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Isringhausen saves game and career

New York Mets' Ronny Paulino #9 congratulates Jason

New York Mets' Ronny Paulino #9 congratulates Jason Isringhausen #45 after closing out the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field in New York. The Mets beat the Cardinals 4-2. (July 19, 2011) Credit: John Dunn

Jason Isringhausen attributes it to the baseball gods -- that old cliche that means to say, yes, this sport can be a little funny at times.

Of course he'd face the Cardinals, the club for which he spent the better part of seven seasons. Of course it would be with the Mets, the team that both kick-started his career and which, as a washout member of Generation K, branded him a poster boy for disappointed hopes. Of course this is how the 38-year-old rehabilitation project would earn his first save since 2008.

"That's just how it goes," Isringhausen said. "I knew it was going to happen this way. As soon as they came into town, I knew I was going to pitch, probably all three games. That's just the way it goes. The baseball gods, that's how they do it."

Isringhausen retired the side in order in the ninth to preserve a 4-2 win over the Cardinals Tuesday night at Citi Field. He threw 11 pitches and struck out David Freese on five straight fastballs for the final out of the game.

Manager Terry Collins said after the game that though the Mets plan to platoon their closers between Isringhausen, Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato, Izzy would most likely be the go-to man out of the pen.

"I'm going to pick and choose my spots but right now, Izzy would be my guy," Collins said. "I think he brings some credibility to the bullpen when he comes in."

It's a stiff reversal for Isringhausen, who made his name as a marquee closer for the Cardinals but began this season about four years removed from any whiff of his previous dominance. The righthander, who missed most of 2009 and 2010 following Tommy John surgery, signed a minor-league contract with the Mets at the beginning of the season. It was a last-ditch attempt to save a career in decline.

"He starts off the year in extended spring," Collins said. "We're not sure if he's going to be healthy enough to make the club and here he is closing for us now . . . I'm thrilled for him."

Indeed, if there's one thing that Isringhausen can bring to the mix, it's experience. It's something that's still lacking with Parnell, who despite having a fastball that creeps past the triple digits, has gotten himself in trouble with poor location. Tuesday night, he loaded the bases in the eighth before inducing Albert Pujols to ground into an inning-ending double play on an 88 mile-per-hour slider.

Though admitting that it was nerve-racking, Isringhausen said he had no problems platooning as closer. Tuesday's save was No. 294 and, though it long seemed as if he'd end his career without reaching 300, Isringhausen now has his sights set on the milestone.

"That's one of the reasons I came back," he said. "I wanted to give myself every shot to get it. I know guys have 600, but for myself, 300 is a big number for me."

Now he'll get his shot. The baseball gods have spoken.

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