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Takahashi closes Mets' win for first save

Takahashi closes Mets' win for first save

HOUSTON -- Hisanori Takahashi pumped his fist slightly after he closed a 3-1 win for the Mets.

The reaction was nowhere near as animated as closer Francisco Rodriguez's post-save celebration, but for one game, Takahashi's ninth-inning results against the Astros were just as effective.

With Rodriguez likely sidelined for the season after he injured his thumb, Takahashi threw a perfect inning to get his first career save.

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"Takahashi has a feel, instinct," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "You can put it in play [against him], but you always feel it's not going to be with much authority. ... He can be effective in that role for us."

Takahashi was more than effective Monday against the Astros. Unlike Rodriguez, Takahashi won't blow hitters away with high-90s fastballs, relying on his changeup and his defense behind him.

"I can't pitch in the high 90s, but I can pitch in the high 80s," Takahashi said with a laugh through a translator.

Takahashi got a groundout, a strikeout on a changeup and then a flyout. He threw 12 pitches and barely broke a sweat. He also got to keep the baseball as a memento.

"I felt like it was a brand-new thing," Takahashi said. "Even though I did it in Japan for a year, it's a whole different role."

Takahashi never would have gotten to keep that ball if the Mets didn't start hitting them away from Astros' gloves. Through eight innings, they had just one run, a Carlos Beltran homer, and four hits. Yet they finally got going against closer Matt Lindstrom in the ninth.

With one out, third baseman David Wright singled and Beltran followed with a single that moved Wright to third. Lindstrom then threw a wild pitch that scored Wright. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur gave Takahashi some added insurance with a triple to left to score Beltran and make it 3-1.

"Against a guy like Lindstrom throwing 98 [mph], to take the pitches I did fight off and get a nice one and line it, has been a long time coming for me," Francoeur said.

Francoeur almost didn't get the chance to expand the Mets' lead, though. Once starter Jon Niese left after the seventh, the Mets' bullpen almost blew a 1-1 tie. Reliever Elmer Dessens gave up a Carlos Lee double with one out in the eighth. After another out, Dessens intentionally walked third baseman Chris Johnson.

Pedro Feliciano replaced Dessens and looked to be out of the jam on a Brett Wallace grounder back to him. But he mishandled the ball and Wallace reached to load the bases.

Feliciano finally escaped the inning when Beltran raced across center to catch a long fly ball by catcher Jason Castro.

"That was huge," Francoeur said of Beltran's catch. "I noticed an extra pep in his step when he got the ball. He took off and it looked like the guy we were used to seeing."

After Francoeur and the offense did damage in the ninth, Takahashi certainly wasn't the player the team was used to seeing on the mound in the ninth. But given the way he pitched, the Mets certainly didn't mind.

Steve Gartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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