By the sixth inning tonight, the Mets were celebrating their first and only run of the evening – a Kaz Matsui sacrifice fly – and Yates was discussing pitching strategy with Al Leiter on a leather couch in the clubhouse.
"We talked, pitcher to pitcher," said Yates, still looking for his first major-league win. "We talked about (my start) and I'll learn from it. Next time, I'll be better."
Yates' troubles began early. The weather didn't clear up until nearly an hour before the game's scheduled start time. Once things started rolling, the righthander needed 28 pitches to get through a sloppy first inning that featured two walks and an unearned run courtesy of a Mike Piazza error at first base.
"It wasn't the best conditions, especially in the first inning," manager Art Howe said. "It was raining pretty hard."
Clocking in the low 90s with his fastball, Yates set down the side 1-2-3 in the second, but came unraveled his second time around the Atlanta order.
Trapped in a hellish five-run third inning that saw seven of eight Atlanta hitters reach base, Yates said that he found himself relying far too much on his slider and not enough on his changeup, which allowed Braves hitters to time his fastball and pelt the rookie with a flurry of hard-hit balls.
DeWayne Wise led off the inning with his first National League triple, a gapper to right-center, and Mark DeRosa, Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche each followed with singles to stake the Braves to a 3-0 advantage.
Andruw Jones continued the attack by doubling in a run off of the left field wall. Yates then hit Johnny Estrada, allowed a sacrifice fly to Eli Marrero and gave up a single to shortstop Jesse Garcia before finally heading to the dugout.
"It was long," Yates said of the inning. "I kept trying to make adjustments and kept asking my catcher (Jason Phillips), ‘Where was that pitch?'"
Yates – who flew his mother, father and uncle to New York from Hawaii for this start -- will no doubt have a restless night ahead of him. He vows that he'll wash away any regrets with his morning shower.
"I'll think about it for a little while longer, but tomorrow when I come to the park it's time to shake it off," he said.
Art Howe was impressed
with the effort put forth by former Met John Thomson, who held the Mets to one run on seven hits through eight innings, striking out seven.
"He pitched a real solid game," Howe said. "He threw strikes with all of his pitches and was really getting ahead (of hitters)."
Thomson – who was acquired by the Mets in July 2002 from the Rockies for Jay Payton and unceremoniously released after the season – probably could have gone for a complete game with a five-run lead (he had thrown 94 pitches through eight innings), but manager Bobby Cox gave the ball to Chris Reitsma for the ninth inning.
Jae Seo looked strong
in relief, making his second appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk.
"Once I got into the game, I was able to find my rhythm and get into a nice flow," said Seo, who held the Braves to one hit over 2-2/3 innings.
Pitching coach Rick Peterson helped Seo late in spring training to make adjustments to his mechanics, and the righthander believes they are paying dividends.
Seo added a little more step to the early part of his delivery and improved the follow-through portion of his motion, and says he added movement and "a little more pop on all of my pitches."
Tomorrow vs. ATL: LHP Horacio Ramirez (0-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Al Leiter (0-0, 0.00)
Friday vs. PIT: RHP Kip Wells (1-1, 1.50) vs. LHP Tom Glavine (2-0, 1.38)
Saturday vs. PIT: LHP Odalis Perez (1-0, 5.40) vs. RHP Steve Trachsel (1-1, 9.00)
Sunday vs. PIT: RHP Kris Brown (1-0, 2.45) vs. RHP Jae Seo (0-1, 1.93)