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Glavine notches win No. 299

Glavine notches win No. 299

NEW YORK -- The greatest challenge in the final stages of Tom Glavine's quest to win 300 games hasn't been the Dodgers' offense, the thin air in Denver, insufficient support, the ghosts of Yankee Stadium, lack of command, his 41 years or even the dreaded QuesTec. "The biggest fight," Glavine said Wednesday night, "has been not getting too far ahead of myself." And now that can't happen.

Glavine's 300 agenda has merely one more entry. And as he pointed out when he eliminated the last of the others, "You can't get too far ahead of yourself when it's your next start."

So here he is, five decades into a baseball life and 299 victories into a baseball career that will be defined by the next number he achieves. Glavine has put the horse in front of the cart for months. Now, finally, the juxtaposition can't be anything but proper, and all he did to accomplish that was beat the Pirates at Shea Stadium on Wednesday night.

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In the aftermath of the Mets' purposeful, 6-3 victory, Glavine knew exactly how things lined up. "The horse is properly placed," he said.

What used to be on a distant horizon is within an arm's reach for him -- a left arm, of course. And all that remains in his quest is to do what he has done more often than all but 22 of the men who have pitched in the big leagues. If he beats the Brewers on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, a bowling mecca, he will have a 300 game.

But as much as Glavine likes a challenge, he wouldn't be opposed to a little fundamental math here. He'd like to round off. "Could we apply that here?" he said, smiling in his first hour on the threshold. "That would be big."

He knows some of what's ahead.

The next five days will be unlike any five-day period in his career. They will tug at him, wake him, unsettle him, occupy him and, probably, tire him. Ultimately, they will bring him to the city where his first employer did business long before he gained his first victory -- also against the Pirates -- 20 years ago, and where Warren Spahn, his father's first pitching icon, did most of the work that made him one of the special 22.

The cart is properly positioned, but it is heavily loaded.

"There's a lot to think of between now and then," Glavine said.

He reached the threshold by persevering through a less-than-brilliant performance. He walked three of his first four batters and had Shea squirming. But he survived that peril, a six-run lead -- remember what he did with the previous one -- and another home run by Jason Bay to put his 2007 record at 9-6.

The Mets' revitalized offense had scored six times in the first inning in his behalf in Los Angeles last week, but that output didn't have the full, desired effect; they won, he didn't. A minor variation on that six-run theme -- they scored three times in the first and third innings this time -- and significant improvement by him worked more effectively. The Mets won for the ninth time in 13 games since the All-Star break, the 10th time in their last 12 games at Shea and the 14th time in Glavine's 22 starts.

Glavine surrendered the three runs in the fifth, two coming on Bay's third home run in two games here. Otherwise, he allowed seven hits and three walks and struck out two. No. 299 probably will go unmentioned on his Cooperstown plaque.

Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner shared the "making-sure" responsibility, Heilman with two clean innings -- he has retired his last 16 batters -- and Wagner with his 23rd save in 24 opportunities. The closer already has his 300 game. His save total now is 347. He and Randy Myers are tied for the seventh most all-time.

The Mets had scored all their runs against left-handed Tom Gorzelanny with Paul Lo Duca contributing a two-run double in each three-run rally. Marlon Anderson, a late addition to the lineup -- Carlos Beltran strained a muscle in his side in batting practice -- produced the other run in the first inning. Damion Easley drove in the third run in the other rally.

Easley was the last batter Gorzelanny (9-6) faced. The Pirates leading starter was removed after experiencing tightness in his left shoulder.

On this night, though, almost anything unrelated to Glavine seemed to be secondary. Chances are Shea Stadium won't witness his 300th victory. If it doesn't come Tuesday in Milwaukee, his next opportunity will come in Chicago Aug. 5. And Glavine doesn't want to wait even that long.

At the same time, he assumes nothing. He spoke of 300 conditionally Wednesday. He thought of the first inning when he walked Freddie Sanchez, Adam La Roche and Bay after one out. "You never know what's going to happen," he said.

When a double play ground ball extricated him, an animated fist pump followed. "I was excited," he said. "But I told myself, 'Dude, it's the first inning.' ... A bases-loaded ground ball is always big. And in my personal situation it's real big."

Getting a double play in that circumstance doesn't just happen. Glavine made his pitch to get it. He'll try to do so again Tuesday to get where he wants to be. But, he said, "Rounding off would be a lot easier."

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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