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Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

Mets win opener, lose Hernandez

October 5, 2006

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— Carlos Delgado hammered the ball all over the field in his playoff debut. David Wright also delivered, and the pitching-depleted New York Mets looked like October regulars during their first postseason game since 2000.

Minus two top starters, the Mets capitalized on a wild baserunning blunder by Los Angeles and a perfectly respectable performance from emergency replacement John Maine in a 6-5 victory Wednesday over the Dodgers.

Billy Wagner closed Game 1 of this NL series for his first postseason save, fanning Nomar Garciaparra with a runner on second for the final out.

"A lot of guys have been waiting for this time in their life, and I think everybody stepped up today," said 34-year-old catcher Paul Lo Duca, another newcomer to the playoffs.

Playing in the first postseason game of his 14-year career, Delgado had four hits, a mammoth homer and the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning.

Wright drove in three runs, helping the Mets jump ahead in the best-of-five series.

"I was very excited," Delgado said. "I had butterflies in my stomach the first couple innings. I was saying, 'Whoa, what is going on here?' But I was able to kind of control my emotions and just go out and play."

Game 2 is tonight, with rookie left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo on the mound for the wild-card Dodgers against 290-game winner Tom Glavine. Kuo pitched six shutout innings at Shea Stadium on Sept. 8 for his only major-league win.

"We haven't quit all season long, especially these last couple months," Los Angeles manager Grady Little said. "We'll keep coming at you."

The Mets started a rookie of their own in the opener after Orlando Hernandez tore a muscle in his right calf while jogging in the outfield Tuesday. He is expected to miss the entire postseason.

Already without injured ace Pedro Martinez, New York scrambled Tuesday night to find a healthy, rested starter and picked Maine, an afterthought in the offseason trade that sent Kris Benson to Baltimore for reliever Jorge Julio.

The 25-year-old Maine went 6-5 with a 3.60 earned-run average for the NL East champions.

Lifted with a 2-1 lead in the fifth, Maine got a break on a bizarre play when the Dodgers had two runners cut down at home plate in the second.

With two on and none out, rookie Russell Martin hit an opposite-field drive off the base of the right-field wall. But Jeff Kent hesitated at second base, apparently thinking the ball might be caught, and got an extremely late jump.

That left J.D. Drew, who was on first, practically running up Kent's back as coach Rich Donnelly waved one - or both - around third. A quick, accurate relay from right fielder Shawn Green to second baseman Jose Valentin to Lo Duca nailed Kent, who attempted a headfirst dive into the plate.

Drew was left in no-man's land, trapped about halfway between third and home. Yet Lo Duca, who got spun around on the play at the plate, didn't realize that at first as he struggled to his feet.

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