THE New York Mets made it seven in a row on Sunday night as they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates away to move clear at the top of the NL East.
Livan Hernandez fell behind early, but the Mets plated three in the 4th inning and broke the game open with four in the 8th inning to give them their first lead in the standings since Opening Day.
Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Omir Santos each plated two runners as the Mets gave Hernandez enough run support to overcome a shaky start.
The Pirates, in fact, jumped ahead early, scoring a run in the 1st and 3rd innings before the Mets got on the board.
Nyjer Morgan singled and stole second base and Delmon Young singled to centre to put men on the corners. Nate McLouth hit a sacrifice fly to Ryan Church in right field to easily score Morgan who trotted home at a canter.
The Pirates doubled their lead in the 3rd inning when Diaz found the gap in the right side of the infield when he slapped a single the other way.
McLouth had led off the onning with a double to left field and Eric Hinske drew a one-walk walk -one of four free passes from Hernandez who had only given up eight walks in his previous five starts.
After Andy LaRoche grounded back out to Hernandez, Diaz shot a single to Church to score McLouth. Hinske was held up surprisingly at third base and Brian Bixler struck out to end the inning.
The Mets had very little going on against Ian Snell until the 4th inning. Carlos Delgado launched a one-out double off the top of the centrefield wall and David Wright drove him home with a grounder that crept under the glove of Bixler.
Wright then stole second and Daniel Murphy walked, and both runners advanced 90ft on a wild pitch that got away from Diaz after hopping off of the plate.
Omir Santos gave the Mets the lead by turning on a 3-2 fastball to send a two-run single to right field, but he was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double.
Pedro Feliciano pitched a scoreless 7th inning for the Mets and the bats added a protection run in the bottom of the frame.
Gary Sheffield, pinch-hitting for Feliciano reached on a fielding error by Bixler and Reyes singled to right. Castillo then singled to centre to give the Mets a 4-2 lead and, after a double steal, Beltran was intentionally walked.
But Delgado popped out and Wright struck out swinging to leave the bases loaded.
JJ Putz got himself into – and out of – another jam in the 8th inning, giving up one-out singles to Diaz and Vazquez. But he got Moss to line out to left and Morgan to strike out to turn the 4-2 lead over to Rodriguez.
The Mets put the game beyond doubt in the 8th inning with a four spot off of reliever Jason Grabow.
Santos picked up his second hit of the evening, Church got his first and Tatis was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Reyes, who entered the game batting 5/9 with three runs and three RBI this series, walked in a run and Castillo hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Church. Hot-hitting Beltran doubled in two more runs to make it 8-2.
The Pirates did reduce the arrears in the 9th inning when McLouth hit a two-run home run off of Shaun Green, but Green retired the next three batters he faced to give the Mets their seventh consecutive win.
THE New York Mets (2-1) will take on
the Marlins for the first time since they broke our hearts for the
second straight season in a three-game series in Miami this Easter
Florida (3-0) are off to their best start to a season in more than a
decade and they have came out of the block hitting, pitching and
Offensively, they lead the NL in runs (26), batting average (.313) and total bases (59), while on the mound they league the lead in strikeouts (31) and earned runs allowed (11).
From their first series against the awful Nationals, Emilio Bonifacio
is 8/12 for four steals and Jorge Cantu is 4/9 (.444) with a pair of
All three starters recorded wins against the Nats and the fish will
continue with their four-man rotation when they host the Mets.
Ryan Church has started 5/11 with three doubles and Carlos Delgado is 5/12 with a home run and six RBI.
On the mound, their new bullpen duo of JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez
have given up a combined one run and one hit in four innings of work,
picking up two holds and two saves.
On Good Friday, John Maine will face fellow righty Anibal Sanchez
Maine, who struggled to a 6.65 ERA in the Cactus League, is 2-0 with a 3.22
ERA in four career starts in Florida.
He has pitched well against All Star Hanley Ramirez, who is hitting
just .188 (3/16) against him and Dan Uggla who is 3/15 with seven
Jeremy Hermida has had the most success against Maine, going 5/11.
On Saturday, former Marlins pitcher Livan Hernandez will face the present-day Florida ace Ricky Nolasco.
According to MLB.com, Hernandez made 70 starts for the fish between
1997 and 1999 at what is now called Dolphin Stadium where he has a 3.86
Nolasco was 1-2 in six starts against the Mets last season, but overall he is 2-5 in 11 starts with a 6.27 ERA.
On Opening Day against Washington, Nolasco gave up five runs on six innings with six strikeouts to pick up the win.
The Mets will finish their series with Johan Santana on the mound against Josh Johnson in what is sure to be a pitchers’ duel.
Johan shut down the Reds on Monday, allowing just one hit but giving up four walks in five innings of work.
He was 3-0 against the Marlins in 2008 with a 1.96 ERA and he is a perfect 5-0 against them lifetime.
Dan Uggla (1/14 with 8 Ks), Hanley Ramirez (2/12) and Jorge Cantu (5/23 with 8 Ks) have all struggled against Johan.
Johnson pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Nationals on
Tuesday, giving up seven hits while striking out eight and walking
none. Johnson was 2-0 with a 3.95 ERA
against last season.
Johnson has given the heart of the Mets lineup huge problems in the
past and David Wright, Carlos Belgado and Carlos Beltran are a combined
2/33. No active Met has hit a home run against Johnson either.