New York Mets reliever Raul Valdes, who couldn’t retire any of the 5 batters he faced in his last outing, fared slightly better tonight.Â Slightly.Â Pitching the bottom of the 11th inning of a 1-1 tie, Valdes allowed a lead off double to Tony Gwynn Jr.Â Then San Diego Padres starting pitcher John Garland came up as a pinch-hitter to bunt Gwynn over to third base.Â He bunted the ball sharply on the ground to Valdes who threw Gwynn out at third and as a Met fan you thought they might get out of the inning.Â But the next batter Jerry Hairston Jr. singled.Â Then the grittiest son-of-a-female-dog you’ve ever heard of, David Eckstein, got hit in the knee by a pitch to load the bases.Â After he showed how tough he was by eventually taking first base, the one-true Padre Adrian Gonzalez hit a walk-off grand slam giving the Padres a 5-1 11th inning victory and a win of the 3-game series.Â The Mets finished their 6-game road trip to Milwaukee and San Diego 2-4.
The Mets took the lead in the 4th inning.Â Jason Bay led off with a single, then with 1 out stole second base.Â David Wright singled to shallow right moving Bay to third.Â Jeff Francoeur then singled driving in Bay to make it 1-0 Mets.
Mets ace Johan Santana did not have his best stuff today, but he showed tremendous guts in working around 5 hits and a season high 5 walks, throwing a season high 123 pitches over 7 scoreless innings.Â He only allowed 1 base runner to reach third base.Â Hairston Jr. made it there with 1 out in the 1st inning, but Santana struck out Chase Headley, then got Nick Hundley to foul out ending what turned out to be San Diego’s biggest threat against him all game.
The New York Mets used 3 amigos in the 8th inning to preserve a 1-0 lead.Â Pedro Feliciano started the inning and allowed a lead off single to Headley.Â He was then replaced by Elmer Dessens who got Hundley to fly out to center field.Â The next batter, Scott Hairston, grounded sharply to third baseman David Wright who bobbled the ball momentarily, ending any chance he may have had of turning an inning-ending double play, instead firing to first base to get Hairston out as Headley moved into scoring position.Â At that point Mets manager Jerry Manuel made a double switch removing Francoeur, who had made the last out of the previous inning and Dessens, replacing them with Gary Matthews Jr. and closer Francisco Rodriguez.Â Rodriguez struck out Will Venable to end the Padres 8th inning threat.
Having finished the 8th Rodriguez came on to pitch the 9th and try to secure a four-out save.Â Tony Gwynn Jr. led off with a pinch-hit single and stole second base.Â Rodriguez then struck out pinch-hitter Matt Stairs and Hairston Jr. but couldn’t punch out grit king Eckstein who dribbled a 74-hop single up the middle scoring Gwynn with the tying run.Â Â Gonzalez then doubled down the left field line and Eckstein rounded third base heading for home as Bay retrieved the ball.Â He fired it to Wright who turned and threw a strike to Henry Blanco at home who tagged out Eckstein sending the game into extra innings.Â The Mets did not score in the top of the 10th then Rodriguez surprisingly emerged from the Mets dugout to pitch the bottom of the inning.Â He allowed a 2-out walk but then retired Venable on a grounder to end the 10th, finishing his gutty 46 pitch, 2 1/3 inning blown save.
Now a couple asides.
Good luck to Ken Griffey Jr. in retirement and thank you for all the great baseball memories.Â Despite the injuries that tarnished your career the Hall of Fame awaits you.
Kudos to Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga for not beating the crap out of first base umpire James Joyce, who with 2 outs in the 9th inning of a perfect game that Galarraga was pitching tonight made an at best questionable safe call on a play at first, ending Galarraga’s bid to throw the 3rd perfect game of this season and the 21st in the history of major league baseball.Â He retired the next batter on a ground out to win a 3-0 complete game shutout which is nice but doesn’t have the same ring to it that “perfect game” does.