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LAD@NYM: Pridie belts a go-ahead dinger

NEW YORK -- Hiroki Kuroda could have pitched to Ike Davis with a runner on base, but he did not. As the man on deck later rationalized, "When you've got Ike Davis at the plate and you see Jason Pridie behind him, odds are you're going to want to pitch to Jason Pridie."

Pridie, he of 39 career big league at-bats. He of a .320 on-base percentage in the Minors (and even worse in the Majors). He of a .186 average earlier this year at Triple-A.

Yet, after Kuroda intentionally walked Davis, it was Pridie who delivered the biggest hit of Friday's 6-3 Mets victory over the Dodgers, slamming a three-run homer over Citi Field's right-center-field wall to plate the winning runs -- and perhaps extend his employment in New York.

"I'm not trying to take the place of anybody, because we've got great players here," Pridie said. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can while I'm here to help this team win."

Playing regularly in center field because of Angel Pagan's oblique injury, Pridie has now reached base safely in all nine games he has started. Yet, that sample meant little to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly compared to Pridie's track record as a light-hitting non-prospect in the Minors.

So when Davis came to the plate with the tying run on base in the sixth, Mattingly did not hesitate to walk him.

"You know there's a chance he'll get a hit," Mattingly said. "Kind of didn't think it would be a three-run home run, especially in this park. Balls were crushed and didn't get out tonight."

Pridie's, however, was a no-doubter. Understanding but still somewhat miffed at Mattingly's decision to pitch to him, Pridie slugged a hanging splitter from Kuroda to the deepest part of Citi Field, giving the Mets a 5-3 lead that they would not relinquish.

"When I saw him walk, I kind of got into that competitor mode and really said to myself, 'I'm doing this, I'm getting a hit right here,' and I really kind of locked in," Pridie said. "It spurs a little emotion that I want to do it."

"You always think you're an idiot walking Davis and he does that," Mattingly said. "I still think it was the right thing."

The result was a festive atmosphere at Citi Field, on a night that began with the son of a 9/11 New York City firefighter, Chris Cannizzaro, throwing out the first pitch. Francisco Rodriguez later threw the last one, despite a heavy workload the previous day, lobbying manager Terry Collins to let him earn the save. He did, and the Mets won their second straight game.

It was in large part due to Pridie that they won, but also due to Jose Reyes, who tripled twice, stole a base and scored two runs. And also due to Davis, whose solo homer became a prequel to Pridie's more significant shot. It was also due to reliever Ryota Igarashi, who escaped a key jam in the sixth. And also due to starting pitcher Jon Niese, who at one point used bubblegum to moisten his hand and better grip the baseball.

But mostly it was due to Pridie, whose struggles at Triple-A Buffalo led many to believe the Mets would instead call upon top prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis when Pagan landed on the disabled list late last month.

Collins, though, remembered watching Pridie during his time as the club's Minor League field coordinator last summer, ranking him as one of the top defensive outfielders in the organization -- skills he showcased Friday in making several fine running catches.

"He looks really good out there," fellow outfielder Willie Harris said. "Playing at this level is all about confidence, and his confidence level is very high right now."

Yet, confidence alone will not keep Pridie on the roster once Pagan returns. To retain him, the Mets will either need to cut Harris, who has struggled both offensively and defensively this season, or Scott Hairston, who holds an advantage due to his proficiency hitting left-handed pitchers. Or they could keep six outfielders and cut slick-fielding infielder Chin-lung Hu, who holds a .105 on-base percentage.

At least for now, that decision can wait. Pagan recently suffered a setback in his rehab from a strained left oblique muscle and remains sidelined indefinitely. As long as Pagan is unable to play, Pridie will continue to start in center -- even before Friday night, he had wrested most of those at-bats away from Harris and Hairston.

"I've always felt that I could play at this level," Pridie said. "I've always felt that I could contribute if given the opportunity. I've always said I just hoped to get like 30 days in the big leagues to show what I can do. If I show that I can't play, then I can't play. But I've always felt that I could."

Fifteen days have passed since Pridie first boarded a plane bound for New York. Fifteen more seems reasonable.

"Here's your chance," Collins said. "You've got to show you belong here, and he's doing a nice job of showing that."

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