Phils back Pedro in NY, win on rare feat
Bruntlett turns first game-ending triple play in NL history
NEW YORK -- Pedro Martinez's homecoming began with a warm welcome from the New York fans.
It concluded with Eric Bruntlett's unassisted triple play -- the second to end a game, the first to end a game in National League history and the 15th overall in Major League history.
Along the way, Mets starter Oliver Perez was removed in the middle of a batter, Martinez surrendered an inside-the-park home run, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was ejected and Philadelphia prevailed, 9-7, at Citi Field on Sunday afternoon.
"I'm not surprised about anything that happens in my starts," Martinez said, laughing. "To see stuff like this doesn't really surprise me, but at the same time, it's so strange that everybody would have to say 'Wow, what happened here?'"
By the time Perez threw 30 pitches, he was trailing, 3-0, and had not retired a batter. Jimmy Rollins began the game by fouling off four straight two-strike pitches before doubling to left. Shane Victorino worked an eight-pitch walk. And on the 12th pitch of his at-bat, Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer into the second deck in left field.
Ryan Howard flew out to center to the sarcastic delight of the 39,038 in attendance. But the Phils got to Perez again soon enough: Catcher Carlos Ruiz launched another three-run homer to left.
That brought Martinez to the plate. With the Mets, he went 32-23 with a 3.88 ERA playing out a four-year, $53 million free-agent contract. Over his final 2 1/2 injury-riddled seasons in New York, however, he was just 10-11 with a 5.52 ERA. But on Sunday, he still received far more cheers than boos.
He expected nothing less.
"I'm very thankful for the fans and the reception they gave me," said Martinez, who allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. "I know the good bond that we have here and how much the people around here respect me and I respect the people here. It was a mutual reaction. I had it inside of me.
"I respect them, I love them and I miss them. It's a mutual feeling. They don't have to feel bad because I came back with the Phillies. The fact that I'm with the Phillies doesn't change my heart."
Unassisted triple plays
Indeed, the fans were kinder to Martinez than to Perez, who threw three straight balls to Martinez. Before he could walk the pitcher, Perez was given the hook, his season ERA already at 6.82.
"The situation with Oliver, I don't know how to judge it," Martinez said. "It's also a shocker. I've never seen something like that. ... Definitely it was really weird."
Martinez struck out against reliever Nelson Figueroa and promptly gave back one of the runs. Angel Pagan hit a fly ball to center that got caught beneath the outfield wall's padding. Victorino put his arms up to signal that the ball was stuck.
If the umpires agreed that the ball was lodged, the ball would have been ruled dead and Pagan would have a ground-rule double. But there was a risk: Until the umpires make a ruling, the ball is live.
Left fielder Raul Ibanez, seeing Pagan motoring around the bases, threw the ball in. Pagan slid in for his first career inside-the-park home run, and because Ibanez touched the ball, the umpires no longer had the discretion to deem it dead.
"So I threw my hands up, and I turn around and I saw the ball being fired in, and I'm like, 'What just happened?'" Victorino said.
With a fastball reaching 92 mph, Martinez tossed two 1-2-3 innings. He's 2-0 with a 5.14 ERA in three starts with the Phillies. The 37-year-old had wanted to return to the Mets, but they did not want him. Still, he felt he did not have to prove to them or their fans that he is better than his '08 numbers (5-6, 5.61 ERA).
"I don't have to show them, but they know that I'm different," he said. "They were watching me today."
In addition to the 28-minute first inning, Martinez received aid from an unlikely source: Bruntlett, who was making a spot start at second to rest Chase Utley.
|"I'm very thankful for the fans and the reception they gave me. I know the good bond that we have here and how much the people around here respect me and I respect the people here. It was a mutual reaction. I had it inside of me."|
|-- Pedro Martinez|
Bruntlett entered Sunday hitting .128 this season, with three hits over the past 10 weeks. Against the Mets, Bruntlett was 3-for-5 with a run scored and the historic triple play.
His afternoon was almost even better. In the top of the ninth, Bruntlett hit a line drive to shallow right-center field. Jeff Francoeur made what he thought was a sliding catch, but second-base umpire Rob Drake said that the ball had hit the grass first. Bruntlett kept running and wound up with a three-base hit.
But Mets manager Jerry Manuel disputed the call. The umpires got together, reversed the ruling on the field and took away Bruntlett's triple. Charlie Manuel argued the reversal. The effort by Philadelphia's manager, however, only earned him an ejection.
"Actually, I don't know if he caught it or not," he said. "But at the same time, [it's] the fact that they changed it."
The ejection set the stage for an eventful bottom of the ninth. Against Phillies closer Brad Lidge, Pagan smacked a ball down the first-base line that eluded Howard, who was charged with a three-base error. Luis Castillo hit a grounder to second that Bruntlett could not field cleanly. He was charged with an error, and Pagan scored.
Then Daniel Murphy hit a hard ball to the right of Bruntlett, who could only knock it down. The single put the potential tying runners on base with nobody out.
The runners attempted a double steal on a 2-2 pitch to Francoeur. That decision surprised Bruntlett and his double-play partner, Rollins, who saw it as an unnecessary risk. The trail runner could already score on an extra-base hit and, on an out, could still wind up in scoring position with fewer than two outs.
"I'm thinking that wasn't smart baseball," Rollins said. "They make rules in baseball and they broke it. It just so happened that it worked out for us."
It worked out because Bruntlett had to break toward second. Francoeur's liner, which normally would have landed in shallow center field, instead landed in Bruntlett's glove. He caught the ball striding into the second-base bag. So all he had to do was briefly chase and tag Murphy to complete the historic ending. The only other game-ending unassisted triple play in Major League history was achieved by Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun on May 31, 1927.
Lidge, who wound up with save No. 25 when the smoke cleared, said, "I couldn't help but smile and think, 'That's more like last year.'"
"The whole game was strange," Bruntlett added. "There were a lot of oddities that happened there. It really is true. When you think you've seen it all, you'll have something you've never seen before happen."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.