Ike's big pop, Chipper's drop aid Mets' victory

New York Mets sensation #29 Ike Davis rounds New York Mets sensation #29 Ike Davis rounds first base after hitting his first major league homerun during the fifth inning. (April 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by KEVIN P. COUGHLIN

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The pregame buzz at Citi Field on Friday was Mets manager Jerry Manuel's retooled lineup, featuring Jose Reyes in the No. 3 hole for the first time in his career.

The early-game buzz was John Maine walking off the mound after 32/3 innings with muscle spasms and pain in his left (non-throwing) elbow.

The midgame buzz was Ike Davis' first major-league home run, a 450-foot shot to the base of the Shea bridge in right-centerfield in the fifth inning.

The late midgame buzz was Hisanori Takahashi, who picked up his first major-league hit and struck out six batters in a seven-out span (and seven overall in three innings) in relief of Maine.

The late-game buzz was Angel Pagan's heads-up baserunning; he scored from second on a dropped pop-up on which the infield fly rule had been called.

The late-late-game buzz was Nate McLouth's near game-tying home run to right off Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth. It was just foul.

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And the final buzz was the final score: Mets 5, Braves 2. It was the Mets' fourth win in five games and capped an eventful night at the ol' ballpark.

Maine left a game once before with trouble in his non-pitching arm. On July 5, 2008, he had to come out in Philadelphia with forearm stiffness but did not miss a start. The Mets are saying he's day-to-day, but Manuel sounded pessimistic about Maine making his next outing, and Maine sounded pessimistic about everything.

"I just couldn't move my left arm," he said. "It's a weird thing . . . I don't know. It's just one thing after another."

The Braves were leading 1-0 in the fourth when Maine allowed a two-out single to Omar Infante. Manuel said he noticed Maine's fastball velocity was down to the low 80s - "We first thought they were changeups," he said - and the manager and trainer Ray Ramirez went to the mound and removed Maine after a lengthy conversation.

Takahashi (1-1) struck out opposing pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, the first of three in a row by the lefthander, including the first two outs of the fifth inning. Takahashi also struck out the side in the sixth and picked up another in the seventh en route to his first major-league win. His next appearance could be as Maine's rotation replacement.

As for the lineup experiment, Manuel went Pagan, Luis Castillo, Reyes, Jason Bay, David Wright, Davis, Jeff Francoeur, Rod Barajas and Maine.

Reyes, who hadn't started in any spot other than leadoff since July 5, 2005, was told of the move by Manuel late Thursday night. Manuel said Reyes "seemed very excited about it."

If that's true, Reyes hid his excitement well. "I don't expect it to be any different," he said. "I'm going to play it like I'm a leadoff guy."

He did. Reyes went 2-for-4 with a double and triple and scored two runs.

"Ultimately, it worked," Bay said. "We scored enough runs to win."

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The Mets tied the score at 1 in the fifth on Davis' massive home run off Kawakami (0-3).

In the sixth, Reyes tripled to right-center with one out and scored on Bay's triple, also to right-center. It was Bay's fourth RBI.

"Getting a hit in that situation felt like a grand slam," Bay said.

The Mets led 3-2 in the seventh when Reyes had a chance in an RBI spot, but with two on and one out, he hit a pop-up to third base. Reyes was automatically called out on the infield fly rule. Chipper Jones dropped the pop-up for an error (Reyes was still out) and the baserunners took off, as they are allowed at their own peril under the infield fly rule.

The Braves, including catcher Brian McCann, converged around Reyes at first base (even though Reyes was still out). With home plate uncovered, Pagan alertly scored before the Braves realized what was going on.

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"Heads-up play," said Wright, who followed with an RBI single for a 5-2 lead. "Game-changing play."

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