Beltran's blast caps long night

Beltran's blast caps long night

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran hadn't completed the first half of his victory lap, and Cliff Floyd was on the field, his baseball shirt half unbuttoned and pulled from his baseball pants. The other Mets formed the obligatory reception committee at the plate, whacked Beltran a few times, made a few cursory, in-unison jumps and dispersed with dispatch. Even Ramon Castro showed some speed -- getting off the field and into the clubhouse.

Nothing brings a team together more than overcoming adversity. And few things pull it apart quicker than a game that reaches tomorrow.

So it was that the Mets scattered with great haste early Wednesday morning, no one pausing to smell the roses. Beltran turned the second pitch of the bottom of the 16th inning the third final-pitch home run of his career and made a long night worthwhile for the home team. This was no walk-off home run, mind you. This was a dash to the dugout and out the door. Last one to the parking lot is a three-base error.

Within minutes after Beltran gave the Mets' 44th game a permanent name -- Mets 9, Phillies 8 -- he said loudly, "I just wanted to get out of here." And then he fled.

At 12:33 a.m. ET, he hit the game's 521st pitch -- the 105th thrown by reliever and losing pitcher Ryan Madson -- into the Mets' bullpen, appropriately pointing out the other component primarily responsible for the Mets' 13th victory in 19 one-run games and ninth victory in nine series openers at home. His home run won it. Nine innings of scoreless relief by Jorge Julio, Duaner Sanchez, Billy Wagner, Chad Bradford and Darren Oliver is what didn't lose it.

"You talk about a team victory," Paul Lo Duca said.

The Mets used eight of their 12 pitchers and each of their 13 position players. So strapped for personnel was Willie Randolph that, when Lo Duca took a foul ball off his shoulder in the 13th inning, he had momentary managerial vision of a non-catcher catching.

Castro, Lo Duca's understudy, had pinch-hit in the 12th. Chris Woodward, the emergency catcher, had batted in the eighth -- he delivered a run-scoring double and then scored on the two-run home run by Jose Reyes that tied the score, 8-8. Randolph facetiously mentioned David Wright, then Tom Glavine as possible catchers. He never spoke the words Carlos Delgado; the former Blue Jays catcher would have had to be the one.

"I haven't, not since 1995," Delgado said. "And I don't miss it one bit."

Glavine could have played first in his stead.

"That I could do," the one-time left-handed Little League catcher said.

All the what-if's and the late hour made for a giddy dugout.

"We get real human late in games like this," Oliver said. "A lot of things seem silly."

But the Mets took it all quite seriously once Reyes hit his fourth home run, the Mets' third of the game. With their rotation filled with uncertainty, with Alay Soler scheduled to make his big-league debut Wednesday night and Oliver eliminated as a Thursday starter -- he threw the final four innings and won -- winning this game grew in significance with each of the 48 outs the Mets needed to get to Beltran.

"To win it is great," Lo Duca said. "You lose a game like this, and it's brutal."

The Mets had chance to win it and lose in extra innings. They had the leadoff batters reach base in the ninth, 11th and 13th. Reyes flied out to the wall in right for the last out of the 12th and he made a pretty grab and flip to Kaz Matsui at second for the second and third outs of the 13th -- with two runners on base.

"I think we get better later," Wright said.

They are the better-late-than-ever Mets, an after-hours club, to be sure.

They've had practice: Four games in the Major Leagues this season have exceed 13 innings. The Mets have participated in three of the four. They will go to great lengths to win. The game Tuesday was their fifth extra-inning game in 18 games. They have played eight overall, more than any other National League team. The 16 innings were the most played this season. The time of game -- five hours, 22 minutes -- was the longest this season.

To win this one, they overcame a poor start by Steve Trachsel, five RBIs by David Bell and deficits of 2-0, 6-2 and 8-5. They had to battle a team that won each of the 17 games in which it had led after seven innings.

Trachsel, who is winless in five starts, allowed six runs in five innings, three on a home run by Bell in the fifth that followed a close play at the plate that, had it been made -- Lo Duca couldn't handle a throw from right field -- would have ended the inning. The Phillies scored twice in the seventh against Aaron Heilman before the zeroes began to appear on their line on the scoreboards.

"Everyone did their job tonight," said Wagner whose first appearance against his former team passed with neither incident nor baserunner. "This is the team chasing us. So this was a nice big win for us. ... But it was a long one. Let's get out of here."

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.