Pedro vs. Smoltz II misses mark

NEW YORK – So the reprise of Pedro Martinez vs. John Smoltz didn't exactly pan out like the original. So the real fireworks Tuesday were over in the Bronx, where Alex Rodriguez put a one-man wrecking crew on the Angels. <P> So what, Martinez would say.

"If you ask for more than we had that day, you're a little greedy," Martinez said. "Probably people expected a 1-0 game or 14 or 15 strikeouts again. Those things don't happen every day."

'That day' was April 10, the day the Mets finally put one in the 'Win' column with a 6-1 defeat of the Braves. That one came despite the fact Smoltz struck out 15 batters, proving he can still pitch innings one through eight, and not just the ninth.

April 10 was also the day that Martinez earned the first of his stripes for the Mets, telling the bullpen to take an afternoon off as he went all the way on a complete-game two-hitter.

Alas, April 10 was not Tuesday night, no matter how much an estimated walk-up crowd of 10,000 wanted it to be.

Some of the air was taken out of the Mets' sails in the first inning, with Atlanta plating three runs without the benefit of a hard-hit ball. Brian Jordan doubled in a run and Johnny Estrada followed with a soft bloop that plated a pair.

The Mets banged back in the fourth with a David Wright RBI single, cutting the lead to 3-1, but it wouldn't be enough to save Martinez (2-1) and his seven-inning effort (4 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 8 K) from his first loss of the year.

That's baseball, said Martinez. He – as always – preferred to look at the bigger picture.

"The results were not the ones I wanted, but I was pleased with the way everything went," Martinez said. "Especially knowing I'm healthy and able to make pitches to keep the team in the battle."

"That's how you're going to get to [Martinez] – get him early," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He still made the pitches when he had to make them. To me, he still looked good."

On a night when both Martinez and Smoltz were forced to blow on their hands after every pitch, that's about all you can ask. Shea Stadium in April can be an unforgiving place, with those old winds harassing pitchers the same way they used to bug the NFL field goal kickers.

"You could see from the fourth inning on, I actually quit trying to throw the ball," Martinez said. "It was too windy, and my breaking ball was breaking way much more than I wanted it to. So I sacrificed a little bit of velocity on every pitch and tried to make a better pitch.

"That's an adjustment you have to make. I saw Smoltz struggle all night, even though he had a great game and battled. It was really tough for him to pitch, too. I'm pretty sure he felt the same way."

The Mets made it interesting with a two-run rally in the ninth, making the night miserable for at least one pitcher – Atlanta closer Dan Kolb, who was pulled by Bobby Cox for the second time this year. Cliff Floyd will also likely toss and turn a little bit, having popped up against rookie John Foster with the winning run on third base.

But an epic pitching duel, this was not. Truth in advertising need not apply.

So, just like 'Caddyshack II' and 'Ghostbusters II' and all those other movie sequels that missed the mark, the night of April 26 will unfortunately be a forgettable experience for Mets fans.

"Just gotta strap it on and go do it again tomorrow," Wright said.

"It's not always going to be dazzling," Randolph said. "It's not always going to be an 'A' game."


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