In what essentially amounted to an on-the-job audition to be the Mets' fifth starter, Pat Misch pitched well enough last night to earn another shot five days from now. Yet that's little consolation considering on many other nights, this outing could have earned him a victory.
Only one of the four runs Misch gave up in six innings was earned, thanks to two critical errors. Ruben Tejada's throwing error in the fifth inning allowed a run to score, then an inning later, two more unearned runs scored when David Wright booted what should have been the third out.
"That's baseball," Misch said. "That stuff happens. Next time, we'll be making those plays."
Luck has never exactly been Misch's strong suit during his brief time in the majors. His teams lost his first 12 starts, a dubious streak that finally ended last Sept. 3 with a victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Last night, the Mets' lefthander allowed eight hits (all singles) and walked two (one intentional) in six innings, showing Jerry Manuel just how much he has progressed since his mediocre performance in seven starts as the Mets were playing out the string at the end of last season.
Although Manuel said after the game that Misch earned another start, Misch wasn't exactly waiting for the official word. He was expecting it. "I plan on starting again in five days," he said.
There's an opening in the rotation because Manuel prefers to use Hisanori Takahashi as a late-inning reliever to help solidify what's been a shaky bullpen. Misch was awarded this spot start by going 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 23 starts at Triple-A Buffalo this season, but he admitted last night there were times this season when he wondered whether the call was ever going to come.
"I worked really hard to get back here and I'm confident in myself," he said.
With no days off this week, the Mets will need a fifth starter in Houston on Thursday night. After that, they'll need one six more times, so there's plenty of opportunity remaining. And it remains clear that the Mets don't have any intentions of turning to Oliver Perez to pitch in relief, let alone a start, anytime soon.
Manuel dismissed a question before last night's game regarding whether Perez's status in no man's land - he has pitched only once since July 24 - is hurting his strategic maneuvering.