Glavine's gem gives Mets commanding 2-0 lead

NEW YORK -- Making his first postseason start as a Met, Tom Glavine found the uniform hugged him much like the Braves red-and-blue which wrapped the best of his previous 32 playoff appearances.

Glavine twirled six shutout innings against the Dodgers Thursday and further brightened the Mets' October dream.

"He was superb as usual," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He's a big-money pitcher, big-game pitcher. He's been in a real, real nice rhythm lately. Tommy stepped up again for us - big time."

Jose Reyes had two RBI, including one that was set up by 48-year-old Julio Franco busting it down the line to beat out a potential double play ball, and Billy Wagner finished off the ninth inning to help the Mets to a 4-1 victory and a commanding 2-0 series lead as the teams prepare to shift to the West Coast.

For Glavine, whose New York stay has been pockmarked with scares and struggles, returning to the postseason stage was ultimately a sweet experience.

"More than anything else, I want to enjoy it, you know?" Glavine said."I mean, I've waited a while to do it and gone through some tough times here in New York, personally. It's the kind of thing you try and persevere and find yourself in this position, which I obviously wanted to be in when I came to New York.

"For some reason, once I got to the ballpark and got in the clubhouse, everything just kind of fell into place. I felt extremely relaxed when I got out there on the field."

It showed, as Glavine limited the Dodgers to just four hits over six shutout innings, walking two and striking out two. On his way to his 13th postseason win, the third-most in major league history, Glavine did not allow a hit until Nomar Garciaparra broke up the string with a one-out single in the fourth inning.

Catcher Paul Lo Duca said he could tell early on that Glavine had his 'gem' stuff.

"He had unbelievable composure, made some great pitches when he had to," Lo Duca said. "He was throwing his changeups to both sides. He had a good breaking ball today. You name it, he had great stuff."

After Garciaparra's hit, Jeff Kent followed with a single, but that turned out to be Glavine's biggest challenge of the evening. The left-hander punched out J.D. Drew looking and induced Russell Martin to fly out harmlessly to center field, ending the inning.

"I'm proud of what I've accomplished," Glavine said. "I'm trying to live in the moment, and the moment right now is that we have a great team, we're trying to get ourselves to the next round. For me, it was a big opportunity to try and put us in a great position going out west. I just tried to take advantage of that opportunity."

Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman and Wagner polished off the final three innings, sealing the over Los Angeles and heading for the West Coast needing just one more win to advance to the NL Championship Series.

"A lot of us have never been to the World Series," Wagner said. "We have the opportunity to take advantage of it. ... Willie told us to be ready for anything. No lead is too big, no deficit too small. We have to be ready every night."

Challenged by left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, the Mets put up a better attack than they did Sept. 8, when Kuo won his big league debut against New York. New York got to Kuo for two runs in 4 1/3 innings, including chasing him with the bases loaded in the fifth before Lo Duca cracked a sacrifice fly.

"We knew we had to make things happen against Kuo," Randolph said. "He was tough again, but we kept battling with him and he got his pitch count up a little bit. We knew we had our work cut out for us. We just kept battling and playing and we were able to scratch out one of those typical Met wins for us."

The Mets added two unearned insurance runs in the sixth against Brett Tomko, with Julio Franco beating out a bases-loaded double play ball and Reyes smacking a single to center for his second RBI.

Pinch-hitting for Glavine, Franco kicked himself after chasing the first pitch, a pitcher's change-up, from Tomko, but he said he was at least pleased with half of the play.

If Franco was banged out at first base, the Mets would have been turned away empty; with his hustle, Cliff Floyd scored on the fielder's choice and Reyes cashed a fourth New York run.

"You're a hitter, but after you hit the ball, you're a runner," Franco said. "The one part, I didn't do so good. The other part, I was pleased with."

"He tends to have a little bit extra every once in a while," Randolph said.

Wilson Betemit slugged an eighth-inning home run off Heilman to account for the Dodgers' offense, but it wasn't much consolation for the Dodgers, who left New York in glum moods, forced to hope for another cross-country flight and a chance to play Game 5 back in New York.

"We've got to come out ready to win three in a row, that's all," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "That will be one of the first times in any of our lives we'll be looking forward to flying back here so shortly."

The Mets seemed determined not to let that happen, with their minds set upon finishing business at Chavez Ravine.

"We're confident, obviously," Glavine said. "We've taken care of our business here, have done what we've needed to do and give ourselves a 2-0 advantage going out west, which obviously you couldn't have asked for anything better.

"But it's important for us as a team to recognize that this thing is not over, and we have to keep plugging along."

As the Mets progress to the later rounds, Lo Duca said the constant theme questioning the team's starting pitching will remain unsettled, even despite the strong Game 1 and Game 2 starts from rookie John Maine and the veteran Glavine.

The spotlight now shifts to Steve Trachsel as a probable starter for Game 3 and to Oliver Perez for a potential Game 4, meaning the cycle of inquiries and second-guessing will start anew.

"I think the guys here, our pitching staff, are taking it as a challenge," Lo Duca said. "Maybe that's a blessing in disguise for this ballclub.

"I think a lot of us, we're the favorites, and if you turn on, you know, the tube before this series started, we were supposed to lose. So I think a lot of guys are taking pride in that, and really trying to focus on getting to the next series."

PRE-GAME CEREMONIES: Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, an Original Met who has been with the team since its 1962 inception, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The National Anthem was performed by Shawn King, the wife of veteran television and radio personality Larry King.

WHOOPS: Carlos Beltran tracked down Martin's fourth-inning fly ball and came up firing, throwing the ball in the general direction of third base. The fundamentals were good. The timing was not: Martin's drive made the third out of the inning.

NUMBERS: The Mets improved to 6-0 at home all-time during the NL Division Series ... they are 24-11 (.686) all-time in the postseason at Shea Stadium.

ALL WRIGHT NOW: Including a 12-game hitting streak to end the regular season, David Wright has now hit in 14 straight games. He is batting .364 (20-for-55) with nine RBI during that stretch.

ATTENDANCE: The Game 2 attendance was announced as 57,029, setting a Division Series record and breaking Wednesday's record of 56,979.

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