Tejada's walk forces in lead run in win

Ruben Tejada claps as he trots to first Ruben Tejada claps as he trots to first base after walking with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. (Aug. 9, 2011) Photo Credit: David Pokress

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Of all the job openings on the Mets these days, none is bigger than the hole at shortstop, where Ruben Tejada could very well be auditioning for the full-time gig.

As of now, it's a temp position. Tejada is merely serving as the replacement for Jose Reyes, who is on the disabled list for the second time in a month with a strained left hamstring. But Reyes is only six weeks from free agency, and his uncertain status forces the Mets to consider other options.

Tejada is currently at the top of that list, and he helped himself further Tuesday night by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning that lifted the Mets to a 5-4 comeback victory over the Padres at Citi Field.

Despite their holes, the Mets are somehow staying afloat, and they rallied from a 4-2 deficit with three runs in the eighth to win their second straight. Tejada was hitless in three previous at-bats with a pair of strikeouts. But after he fell behind 1-and-2 to reliever Josh Spence, Tejada fouled off a 2-and-2 slider before taking a changeup and another slider for the seven-pitch walk.

"It's a great situation to be in," Tejada said. "Everybody wants to be in that situation."

Most managers wouldn't have been too comfortable with that matchup. But not Terry Collins, who has surprising trust in a relatively untested 21-year-old, and that eighth-inning spot showed why.

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"It is rare," Collins said. "That's what makes this kid special. When I first came here, everybody in the organization that had been around him said wait until you see the instincts this guy has for this game. He's head and shoulders above 21-year-olds that are in the big leagues as far as the thought process."

It marked the first time since 1965 that the Mets had rallied back from a deficit of two or more runs in the eighth inning or later for consecutive wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Mets also earned their 25th come from behind victory and 11th in their final at-bat. Not to mention two straight since losing Reyes and Daniel Murphy to the DL.

"This is incredible," Collins said. "I don't know what else to say. They're going to play hard until the game's over."

Not only did the Mets rely on Tejada's uncommon plate discipline, Collins took a leap of faith with his new cleanup hitter, Lucas Duda.

In the eighth, after Angel Pagan led off with his second homer in as many days, Justin Turner and David Wright followed with back-to-back singles. That chased reliever Chad Qualls and brought up Duda.

When Bud Black opted for the lefthanded Spence, Duda asked Collins if he wanted him to bunt both runners over. It was a strange request coming from the cleanup hitter. "I can tell you honestly," Collins said, "I hadn't seen Lucas Duda bunt in the time I've been with the New York Mets."

Even so, Collins gave him the green light, and Duda poked the first-pitch slider a few feet in front of the plate for the perfect sacrifice. "I think I'm pretty good at bunting," Duda said. "I do it a lot -- just not in games. I was hoping it would work out. If it didn't, I'd look like an idiot. But it worked out for the best."

Spence intentionally walked Jason Bay, but pinch-hitter Nick Evans followed with the tying sacrifice fly. Just as Duda had drawn it up. "He can do it all, I guess," Collins said.

D.J. Carrasco got two outs in the eighth for the win and Jason Isringhausen career save No. 299 with a perfect ninth.

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"You can't say enough about the kids, how they've been doing" Isringhausen said.

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