Bannister sweats, but gets it done

Willie Randolph called Brian Bannister's latest performance a "Houdini act," and perhaps the rookie Mets hurler has a little magic in him.

Bannister found himself in grave danger early Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers, filling the bases in both the second and third innings, only to escape unscathed.

It set the tone, as the 25-year-old right-hander picked up his second Major League victory in a 9-3 New York rout.

"That's winning ugly and just staying alive out there," Bannister said with a smile.

Bannister's command overall wasn't great, as he walked five – his highest total in a game since his Triple-A debut last summer – but he was able to make quality pitches when it counted.

In the first inning, Bannister allowed a one-out single to J.J. Hardy and issued a two-out walk to Carlos Lee – as he revealed later, part of the Mets' plan against the hot-hitting Lee, who was held hitless Sunday and had just two hits in the three-game series.

"We were not going to get beat by Carlos Lee," Bannister said. "That's part of the game plan. It might look like a lack of control, but I'm going to make a quality pitch down in the zone. If I walk him, I walk him."

Allowing Milwaukee to fill the bases in the next two innings, only to work out of it without a run scoring, admittedly was not part of the ideal situation.

But Bannister has shown a knack for walking a high-wire early in his time with the Mets, including his final Spring Training contest against the Astros where Bannister escaped a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation with no runs crossing the plate.

He replicated the feat Sunday. After Bill Hall doubled, Bannister walked Prince Fielder and Damian Miller to load the bases, only to strike out Ben Sheets and Greg Gross with good pitches low in the strike zone.

Finally able to work higher in the zone with two outs, Bannister then induced Hardy to lift a harmless fly ball to center field, ending the inning.

"It's funny," Bannister said. "When you get into situations like that, for some reason, it shouldn't be that way, but hitters feel a lot of pressure.

"You know they're in attack mode, you know they want to get the game-winning hit and hit a home run. It's almost as though the strike zone expands a little bit."

Though Bannister also escaped a bases-loaded situation in the third inning Sunday, striking out Fielder and getting Miller to sky to center for the final out, the workload quickly escalated his pitch count and Bannister left after five innings and 112 pitches.

"For any young guy, I think it's something you just have to adapt to," Bannister said. "For veteran pitchers, who have been through it before, they've been through it and they have ways to overcome those small little obstacles.

"They're all just little tests you have to pass as a young pitcher and a young player before you have success in this league."

It was enough, though, as the Mets rapped Sheets for four runs in five innings and beat up on Milwaukee's bullpen for the victory.

For Bannister, that meant big league win No. 2 – even if it came in the fashion of Floyd Bannister's 1983 White Sox, who made 'winning ugly' a daily proposition – and a growing confidence that the right-hander is with the club for good.

Still, the pace of big league life proves dizzying for Bannister at times, even though he exhibits a cool, collected demeanor that screams "he belongs." There are no bases-loaded situations away from the mound.

"You've got guys relying on you and an entire organization relying on you," Bannister said. "You try not to think about it out there.

"It comes with time; it's something a new guy has to get over, that nervousness. It'll come with time."


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