Pedro Martinez joked that he deserved a light day at work, and he was probably right.
That's what he got on Sunday, as the Mets boosted Martinez to a big early lead against Mike Hampton and Pedro went into cruise-control mode, tossing just 61 pitches and leaving after six innings in a 8-1 Mets win.
"This is probably the only day I can say that I had an easy day at the office," Martinez told reporters. "I deserve it, don't I?"
With the Mets needing a victory to salvage a split of their four-game series with the Braves, the bats jumped on Hampton early.
Making his first start back off the disabled list, Hampton had none of the magic that Tim Hudson stymied the Mets with on Saturday night; New York battered the left-hander for five runs and seven hits in just two innings.
Leading the offensive attack for the Mets was Mike Cameron, who singled twice, homered and drove in three runs.
With the Mets leading 6-0 after six innings, Mets manager Willie Randolph pulled Martinez – "Saving bullets," Randolph reasoned – and turned the game over to the relief trio of Juan Padilla, Heath Bell and Dae-Sung Koo. They got the job done, including the Mets debut of Padilla: a 1-2-3 seventh inning featuring three ground ball outs.
As for Martinez, he said he had no problem with calling it an early afternoon, even if the Shea Stadium crowd would have rather seen him go longer.
That's not surprising, considering Martinez has truly been everything the Mets could have hoped for and more: he's now 11-3 with a 2.60 ERA, and has allowed one earned run or less in nine of his 19 starts.
"That's why you guys call me the ace," Martinez said.
Doug in a hole: Immediately after Doug Mientkiewicz stroked two hits in the Mets' loss on Saturday night, Randolph was asked if the performance would get him back in the lineup with the lefthanded Hampton on tap for Sunday.
Randolph was non-committal, only saying, "We'll see," and the message was clear: Mientkiewicz has a lot of hitting to do to earn his way back into the manager's good graces.
Randolph has been exceptionally pleased with the production given to him by Chris Woodward, who was tabbed for his 16th start at first base Sunday. At this point, it's probably not even fair to say that Mientkiewicz is the Mets' starting first baseman.
Minor League Report
TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Eric Valent went 3-for-4, including a homer, and drove in two runs to lead the Tides to a 10-8 win over Syracuse Sunday night. Prentice Redman added a solo homer as part of a two-hit night, and Anderson Hernandez kept up his hot hitting with a 3-for-4 showing. All-Star Jason Scobie (11-4) picked up the victory, allowing four earned runs and eight hits over six innings.
DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: Lastings Milledge's bat remained hot in a 3-for-4 performance, scoring a pair of runs, but Milledge's .588 average at Double-A wasn't enough to lead the B-Mets on Sunday. Binghamton fell to Reading, 7-4, when reliever Luz Portobanco (2-6) allowed four runs over the last two innings. Brett Harper cracked a solo homer, his fourth, for Binghamton, while Orlando Roman made a quality start, allowing three runs (all on solo homers) and six hits over seven innings, striking out seven.
SINGLE-A ST. LUCIE: Evan MacLane (8-5) threw five perfect innings Sunday before turning the game over to Maldonado Oquendo, who allowed a run on three hits the rest of the way in a 10-1 St. Lucie win over Clearwater. Kevin Rios went 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored for the Mets.
SINGLE-A HAGERSTOWN: West Virginia put up three runs in the top of the 14th inning against Jose Gomez (1-2) and Marcelo Perez Sunday, powering past the Suns, 8-5. Mike Carp cracked his 18th home run of the year, a two-run shot in the third inning, and Jason Weintraub contributed four innings of scoreless, two-hit relief for Hagerstown.
SINGLE-A BROOKLYN: Brooklyn and Auburn were suspended due to heavy fog on Sunday. The game will be made up on Monday at 12pm, as the teams will play the remaining five innings of the game and then play a seven-inning game, Monday's originally scheduled contest.
ROOKIE-LEAGUE KINGSPORT: Bluefield plated three runs in the eighth inning Sunday, pushing past the K-Mets, 5-4. Dustin Childress was strong in a start for Kingsport, going five innings and allowing a run on two hits, striking out four. Catcher Joan Martinez homered, his third, and shortstop Jose Coronado contributed two hits.