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Byrdak remembers Justice denied

7/27/2011

Tim Byrdak now has four major league saves. They have come with four different teams. And they have spanned three decades: 1999 with the Kansas City Royals, 2005 with the Baltimore Orioles, 2007 with the Detroit Tigers and now Tuesday night as a Met.

“I was just telling (Pedro) Beato about that,” Byrdak said after the Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds, 8-6. “I remember my very first one. It was when they had all the big boppers with Cleveland. They had made a miraculous comeback. I came in to get David Justice. And I threw one backup breaking ball and he rolled it over to first base. One pitch and I got the save.”

Byrdak had been out of baseball in 2002 after being released by Cleveland that June. He was stocking shelves at a Target in Orland Park, Ill., overnight as bills mounted, his wife was pregnant and his career was in jeopardy as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

“It’s just gratifying,” Byrdak continued. “We’ve gone so far and grinded it out with the ups and downs of what went on through my own personal life and the injuries.”

What also was satisfying was striking out Jay Bruce for a second straight day. It was Bruce who had delivered a walk-off homer last Sept. 28 off Byrdak as the Reds clinched the National League Central. It was Byrdak’s final pitch as a Houston Astro.

“Yesterday was the satisfaction of waiting all that time to come back and try to get him out and stuff like that,” Byrdak said. “To do it two days in a row, it feels good.”

This time, Bruce represented the tying run, since Brandon Phillips was inherited on second base. Byrdak staggered his delivery from the previous night so that Bruce could not be too comfortable. Bruce is now 3-for-9 with two homers and two walks in his career against Byrdak.

“It’s always a chess match,” Byrdak said. “… A couple of times I didn’t even check the runner at second. I think on the last one I did and I gave him a pretty good long pause -- just to break up that rhythm.”

Terry Collins praised Beato, who would have been bidding for his first major league save had the manager not inserted Byrdak to face Bruce. Afterward, Collins encouraged reporters to speak with Jason Isringhausen, who was unavailable to pitch, about the advice he had given Beato earlier in the day.

That inquiry turned out to have a comical result.

“I never got around to it,” Isringhausen said. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

• Pitching in his native Ohio, Jon Niese cruised into the fifth inning with a 4-1 lead when things unraveled. Edgar Renteria had a two-run double and Joey Votto followed two pitches later with a two-run homer. Niese nonetheless notched his 10th win when Jason Pridie’s two-run double in the top of the sixth restored the lead at 6-5.

“Just lost command,” Niese said. “It felt good early, driving the ball down in the zone. That fifth inning I just lost all command. All the pitches were up.”

• If it looked like Justin Turner was jawing with Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez after Turner struck out to end the top of the sixth, that was a false impression. Turner was just marveling at flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, who came on to consecutively retire Lucas Duda, Jose Reyes and Turner.

Actually, Turner was wondering about pitch selection, too.

“The pitch before, he tried to throw a slider,” Turner said. “It backed up on him and I didn’t know what it was. I asked Ramon what it was, and he said it was supposed to be a slider. And I kind of just shook my head. And 3-2 he threw the slider, and he threw a good one. I turned around and told him, ‘That’s a slider.’ And he started laughing. I was like, ‘Why are you throwing me a 3-2 slider with Carlos (Beltran) on deck?’ And he just laughed and ran off the field."

• Pridie figures to return to the bench with Angel Pagan planning to return to the lineup Wednesday. Pridie was 2-for-5 on Tuesday night and 4-for-9 in 2½ games filling in for Pagan.

“It was tough, at first especially when I went into that bench role -- just getting used to not playing, and coming in here and there,” Pridie said. “It took me a little bit to learn myself and learn how I needed to stay ready.”