The New York Mets defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-4 in the opener of a three-game series between the clubs.
Johan Santana was credited with the win, improving to 2-2 on the season. Billy Wagner notched his third save of the season, pitching a scoreless ninth.
Cole Hamels took the loss and fell to 2-2, though he pitched better than his line would indicate.
This game was billed as a match up of aces, and for seven innings it proved to be exactly that.
In the eighth, however, both starters began to falter and were lifted before retiring a batter. Both starters allowed four earned runs in seven plus innings of work.
The game turned into a battle of the bullpens, and the Mets won that match up. Romero came on with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth, and allowed all three inherited runners to score.
After retiring Carlos Delgado on a ground ball to Ryan Howard, Romero allowed a double to Angel Pagan and a single to Brian Schneider to give the Mets an insurmountable 5-2 lead at the time.
Aaron Heilman came on behind Santana in the eighth with two runners on and no outs, and also allowed both his inherited runners to score. Greg Dobbs was brought off the bench to pinch hit, and he launched a three-run homer to right field that cut the Mets lead to one run at 5-4.
That was as close as the Phillies would come, though.
The Mets would add another run on a Delgado sacrifice fly that plated Ryan Church against Brad Lidge to seal the 6-4 victory.
The Mets bullpen pitched better than the Phillies bullpen and the result reflected that fact. Neither Santana nor Hamels did anything to win or lose this game for their clubs.
Rather, the bullpens showed why they are such an integral part of today’s game, as they are literally able to mold outcomes based on one pitch.
Charlie Manuel deserves credit for using Dobbs to pinch hit in the eighth inning. Manuel initially chose to have Chris Coste pinch hit, but once Coste was announced, Willie Randolph brought Aaron Heilman into the game.
Manuel sensed an opportunity to cut the Mets lead and give his team a chance to win, and he seized it. The move, though, required Manuel to use two players off his bench, including his backup catcher, in a game where his bench was already short due to Jimmy Rollins’ leaving the team to attend a family funeral in California.
Manuel was undeterred and made the move that gave his team the chance to win, and it worked. Dobbs hit the three run home run Manuel was looking for to cut the lead to one run.
Unfortunately, the Phils were unable to finish the job and complete the comeback, but that doesn’t mean this display of managerial gumption should go unnoticed or uncelebrated.