video thumbnail

PIT@NYM: Hefner three-hits the Pirates over seven

NEW YORK -- If there was ever a pitcher in need of a rebound, it was Jeremy Hefner.

After his last start -- a seven-run, six-hit nightmare against the Phillies in which he failed to record an out -- the right-hander couldn't find the words to describe his level of embarrassment. And worse, with a slew of September call-ups slated to make late-season starts, a shot at redemption wasn't even guaranteed at the time.

But manager Terry Collins made sure Hefner got a chance to bounce back, and judging by Wednesday night's performance it certainly paid off.

Hefner tossed seven scoreless innings in the Mets' 6-0 win over Pittsburgh, allowing just three hits, striking out seven and walking just one batter. He was efficient and effective -- no Pirate reached scoring position while he was on the mound.

"You can say you try and forget about that, you turn the page quickly, but that was tough to swallow," Hefner said about moving on from his last start. "I just tried to do my best again and it worked out. I tried to pick up the bullpen because they picked me up last time. [I] wish I could've thrown a complete game, but seven strong's pretty good."

Call it really good. Hefner's seven innings allowed Collins to use just one reliever -- Jeurys Familia tossed two scoreless innings to cap the game -- which was pivotal in that the Mets will have a fresh bullpen when R.A. Dickey attempts to notch win No. 20 on Thursday.

"What made it hard on ourselves, first eight innings, with 24 outs to play with -- 11 fly balls and eight punchouts. That's 19 soft outs," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The changeup challenged us initially, once we knew he had it, we weren't able to adjust, and after that, we had pitches to hit, just couldn't cover them."

It was an all-around solid day for Hefner, who laid down two sacrifice bunts that ultimately resulted in runs -- Andres Torres led off both the fourth and sixth innings with singles and advanced to second in each of Hefner's ensuing at-bats. Ruben Tejada followed with singles each time, part of a 4-for-5 night that included a stolen base.

"It was huge for Jeremy," Collins said. "Everybody in this room who was there his last start saw his emotions and saw that he was upset, and he had something to prove tonight: that he could pitch here. I believe that he showed everybody he belongs here. I was very happy for him."

The Mets plated five runs off Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke, four of which came in the third inning. New York sent eight batters to the dish, and used five hits -- just one for extra bases -- to give Hefner an early lead.

Of the five hits in the frame, David Wright's dribbling infield single down the third-base line was the most significant as he moved ahead of Ed Kranepool for the all-time franchise lead (1,419). He was awarded a single, but advanced to second after Pedro Alvarez made an errant barehanded throw to first, ultimately keeping the inning alive and allowing three more runs to score.

"I got a chance to show off my blazing speed," Wright joked after the game. "Ten years from now when I'm telling my kids, it's going to be a line drive, it's going to be a little bit different. But I'll take it. A hit's a hit, and I'm just really excited I could do it at home."

Wright was greeted with a standing ovation and a short video tribute on the center-field scoreboard, and he took a moment to step off the bag to acknowledge the crowd, as well as a dugout full of applauding teammates.

In all, New York finished with 14 hits, adding the sixth and final run in the sixth inning on an aforementioned single by Tejada. The Mets improved to 5-4 on their 10-game homestand, and have won five of their last six overall.

Which only beckons the question, where has this production been for most of the second half?

"We've tried to assess the problems and the issues. Every single coach in that clubhouse was trying to dissect the films and pick up something and keep the guys positive, and it just was missing," Collins said. "But this homestand we've come back together, guys are playing with a little confidence and I think it makes a big difference."

MLB.com Comments