New York – Tuesday evening it was R.A. Dickey and Raul Valdes shutting out the Philadelphia Phillies 8-0. Last night at Citi Field it was Left hander Hisanori Takahashi, Jenrry Mejia and Ryota Igarashi shutting down the Phils again 5-0. Who would have wondered with two thirds of the Mets starting rotation missing that this was possible.
“He’s a great pitcher with great instincts,” said Mets Manager Jerry Manuel about Takahaski who threw six scoreless innings, He gave up five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out six. Combined with Dickey throwing six shut out innings against the Phillies, suddenly Manuel has two reliable starters that follow Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey.
And afterwards, Manuel would commit. The 35-year old Takahaski who spent a good part of his career in Japan, has earned a spot in the rotation. “To have a performance such as that especially, against two very good teams, elite teams, it lengthens the opportunity for him,” said Manuel. “He had great command of his pitches.”
Takahaski (4-1) threw six scoreless innings in his big league debut as a starter against the cross-town Yankees last Friday giving up five hits in a no decision. Signed in the off season to a free agent deal, he had 16 relief appearances after 202 career starts in Japan,
“I know my pitching style and I prefer to do the same here,” said Takahaski through a translator. He apparently knows the scouting reports getting Phillies home run hitter Ryan Howard to swing at a third strike on a changeup, and credited Rod Barajas with a good game plan.
But with Oliver Perez regulated to the bullpen, and with Jonathon Niese and John Maine disabled, Takahaski was granted the opportunity. It has become a welcome reprieve for Manuel. Suddenly the Mets, with another four-game wining streak have seen their starters have a Major League leading 1.37 ERA in their last nine games
Dickey has been a sudden surprise also. And then there is Jose Reyes, always a catalyst in the lineup who has resembled the Reyes of old. The legs are strong again and he is taking the extra base. He made a sparkling play in the fourth inning reaching out and retiring former teammate Brian Schneider on a pop out in the fifth inning
And Reyes for the first time this season, leading off in the third inning hit the ball over the fence to right field off Phils starter and loser Joe Blanton (1-3) that gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. “We’re playing good baseball,” said Manuel. “Jose Reyes is igniting the club”
“Right now, when I get on base two or thee times I feel like myself, said Reyes who went 2-for-4 and has four consecutive multi-hit games. Since returning to the leadoff spot on May 15th, Reyes is hitting .300 with nine runs scored, a double, one triple, a home run and five runs batted in.
The shutouts and new pitching rotation, along with Reyes, and timely hitting has given the Mets new life. They once again climbed a game over .500 (24-23) and there is no talk of Manuel losing his job. “Quite an accomplishment of using two starters we hadn’t used in spring training,” said Manuel.
The Mets look for the sweep against the Phillies Thursday evening with Pelfrey taking the mound for New York, looking for his sixth win. Then it is off to Milwaukee and San Diego, but the good play has to continue away from Citi Field as the Mets lead baseball with 18 home wins.
Manuel and the Mets have to get some wins away from Citi Field, especially now with Reyes playing, like himself. Added to the equation is Takahashi, getting another well deserved start now that he is in the rotation.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring firstname.lastname@example.org