Perez poised in much-needed victory

Perez poised in much-needed victory

NEW YORK -- There was nothing particularly special about this win -- honestly, there wasn't. In comparison to the most recent three games played at Shea Stadium, Friday night's contest between the Mets and Rangers even held some elements of tedium. With the outcome assured early in the evening, maximum energy became unnecessary.

But the win -- ahh, that win was necessary. Quite necessary, indeed.

"The way it's been going, that felt really smooth, really easy," Willie Randolph said. "It's a big contrast to what's been going on. Tonight just felt like a walk in the park."

So the Mets won a game, 7-1 over the Rangers, and Randolph held onto his manager's job for yet another day. Reports still swear that Randolph remains a losing streak away from unemployment, but Friday provided a blueprint for prevention.

Win, win, win. This was an isolated victory, bounded by six losses in seven games on one side, and complete uncertainty on the other. But on this night, winning a game was the only step the Mets could take toward normalcy.

So they took it.

"This whole thing with Willie, it's blown up," catcher Brian Schneider said. "Obviously, we take the blame. He's not the one doing it. We're the ones doing it. He's not the one losing the games. We are. That's all out of his hands. What can he do?"

He can pull the right strings, make the right moves, and hope for a smooth transition back to winning.

Oliver Perez, easily the most inconsistent Mets starter, made that transition simple. His seven innings were marred only by Josh Hamilton's home run in the first, and he became far from Hamilton's only victim this year. So Perez, in spite of that blast, gave the Mets seven innings and 116 pitches' worth of breezy baseball.

Coming off a series of losses and rocky starts, Perez needed this win perhaps as much as Randolph did.

"Today was an important day," Perez said.

Equally as important was that the offense, unable to tack on runs in recent games, did just that in the sixth. Four straight hits to open the inning knocked Rangers starter Scott Feldman out of the game, and all four of those Mets eventually scored.

Perez struck the loudest, greeting reliever Josh Rupe with a two-run single. And Marlon Anderson, hitless over his previous 23 at-bats, knocked out a run-scoring single.

Then the relievers relieved -- a novel concept this week. And the Mets won.

"It doesn't matter how we win right now," Schneider said, "as long as we win."

Randolph can attest to that, which might explain the levity he brought with him as he entered Shea Stadium's interview room following the game.

When a team spokesman announced that general manager Omar Minaya was going to enter the room, Randolph joked about his job. When asked what he thought of Minaya's most recent vote of confidence, Randolph called it a possible "kiss of death."

He charmed the room like a man either resigned to his fate, or completely ignorant of it. But Randolph was neither.

"I'm going to keep my sense of humor no matter what," he said.

Those who insist that each game carries equal weight are not privy to some essential baseball truths. They all count the same in the standings, sure. But in a season that tumbles and lurches like a wooden roller coaster, some just feel more significant.

This one felt more significant. The players knew it, the fans knew it, and even Randolph -- the man whose even demeanor ranks among his proudest traits -- seemed electric.

Woe to the Rangers, who had never played the Mets at Shea until Friday night. They stumbled into something above them, beyond them. Put simply, the Rangers wanted to win. The Mets -- and Randolph most of all -- needed to win.

If they continue to roll precisely like this, then these Mets might yet save Randolph's job. If they don't, then that same old possibility of unemployment will resurface.

Right now, they're doing all that they can. They'll soon find out whether or not that's enough.

"I'm a fighter," Randolph said. "When I'm losing or when the team is losing, I take that real personal. I just try to find a way to get it done, and all the other stuff is really out of my control. I really feel that way."

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