Feliciano made his 88th appearance Saturday in the seventh inning of the Mets' 5-1 victory against the Astros. It barely qualified as a cameo appearance -- one batter (Michael Bourn), six pitches (four strikes), one out (a ground ball to third base). And that was it. Not particularly heavy lifting, but in the world of Jerry Manuel, where right-handed relievers are all but forbidden to face left-handed hitters, someone has to do the left-handed work.
Manuel calls on Feliciano more often than not, more often than anyone else and marginally more than any manager summons any pitcher; Feliciano leads the big leagues in appearances. His 88 appearances are the most in Mets history, two more than he made last season, five more than Mike Stanton made in 2004 and six more than Joe Smith made as the right-handed specialist in Manuel's manically mix-and-match '08 bullpen.
"I like it that way," Feliciano says. "Eighty-nine will be OK. Eighty-eight will be OK if I don't pitch [Sunday], but I wanted 90. It would have been the first time in my life." And the first time in the big leagues since 2006, when Salomon Torres appeared in 94 Pirates games. "It's like you're the iron man," Feliciano said. He wanted 90 the way CC Sabathia wanted 20. Baseball has a round-number fetish. And who doesn't?
Feliciano estimates he has warmed up 25 times without pitching, for whatever reason -- a double play or caught stealing that ended an inning or strategy. Not every opposing manager wants his left-handed pinch-hitter facing the Mets' most active pitcher, so some pinch-hitter possibilities never make it to the on-deck circle.
When he was summoned Saturday, the Mets led, 4-1. The Astros had a runner on first base with two out. Brian Stokes, who had pitched the sixth in relief of starter Pat Misch had retired the last two batters. But Manuel is quite obsessive about this. So a long day at Citi Field was made longer by nine pitching changes. Feliciano secured the 21st out. Manuel split outs 22-27 between Sean Green (five) and Frankie Rodriguez (one and his 35th save).
And once the 27th was accomplished, the Mets were in position to achieve something that has eluded them since the final days of July -- a three-game winning streak. It hadn't come easily. The Astros were a challenge of some sort. But the weather was a greater obstacle. After Misch had allowed one run in five innings and the Mets had produced a three-run lead, the MLB cook just added water -- a mere two-hour, 20-minute delay.
So this one turned out to be a not particularly wonderful game that is reflected in Misch's 3-4 record and that has afforded the Mets an opportunity to finish this broken season with a winning home record in their first season in Citi Field. Their record in the Big Citi is 40-40 with one game remaining.
Misch, who shut out the Marlins Sunday, allowed the run in the third inning on a leadoff triple by Bourn and a sacrifice fly by Miguel Tejada. He surrendered four other hits and no walks, striking out one. He ended his season with a 4.48 ERA.
The Mets scored twice in the second inning against losing pitcher Yorman Bazardo. Anderson Hernandez drove in Cory Sullivan with a two-out double, and Hernandez then scored when Tejada misplayed Misch's ground ball for an error. A two-out single by Fernando Tatis against reliever Sammy Gervacio produced the Mets' runs in the fifth. Luis Castillo led off the inning with a walk against Bazardo (1-3). After two flyouts, Sullivan singled, and Castillo stole second base. Gervacio replaced Bazardo, and Tatis singled, his fifth hit in 44 at-bats with a runner in scoring position and two out.
The Mets scored again in the seventh, with Josh Thole driving in Tatis.
By then, Feliciano was in the clubhouse, his workday complete but not so his season. Two more appearances would make it so.