A One-Hit Wonder

No Mets pitcher has ever thrown a perfect game or a no-hitter, which is fine. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it. <P> But considering the sheer amount of times that a Mets hurler has flirted with history, only to watch it go down the tubes at the hands of a Jimmy Qualls, a Benny DiStefano or, as we're calling Tom Glavine's newest symbol of kryptonite, Kit Pellow, it makes you wonder if there really is a Mets hex.

42 seasons of Mets baseball have come and gone, and 27 Mets hurlers have made it through 27 outs of a game, heading to the clubhouse just one hit away from the sport's most immortal moment.

The list ranges in character and historical impact from a Hall-of-Famer, Tom Seaver, to a possible Cooperstown inductee in Glavine. It moves on to include productive veterans like Jerry Koosman and Steve Trachsel, before allowing surprising names like Terry Leach and Pete Schourek to crash the party with their own one-hit wonders.

It must have been in the air Sunday at Shea, with another member of that Mets so-close club, Shawn Estes (4/26/02), toeing the rubber for the hapless Colorado Rockies. If there was ever a day to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, it might as well come against Colorado, a dismal road opponent at 6-14 fielding an ugly, battered lineup without studs Todd Helton, Larry Walker and Preston Wilson.

Jack Hamilton. Dwight Gooden. Glendon Rusch and – yikes – Armando Benitez.

Glavine cheated the odds Sunday. Shea was the place he'd struggled so mightily last season, battling a horrid outfield defense and the specter of the ill-concieved QuesTec umpire evaluation system.

But if QuesTec was running Sunday, home plate umpire Larry Vanover threw caution to the wind, giving Glavine a strike zone roughly the size of Flushing Bay through the first five innings. A crowd of over 37,000 filled the stands, there as much for a steamy 90-degree day and a cap day promotion as to see New York's 38-year-old lefthander pitch against the road-weary Rockies lineup.

Ron Darling and Roger McDowell. Gary Gentry. David Cone and Jeff Innis. Hey, couldn't Glavine – one of the premier southpaws of his generation – one-up these guys?

Once Glavine got through the fifth inning, 15 Rockies up and 15 Rockies down, any thoughts of cheap, freebie headwear had to be put aside. This was a chance at being there for a piece of history, and everyone in the ballpark knew it.

The perfect game eventually fell off the wagon leading off the seventh, when Vanover refused to ring up leadoff hitter Denny Hocking on a 2-2 pitch off the outside corner. Glavine's next pitch missed away, and Hocking trotted to first, erasing Glavine's bid at perfection.

The no-hitter continued on until the little-known Pellow, a 30-year-old utility player, connected with Glavine's 96th pitch of the afternoon and sent it soaring over right-fielder Shane Spencer's head. Spencer never had a chance, as that baseball was a collision course with the wall, spoiling Glavine's shot at immortality five outs away from the first no-hitter of his career.

The hex strikes again.

"You don't feel so bad when it's on a real hit," Glavine said. "It was a quality pitch and he beat me on it."

Glavine got the next five hitters in order to seal his complete game, one-hit shutout. Not an overpowering pitcher, he fanned an impressive eight and may have finally earned his stripes as a 'real Met.'

"Today was my best day as a Met," Glavine said.

And it was a nice moment, a great one to remember for years to come. But it sure could have been a whole lot sweeter.

Spelling relief: Glavine's one-hitter could pay dividends in the Mets' upcoming two-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies, which opens Tuesday night at Shea Stadium.

The Mets have been taxing their bullpen of late, as the last three starters – Jae Seo (5 IP on Thursday), Matt Ginter (5 IP on Friday) and Tyler Yates (4-1/3 IP on Saturday) – have failed to get the team into the sixth inning. Glavine's complete game gives each relief pitcher two days rest after Monday's off-day.


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