Glavine great as Mets sweep Pirates

Glavine great as Mets sweep Pirates

NEW YORK -- The practice of noting each strikeout with some sort of symbol -- a K for Dwight Gooden, a conehead for David Cone and a beer mug for David Wells -- began at Shea Stadium 22 years ago with Gooden. But there have been rare, if any, instances here since Cone left the Mets in 1992. The Mets pitchers for the most part haven't often been strikeout-equipped or strikeout-inclined.

And they still aren't, except now there is something strikingly different about Tom Glavine. He doesn't have a strikeout mentality. He has become strikeout-accomplished, though. Even now, at age 40, he is doing for the letter K what Oscar Robertson did for O and Rasheed Wallace does for T. Why just Thursday night, those gathered at Shea to witness the Mets against the Pirates could have hung out 10 somethings to acknowledge Glavine's strikeouts -- if only they knew what symbol to use.

Glavine buried the very, very bury-able Pirates in the Mets' 6-0 victory, striking out more than a third of the 27 batters he faced while winning for the fourth time this season and the 279th time in his career. It was a different kind of command performance given by a pitcher of genuine royalty. He hit his spots, as they said in the Mets' dugout. He didn't hit many bats, as they said in the Pirates'.

And he struck out 10 in a mere seven innings.

So what then, should be hung over the facing of the upper deck the next time Glavine pitches at Shea?

Billy Wagner, who knows something about strikeouts, suggested golf clubs for the Mets' foremost hacker. Steve Trachsel suggested the likeness of Bugs Bunny because "his changeup is so good these days, three batters can swing and miss at one pitch" as depicted in a clubhouse-favorite cartoon.

But after Paul Lo Duca, Glavine's catcher, considered his pitcher's seven innings of dominance and noted the way Glavine had "commanded" his pitches, he said, "He just painted all night."

And so, we have a winner -- a paint brush.

Glavine paints the corner, the fans put out paint brushes. It could work.

"Works for me," Glavine said. "I like it."

Glavine has gone a bit strikeout mad since he incorporated a curve, a cutter and pitching inside into his game plan last summer. He has struck out 10 or more only 14 times in 610 starts, including six times in 1991. Now, in his last eight starts, including his final start last season, he has hit 11 twice and 10 once. And he has pitched merely 22 innings in the three games.

And now he's about to pass Sandy Koufax. Six strikeouts in his next start in Philadelphia next week will put him ahead at 2,397.

"I think I have more innings than Sandy," Glavine said in April when he moved within range.

"I'm still surprised when I get this many," "Dutch Boy" said Thursday. "But when my changeup is working as well as it was tonight or like it was against Milwaukee [11 strikeouts in six innings on April 14], I'm going to get more than usual."

Of course, Glavine's victory had other components. He allowed three hits -- all singles. He walked one -- intentionally. For the second straight start, he didn't allow a run. It wasn't all about strikeouts, of course. And there was the matter of support.

In the world of half-empty glasses, the Mets's support of Glavine has qualified as barely adequate. These days though, with the Mets in first place and 10 games over .500, their glass is decidedly half-full. That said, Glavine is pitching so well, he barely needs support.

Nonetheless, he was the happy recipient of a five-run outburst -- in one inning, no less -- Thursday night. And that was more than enough to fuel a second straight Mets victory against the Pirates. With Xavier Nady hitting a three-run home run, the Mets scored five times in the seventh inning -- more than they had in any of Glavine's six previous starts -- and completed their third series sweep of the season.

Glavine (4-2) never got to pitch with the comfortable lead.

"I didn't get to enjoy it until I wasn't pitching," was his playful lament. He was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. "I probably would have messed it up," he said. "I wouldn't know what to do with it. "I would have liked a few more early, but I'll take what I can get."

Nady had driven in the Mets' first run in the third when he walked with the bases loaded against losing pitcher Paul Maholm (1-4). And the Mets had chances thereafter, but those bore fruit. But in the seventh, Nady faced Maholm's successor, Salomon Torres, after the third of David Wright's four hits had driven in Lo Duca and doubled the Mets' lead. Nady hit a 2-0 pitch over the center field wall for his seventh home run.

"Was that all for me?" the Painter asked.

Short hops: Glavine's in-season record is two games over .500 for the first time since June 2004. ... Jose Valentin drove in the Mets' sixth run after Torres hit Cliff Floyd with a pitch and after both managers and dugouts had been warned by plate umpire Adam Dowdy. The RBI was the first for Valentin. ... Wright had four hits for the fourth time in his career. ... The Mets' record, 19-9, is 10 games over .500 in fewer than 30 games for the sixth time in their history -- 1971 (19-9), 1972 (17-7), 1985 (18-8), 1986 (13-3) and 1988 (16-6). No Mets record has been 10 games over .500 since the last day of the 2000 season.

With one scoreless inning, Duaner Sanchez increased, to 19, the number of scoreless relief innings he has pitched at the beginning of his Mets career. Only Hal Reniff -- 21 scoreless relief innings in 1967 -- had a longer streak to begin his time with the Mets. Reniff's ERA in 43 innings with the Mets that season -- after his trade form the Yankees -- was 3.35. So his ERA after the first 21 innings was 6.55.

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