NEW YORK (AP) -- Butterflies? It was more like eagles flying
around inside Cuban defector Alay Soler as he made his first major
league start for the New York Mets.
Soler, auditioning for a spot on the struggling back end of the
New York rotation, allowed three runs against Philadelphia before
retiring a batter. He walked the first three hitters he faced and
seemed overwhelmed. It was an unlikely beginning for what developed
into a 5-4 Mets' victory Wednesday night.
The right-hander walked the first three batters he faced. Pat
Burrell delivered one run with a single, and two more scored when
second baseman Chris Woodward allowed Ryan Howard's grounder to go
through his legs. Soler then set down the next three hitters,
leaving two runners stranded.
"I had my nerves but I tried to make my pitches," Soler said.
"It wasn't like that until I was able to find the zone and I was
able to stay in the zone."
"I'm sure, his first major league start, he was probably
psyched up," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I don't know
if he was nervous, but the adrenaline was going. He wasn't missing
by far. We scored three and could have added more. We let it get
Soler settled down, pitched his way out of the first inning and
added five shutout innings before leaving the game leading 4-3.
Burrell tied it at 4-4 with his 33rd career home run against the
Mets but New York bunched three singles in the bottom of the
seventh, the last one by David Wright, to score the eventual
Philadelphia starter Jon Lieber was gone by then after
experiencing his own control problems, walking four in six innings.
He blamed home plate umpire Jerry Meals.
"I thought he was terrible at times," Lieber said. "It gets
to the point where you make certain pitches that obviously are
strikes. I didn't think he was very good."
Lieber was hurt on two-out home runs by Carlos Beltran in the
first inning and Wright in the third.
"We've got a good mix of speed and power," Wright said. "We
continue to chip away. We never say die. We never roll over. That's
the type of team we have. It's the kind of character we're made
After Wright's homer, New York tied the score on a two-out
single by Woodward and then took the lead in the fourth when Jose
Reyes hit his sixth triple of the season and scored on a sacrifice
fly by Jose Valentin.
Burrell tied it for the Phillies in the seventh against reliever
Pedro Feliciano with his 12th home run of the season.
But New York came right back in the bottom of the inning to
regain the lead against reliever Rheal Cormier (2-1). Beltran
singled and came around on singles by Carlos Delgado and Wright,
who had three hits.
Feliciano (1-0) got credit for the win and Billy Wagner worked a
perfect ninth for his 10th save in 13 opportunities and first
against his former Phillies teammates.
New York stretched its NL East lead over Philadelphia to five
Soler's final line was five hits, four walks, but just one after
the first inning, and five strikeouts. He threw 102 pitches, 61 for
"He pitched a great ball game," Mets manager Willie Randolph
said. "After he settled in, he did pretty much what the scouting
report said he would do. He mixed his pitches well. He seemed
pretty polished for a guy first time in the big leagues. We're
really proud of him."
Beltran, who won Tuesday night's 16-inning marathon for the Mets
with a home run, hit the first pitch he saw from Lieber in the
bottom of the first for his 13th homer of the season. That
triggered a turnaround for Soler.
"The most important thing I think was that I found my pitching
rhythm and I was able to make my pitches with location and that was
a determining factor," Soler said.
Two innings later, Wright hit his eighth homer. It marked the
sixth straight game in which the Mets hit multiple home runs and
the third straight game with a home by Wright.
Among active players, only Chipper Jones (35) and Barry
Bonds (37) have hit more home runs against the Mets than Burrell.
... Lieber started in place of LHP Cole Hamels, who was placed on
the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain. ... Both
teams added pitchers in moves before the game. The Phillies
recalled Clay Condrey from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre to
replace Hamels, and the Mets brought up Heath Bell from Triple-A
Norfolk to replace Jorge Julio, who was traded to Arizona for
Orlando Hernandez. ... Cormier and closer Tom Gordon were the only
Philadelphia relievers not to pitch in the 16-inning loss on