Disappointment Prevails, Cards Win 7-6

It was meant to be an afternoon of imported aces, former Expo and Red Sox ace Pedro against former A's ace Mark Mulder. It was meant to be a pitcher's duel, a nail-biter, the kind of arm action Shea Stadium hadn't seen since Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS, Gooden against Nolan Ryan.

But yesterday's fizzling drama was not a pitcher's duel at all. In his first start against the Cardinals since Game 3 of the World Series, Pedro was not vintage Pedro (88 pitches over 6 innings for four earned runs and meagre four strikeouts and two two-run homers surrendered) that had the Mets in a 5-2 hole by the time he was finished. And unlike his last start against the Brewers, this time Piazza was on the bench where he belonged and "unofficially designated" catcher Ramon Castro was behind the plate so there was no official doorstep on which place the blame.

Then again, neither was Mark Mulder anything exciting as he too was sandblasted on the mound, giving up 10 hits and 6 earned runs in five short innings of work that needed 103 pitches, only 68 of which were strikes.

When the Mets were rallied by a bases-loaded triple by Kaz Matsui to tie the game and then the pinch-hitting Victor Diaz singled Matsui home to give the Mets a 6-5 lead with none out, it was beginning to feel giddy, as though they were capable perhaps of even sweeping the Cards at home.

But instead of building on the lead, going for the jugular with 4 runs in, runners on the corners with no outs and the middle of the batting order coming up, the rally fizzled when Jose Reyes was thrown out at second trying to steal to make up for getting caught up in the old fake-to-third-throw-to-first head game. Shortly thereafter, Miquel Cairo fouled out and Carlos Beltran grounded out and zippo, there went the Met chance to break it open.

Instead, the bullpen was given the fragile one run lead and the difference between yesterday's game and most others was Roberto Hernandez, who has been perhaps the most consistent reliever in the pen, earned his first blown save and his first loss of the season after allowing a walk to Abraham Nunez, a bloop single to Pujols who Floyd was playing practically at the warning track out of fear and then Jim Edmonds, whom Hernandez struck out with the tying runs on in the eighth inning Friday night to help preserve Tom Glavine's 2-0 victory, followed with a soft double that landed fair down the right-field line to score Nunez with the tying run.

Prior to that, Hernandez had had 8 straight outings and 9 1/2 innings without giving up a run and you figure unless you're Mike Piazza, everyone's going to have a bad day once in awhile (in Piazza's case of course, most days he's safest watching from the bench) - what you expect from a team with title aspirations is that when a steady reliever like Hernandez blows one, someone else does a number at the plate and redeems them all to win the game.

Not so this time out. With former Met Jason Isringhausen making his save-opportunity debut fresh off the DL, struck out Mike Cameron with two on and two out in the bottom of the 9th to earn his 8th save of the season.


If you're one of those who still miss him, Bobby V is do A-Ok Joe in Japan.

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