Willie Randolph's in-Game Move Produced His and Pedro Martinez's First Mets Win

Harold FriendChief Writer IFebruary 20, 2012

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 08:  Pitcher Pedro Martinez #45 of the New York Mets throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park June 8, 2008 in San Diego, California. The Padres won 8-6. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In 2005, no team in the National League East finished below the .500 mark. The New York Mets finished tied for third place with the Florida Marlins. Each team won 83 games.

The Mets' ace was Pedro Martinez, who finished the season at 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA, a league-leading 0.949 WHIP and a 146 ERA+.

Martinez signed a $53 million, four-year deal in the offseason. He was the Mets' opening-day starter at Cincinnati but fared poorly, as the Reds torched him for three runs in the first inning on their way to a 7-6 win.

The Mets got Martinez off the hook when they tied the game 3-3 in the third inning. When the Mets scored three runs in the seventh inning, Pedro was in line for the win, but back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning by Adam Dunn and Joe Randa off Danny Graves gave the Reds the win.

The Mets lost their next four games to start the season at 0-5 under new manager Willie Randolph.  It was the first time since 1963 that the Mets started out the season by losing their first five games. In 1963, they lost their first eight games.

Facing John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves, Pedro showed everyone why the Mets signed him.

The two future Hall of Famers matched zeroes through three innings. The Braves broke through for a run in the fourth when Johnny Estrada doubled home Larry "Chipper" Jones.

After seven innings, Pedro had allowed only two hits and one run, but he was losing 1-0. Jose Reyes singled and Carlos Beltran hit a home run in the eighth inning, and that was the game. The Mets won, 6-1.

This time the bullpen couldn't mess it up, because Pedro went the distance. He struck out nine, walked one and allowed a pair of hits. Pedro retired the last 16 batters he faced as he recorded the 43rd complete game of his career.

Smoltz was overpowering in his second start of the season and his second start after leaving the closer's role he held for four seasons. He struck out 15 Mets before they finally reached him in the eighth inning.

In the seventh inning, with the Mets down 1-0, Martinez was the scheduled batter.  There were two down and Miguel Castro was on second after he singled and stole second.

The situation graphically illustrated why the pinch-hitter is a horrible rule. Randolph had to decide if he wanted to hit for Martinez and go to the bullpen or let him hit so he could pitch the eighth and possibly the ninth innings.

Most "experts" would have pinch-hit. Martinez hit a come-backer to Smoltz to end the inning.

Randolph's move paid off when the Mets rocked Smoltz in the eighth. It earned him his first win as Mets' manager.