Martinez pitches Mets to win

August 31, 2008 2:46:38 PM PDT
A four-run cushion was sufficient Sunday for the New York Mets. Now they'll try to hang onto a lead in September. The Mets' battered bullpen came through with three shutout innings to close out a 6-2 victory over the Florida Marlins, preserving New York's one-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East.

Four weeks of the regular season remain, starting with a three-game series beginning Monday at Milwaukee, and the Mets are mindful of their collapse last September.

"It has been a motivating factor the entire year," manager Jerry Manuel said.

Pedro Martinez pitched six innings for only his second victory since July 7, and the Mets homered three times against the fading Marlins. New York won two of three games in the series, leaving third-place Florida seven back.

Last year New York went 5-12 down the stretch to squander a big lead in the East and miss the playoffs.

"Until I see that last day when we've won the division, I'm not going to be relaxed," Martinez said. "Hopefully things can be different. I don't think this team is giving you any hints of showing what happened last year. It's a different group."

The problem last year wasn't Martinez, who went 3-1 in September, and Sunday's performance suggested he's ready for another stretch run. The first two batters to face him scored, but those were the only runs he allowed.

Martinez (5-3) gave up seven hits but only one walk.

"Nothing special, just a quality outing," he said. "I had to battle a lot. I was a little sluggish but managed to use my experience."

Martinez won with a fastball that rarely exceeded the low 80s.

"Pedro was Pedro," Manuel said. "He didn't have his greatest stuff, but he pitched magnificently."

Back-to-back home runs in the third inning by Nick Evans and David Wright put the Mets ahead to stay. Carlos Beltran added his 21st homer.

Five relievers combined to close out the win. Aaron Heilman, who walked in the winning run Saturday, stranded two runners to end the seventh. Shortstop Jose Reyes made a diving catch of Jorge Cantu's liner with two on to end the game.

Scott Olsen (6-9) gave up six runs in 6 1-3 innings and fell to 0-5 in eight starts since July 19.

The defeat meant that for only the second time in Marlins history, they went an entire month without back-to-back victories. They were 11-17 in August.

"I think we have a run in us where we'll win five, six, seven in a row," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I still believe that."

Martinez earned his 214th career win despite a rough start.

Hanley Ramirez reached on a single to begin the first inning, took second on a wild pitch and came home on a double by Luis Gonzalez.

A groundout and sacrifice fly by Mike Jacobs put the Marlins ahead 2-0.

Martinez stranded two runners in the second and again in the third before settling down to retire the final eight batters he faced.

Beltran homered leading off the second. Rookie Evans, relishing his first pennant race, hit his first career home run to make the score 2-all.

"Being my first year in the major leagues, you couldn't ask for a more exciting team and situation to be put in," he said. "I'm enjoying every day of it."

Two pitches later, Wright hit his 27th homer - the 27th allowed by Olsen.

"Oly threw pretty well," Jacobs said. "Unfortunately we didn't score enough runs. That's been out story the last month or so - not scoring runs."

New York added three runs in the seventh on RBI singles by Reyes and pinch hitter Ryan Church, and a sacrifice fly by Beltran.

Then it was on to Milwaukee, where September awaits.

"We cannot worry about what happened last year, because this is a new year for us," Reyes said. "We're playing good baseball right now. Hopefully we can continue that."

Notes: LHP Andrew Miller, sidelined since July 13 by knee tendinitis, will be activated Monday by the Marlins to pitch out of the bullpen. ... Reyes stole third base for the 280th steal of his career, one shy of Mookie Wilson's franchise record. ... The Mets hit back-to-back homers for fifth time this year.