Martinez's fastball foils slow-starting Nationals

Mets 3 Nationals 1


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 said: "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), who lost their fourth in a row, were trailing by one run in the bottom of the sixth when Guillen came up with the bases loaded and one out.

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 mo ments.

And this time, Martinez's well-placed, 91-mph fastball wasn't headed for Guillen's body. The Nationals outfielder swung and hit a soft looper to shortstop Jose Reyes, who turned an inning-ending - game-clinching - double play.

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.

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

He carried a perfect game into the fourth, before Jose 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.

And Martinez, who allowed just three hits in seven innings, took care of the rest without planting any Nationals in the dirt.

Still, the potential beanball war and was the hot pre-game topic.

But no one would bite.

"I'm not worried, I am not concerned about it. If something happens, it happens." Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "I'm going to go out there to manage a baseball game just like [Mets manager] Willie Randolph is going to go out there and manage a baseball game. We can't go into this game worrying about something possibly happening. No."

Randolph agreed - saying too much has been made of the issue. He added that today's players should understand that getting hit by pitches is part of the game.

"Go back to the days when you let the players play and we didn't care about that stuff." Randolph said.

Robinson, celebrating his 50th year of major league baseball this season, said the days of players jogging to first calmly and then taking out their aggression against the pitcher in their next at-bat are long gone.

"The fashionable thing to do is they get hit and feel like they've been thrown at and they charge the mound." Robinson said. That's the era we are living in right now."

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