Mets finally hold a late lead

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets celebrates after scoring in the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. (June 4, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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So, Terry Collins was asked, how would you describe that seventh inning? "Better," he said with a wry smile, "than the last few I've been watching."

Mets fans might recall that on Wednesday night, the very same question about a seventh inning was what set off the manager's classic tirade about how his club kept collapsing down the stretch. This time, though, the only thing that was set off was the Mets' offense, which scored five runs in the seventh Saturday night for a 5-0 win over the Braves at Citi Field.

And the club that has set a record for awful finishes was able to talk instead about a terrific start.

With seven brilliant innings by Dillon Gee (6-0); the offensive burst against Jair Jurrjens (7-2), the current ace of the National League; Jason Pridie's pinch single and Jose Reyes' three-run triple in the you-know-which inning, the Mets were finally happy with an ending.

"It's been rough, with all those late-inning losses," said Gee, who is the first Mets rookie to start a season with wins in six starts (Jon Matlack was 6-0 in 1972, but one of those wins came in relief). "But I don't want to read into that too much. Just every time it's my chance, I just try to give us a chance."

Gee improvised with a cut fastball that he never had used in a game before. He said it was a beefed-up version of his slider, which had not been working. In any case, he went pitch-for-pitch with Jurrjens, named the National League pitcher of the month for May and considered the early frontrunner for the Cy Young Award.

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"Two great changeups, two great fastballs, I looked up in the sixth inning and I think they had the same pitch counts," Collins said. "I said, 'This is amazing.' "

Of course, Collins became known this past week for other choice words. He was flummoxed and exercised Wednesday when the club had a bad seventh and squandered the latest in a string of late leads. The Mets did it again Friday, setting a major-league record for having blown a lead in the seventh inning or later in six consecutive home losses.

That sort of thing sticks in a team's mind. But the Mets this time didn't just stagger into the eighth with a slight edge. They rumbled in after a rally that wouldn't stop. Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez made a rare error on a one-out grounder by Jason Bay, who had been dropped from fourth to sixth in the order. Josh Thole doubled to right and Ruben Tejada was hit by a pitch to load the bases and present Collins with a quandary: Should he pinch hit for Gee or let him keep going?

"Our guy was pitching his brains out, but we've got to pull him out," the manager said.

Pridie came up and broke the scoreless tie with a bloop single against Jurrjens. "The bases are loaded, he's got to come at me. If he walks me, that's a run," Pridie said. "So I just tried to put the ball in play." He did, and the Mets were up 1-0.

Out went Jurrjens, in came former Yankee Scott Proctor and to the corner went a three-run triple by Jose Reyes. "That's just Jose being Jose. He's a great player," Pridie said. Reyes scored on Justin Turner's sacrifice fly.

This time there was no comeback by the other side, no gaffes by the Mets' fielders. Just more zeroes, from relievers Pedro Beato and Tim Byrdak.

And there was a calm, proud, pleased manager who was, for a night at least, in seventh heaven.

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