Glavine feels good in first start back

Two-run eighth lifts Mets in Houston

HOUSTON -- As hot as the Mets are after winning 11 out of 13 games, their temperature is quite normal, thank you. Hey, 98.6, it's good to have you back again. The coldness that sent a chill through the organization and the Mets kingdom two weeks ago made no return on Friday night when Tom Glavine made his. The finger was fine. And if his performance wasn't, well, tough bazookies. Performance wasn't the bottom line.

Not on a night when the Mets' lead in the National League East exceeded their magic number -- it's now 16 and 14 games, respectively. Not after the Mets added another loss to the Astros' record and made it somewhat less likely that Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte will show up as October adversaries.

This start, the 630th of Glavine's career, wasn't about how well he pitched but rather how well he felt -- during and afterward. And he felt all right. The 8-7 victory that wasn't his was gravy to the Mets and essentially incidental to him.

In overview, his return was an almost unqualified success. He pitched for the first time in 16 days. Measured in hits, outs and runs, it was a flawed evening. Measured in terms of pitches thrown, 93, innings, five, and the circulation in the ring finger of his left hand, and it was a most encouraging development for a team with October in its plans, given the blood clot scare that had interrupted his season.

Glavine has October in his blood, and the Mets want it pumping in their playoff veins.

"Exciting to have him back -- win or lose," manager Willie Randolph said.

And with Cliff Floyd expected back on Saturday, the Mets will be a Pedro Martinez away from being whole again.

The Mets hadn't obsessed about Glavine, but they did exhale after he updated his condition with, "Everything feels right, and I expect to go on from here normally."

He said achieving on-the-mound comfort again will be the objective in his next start -- probably Wednesday against the Braves at Shea Stadium.

"After that I'll be more concerned about my numbers and pitching line," Glavine said.

His numbers on Friday night were unbecoming -- six runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings against an Astros team that had won six straight games and averaged nearly seven runs per in that sequence. For the second time in his 125 starts with the Mets, he endured a five-run inning in the fourth. That and the Mets' resilience left him with a no-decision for the sixth time in his 11 most-recent starts.

After retiring nine of his first 10 batters -- four on strikeouts -- Glavine retired only five of the subsequent 13, one on a warning-track sacrifice fly. The five runs were produced on a Jason Lane single, a bases-loaded walk to Chris Burke, a two-run single by the No. 8 hitter, Humberto Quintero, in his second big league at-bat this season, and then a wild pitch with a runner on third.

"Everything that went right in the first three innings didn't in the fourth," Glavine said. "The first few innings, I had low expectations, because I hadn't been out there. I was just trying to get by with what I had. When I got in trouble, I started to try to make nasty pitches. I guess I reverted back a little to the old game plan of 'Away, away, away.' I'd been pretty effective throwing inside until the fourth."

The fourth put the Mets two runs in arrears. But a three-run double by David Wright in the fifth gave Glavine another chance for the 287th victory of his career. But a leadoff triple by Willy Taveras and Lane's sacrifice fly tied the score again in the sixth.

The Mets scored the decisive runs in the eighth inning against Russ Springer (1-1), the third of four Astros relievers, with Jose Valentin driving in the first with a pinch-hit double that scored Wright, and Endy Chavez driving in Valentin with a single.

Glavine left the rest of the pitching to Chad Bradford, winning pitcher Guillermo Mota (1-0), Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner (33rd save). Wagner surrendered two of the four hits and the only run against the bullpen.

He was unfazed by the hiccup, as was Carlos Beltran by the unfriendly reception afforded him by those among the 35,548 patrons, who thought it wrong of him to accept the Mets $119 million contract two Januarys ago. As was the case last season, Beltran was booed loudly in each at-bat and each time he touched the ball.

"They haven't turned that page yet," he said. "They're still living in the past."

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