Jordany Valdespin delivered a pinch-hit three-run homer in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon and the Mets beat the Phillies, 5-2, in Monday's series opener at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets also had received a big contribution from Tim Byrdak, who struck out Erik Kratz to strand the go-ahead run at third base in the bottom of the eighth. Roy Halladay was working on a one-hit shutout entering the sixth, when David Wright delivered a two-run double to even the score at 2. Halladay departed after seven innings with his pitch count at 107.
Papelbon, who served up the infamous 2009 pinch-hit homer to Omir Santos at Fenway Park, had held opponents hitless in the past 20 at-bats against him before Mike Nickeas' two-out double in the ninth advanced Ike Davis, who had walked, to third base and set up Valdespin's heroics.
It was Valdespin's first major league hit. Nickeas had replaced Josh Thole behind the plate a half-inning earlier, after Thole received a jolt to the head from ex-Met Ty Wigginton on a play at the plate.
"He had that feel like he was going to finish this one out," Wright said about Halladay, whose streak of wins in eight straight starts against the Mets was snapped. "We weren't able to do much against him. ... He was really dominant tonight. We were fortunate to get those two and then get him out of the game. And then to get a few off Pap, you're going from one of the best starters in the game to one of the best closers in the game. Any time you can win a game like that, that's special."
Said Terry Collins about a jubilant clubhouse that cheered SportsCenter highlights of the game afterward: "They are fired up. These guys, they realize no one expects anything from us. To come back against Roy and tie the game up, and then to finish the game with two guys that weren't even in the game at the beginning with huge hits (Valdespin and Nickeas), it was a great win for us."
Tuesday's news reports:
• Wigginton, who has a reputation dating to his Mets days for taking out catchers on plate collisions, nailed Thole with his left shoulder in the bottom of the eighth. Thole held onto the ball for the second out to preserve a 2-all score, but was forced to leave the game complaining of dizziness. The Mets did not firmly announce postgame that Thole had a concussion, but that seemed the likelihood. Thole appears headed for a newly created seven-day DL available for concussed players. The Mets planned to bring Rob Johnson or Lucas May from Triple-A Buffalo to Philadelphia, according to assistant GM John Ricco. Vinny Rottino has catching experience, but he exclusively played left field with the Bisons this season before a promotion and is viewed more as an emergency third catcher than a potential starter behind the plate. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Post and Newsday.
• Before Monday's opener, shortstop Ruben Tejada landed on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain. That paved the way for Valdespin to be activated for Monday's long ball. Justin Turner made his first major league start at shortstop Monday, but Valdespin will be assigned there Tuesday. Valdespin, a middle infielder, only appeared at shortstop in one game at Buffalo this season because he was getting a crash course in center field. Overall, though, he has played 146 minor league games at shortstop, trailing only second base (210 games) for most duty. Read more in the Post, Journal, Star-Ledger, Times and Newsday.
• Valdespin became the first player with a pinch-hit homer for his first major league hit since Cincinnati's Juan Francisco in the ninth inning on Sept. 18, 2009 against the Marlins. Writes columnist Jeff Bradley in the Star-Ledger:
All around the Mets clubhouse, his teammates’ eyes were on Valdespin. There were smiles everywhere. A comeback against Halladay. A two-out rally against Papelbon. And a game-winning bomb from a kid who’d never hit safely in a big league uniform. “You’ve got to battle,” said Collins. “You’ve got to scratch. I came into this organization two years ago, and we were being criticized for not having a very good minor league system. When we put out a lineup last week with all homegrown players we didn’t do it for publicity. We did it because we think they’re good enough to be up here. And Jordany Valdespin is another sign. He’s done his time. It’s time for him to play in the big leagues.” Who knows where it goes from here. But on a night like this, could you blame Collins for believing maybe his team had done something more than just win Game 29 of 162?
• Jon Niese allowed two runs and was pulled with his pitch count at 101 after five innings. He walked four Phillies. "It was just one of those things where they worked the count real well and made me throw a lot of pitches," Niese said. "All of my pitches were moving a lot more than really normal. I don't know the reason for it. But I had a tougher time with my control today."
• Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels was suspended five games by Major League Baseball for plunking Nats rookie Bryce Harper on Sunday night. The suspension won't affect the Phillies since Halladay can pitch on standard rest Saturday while Hamels waits until the following day. Philadelphia had an eventful 24-hour news cycle, with Nats GM Mike Rizzo taking aim and Hamels and the Phillies, calling the southpaw "gutless," "classless," and "fake tough" in The Washington Post. Said Rizzo to the newspaper: "I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless chicken [bleep] act in my 30 years in baseball. Cole Hamels says he’s old school? He’s the polar opposite of old school. He’s fake tough. He thinks he’s going to intimidate us after hitting our 19-year-old rookie who’s eight games into the big leagues? He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.”
"Things that happen in the game happen in the game," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told the Philadelphia Daily News on Monday. "That's part of the game. But as far as how the Phillies want to conduct themselves, we like to try to take the high road on things like this. By no means are we condoning trying to be injurious."
Hamels' admission of intentionally hitting Harper came shortly after Chipper Jones took verbal aim at Jamie Moyer and his former club, the Phillies, for allegedly stealing signs -- in response to Moyer accusing Jones and the Braves of that activity.
Said Collins on Monday: "No. 1, things aren't very secretive anymore. There's so many different manners of the way news is spread today that it's tough to keep a secret. I was surprised Cole said what he said. I was a little taken aback that Chipper said what he said publicly."
Collins acknowledged, though, that initiating rookies routinely happened back in the day.
"No doubt," Collins said. "For years, the young players, one of the things those veteran pitchers used to do is knock you on your butt to find out how you were going to respond. Veteran umpires used to ring you up on pitches off the plate to see how you were going to respond, what kind of reaction they're going to get out of you. Are you going to be a pro and walk away? Are you going to raise hell? Everybody wants to feel you out a little bit. And if that was Cole's thing, that is what they did years ago. But I haven't seen it in a while. It may have happened. I just haven't noticed it."
The Phillies-Nats rivalry is getting heated on multiple fronts. Nats outfielder/ex-Phil Jayson Werth, who broke a wrist in Sunday night's game, said Phillies fans taunted him as he left the field. Werth sent an email to The Washington Post that read: “After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again.”
• Right-hander Jacob deGrom, a ninth-round pick in 2010 out of Stetson University, retired 20 of 21 batters he faced in his debut with Class A Savannah as the Gnats beat Lakewood, 5-0. Read Monday's full minor league rehab here.
• Guillermo Mota, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Mets last month in two appearances with the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field, was suspended 100 games by MLB for another positive test for a performance-enhancing substance -- this time Clenbuterol, according to MLB. Mota had a 50-game suspension imposed for a positive test while with the Mets, yet the organization signed him to a two-year, $5 million deal at the time anyway that was backloaded to minimize the amount of dollars Mota had to forfeit while serving the ban. Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
• Johan Santana offers a positive review of his season performance thus far to Wayne Coffey in the Daily News. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give myself a 7,” Santana told Coffey. “I still have some way to go, things to work on. That’s okay. For me the biggest thing is staying healthy, because I know if I’m healthy, I can compete, because that’s what I’ve done my whole career.”
TRIVIA: Miguel Batista, 41, starts Tuesday for the Mets. Who is the oldest player to ever throw a regular-season pitch for the organization?
Monday's answer: Brett Myers was the first Phillies pitcher to allow a homer to Wright in the third baseman's career. Actually, Myers served up the first two homers Wright hit against Philadelphia -- five days apart in September 2004. Myers is now the closer for the Houston Astros.