Tarasco Sauce Gives Rookie's First Win Great Taste

Rookie pitcher Michael Bacsik could barely watch Armando Benitez try to close out his first major league victory, ducking his head on nearly every pitch. Benitez got the dangerous Cliff Floyd looking to end the game and Bacsik jumped up from the bench, a broad grin across his face, because the Mets had beaten the Marlins 5-3 on a cool Friday night. The victory came courtesy of a Tony Tarasco pinch-hit home run and a couple of wild pitches by Marlins starter A.J. Burnett.

Roberto Alomar doubled, starting off what turned out to be a very unusual first inning for both teams. Edgardo Alfonzo, who had been beaned the night before and had left that game with dizziness, singled to short left, with Alomar advancing to third. Burnett then seemed to get focused, striking out both Mo Vaughn and Mike Piazza, and should have been out of the inning when he struck out Timo Perez, who flailed at a ball in the dirt. The ball got past Marlins catcher Mike Redmond though, and Alomar was able to score while Perez scampered to first. 1-0 Mets. Jay Payton then lined a single to left and Alfonzo took advantage of Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd's weak arm to score and make it 2-0. Burnett then struck out Roger Cedeno to have a rare four strikeouts in one inning. It was actually the first four-strikeout inning in the majors this year.

Bacsik, making his first major league start in place of Steve Trachsel, who is on the disabled list, had a rough first inning himself. He gave up a long double to leadoff hitter Luis Castillo. Preston Wilson then bunted, strange for a power hitter, and moved Castillo over to third. After Mike Lowell walked, Castillo scored when Piazza couldn't locate a Bacsik pitch and had it nick off his glove and had it roll to the backstop. Bacsik got Cliff Floyd to pop up for the second out, but then Derrek Lee singled to score Lowell and tie the game.

After that, both pitchers settled into a rhythm, until Burnett's control problems came back to plague him in the sixth. He walked Alfonzo to start off the inning. It was the first Mets baserunner since the first. It was also Burnett's first walk of the game. He then walked Piazza, but recovered to strike out Vaughn for the third time in the game. Perez grounded out to first, and Piazza and Alfonzo advanced a base each. With Payton batting, Burnett bounced a curveball that ricocheted off of Redmond, allowing Alfonzo to score to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.

Both pitchers were out of the game by the seventh, and the Mets were especially glad to see Burnett leave. Blaine Neal was the Marlins new pitcher. Ordonez promptly reached first on a error by Fox. Tarasco then pinch-hit for Cedeno,and it was an ideal sacrifice situation-runner on first with no outs. Mets manager had other ideas and let Tarasco swing away. Tarasco rewarded him by hammering Neal's third pitch over the right field fence to give the Mets a 5-2 lead.

David Weathers pitched both the sixth and the seventh, and then gave way to Scott Strickland in the eighth. Strickland, who has struggled of late, continued with his travails, giving up a leadoff home run to Lee to make it 5-3. He then loaded the bases before getting Castillo to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Benitez pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 20th save of the season.

Notes

-The struggling Jeromy Burnitz was given the night off. He didn't come into the game at all.

-Joe McEwing, who has not gotten a hit since May 25, saw his streak continue with a pinch-hit strikeout.

-Saturday's starters will be Shawn Estes (3-6, 4.68 E.R.A.) and Michael Tejera (4-1, 2.93 E.R.A.)



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