By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Even without their best hitters, the New York
Mets are nothing but trouble for Cole Hamels.
Scott Hairston, subbing for ailing All-Star Carlos Beltran, hit
a long homer and drove in a career-best five runs as New York
hammered the Phillies’ ace yet again in an 11-2 victory Saturday.
“I found out I was in the lineup right away, it gave me a
couple of hours to prepare. I made sure I was ready,” Hairston
said. “I’ve played in this role for the last few years. It’s a
very difficult role. I rely on that experience.”
Daniel Murphy also went deep and Jonathon Niese pitched seven
strong innings to help the depleted Mets snap a three-game skid.
Fielding a makeshift lineup minus its four biggest bats, New York
rapped out 15 hits and improved to 4-7 this season against the NL
East leaders, who own baseball’s best record.
Beltran sat out with the flu and a high fever, so manager Terry
Collins inserted a not-so-secret weapon against Hamels (11-5).
Hairston batted third in large part because he entered with a
.353 career average (6 for 17) and three homers against the
left-hander, one of Philadelphia’s three All-Star starters.
“When you have good numbers against an opponent, it gives you
confidence. Confidence helps at the plate,” Collins said.
Those big numbers quickly ballooned even more.
Hairston doubled his first two times up, driving in two runs and
scoring one as New York built a 4-0 lead by the fourth. He hit a
three-run shot off Danys Baez in the seventh to make it 11-2, a
drive to left that sailed into the rarely reached second deck at
spacious Citi Field.
The offensive outburst was a surprise, especially because the
Mets are also missing injured shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman
David Wright and first baseman Ike Davis.
New York totaled 10 runs in its previous five games, an
understandable slump considering the competition. Hamels was the
fifth All-Star starter the Mets faced in a span of six games, going
“I just wasn’t hitting my spots,” Hamels said. “They’re a
good team. Obviously they’re young, but at the same time you have
to make pitches and I wasn’t able to make pitches.”
Niese (9-7) allowed one earned run and six hits while striking
out six and walking one.
The left-hander, who leads the team in wins and is 9-4 in his
last 15 starts, hardly ran into any trouble besides a bases-loaded
jam in the seventh that he soon escaped.
“He is getting tougher,” Collins said. “It’s as if he’s
saying we’re going to get back on track and I’m going to take care
Murphy, who had three hits and two RBIs, opened the fifth with
his sixth home run to make it 5-0 _ and the Mets didn’t stop there.
Jason Bay singled and, one out later, lumbering Nick Evans hit a
long drive to right for his second major league triple. Ruben
Tejada grounded reliever David Herndon’s first pitch through a
drawn-in infield for a 7-0 cushion.
Hamels yielded seven earned runs, matching a career high, and
eight hits in 4 1-3 innings while falling to 3-10 in 16 career
games against New York.
He lasted only 2 2-3 innings in a 7-1 loss to the Mets on April
5 and had dropped five consecutive starts against them before
striking out 10 in a 5-2 victory May 28 at Citi Field.
“Haven’t really been able to get a good roll against them,”
Hamels said. “It’s kind of one of those games where you just want
to throw it out.”
His demise Saturday came much to the delight of fans who
remember that Hamels called the Mets “choke artists” in December
2008 after their second consecutive September collapse.
Miscommunication on the Philadelphia infield made for an unlucky
start for Hamels, whose ERA spiked from 2.32 to 2.71.
Hairston doubled with two outs in the first and hustled home when Murphy’s harmless-looking popup dropped between first baseman
Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley, who both backed away as
the ball descended.
“Originally I called it and then it was kind of loud and I
thought he said that he had it,” said Howard, who sat staring into
his locker, still in uniform, for a long while before hitting the
showers. “I kind of saw him in the corner of my eye and heard him.
He was saying my name and I mistook it for him saying that he got
it, that he was calling me off.”
Howard got a derisive cheer when he gloved Evans’ foulout the
NOTES: Phillies CF Shane Victorino (sprained right thumb) was
set to begin a rehab assignment Saturday night with Double-A
Reading at Trenton. Philadelphia reliever Brad Lidge (strained
rotator cuff) also was scheduled to appear in that game. … Plate
umpire Brian Gorman was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Hamels
that bounced past Phillies C Carlos Ruiz. Gorman said X-rays were
negative and the swelling had already decreased dramatically thanks
to an anti-inflammatory patch applied by the Mets’ training staff.
“I’ll live,” he said. … Beltran was not at the ballpark and his
status for Sunday was uncertain, Collins said. … Pagan snapped an
0-for-17 slide with an infield single in the fifth. … Hairston
has four doubles off Hamels in 20 at-bats. … Attendance was
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)