El Duque dominates Bucs; Mets NL's first to 50 wins

NEW YORK (AP) -- The way New York Mets manager Willie Randolph saw it, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the perfect matchup for crafty Orlando Hernandez.

"They're an aggressive, young team," Randolph said. "He throws a good breaking ball, a good changeup. He finesses you a little bit. He's smart. He mixes his pitches and gets hitters off stride. He knows how to pitch, how to handle himself in spots."

Hernandez baffled the Pirates on four hits through seven innings Wednesday night, pitching the Mets to a 5-0 victory that had its troubling side for New York.

All five Mets runs came in the first inning. So did all four of their hits.

Randolph noticed.

"We won 5-0 and that's good," the manager said. "But we have to do more. We've got to work a little harder at adding on."

The quick cushion made life easy for the ageless Hernandez, listed at 36 but believed to be older. He mixed his pitches with his herky-jerky motion, keeping the Pirates off-balance as the Mets became the first National League team to win 50 games. He allowed a runner in all but one of the seven innings he pitched but was in control throughout.

For the veteran right-hander, acquired in a trade with Arizona on May 24 to boost the back end of the Mets' rotation, the effort was reminiscent of a complete game three-hitter he threw against the Diamondbacks on June 8.

The first six pitches he threw missed the strike zone but he recovered quickly and dominated the Pirates, allowing four singles. Hernandez (5-8) walked two and struck out seven before turning the game over to the bullpen for the final two innings to complete the Mets' fifth combined shutout of the season.

"I feel good," Hernandez said. "My control in the first inning was not so good. But I threw everything and seven innings, it's good for tonight and good for the bullpen. Everybody is happy."

Hernandez threw 107 pitches, 68 for strikes.

The Mets jumped in front against Kip Wells (0-4) with the big first inning.

Jose Reyes led off with his major league-leading 12th triple and scored on a single by Paul Lo Duca. After Carlos Beltran walked, Carlos Delgado struck out but Cliff Floyd was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Jose Valentin followed with a two-run double. Floyd scored on a wild pitch and Endy Chavez singled, scoring Valentin.

"I know Wells," Valentin said. "I played with him for three years in Chicago. You've got to get him early."

Wells was making his fourth start of the season following surgery on March 6 in which a vein from his leg was transplanted to replace a blocked artery that was restricting blood flow in his right arm.

In his longest outing since coming back, Wells pitched six innings and threw 99 pitches, 59 for strikes.

"I think tonight was his biggest step forward," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said of Wells. "From the second inning on, he started to throw some well-located fastballs. From the second inning on, you saw the pitches down. The ball had tremendous movement because a lot of hitters were swinging over it."

Wells was encouraged.

"The first inning was kind of a soul-searching inning for me," he said. "Fortunately for me, I was able to put together five good innings after that, which I can feed off for the second half of the season."

It was the second straight victory for the Mets after they had lost six of seven.

Game notes
Right-hander Pedro Martinez (sore hip) delayed his throwing session one day. After he throws Thursday, the Mets will decide whether he will start Saturday or go on the disabled list. ... Rickey Henderson was a visitor in the Mets clubhouse. ... The five-run first inning gave the Mets 70 opening-inning runs this season, second only to the Chicago White Sox, who scored four Wednesday night and have 78. ... Well's fifth-inning sacrifice appeared to be foul but was ruled fair by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.