Wagner took the save regardless, and the Mets took the 9-6 win over the Angels. It was an uncomfortable win, the type that kept the Mets squirming throughout its later stages. But it was a win nonetheless, and with jobs seemingly in jeopardy throughout the Mets organization, this group is not about to be picky.
"We got a break," Randolph said. "Billy kept you on the edge of your seat -- well, he kept me, anyway -- and it kind of felt similar to the way things have been going."
Wagner's escape act in the ninth inning was even more vexing, because on this night, it seemed as if the Mets had already dodged their allotted amount of bullets. Mike Pelfrey gave them a strong start, but ran into trouble as he tried to complete his seventh inning. And that, for the Mets, is where the bulk of the worry took place.
Pelfrey didn't last long in the seventh, allowing three straight baserunners and then retiring to the dugout. And his relief, Pedro Feliciano, didn't last long, either, allowing both of his inherited runners to score and recording only one out. So in came Aaron Heilman to face two of the league's more talented hitters.
Heilman struck out Vladimir Guerrero on three pitches, then whiffed Torii Hunter to end the threat. The Mets retained a two-run lead, and later tacked on an insurance run in the ninth.
"I've seen him hit balls that have bounced," Heilman said of Guerrero, as if describing some mythic hitter. "I've seen him turn balls around that looked like they were going to hit him, and reach out into the other batter's box and drive a ball down the line."
So to retire him on three pitches was rather impressive, even if Heilman wouldn't admit his pride.
"You were awesome," Wagner shouted in the clubhouse. "Just say it."
Wagner wouldn't say the same about himself, of course -- not when he faced four batters, allowed a walk and two hits and recorded three outs on two squarely hit balls. But he was quick to note that he didn't really mind. Considering he blew three straight saves at one point last week, Wagner was plenty satisfied with his second straight success.
That all came about when Pelfrey began to unravel in the seventh, undermining what had otherwise been his fourth straight solid start. His final stat line became ugly -- six runs in six-plus innings -- but he, like Wagner, achieved a more significant goal.
Pelfrey earned his first win since April 15, and he said he was "excited." But ...
"I'm also disappointed," Pelfrey said. "The team went out and put up four runs, and that's the biggest time for me to go out and put up a zero. And I didn't get anybody out."
Those four runs in the seventh inning put some temporary -- and ultimately necessary -- space between the Mets and Angels. Leaning on Carlos Beltran's two home runs early, Randolph's team went quiet in the middle innings against Jered Weaver. Then, after the Angels drew closer off Pelfrey and Feliciano, the Mets scored another critical run.
Reyes led off the inning with a seemingly typical single, then rounded first base and stopped in the middle. When the throw came behind him, Reyes darted to second base to set up an A-B-C rally.
Randolph called it a smart play. Reyes called it a mistake turned good.
Walking across the clubhouse after the game, Reyes looked up to see Mets highlights on television, and he gawked when he noticed that they ruled that hit a double.
"They gave me a double on that?" he said, nearly cackling. "Oh, man."
It was a good break, the kind these Mets haven't had much recently. So they went home on Monday night and crawled into their beds, one win richer but no more secure than when they flew into California on Sunday night. General manager Omar Minaya was expected to join the team on Tuesday, casting further doubt on the jobs of Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and others.
Winning cures all, or so the saying goes, and maybe this, too, will pass. On Monday, Pelfrey, Wagner and the rest did all they could to spare some jobs. They earned a win, but it might not have been enough. Only hours, days or maybe even weeks will tell.
"Unfortunately, it's come to that," Pelfrey said in the clubhouse after the game. "You hear about that stuff, but everybody in this room is very, very talented. We're more than capable of going out and winning games."