Trachsel takes charge in clincher

Trachsel takes charge in clincher

NEW YORK -- The workers who populate the construction site next to Shea Stadium have their gazes projected on the Mets' tomorrow, the new stadium being erected for 2009.

But those blue-collar personnel also had their thoughts on Steve Trachsel's today. They let the right-hander know about it from the very second his automobile engine shut off.

"I was walking in from the parking lot," Trachsel said, "and the construction guys were screaming at me, 'Get this thing done!'"

Random pleas for a Mets victory weren't the main reason Trachsel pitched a gem on Monday over the Florida Marlins, twirling 6 1/3 scoreless innings as the Mets wrapped up the National League East, but the positive reinforcement didn't hurt.

"Obviously, a lot of people have been thinking about this for a long time," Trachsel said.

The victory, Trachsel's team-leading 15th, was sweet vindication for the longest-tenured Met, who came to the Mets fresh off the club's appearance in the 2000 World Series.

A free agent after splitting that season with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Trachsel closely followed the Mets' five-game journey through the Fall Classic.

In inking a deal with the Mets, there was little reason for Trachsel not to believe that he, too, would soon be a part of something special.

"I said, 'Oh, I'm going to New York and I'm going to go play in the postseason,'" Trachsel said.

All that elapsed was three managers, three more general managers, scores of underachieving teammates, and a back surgery that cost him most of last year.

No matter. Finally, the playoff wait is over.

"That was the whole point of me coming over here," Trachsel said. "It took a little longer than I hoped, but now that we're here, we've got to make the best of it and get this thing finished."

It wasn't as though Trachsel would be unfamiliar to big-game circumstances. On Sept. 28, 1998, Trachsel pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants in a one-game playoff for the National League Wild Card, boosting the Chicago Cubs into October.

"That was the Cubs, one game, win or go home," Trachsel said. "This was, at some point, we knew we were going to clinch. But a lot of the feelings are the same, especially with the fans at home. I've been waiting so long for this opportunity."

Trachsel never pitched in those 1998 playoffs as the Cubs were swept in three Division Series games by the Atlanta Braves.

After a pair of shaky starts earlier this month, Trachsel's postseason debut again appeared to be in jeopardy. Manager Willie Randolph continues to refuse to speculate on his postseason rotation, only saying that Trachsel is in competition with the other pitchers, and losses to the Braves and the Dodgers in his last two starts heading into Monday's game couldn't help Trachsel's case.

He hopes that his latest performance helps prove, once and for all, that he can win the big game.

"I'm trying not to let it get bigger than what it could be," Trachsel said. "Obviously, I had a lot of thought about it, and we knew we'd be riding high. It wasn't a do-or-die game for me, but I definitely wanted a fresh start. ... First and foremost, I just wanted to get those last two games erased out of everyone's memory, pitch strong and give us a chance."

Trachsel limited the Marlins to just one hit -- Josh Willingham's fourth-inning double -- over the first six innings. Miguel Cabrera started the seventh with a single, and former teammate Mike Jacobs stroked a one-out hit, drawing Randolph from the dugout.

Trachsel stalked off the field, accepting handshakes and high-fives before drawing his eyes back to the action.

He said he did hear the thunderous and appreciative roars from the crowd of 46,729, reaching decibel levels arguably louder than they've ever cheered for Trachsel. Not that he tipped those emotions at any point.

"Steve definitely had the fans going out there," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

Dutifully retreated to the bench, his evening entrusted to the hands of Guillermo Mota, Trachsel was left to wonder. But Mota proved capable, retiring the side, and Trachsel could exhale.

The Mets were now six outs away, and after Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner brought them home, Trachsel could be found as a central figure in the crowded clubhouse, sipping nearly as much champagne as he was wearing.

Typical Trachsel. Understated, but at the end, right in the middle of everything.

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.