With the Mets nursing a one-run lead, two out and Ian Kennedy at first base in the sixth inning Friday, Jerry Manuel pulled Mike Pelfrey at 118 pitches and inserted southpaw Raul Valdes to face lefty-hitting Kelly Johnson.
Johnson then delivered a two-run homer off Valdes to snap the left-handed workhorse’s 10-inning scoreless streak.
Valdes ultimately faced four batters and never did record an out. His outing culminated with Miguel Montero belting a three-run homer as Arizona took a four-run lead en route to a 9-6 victory.
Valdes had retired Johnson in all three meetings in Arizona, twice via strikeout.
“That was truly a surprise, because I thought that was a tremendous matchup in our favor -- even going on the small bit of history that they had against each other,” Manuel said about the Johnson-Valdes matchup. “As I recollect, the couple of at-bats in Arizona it just looked like there was no chance that he would get a hit. But he gave up that home run. Obviously the home run to Montero was also huge. I think, for me, the most surprising thing tonight was that part of the game. That was very surprising.”
Valdes had been up in the bullpen multiple times before entering the game with Pelfrey on the ropes and his pitch count high, but Valdes dismissed that as a factor once he entered.
“It didn’t have anything to do with what I did on the mound,” Valdes said in Spanish, with teammate Alex Cora interpreting. “It’s part of it. Yes I got up, but it didn’t have to do with anything.”
Valdes suggested the difference on Friday night was a failure to keep the ball down in the zone.
“It’s been down the whole time the last few weeks,” he said. “It just happened that today I was up and I paid the price.”
All five runs in the sixth were unearned, at least with respect to the team totals. Kennedy had reached base with one out in the inning when shortstop Jose Reyes misplayed the pitcher’s routine grounder off Pelfrey.
“I have to make that play, because that’s a routine groundball,” Reyes said. “I always make that play. There’s nothing I really can do after. I have to make that play.”