Maine strong as Mets top Tribe

March 19, 2008 7:50:47 PM PDT
One of the most important things John Maine can do for the New York Mets is pitch deep into games, taking pressure off a bullpen that could begin the season without Duaner Sanchez.After giving up a first-inning homer to Jason Michaels, Maine settled down Wednesday night and led New York to a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

"I'm ready to go," Maine said.

The right-hander, who was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA last year, struck out seven in 5 2-3 innings. He gave up five hits and a walk, though he said his slider was off and so he didn't use it much.

"It's kind of that time for me to learn if my slider's not there, I can't keep trying it," Maine said. "I've got to try to go to something else and try to be effective."

Maine gave up a sixth-inning single to Ryan Garko, ending his outing with runners at first and second. Joe Smith struck out Franklin Gutierrez to end the inning.

Cleveland starter Aaron Laffey was solid for the second consecutive outing. He allowed one run and five hits in five innings.

"I thought Aaron threw the ball well," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I mean, he was as good as we've seen him all spring. He was aggressive with his sinker. His secondary stuff was good. It was a very impressive day."

Laffey gave up two runs - one earned - in four innings during his previous start.

Sanchez didn't pitch Wednesday and it's uncertain whether he has enough time left to get ready and avoid a stint on the disabled list. The right-hander, sidelined since injuring his shoulder in a July 2006 taxi accident, said he was available against Cleveland.

"He's behind obviously, so if he gets through tomorrow real well, then that will give us a better feel of if he can bounce back," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

Sanchez is expected to throw Thursday.

"Is he on the borderline of not being able to break with us?" Randolph said. "Yeah, if he doesn't start to pitch in succession and get his work done then yeah, that's going to become a real issue. But right now let's wait and see how he feels tomorrow and go from there."