CINCINNATI (AP) -The bases were loaded, the small crowd was on its feet screaming, and the
New York Mets
were getting a familiar, haunting feeling.
For a few moments, it looked like 2008 all over again.
Instead of folding, the Mets pulled off a great escape on Wednesday night, making
's homer and four RBIs hold up for a 9-7 victory over the
that represented a clean break with their recent past.
''It wasn't pretty, it wasn't quick, but we got a win,'' Delgado said. ''You have to find a way to win. Good teams do that.''
The Mets couldn't do that last season. They failed to make the playoffs because of another September meltdown set up by their
bullpen, which led the NL with 16 blown saves after the All-Star break. They acquired closers J.J. Putz and
in the offseason, and felt awfully good when the two of them closed out a 2-1 win in the season opener.
That one came on a raw, 37-degree afternoon that made it tough on the hitters. With temperatures in the 50s on a clear evening
Wednesday, the offenses got going and the Mets found themselves sweating one out in the ninth.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with one out on a pair of walks and Delgado's error at first base. Rodriguez, who saved a record
62 games for the Angels last season, struck out
on a full-count fastball, then got
to fly out to the warning track in center field to end it.
smiled about this close call, thinking back to all those times it didn't end so well last year.
''I ain't going through that anymore,'' he said. ''I aged about 12 years last year.''
Delgado hit a two-run homer in the first off
(0-1), who had problems throwing strikes. The first baseman also drove in a run with a groundout, and singled home another
during a four-run seventh inning that made it 9-4.
's three-run double - the hit skipped past stumbling right fielder
- completed the seventh-inning rally and left the outcome in the hands of a bullpen that was nearly perfect in the opener.
This time, there were meltdown memories all around.
(1-0) left after five innings with a 5-4 lead. The Reds scored twice in the seventh off
, and made one final push against the Mets' closer tandem. Putz gave up a sacrifice fly by
in the eighth, cutting it to 9-7, and Rodriguez improved to 2-for-2 in save chances with New York by getting that final flyout.
When the ball left the bat, Manuel thought it might be out of the park. His new closer wasn't so worried.
''That ball sounded like he hit it at the end of the bat,'' Rodriguez said. ''I heard the sound. You know when a ball's going
to leave the park.''
had three hits for the Reds, including a three-run homer in the first off Pelfrey.
''It's frustrating, but I'm still very optimistic about our team,'' Votto said. ''As good as their bullpen is, we made it
uncomfortable for them at the end. We had some good at-bats. We just didn't get the big hit.''
Volquez, the Reds' top winner and only All-Star last season, had trouble with his control in his final spring training appearance,
and was wild again. He lasted only 4 1-3 innings, and needed 107 pitches to get that far. Last year, Volquez tied a major
league record by giving up no more than one earned run in each of his first eight starts.
''There was a lot of action out there,'' Reds manager
said. ''It was a weird night.''
worked in the outfield before the game, getting ready to play eventually. Sheffield, who was Detroit's DH, was released last
week and signed a one-year deal with the Mets. Manager
said he could play as soon as this weekend. ''We're just trying to get him into outfield shape more than anything else,''
Manuel said. ... Sheffield, who has 499 career homers, is available to pinch hit. He has one career pinch-hit homer, off former
on July 20, 1994, in Cincinnati. ... Reds CF
was out of the lineup for the second game because of an illness. He pinch hit and tripled off Putz in the eighth. ... Jerry
Hairston Jr. started in center for the Reds, but left the game an inning after he fouled a pitch off his lower left leg.