Maine flirts with no-hitter in blowout

Maine flirts with no-hitter in blowout

MIAMI -- Because John Maine had nine days between starts, Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson had more time for one-on-one fine-tuning in bullpen sessions. The Mets were in Philadelphia on Monday when Peterson saw a light bulb go on in Maine's head.

"There was an awareness of what we'd been talking about for the last year," Peterson said Wednesday night, after Maine had taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning of an eventual 9-2 victory over the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium.

"I think that was pretty special," Peterson said. "I know there was an awareness because he was able to repeat the things we'd been working on."

Maine was just nine outs from a no-hitter when Miguel Cabrera opened the seventh inning with a softly hit single to right-center field on a 2-2 pitch. Two outs later, Joe Borchard ended Maine's shutout attempt with a home run estimated to travel 439 feet to center field.

Still, Maine easily registered the victory, improving to 2-0 in 2007. He left after seven innings and 107 pitches, 66 for strikes. He walked four, but his seven strikeouts tied a career high.

The last time a Mets pitcher came closer to a no-hitter was Aug. 14, 2005, when Pedro Martinez had one out in the eighth against the Dodgers before surrendering a hit. No Met has pitched a no-hitter. Tom Seaver in 1975 was just one out away from one in late September against the Cubs.

Before Cabrera broke up Maine's no-hitter, he almost was called out on strikes. Cabrera stopped his swing just in time on a 1-2 pitch, because first-base umpire Laz Diaz signaled no swing after the Mets' appeal.

"It was close," manager Willie Randolph said. "Laz is usually pretty aggressive in punching guys out in that situation. It's hard to tell."

To listen to third baseman David Wright, who set a Mets record in the second inning by hitting in his 25th consecutive game, Maine had it all working Wednesday night.

"He had a phenomenal fastball," Wright said. "It sneaks right by hitters. And when hitters can't sit on his fastball, they have a lot of problems."

Peterson thought all of Maine's pitches worked well, saying the righty has a better understanding now of his offspeed pitches and is locating his fastball much more frequently.

"It's exciting to see someone develop like that," Peterson said. "He's showing every sign that he's on his way [toward stardom]."

Maine said his fastball location was "off just a hair" early in the game, but improved as the game progressed. He felt his changeup was a positive, except for the one he left up high against Borchard.

Meanwhile, Randolph thought Maine had given up a hit early and didn't realize he had a no-hitter until he looked at the scoreboard in the sixth. That kept him from inserting backup outfielder David Newhan at the time, because he wanted to leave his starting defense intact.

"He's so smooth you don't even notice him," Randolph said of Maine. "He's not a maximum effort guy, and his ball is very deceptive."

Wright set the Mets' hitting streak record with a soft single to left-center. The streak includes 12 games from last season. He had been tied with Hubie Brooks and Mike Piazza, who remain tied with Wright for the single-season record.

Wright smiled at the onslaught of reporters, because most knew he has been downplaying his hitting streak for some time now. And it continued Wednesday night.

"The streak is nowhere in my mind during the course of a game," he said. "Am I going up there and put pressure on myself to continue a streak? Absolutely not. One of my goals is to get that consistency, which this streak doesn't necessarily mean I'm doing. But I want to go up there and put together good at-bat after good at-bat, and little by little I'm feeling better and better."

Wright has contended that a streak can be dependent on luck.

"Today was a perfect example," he said. "The first hit I had was a jam shot. The last at-bat I squared up a ball as good as I can and lined out to third base. So that shows you there's a lot of luck involved."

Center fielder Carlos Beltran led a 17-hit attack with a two-run home run, his third of the season, and run-producing single. Jose Reyes posted the Mets' first four-hit game of '07.

Beltran said he gambled against Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis in hitting the home run.

"The at-bat before he threw me a lot of fastballs in, so I gambled that he'd do it again," Beltran said. "I don't think he had his best stuff. When he's throwing good, he pitches away and down. Tonight he was more in and up."

The Mets (9-4) now can go for a sweep of the two-game series Thursday night.

Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.