NEW YORK, NY—Here’s the scenario: The bases are loaded in a tie game. Fans are chanting, “We want Pedro!”
What does New York’s beleaguered manager Willie Randolph do? He calls on a pinch-hitter who last played in the major leagues almost nine years ago.
Talk about being on the hot seat.
That pinch-hitter, Robinson Cancel, helped make Pedro Martinez a winner in his home season debut by grounding a two-run single to give the Mets a 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday for a doubleheader split.
“I just felt like we had to take a crack at it,” Randolph said. “Cancel made me look good for a minute.”
Perhaps not good enough. After the game, Mets general manager Omar Minaya would not commit to repeated questions about Randolph’s job security saying, “These are our coaches today. They are our coaches. As the GM I leave myself room to evaluate things. I think we’re not playing to our potential. I always leave room to evaluate things.”
In the opener, Kevin Millwood pitched six solid innings, and Ramon Vazquez, Ian Kinsler and Milton Bradley homered in the Rangers’ 8-7 victory. It was Millwood’s first road win since last Father’s Day.
Billy Wagner ended his skid of three straight blown saves and David Wright had three hits for his first multihit game in two weeks for the Mets. Carlos Beltran followed up a homer and two RBIs in the first game with a run-scoring single as New York took two of three from Texas before heading for California.
The Mets are heading west for the second time in two weeks and Randolph said his bags were packed for the trip. But after returning from a 2-5 West Coast swing on Monday, including a four-game sweep by the lowly Padres, rumors intensified that Randolph could lose his job by the end of the series against Texas.
“We wanted to make the trip a little more pleasant,” Randolph said of the win. “I’m glad I’m going.”
He then quickly added, “Maybe I’m speaking a little too soon.”
Martinez was making his first start at Shea Stadium since Sept. 27 and the fans showed him their love with the chant when his turn came with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. But Martinez knew what the right decision was.
“I think that was my Father’s Day gift from the fans,” Martinez said. “I was laughing because that situation called for a pinch-hitter.”
Mets fans mercilessly booed the decision as Cancel walked to the plate for his second at-bat this season. But he quickly turned the crowd around by calmly grounding an 0-2 pitch up the middle for a two-run single and a 4-2 lead. The hit was Cancel’s first since Sept 21, 1999, for Milwaukee against Philadelphia, his only previous stint in the big leagues.
“It was just a great at-bat. I came through in a tough situation,” Cancel said. “It means a lot.”
Martinez (2-0) gave up six hits and two runs—one earned—in his third start since coming off the disabled list on June 3—fourth overall. His four strikeouts all ended innings and he showed his intense side, arguing with Marlon Byrd after Byrd took exception to Martinez’s deliberate pace after Byrd had called timeout on the pitch.
The Mets bullpen had a turnaround from the first game, when they gave up three runs and helped turn a 3-2 game into an 8-2 deficit.
Pedro Feliciano, who gave up a run and threw a crucial wild pitch in relief of John Maine in the opener, worked a clean seventh. Duaner Sanchez pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Billy Wagner, after entering to tepid applause, was perfect in the ninth for his 14th save in 19 chances.
“He doesn’t have the same velocity of course,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He did it with changeups, sliders and showing fastballs. But he’s as good a pitcher as he was.”
New York went ahead 4-2 in the sixth against Kason Gabbard, who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma earlier in the day. Gabbard gave up a single to Beltran and a double to Damion Easley and intentionally walked Fernando Tatis to load the bases before Cancel got his hit.
Gabbard (1-3) gave up eight hits and four runs in 5 2-3 innings.
In the opener, Millwood (5-3) improved to 3-0 in four starts since returning from a groin injury May 29. Other than allowing long homers to Carlos Delgado and Beltran, he kept the ball mostly in the infield with meek grounders. Millwood struck out five and walked four—one intentionally.
Millwood had lost a club-record 10 straight decisions on the road dating to June 17, 2007—Father’s Day.
“I’ve won more games on the road than just Father’s Day, just not lately,” said Millwood, who has 138 career wins.
C.J. Wilson gave up two runs in the ninth before getting Easley to fly to left with runners on first and second for his 13th save in 15 tries. It was a save situation because the Mets scored three times in the eighth to make it 8-5.
Maine (6-5) continued the recent run of solid outings by Mets starters, working into the seventh. He allowed five runs and seven hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.