Martinez's fastball foils slow-starting Nationals

Mets 3 Nationals 1

Baseball

April 13, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes, well-placed fastballs speak louder than words.

New York Mets ace Pedro Martinez has been known to throw his share directly at the enemy, sending the message: "I own that plate."

Washington Nationals slugger Jose Guillen has been known to absorb his share of hit-by-pitches, and then relay his own message with steps toward the mound and a menacing glare that says: "I can hurt you."

The two collided last week, when Martinez twice plunked Guillen, and the Nationals outfielder reacted by walking toward the mound with his bat in hand before the potential dustup was calmed.

It set the stage for last night, for a sixth-inning showdown with the outcome in the balance.

Martinez won the battle - and the Mets took the game, 3-1.

The Nationals (2-7) were trailing by one run in the bottom of the sixth, when they loaded the bases with no outs. Martinez struck out second baseman Jose Vidro, bringing Guillen to the plate.

The crowd of 29,985 sensed the drama - it had been booing Martinez for most of the night.

But the three-time Cy Young Award winner lives for these moments.

And this time, Martinez's well-placed, 91-mph sinking fastball wasn't headed for Guillen's body. It was low and on the inside of the plate. Guillen swung and hit a soft looper to shortstop Jose Reyes, who turned an inning-ending - game-clinching - double play.

"I don't hold any grudges against Guillen," Martinez said. I will continue to pray for him and hopefully he'll get better and his temper will change. I'm just glad that when I am OK I don't need to hit anybody."

After the game, Guillen said: "I was not able to come through. And they win."

Vidro added: "That was the game right there. We didn't do our jobs."

Guillen singled in his next at-bat in the ninth inning - but that came against Mets closer Billy Wagner, who retired the next two batters to pick up his second save.

By then, Martinez, who allowed one run on three hits and a walk in seven innings, was watching from the bench.

He came out for the eighth, but left to a shower of boos before he threw a pitch.

"That's OK," Martinez said of the crowd reaction. "That's what the fans are here for and if that is all they are going to do then I thank them for noticing me on the mound."

From the start, Martinez (2-0) did his talking with his right arm.

He carried a perfect game into the fourth, before Vidro hit a one-out, bases-empty homer to right to tie the game at 1.

In the top half of the inning, the Mets had taken the lead with a leadoff triple by David Wright and an RBI single by Cliff Floyd. They regained the lead in the fifth against Nationals starter Tony Armas (0-2), when Carlos Delgado doubled home Carlos Beltran.

The Mets (6-1) added a third run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Beltran.

Vidro's homer was the second at RFK in two games for the Nationals. Vidro thought the Nats had several other home run chances, but the balls died in the stadium's deep center field alley.

"It killed us last year and it is going to kill us again this year, I guarantee that," Vidro said, frustrated. "[Nationals management was] going to look deep into it last year and they didn't [do] anything, so I guess they didn't care about it."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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