With a four-run lead and the Pittsburgh Pirates down to their last strike, the Mets could have expected victory. Certainly, everyone else in the stadium seemed to.
But about 30 minutes later, the Mets were trudging off the field while the Pirates set off a raucous celebration at home plate, having defeated the Mets 5-4 in 10 innings.
"We just gave it away," Mets manager Willie Randolph told reporters. "We deserve what we got. You've got a four-run lead, you've got to close the door and we didn't get it done."
Needing three outs to end the game, Randolph gave the ball to reliever Aaron Heilman, who got the first out of the inning but then allowed hits to Jose Castillo and Daryle Ward. Heilman got Ryan Doumit to fly out, but then walked Jack Wilson, yielding way to closer Braden Looper with the tying run at bat.
Tike Redman – brother of Mets farmhand Prentice Redman – then battled Looper in a 12 pitch at-bat before lacing a two-run single up the middle, cutting the Mets' advantage to 5-3. Matt Lawton followed with a two-run double to left-center that Cliff Floyd dove for and couldn't knock down, tying the game.
The dejected Mets went 1-2-3 in the top of the 10th, and Humberto Cota ended the pain in the bottom of the inning with a run-scoring single following a Miguel Cairo throwing error.
Ramon Castro homered and had an RBI single for New York. Victor Zambrano started and allowed just five hits and one run over eight innings, walking one.
Unexpected day off: Randolph gave reporters the heads-up in Washington this week that he planned on playing Castro more in the second half and giving Mike Piazza a few unexpected days off. Friday just happened to be one of those days, with Piazza surprised to learn he wasn't in the starting lineup for the series opener at PNC Park.
"He's the mad scientist," Piazza told reporters. "There's no rhyme or reason. It's not like there's a designed plan for either of us."
Minor League Report
TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Columbus plated an unearned run in the top of the 10th Friday, edging Norfolk, 6-5. All-Star Jason Scobie started for the Tides and picked up a no-decision, allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out six and walking one. Ron Calloway and Rodney Nye had RBIs for the Tides, and Chris Basak added a two-run single off Columbus starter Jorge De Paula.
DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: Binghamton was rained out at Norfolk. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Sunday beginning at 2:05 p.m. Brian Bannister (9-3, 2.23) goes Saturday against Merkin Valdez (4-4, 2.81).
SINGLE-A ST. LUCIE: Every Mets position player stroked at least one hit as St. Lucie defeated Fort Myers Friday, 5-2. Jonathan Slack went 2-for-4, while Wilson Batista and Tyler Davidson each had a pair of hits. Miguel Pinango (W, 1-0) threw 5-2/3 innings of shutout, two-hit ball, while Eddie Camacho recorded five outs for his eighth save.
SINGLE-A HAGERSTOWN: Gaby Hernandez fired five shutout innings against the West Virginia Power, running his scoreless streak against that club to 23-2/3 innings, but the Power came to life against Hagerstown's bullpen in a 4-3 win Sunday. Matt Miramontes (L, 3-2) took the loss after allowing three runs in a third of an inning. Mike Carp and Ryan Coultas had two-hit days for Hagerstown, with both players doubling once.
SINGLE-A BROOKLYN: The Cyclones were rained out Friday against Staten Island. The contest will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Aug. 26.
ROOKIE-LEAGUE KINGSPORT: Kingsport got five terrific innings from Jonathan Castillo, who allowed no runs and two hits while striking out eight, but Princeton got to Dustin Childress (L, 0-2) for four runs in a 4-2 K-Mets loss Friday. Greg Gonzalez, playing his first game with the K-Mets after a demotion from Brooklyn, stroked three hits in four trips, while third baseman Matt Anderson had two hits.
The Mets try to bounce back from their crushing defeat on Saturday, when Kazuhisa Ishii (2-7, 5.50) heads to the mound against Pittsburgh's Dave Williams (6-6, 4.37). First pitch is 7:05 p.m., with the game televised on WPIX.