After three miserable starts, Mets fans were all but taking a collection to buy Daisuke Matsuzaka a one-way ticket back to Japan. But the pledge drive is now on hold after Dice-K pitched extremely well on Sunday as the Mets salvaged the finale of their series with the Indians.
The Mets were facing rookie Danny Salazar, who is playing under a strict pitch count. So he just reared back and threw fastball after fastball, daring the Mets to hit it. Justin Turner finally did in the fourth inning, connecting for a long home run to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. It was Turner’s second home run of the season; both have come in this series.
Salazar was done after four innings and 80 pitches. He struck out eight Mets in his short outing.
Meantime Daisuke Matsuzaka was dealing. He held the Indians hitless through three innings but ran into some trouble in the sixth. With two outs he allowed a single and a walk. Jason Kubel then hit a rocket right back at Matsuzaka. He was able to get his arms up, the ball went through and hit him in the chest. It went for a single to load the bases. He seemed to be all right, but already at 103 pitches, Terry Collins pulled him. Vic Black came in and hit Asdrubal Cabrera in the leg to tie the game. Jason Giambi grounded out to end the inning.
So Dice-K’s finally numbers were the best he has put up in his four starts — 5.2 innings, one run, three hits, three walks and six strikeouts. He took a no decision.
The Mets blew a golden opportunity in the eighth. Eric Young led off with a walk. Daniel Murphy doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. With the infield playing in, Josh Satin hit a ground ball to short. Young had to hold and Satin was thrown out. Lucas Duda walked to load the bases. Old pal Joe Smith came in to face Turner and he struck him out for the second out. Juan Lagares hit a sharp grounder just to the left of first baseman Nick Swisher, but Swisher dove to snag it and beat Lagares to the bag for the third out.
Black walked Nick Swisher to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Collins called on Pedro Feliciano, who struck out the lefty Jason Kipnis. Feliciano was allowed to stay in to face the righty Carlos Santana; never a good idea. Santana singled to put runner on first and second. Collins finally came out with the hook and brought in Frank Francisco. Yes, that Frank Francisco, making his first appearance after spending the entire season rehabbing from a hang nail or something. And what a shock — Francisco walked Yan Gomes to load the bases with one out. But Francisco finally earned his $6.5 million salary by getting an inning-ending double play.
Matt den Dekker led off the top of the ninth with a single. Anthony Recker sacrificed him over to second. Omar Quintanilla struck out for the second out. But Young came through with a double to right to score den Dekker to give the Mets the lead, 2-1. Murphy was intentionally walked and Satin grounded out.
LaTroy Hawkins took the mound in the ninth to protect the one-run lead. Giambi led off with a bloop single down the left field line for the 2000th hit of his career. With one out Mike Aviles, who was pinch running for Giambi, was thrown out trying to steal second baser on a very close play. Aviles was tossed from the game for arguing. Hawkins then closed things out with a strikeout for his eighth save.
Frank Francisco is credited with the win (!) as the Mets win 2-1.