Commentary

Mets lose game, gain starter

Takahashi steps up to join battered rotation, but bats and gloves let him down

Updated: May 22, 2010, 2:25 PM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Hisanori Takahashi was a starting pitcher for virtually his entire 10-year career in his native Japan.

His goal was to become a starting pitcher in the major leagues when he agreed to move halfway across the world to join the New York Mets, signing a one-year minor league contract with the team in February.

Takahashi finally got his wish Friday night, and he made the most of it, throwing six shutout innings -- against the defending World Series champions, no less. Unfortunately for him, his offense was punchless, his bullpen leaked behind him, and the Yankees beat the Mets 2-1 in the opening game of the Subway Series.

Still, there was some good news for the 35-year-old left-hander after the game. He's got a new job.

"Yeah, I would have to say that, that [Takahashi's] in the rotation," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He pitched very well, extremely well."

The reasons for the new assignment are twofold: Takahashi's strong performance Friday, and the fact the Mets' rotation is in tatters. Three-fifths of the Opening Day five are missing in action. The wildly ineffective Oliver Perez was exiled to the bullpen last weekend, Jonathon Niese is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, and John Maine joined him there Friday with what's being described as weakness in his pitching shoulder.

Luckily, it appears the Mets had another starter sitting in their bullpen all season.

Takahashi had accepted his relief role and adjusted extremely well -- even flourished. Coming into Friday night's game, he was 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings over 15 appearances.

But he looked even more comfortable Friday night, throwing 101 pitches after a previous season high of 75 out of the pen.

"That's my goal, to be here as a starting pitcher," Takahashi said through his interpreter. "I'm happy about it."

Takahashi wasn't quite as good, numbers-wise, as his counterpart Friday night. Javier Vazquez allowed only one hit in his six shutout innings of work, while Takahashi surrendered five.

But Takahashi's performance in pressure situations was noteworthy. With runners on second and third and one out in both the third and fourth innings, Takahashi found ways to keep the Yankees off the scoreboard. In the third, he struck out Derek Jeter in that situation. In the fourth, his strikeout victim was Nick Swisher.

And don't forget the stage he was making his debut on -- it doesn't get much bigger than the Subway Series.

"I enjoyed the moment," Takahashi said.

It was a bright spot for the Mets, but not bright enough to overcome the dark cloud hovering over this team. The Mets (20-23) were coming off a rough 2-6 trip. And losing games to the Yankees this weekend will ratchet up the pressure on them even further.

As desperate as their rotation is, the team's biggest problem is its anemic offense. The Mets didn't even get a runner to third base until the ninth inning Friday, when back-to-back doubles by Jason Bay and Ike Davis against Mariano Rivera delivered their only run of the night. But four hits doesn't cut it, particularly against the Yankees.

"Today Javy had good stuff, and when you've got good stuff, that can always stop the hitting," Manuel said. "But I still believe that if we continue to put ourselves in the position of a hit away, we'll eventually start getting those hits. They just aren't coming right now."

"We're definitely better than what we've been, absolutely," Bay said. "The bottom line is, we just need to be better."

There weren't many answers regarding the Mets' offense on this night.

But hey, they have a promising new starting pitcher.

Unfortunately they wasted a brilliant debut.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com

Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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