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Mets win despite Glavine's struggles

Mets win despite Glavine's struggles

LOS ANGELES -- Since the first day of Spring Training and more than ever before, it's been all about numbers for Tom Glavine -- 47 on his back, 300 wins on his mind and 41 candles on his cake. He passed 2,500 strikeouts, pitched an abridged one-hitter and produced the longest hitting streak of his career, four games.

He had an opportunity to add victory No. 299 to his numerical resume on Thursday night when the Mets engaged the Dodgers, and when they scored six times in the first inning, Glavine appeared likely to continue his career countdown.

By game's end, though, he was no closer to 300. An evening awash with numbers, many of them crooked, brought him frustration and embarrassment instead, to say nothing of the bruises to his ego and ERA. At least the numbers that counted most on a night borrowed from Coors Field did favor the Mets. With some difficulty, they made early six- and five-run leads stand up.

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Their 13-9 victory, a glut of offense that produced 35 hits -- 19 by the Dodgers -- and required three hours, 40 minutes and 377 pitches to complete was something of a salve for Glavine. He didn't care to wonder how miserable it would have been if the Mets hadn't won. "It's a whole easier to take because we won," he said.

The score suggested the Mets' 53rd victory had some characteristics of laugher. But it wasn't one. Aaron Sele suggested he hadn't felt secure about the outcome until "right now," about 35 minutes after the game.

Aaron Heilman said, "The way it started, you figured, 'OK, we're probably win this, 8-2.' But the way it went, it was getting to be one of those, ya know, one of those of which we do not speak."

Ultimately it worked out, especially from an offensive standpoint. With four players driving in two runs each, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Ramon Castro hitting insurance home runs and Ruben Gotay contributing three hits, the Mets amassed a season-high run total and more than doubled the runs they had scored last month in the three-game series the Dodgers swept here. They also made their new hitting coach quite pleased.

"I wish it was that easy," Howard Johnson said.

Indeed, the Mets exceeded their three-game total in the first inning when they batted around and scored six times against losing pitcher Derek Lowe. But Glavine, seemingly in need of only 15 outs to reach 299, managed merely six. By the time the book closed on his unbecoming start, he had been charged with six runs and become a tad confused.

It might have been the strike zone of umpire Mike Reilly that was confusing, though Glavine wouldn't acknowledge it. It seemed to be the size and shape of an amoeba. One of the Mets hitters characterized it as "not a pitcher's zone or a hitter's zone," and said "That's why every pitcher was behind all night."

Glavine described it thusly: "When I made a good pitch, they laid off it. When I made a bad pitch, they hit it."

Only the manager's hook, applied in the third with no outs and the bases loaded, and Lowe's inability to achieve outs spared Glavine, who allowed 10 hits, including home runs by Matt Kemp and Jeff Kent, and a walk before he was replaced by Sele, the winning pitcher. Glavine has allowed 10 or more hits 23 times in his career, but according to Elias Sports Bureau, in none of those instances did he face so few batters as he did Thursday (18). Lowe (8-9) faced 22 batters in his three innings and allowed 10 hits and three walks.

The Mets afforded Sele (3-0) a chance to win by scoring three times in the third after the Dodgers had reduced their deficit to 6-4. Marlon Anderson, in his return to the Mets, drove in the eighth and ninth runs with a single, his second hit

Teammates told Anderson that the Mets now generally score a dozen or so runs every day and urged him not to screw up the average.

"That a lot of pressure," Anderson said.

He had singled and scored in the first, the Mets' most productive first inning since Sept. 18, 2004. They scored six in the first for Glavine then, too. And he wasn't the winning pitcher then either.

The scenario sounded familiar to Glavine him. Had he won both games, the foregone conclusion that is his 300th career victory would in the books. That fact crossed his mind, too.

The Mets added runs in the fifth (one) and the sixth (two) when Delgado and Castro hit successive home runs against Rudy Seanez, the third of four Dodgers relievers. Beltran tied David Wright for the team lead in home runs when he hit his 17th in the eighth. That run allowed the Mets to breathe more easily in the eighth when Guillermo Mota, their third reliever, allowed the ninth run and made palms sweat.

"You never feels comfortable in games like that," Shawn Green said, acknowledging the Mets were trying not to lose -- rather than trying to win -- after they had led 9-4.

Sele's three innings -- one unearned run happened -- had stabilized the game for the Mets. "Veteran pitchers know how to use the ballpark when they have a comfortable lead," manager Willie Randolph said.

But who felt comfortable?

It was, after all, Randolph who asked, "We did win this. Right?"

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

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