of them from a stretch and barely a handful that had been stressful. He was pretty sure his 41-year-old left arm had a ninth inning left in it. And as he walked from the mound to the dugout following the eighth inning on Saturday night, he considered pleading his case to Willie Randolph.

"He didn't give me an opportunity," Glavine said "He just said, 'We're gonna get you a run.'"

The prediction was more like a promise, though the Mets took it as an order. While Glavine looked for a lucky seat in the runway that connects dugout to clubhouse, they made certain the ninth would belong to Billy Wagner. Then Wagner made certain the victory would belong to Glavine.

What began as Ralph Kiner Night, filled with applause, emotion and celebration, ended similarly but as Tom Glavine Night, with a lowercase N and, in the box score, an uppercase W.

The game, in the eyes of most, will go down as a 2-1 win, the Mets' 50th of the season. But in the Mets' clubhouse, it went by a different name: "No. 298." The victory was viewed mostly through the prism of what it meant for the man primarily responsible for it.

Dave Racaniello, the Mets' bullpen catcher, retrieved a ball used in the 298th victory of Glavine's career and asked the winning pitcher to sign it. Nowhere in what Glavine wrote was there mention of the score or the opponent, just a signature on the sweet spot and the inscription "No. 298" below it.

"That's the way it should be when a great competitor is closing in on a great achievement," Wagner said. "It's his game. ... Actually, any time he pitches now, it's Tom's day. Not to say that [Sunday] isn't Oliver Perez's day. But there's a difference."

The difference manifested itself when Randolph, taking a chance, considering how the Mets' offense had sputtered to that point, predicted a run was in the offing.

"You hear that all the time when a guy is pitching his tail off," Wagner said. "You know, 'Let's get this guy a run.' But when it's Tom and he's this close to a milestone, you hear, 'Let's get this guy a run,' and you think, 'Let's get this guy a run, so he can get closer to 300.'

"We all know what's a stake here. Right now, it's more about Tom tha it's about us. ... I mean if he wins, we benefit. We know that. But you look at game as his chance to win more than you look at it as a chance for us to win. It might not sound right, but that's the way it is. It's human nature to be more excited in his games. There's more energy and intensity in his games -- and there should be, because he's close to something that's almost unattainable. I think it would be wrong if we weren't more charged up."

If the Mets' offense was energized, it wasn't particularly evident -- not even when Lastings Milledge drove in Shawn Green with the decisive run against losing pitching Mike Stanton in the eighth. Green had doubled to left with two out, hitting a ball that Adam Dunn played awkwardly before he kicked it away.

Until Milledge's modified swing -- a shorter and delayed stroke designed to hit the ball through the middle -- produced a base hit to center field, the Mets had merely two hits in 17 at-bats with runners on base and one in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. Those are the kind of numbers that prompt coaching changes.

The Mets had tied the score against starter Matt Belisle two innings earlier with a broken-bat single by Green providing the run. David Wright had led off the inning with a single to left field, his second hit and the Mets' seventh. After Carlos Delgado flied out on the first pitch -- as he would again two innings later -- Wright stole second base, his 20th steal.

He reached third on Paul Lo Duca's groundout and scored when Green somehow pulled a pitch that was in on his hands for his first RBI in 16 games.

That run offset the home run Brandon Phillips hit against Glavine to lead off the second. The Reds didn't manage another hit -- indeed, they had only one more baserunner -- until Ken Griffey Jr. singled with one out in the seventh. After a first-pitch force out, Phillips was thrown out in an attempted steal, so, for the game, the Reds left no runners on base. Because Wagner pitched a clean ninth in earning his 19th save, the Mets faced just one batter over the minimum.

"It was weird not throwing from the stretch," Glavine said. "You might as well go back to the bullpen [before the game] and try to get a feel for it. When I was in the stretch, I thought, 'I hope I have an idea where this pitch is going to go.'"

Glavine (8-6) threw 17 pitches in the eighth, 10 to Dunn, leading off, but left the mound feeling strong. He had matched a season high by striking out five and, for the third time this season, walked none. The victory was his third in five starts, but also his third in his 10 starts since he reached 295 on May 19.

"It's hard to think that I've pitched any better this year," he said, clearly pleased with his performance and his progress toward his objective. If the rotation sequence holds and he beats the Dodgers on Thursday in LA, he would be in position to win No. 300 against the Pirates at Shea on July 24 or 25.

"That will be a special day for all of us," Wagner said. "If I do nothing else in my career but help this guy get to 300, I will have done a lot."

"I know there's a difference in games when something individual is riding on them for the pitcher," Glavine said. He seemed ill at ease with that difference, but took it as a positive. "But if I win, we win. It's good that way."