New York Mets: Gerald Laird

Series preview: Mets vs. Braves

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsTommy La Stella, a native of Closter, N.J., has taken over at second base for the Braves.
METS (39-49, fourth place/NL East) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (49-39, first place/NL East)

Monday: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 3.72) vs. LHP Mike Minor (2-5, 4.73), 7:10 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Jacob deGrom (1-5, 3.77) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (8-5, 2.29), 7:10 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Dillon Gee (3-1, 2.73) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (7-5, 3.93), 7:10 p.m. ET

Thursday: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-7, 4.04) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (8-6, 3.67), 7:10 p.m. ET

Braves short hops

• With a 3-1 victory Sunday at Turner Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks snapped Atlanta’s season-high nine-game winning streak. The Braves had been bidding for their third straight series sweep, after winning four straight at Philadelphia and then three games against the Mets at Turner Field. The bullpen allowed one earned run in 22 2/3 innings during the winning streak.

Gerald Laird returned to the starting lineup Friday after missing last week’s Mets series to rest a strained right oblique. Christian Bethancourt handled the catching duties against the Mets and figures to continue to get the bulk of the starts, even with Laird now available. The rookie has performed solidly since his call-up nine days ago, hitting .292.

No. 1 catcher Evan Gattis (.290, 16 HR, 39 RBIs) landed on the DL on June 29 with a bulging disk in his back. He subsequently received an epidural injection and remains sidelined. Gattis continues to experience tightness.

Alex Brandon/Associated PressJason Heyward was ESPN's Defensive Player of the Month for June.

• Right fielder Jason Heyward received ESPN’s Defensive Player of the Month Award for June. He tied for the major league lead with eight defensive runs saved during the month. Heyward is hitting .125 (6-for-48) with no homers, three RBIs and 10 walks in his last 15 games (14 starts). Heyward nonetheless has reached base safely in 48 of 54 games since May 9.

• Center fielder B.J. Upton had a career-high 11-game hitting streak snapped Sunday. The hitting streak coincided with becoming the team’s leadoff hitter.

• Reigning NL Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons was installed in the No. 2 spot in the batting order beginning June 27. He is hitting .340 (17-for-50) in 12 starts in that slot.

• Right-hander Julio Teheran, first baseman Freddie Freeman and closer Craig Kimbrel will represent Atlanta in the July 15 All-Star Game at Minnesota. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been selected to serve on NL manager Mike Matheny’s staff.

Freeman has played all but two innings for the Braves this season.

Kimbrel struck out all three batters he faced in recording last Tuesday’s save against the Mets. It marked the fifth time this season and 24th time in Kimbrel’s career that he faced at least three batters in an appearance and struck out each one. Kimbrel has struck out 43 percent of the batters he has faced in his career, the highest percentage in major league history among relievers with at least 150 saves. Billy Wagner ranks second at 33 percent.

Kimbrel’s 89.7 career save percentage (166-for-185) ranks third all time among relievers with at least 150 chances, trailing only Eric Gagne (91.7 percent) and John Smoltz (91.1).

• The Braves are the youngest team in the National League. Their average age on Opening Day was 27 years, 255 days.

Dan Uggla (.163, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 39 Ks in 129 at-bats) has been relegated to the bench. He has started only two games since May 23. Uggla is earning $13 million this season. He also is under contract for 2015 at $13 million.

Rookie Tommy La Stella -- a Closter, N.J., native and product of St. Joseph High School in Montvale -- has taken over the position. La Stella, 25, got off to a quick start. He then became mired in an 0-for-23 skid until rebounding.

La Stella (.294) had been installed as the leadoff hitter beginning June 18, but he subsequently was moved to No. 2 and then No. 7. He has three straight multi-hit games. La Stella spent his freshman year of college playing at St. John’s before transferring to Coastal Carolina.

• Right-handed reliever David Carpenter was activated from the DL on Wednesday. He had landed on the DL on June 17 with a strained biceps. Ex-Mets reliever Pedro Beato, who had been promoted to replace Carpenter, landed on the DL two days later with a right elbow strain.

Mike Minor is 0-2 with a 4.46 ERA in his last eight starts. He allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Mets last week.

Series preview: Mets at Braves

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29

Getty ImagesThe Mets face Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran during their upcoming series in Atlanta.
METS (37-45, fourth place/NL East) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (44-38, first place/NL East)

Monday: RHP Zack Wheeler (3-8, 4.45) vs. LHP Alex Wood (6-6, 3.07), 7:10 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2, 3.23) vs. LHP Mike Minor (2-5, 4.50), 7:10 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Jacob deGrom (1-4, 3.62) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (7-5, 2.34), 7:10 p.m. ET

Braves short hops

Alex Wood was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett and reentered the rotation Wednesday. He tossed seven scoreless innings at Houston in his first major league start since May 4. Wood replaced Gavin Floyd, who fractured the olecranon (funny bone) in his pitching elbow throwing a curveball. Mets doctor David Altchek performed season-ending surgery Wednesday in New York. Wood had opened the season in Atlanta’s rotation, but was shifted to the bullpen once Floyd returned from Tommy John surgery in early May.

Evan Gattis was forced to depart Friday’s game and since has been sidelined with a muscle issue in his upper back. Gattis, who had a career-high 20-game hitting streak snapped a week ago, hopes to avoid the disabled list. He has 16 homers, most among MLB catchers and tied with teammate Justin Upton for fifth overall in the National League.

Atlanta promoted top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt as a hedge, so the Braves would not be overly reliant on Gerald Laird. Ryan Doumit also has catching experience, but has started only two games behind the plate this season, both in early April.

Bethancourt had one plate appearance last Sept. 29, in his lone previous major league action. He got his first career start and action behind the plate in Game 2 of a doubleheader Saturday at Philadelphia. The 22-year-old Panamanian went 1-for-4. He has been selected to participate in his third Futures Game, at Minnesota on July 13.

Dan Uggla (.164, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 38 Ks in 128 at-bats) has been relegated to the bench because of profound struggles. He has started only two games since May 23. Uggla is earning $13 million this season. He also is under contract for 2015 at $13 million.

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsNew Jersey native Tommy La Stella has overtaken Dan Uggla as the Braves' second baseman.

After brief use of Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena at second base, rookie Tommy La Stella -- a Closter, N.J., native and product of St. Joseph High School in Montvale -- has taken over the position. La Stella, 25, got off to a quick start, but had been mired in an 0-for-23 skid until delivering a three-run triple in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader.

La Stella (.278) had been installed as the leadoff hitter beginning June 18, but he subsequently was moved to No. 2. Beginning this past weekend, he shifted to seventh. La Stella spent his freshman year of college playing at St. John’s before transferring to Coastal Carolina.

• First baseman Freddie Freeman has started every Braves game this season. The only other National League players to start all their teams’ games in 2014 are the Cubs’ Starlin Castro and Giants’ Hunter Pence. Freeman actually had logged every inning until he was hit by a pitch in the elbow in the eighth inning Wednesday by Houston’s Darin Downs and departed that game.

In his last 15 games, Freeman is hitting .371 (23-for-62) with nine extra-base hits and seven multi-hit games.

• Right fielder Jason Heyward’s six outfield assists are tied for the NL lead.

• The Braves will move into a new home ballpark beginning with the 2017 season. The site is located in Cobb County, in an affluent area north of Atlanta. The Braves have called Turner Field home since 1997, the year after the stadium hosted the Olympics.

B.J. Upton and Justin Upton both homered Tuesday. It marked the fourth time the brothers went deep in the same game, which tied the major league record. Jason Giambi and Jeremy Giambi as well as Vladimir Guerrero and Wilton Guerrero also homered in the same game four times.

Andrelton Simmons, the reigning NL Gold Glove winner at shortstop, is the third-toughest player in the NL to strike out.

• Closer Craig Kimbrel has four blown saves this season, matching last season’s total and already exceeding the three he suffered in 2012. Kimbrel’s 89.6 career save percentage nonetheless ranks third all time among MLB relievers with at least 150 chances, trailing only Eric Gagne (91.7 percent) and John Smoltz (91.1 percent). Kimbrel’s 155th save came on June 6 and set the Braves franchise record for career saves, passing Smoltz.

• Right-handed reliever David Carpenter has started a rehab assignment. He landed on the DL on June 17 with a strained biceps. Ex-Mets reliever Pedro Beato, who had been promoted to replace Carpenter, landed on the DL two days later with a right elbow strain.

• Manager Fredi Gonzalez will serve as a coach on Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s NL All-Star staff.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 5, Braves 2

September, 4, 2013

ATLANTA -- Dillon Gee continued his surge. The Mets salvaged the series finale.

Gee limited Atlanta to one run and four hits in seven innings to earn his team-leading 11th win and Andrew Brown and Lucas Duda homered as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 5-2, Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field.

The Braves won the season series, 10-9. But the Mets fared well compared with their NL East brethren. Atlanta is 30-13 against the division’s other three teams.

With Atlanta in control of the division, the Braves skipped Julio Teheran to conserve his innings count and instead gave journeyman Kameron Loe his first major league start since 2007 with the Texas Rangers.

Loe surrendered a first-inning two-run homer to Brown. Duda then led off what became a three-run third with his first major league homer since June 12, before a disabled-list trip and demotion.

In 4 1/3 innings, Loe ultimately surrendered 11 hits, the most by a pitcher against the Mets this season.

Brown twice stranded the bases loaded after his homer, but Gee did not need the additional support.

After left fielder Eric Young Jr. dropped a fly ball, Gee overcame two runners in scoring position with one out in the first inning by consecutively striking out Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird. Gee then cruised into the fifth, when he surrendered consecutive singles to Dan Uggla and Paul Janish and eventually a sacrifice fly to B.J. Upton that pulled the Braves within 5-1.

Gee’s final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. He threw 101 pitches (77 strikes).

Gee has completed six innings in a career-high 13 straight starts. He went 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in six starts in August.

Freddie Freeman homered against Vic Black in the eighth to pull the Braves within three runs. Freeman hit .338 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 74 at-bats against the Mets this season.

What’s next: The Mets spend an off-day in Cleveland on Thursday, then open a three-game weekend series against the Indians. Zack Wheeler (7-3, 3.36 ERA) opposes left-hander Scott Kazmir (7-7, 4.36) in Friday’s opener. It will mark Kazmir’s first-ever appearance against his original organization.

Series preview: Mets vs. Braves

July, 21, 2013

Getty ImagesThe Mets face (l to r) Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen and Tim Hudson the opening three games of the series.
METS (43-51, fourth place/NL East) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (55-43, first place/NL East)

Monday: RHP Dillon Gee (7-7, 4.32) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.35), 7:10 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Carlos Torres (0-1, 0.79) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (6-9, 3.64), 7:10 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Jeremy Hefner (4-7, 3.93) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (7-7, 4.08), 7:10 p.m. ET

Thursday: RHP Zack Wheeler (3-1, 3.58) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (9-9, 4.41), 12:10 p.m. ET

Braves short hops

• The depleted Braves outfield is expected to get Jason Heyward back Monday from a right hamstring strain, which he suffered sliding into third base on July 11. Heyward is due to play center field, where he has only appeared in four career games at the major league level. Heyward will return to right field once B.J. Upton returns from the disabled list.

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsFreddie Freeman had to sit out the All-Star Game with a thumb injury.

• Left-hander Paul Maholm was sent home to Atlanta to have his sprained left wrist checked, leaving in doubt his availability for Thursday’s start against the Mets. Brandon Beachy or rookie Alex Wood are the likely alternatives if Maholm is unable to start. Maholm injured the wrist batting July 10. He then departed Saturday’s start when the issue flared up. He is 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA this month.

Beachy has made eight minor league starts since returning from 2012 Tommy John surgery. Wood, a southpaw, had been dispatched to Triple-A before the All-Star break to get continued work.

• Right-handed reliever Kameron Loe, who was signed by the Braves on May 11 after appearances with the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners this season, was promoted Sunday.

Freddie Freeman, who attended but could not participate in the All-Star Game due to injury, returned Saturday after missing two starts with a jammed left thumb. He had suffered the injury applying a tag at first base. Freeman had beaten out Yasiel Puig in the “Final Vote” among fans for an All-Star Game berth. He was replaced by teammate Brian McCann. Freeman entered Friday’s game as a defensive replacement and had a first-base collision right away with Adam Dunn, but showed no ill effects.

• McCann has homered in three of his past four games.

• Left fielder Justin Upton returned Friday after missing the final two games before the All-Star break with a calf injury.

• Backup catcher Gerald Laird left Sunday’s game with a bruised left hand in the fourth inning after being hit by a pitch. Evan Gattis returned Sunday after missing 24 games with a right oblique strain. Gattis had started the game in left field before shifting to first base once Laird departed.

• Second baseman Dan Uggla has 19 homers, matching his 2012 total.

• Closer Craig Kimbrel has converted 17 straight saves. Since blowing a save on May 7 at Cincinnati, Kimbrel has allowed one run and 12 hits while striking out 36 in 23 innings.

Kimbrel is the first player in franchise history to reach the 20-save plateau in each of his first three seasons in the majors. With three more saves, he will match John Smoltz as the only closers in Braves history with three 30-save seasons.

• Atlanta’s 29 come-from-behind wins lead the National League.

Reed Johnson has five hits in his past six pinch-hit appearances.

Series preview: Mets vs. Braves

May, 23, 2013

This weekend at Citi Field, the Mets face (left to right) Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran.
METS (17-27, fourth place/NL East) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (28-18, first place/NL East)

Friday: RHP Jeremy Hefner (0-5, 5.00) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (1-5, 3.02), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.04) vs. LHP Mike Minor (5-2, 2.78), 7:15 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Shaun Marcum (0-5, 6.59) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.99), 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

Braves short hops

• Left fielder Justin Upton, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Jan. 24, is tied with Baltimore’s Chris Davis for the MLB lead in homers with 14. Upton became the first player in major league history to homer five times in his first five games with a team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• Right fielder Jason Heyward is hitting .304 with two RBIs in six games since returning from the disabled list Friday. Heyward underwent an appendectomy on April 22. He missed 22 games. He was hitting .121 when he landed on the DL.

• Center fielder B.J. Upton (.155, 4 HRs, 7 RBIs) snapped an 0-for-16 skid Saturday. He then homered Wednesday for the first time since April 23. He has yet to record a hit in three straight games, and will be bidding to accomplish that Friday at Citi Field.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Evan Gattis has an MLB rookie-leading 10 homers.

• Catcher Brian McCann made his season debut May 6 after recovering from Oct. 16, 2012 shoulder surgery.

The Braves are now carrying six relievers and three catchers: McCann, rookie phenom Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird.

Gattis hit an opposite-field grand slam on a 3-0 pitch from Minnesota’s Vance Worley on Wednesday, in the catcher’s first start in eight days. He has 10 homers, which lead major league rookies, in only 122 at-bats. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has struggled to find playing time for Gattis in the three-catcher alignment. Gattis also can play first base or left field, but those are occupied.

• The Braves lost a pair of top-notch relievers to Tommy John surgery in a six-day span. Lefty Jonny Venters, who had not appeared this season, underwent the procedure last Thursday; this was his second Tommy John surgery. Fellow southpaw Eric O'Flaherty, who had held lefty batters to a .143 average this season, underwent the elbow procedure Tuesday.

Atlanta pitchers have undergone a spate of Tommy John surgeries -- seven among major leaguers in the past five years, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The recipients: Peter Moylan (May 2008), Tim Hudson (August 2008), Kris Medlen (August 2010), Arodys Vizcaino (March 2012), Brandon Beachy (June 2012), Venters and O’Flaherty.

• The Braves have a 2.79 bullpen ERA, narrowly behind the San Francisco Giants (2.77) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2.78) for the MLB lead. Craig Kimbrel notched his 100th career save on May 9, becoming the second-youngest to reach that plateau (24 years, 348 days). Only ex-Met Francisco Rodriguez (24 years, 246 days) was younger.

• Since O’Flaherty landed on the DL, Triple-A closer Cory Rasmus was promoted. He's the younger brother of Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus. Cory made his major league debut Wednesday. The siblings’ brother Casey is a 23-year-old catcher who is hitting .300 for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Class A Peoria affiliate.

• Beachy is set to begin a rehab assignment, so Atlanta will have to create a rotation spot soon.

• Reliever Jordan Walden (shoulder) is not eligible to be activated from the DL until after the Mets series.

• With their bullpen injuries, Atlanta signed lefty reliever Joe Beimel, 36, to a minor league contract. He also is returning from Tommy John surgery.

Andrelton Simmons is the only every-day shortstop without an error.

Dan Uggla (.182, 8 HRs, 16 RBIs) is 3-for-35 with 13 strikeouts in his last 10 starts. Ramiro Pena has started two games at second base in the past week.

Julio Teheran is coming off an outing in which he allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins.

• Medlen limited the Los Angeles Dodgers to one run (unearned) in seven innings in his last start. The Braves are 3-6 in Medlen's starts this season. Entering this year, Atlanta had won 23 straight games started by Medlen -- the most in one pitcher’s starts in major league history.

• The Braves arrive in New York off a 6-0 homestand, during which they swept the Dodgers and Twins.

Series preview: Mets at Braves

May, 2, 2013

The Mets are due to face (l to r) Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Tim Hudson this weekend.
METS (11-15, fourth place/NL East) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (17-10*, first place/NL East)

Friday: RHP Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.94) vs. LHP Mike Minor (3-2, 3.13), 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday: LHP Jonathon Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.56) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (3-1, 3.86), 1:35 p.m. ET

* Atlanta plays Washington on Thursday night

Braves short hops

Justin Upton’s 12 homers in April were two shy of matching the major league record for that month. Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Albert Pujols (2006) each homered 14 times. Luis Gonzalez (2001) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) had 13 homers apiece. Matt Kemp (2012) also had 12. The old Braves record for April was 10 and belonged to Andres Galarraga (2000 and 1998) and Ryan Klesko (1996). Eleven of Upton’s homers were solo shots -- the most by a major leaguer in any month since Jason Giambi in July 2005.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press
The Upton brothers already have homered three times in the same game this season.

The next time Justin and brother B.J. Upton go deep in the same game, they will match a sibling record. Jason and Jeremy Giambi had four games in which they both went deep. Vladimir Guerrero and Wilton Guerrero had four, too. The Uptons have three such games this season.

According to Elias, the Uptons may become the fourth brothers to play at least 100 games each in the outfield for the same team in the same season. The others: Paul and Lloyd Waner for the Pirates (10 times from 1927 to 1938), Jesus and Matty Alou for the Giants (1965), and Tony and Billy Conigliaro for the Red Sox (1970).

Tim Hudson earned his 200th win Tuesday, becoming the fifth pitcher to reach the milestone in a Braves uniform. Hudson joined Phil Niekro, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Watch out for Hudson’s bat, too. He became the first Braves pitcher since Carl Morton in 1973 to produce a double and a homer in a game. Only one other pitcher homered in the game he earned his 200th victory: Bob Lemon in 1956, Elias reported.

• Third baseman Chris Johnson, who arrived with Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks, leads the NL in batting average at .369, narrowly ahead of ex-Met Carlos Gomez (.367) with Milwaukee. The righty-hitting Johnson is sharing the hot corner with lefty-hitting Juan Francisco.

• Right fielder Jason Heyward underwent appendectomy surgery April 22 and will not return until the end of the month. Lefty-hitting Jordan Schafer and righty-hitting Reed Johnson are platooning in Heyward’s absence. Schafer, who had been traded by Atlanta to the Astros on July 31, 2011 in the Michael Bourn deal, was claimed by the Braves off waivers from Houston in November. Schafer, 26, hit .211 in 313 at-bats with Houston in 2012.

• Defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons ranked second among shortstops in defensive runs saved last season at +19 despite playing only 49 games. Seattle’s Brendan Ryan was a +27. Simmons is part of a group of promising MLB shortstops from Curacao. That list also includes the Diamondbacks’ Didi Gregorius as well as the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar (’s No. 1-ranked prospect), Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts ( No. 5) and Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop ( No. 50).

• If Craig Kimbrel converts his next two save chances, he will match Joakim Soria for the third-quickest to 100 saves (112 chances), according to Elias. Eric Gagne has the record, reaching the milestone in 104 chances. John Smoltz ranks second, at 107 chances. Kimbrel’s 89.1 conversion percentage (98-for-110) ranks fth all time among pitchers with at least 100 chances. Kimbrel’s strikeout rate last season (16.7 per nine innings) established a major league record (min. 50 innings).

• Atlanta relievers have an MLB-best 1.99 ERA. The Mets rank 28th at 4.87, better than only Tampa Bay (5.20) and St. Louis (5.77).

• Catcher Brian McCann (right shoulder surgery) has started a rehab assignment but is not due to be activated from the DL until after the Mets series. Rookie Evan Gattis (six homers) and Gerald Laird have shared the duties. Gattis, who has battled severe depression and was completely out of baseball for years, was named NL Rookie of the Month for April on Thursday.

• The Braves struck out 246 times in April, which would have been a major league record for that month. What disrupted infamy? The Houston Astros topped that, striking out 267 times for the new MLB mark. The previous record had been held by the 2003 Cincinnati Reds, with 242 April strikeouts.

Overall in baseball, there were more strikeouts this April (5,992) than in any other season in MLB history. The 15.29 strikeouts per game in April were second most for a month in MLB history, just shy of the record set last September (15.42).

• Ernie Banks (228) is the only middle infielder with more homers in his first seven seasons than second baseman Dan Uggla (209).

Thole delivers too; squeeze surprised Mets

July, 21, 2011
Josh Thole is a .500 hitter since fatherhood. Thole, whose wife Kathryn gave birth to the couple’s first child -- son Camden -- on Tuesday night, delivered in the clutch upon returning to the lineup.

Thole began to lift the Mets out of a four-run deficit with an RBI double in the third. He did leave a pair of teammates on base an inning later with a fielder’s choice grounder, but he came up big again in the eighth. Thole pulled the Mets even at 5 with a two-out single that scored Angel Pagan.

“It feels good,” Thole said. “I got a different perspective yesterday of really what my job entails -- being with my wife all day, watching her go through all of the pains and ups and downs for eight hours. Going out there catching a knuckleball is still tough, but it doesn’t seem like anything she went through. It was nice to get a big hit by the same token.”

• A half-inning before Thole’s eighth-inning RBI single, Gerald Laird’s two-out squeeze bunt with runners on the corners plated Matt Holliday as St. Louis took a 5-4 lead. Daniel Murphy acknowledged the play caught him off guard, even though Laird is a proficient bunter.

“He got me,” Murphy said. “We know that he every now and then likes to bunt. I was playing as deep as I could, trying to keep the ball in the infield. … He made a good bunt too. I think it would have taken a helluva play to get him anyway.”

Said Terry Collins: “We tried to have Murphy come in and try to get the runner back a little bit because we know that he’s had a history of some bunts. But he’s only bunted once this year, so yeah, he caught us off guard.”

R.A. Dickey received a no-decision after being charged with four runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Dickey has allowed four runs apiece in consecutive starts to open the second half, although he has pitched at least into the seventh inning each time.

“I’ve had a tough time this year,” Dickey said. “I don’t know how many innings I’ve given up two or three runs. I don’t remember many last year.”

Rapid Reaction: Mets 6, Cardinals 5 (10)

July, 20, 2011
Recap | Box Score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: Jason Isringhausen has found his niche at the back end of the bullpen. Izzy tossed scoreless ninth and 10th innings, striking out Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman consecutively during the 34-pitch appearance. The Mets then won it when Angel Pagan belted a walk-off homer off Fernando Salas. Isringhausen tossed two scoreless innings for the first time since May 27, 2009 with Tampa Bay against Cleveland. It was Pagan's first career walk-off homer and second career walk-off RBI.

The Mets moved a game over .500 at 49-48.

FATHER’S DAY: New father Josh Thole delivered his second RBI of the night, a game-tying single with two out in the eighth that plated Pagan. Thole’s performance came in his first game back after a one-day paternity leave for the birth of son Camden.

A half-inning earlier, the Cardinals had grabbed a 5-4 lead when Gerald Laird’s bunt single up the third-base line with two out and runners on the corners scored Holliday. Laird has the most bunt hits of any catcher in baseball since his major league debut in 2003 with 38, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Holliday singled to open the inning against Bobby Parnell, advanced to second when he hustled and tagged up on a flyout, then moved to third base on a groundout. Holliday had been cheating down the third-base line enough at one point before Parnell delivered the pitch bunted by Laird that third baseman Daniel Murphy started toward the bag for a potential pickoff throw and Holliday had to scamper back.

SICK BAY: Jason Bay left the game in the fourth inning with what the team announced as a tight right hamstring. Willie Harris replaced Bay in left field.

THE KING AND PEDRO: Pujols, who had been out of the starting lineup to avoid his swing being hampered by facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, pinch-hit in the seventh inning with the score tied at 4 and Daniel Descalso on third base. Terry Collins countered by inserting right-hander Pedro Beato, who coaxed a foul pop-up to first base from the Cardinals slugger for the final out of the frame.

Tim Byrdak had inherited a runner on third and one out from Dickey earlier in the inning and forced a groundout to shortstop by pinch-hitter Tony Cruz. That prompted Descalso to hold at third base and set up the Beato-Pujols matchup.

SCOUT MASTER: With a pair of Phillies scouts -- including director of major league scouting Gordon Lakey -- among the bevy of officials from other teams in attendance at Citi Field, Carlos Beltran belted a game-tying two-run homer in the fifth off Kyle McClellan. It was Beltran’s 15th homer this season.

The Mets trailed 4-0 until beginning to claw back with a two-run third inning that included Thole’s RBI double and a run-scoring infield single by Dickey, who went 2-for-2.

WHAT’S NEXT: Jon Niese (9-7, 3.73 ERA) opposes right-hander Jake Westbrook (7-4, 5.26) in Thursday’s 12:10 p.m. series finale.

Mike Nickeas

New York Mets


2011 Season Stats
8 1 3 2 .350 .235
Mike Nickeas caught R.A. Dickey twice in spring-training games this preseason, but their relationship goes way back.

When Dickey was first starting to mix the knuckleball into his repertoire in 2005 with Texas, Nickeas was a farmhand in Rangers major league camp. Nickeas fondly remembers having a catching competition with other Rangers catchers in spring training that year -- called "drop games."

Like in golf scoring, the catchers would self-report the number of pitches dropped, including games, bullpen sessions and warm-ups. Nickeas had the highest percentage of pitches caught going into the final days, among a group of catchers that also included Rod Barajas and Gerald Laird. But Nickeas drew Dickey a couple of times in the final few days of camp as Dickey was still working on the knuckleball. Nickeas ended up losing the catching competition by a few drops.

Nickeas was traded to the Mets in August 2006 for outfielder Victor Diaz.

Dickey, who starts Wednesday as Nickeas' batterymate, made his Mets debut in D.C. last May 19.

Scott Hairston

Left Field
New York Mets


2011 Season Stats
19 1 5 4 .281 .179
Terry Collins said he did not consider riding his hot lineup and starting Daniel Murphy, Jason Pridie or Josh Thole against Nats left-hander Tom Gorzelanny on Wednesday. The manager said he needs to keep the other players sharp, and added about Hairston particularly: "That's why he's here, to face left-handers."

Hairston has not played center field as a Met, but Collins said he may be more comfortable in that position than a corner outfield spot anyway, since he started there 18 times with the Padres last season.

Ike Davis takes an eight-game hitting streak into Wednesday's game. Keys to that run, and avoiding a sophomore slump, are Davis' willingness to cut down on his swing in some counts and his use of the whole field, according to Collins.

• While Carlos Beltran will start his 12th straight game on Wednesday, Collins said he still routinely checks with the right fielder to ensure he's available. Collins suggested Beltran could get a rest during Saturday's matinee in Philly, even though the Mets had a team off-day last Monday and also are off this upcoming Monday.



Daniel Murphy
.289 9 57 79
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187