DENVER - At least two Mets will have fond memories of this season. Thursday at Coors Field, two very different career paths collided, and the result was a handful of souvenir baseballs, a trophy lineup card and a pair of wide smiles from Pat Misch and Josh Thole.
Misch pitched seven innings for his first win in 55 tries, a span of four years in the majors, and rookie catcher Thole helped him get there with a pair of hits in his major-league debut as the Mets beat the Rockies, 8-3, to avoid being swept.
Even in the darkest of seasons - and this is among the very worst for the Mets - there is the occasional point of light. The unlikely battery of Misch and Thole stopped the wild card-leading Rockies as the Mets chased Jason Marquis, a 14-game winner, after five innings.
"Those are lifelong dreams that are being fulfilled right before your eyes," Jerry Manuel said. "A guy coming to the major leagues, getting his first hit, and a guy getting his first win. That's always rewarding."
Misch came within six outs of his first career win last Friday at Wrigley Field before Brian Stokes served up a three-run homer to Alfonso Soriano in the eighth. This time, Misch stayed in the dugout until Pedro Feliciano wrapped up the final two innings, and finally exhaled when Ian Stewart whiffed to end the game.
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Asked about ending his 0-8 skid, the low-key Misch replied, "It's better than setting records. It's a good feeling, stuff that you dream of. Did I think it would take this long? Who knows?"
In addition to his personal baggage, Misch's two teams - the Mets and Giants - had been a combined 0-12 in his starts. But Misch allowed only four hits in seven innings and didn't give up his first run until Chris Iannetta and Stewart smacked back-to-back homers with two outs in the seventh.
Manuel later compared the lefthanded Misch to Tom Glavine in the way he threw his off-speed pitches at any point in the count. Misch was quick to give a great deal of credit to Thole, who called the game without any idea of Misch's winless streak.
"I'll be honest with you, I didn't know that was his first victory," Thole said, "until we got in the clubhouse and somebody made a comment that we have to share the lineup card."
Thole, 22, had no intention of splitting the memento - he was letting it go to Misch. Plus, the rookie catcher had plenty of his own souvenirs: the baseballs from his first hit in the second inning and his first double in the ninth.
In another positive sign, Thole showed a self-deprecating side in a wink to his reputation as a work in progress behind the plate. "We didn't get that first passed ball, did we?" Thole said, smiling.
No, that souvenir was not available. Thole allowed a passed ball to the second batter of the game, and almost had another one on what was scored a wild pitch in the fourth. But the Rockies failed to capitalize, and it seemed to be nothing more than Opening Day jitters for the rookie.
"It was just one of those things where I had to get the butterflies out of my stomach," Thole said. "Then I felt fine. I had to settle down a little bit. I was a little geeked up, I guess you could say, at the start."
So what can the duo pull off for an encore? Misch will start again Wednesday against the Marlins. Thole could get another turn in the next day or two, perhaps for Nelson Figueroa Saturday.
"I will give that some thought,'' Manuel said, "on the long ride home."