Major Leagues: Mets 9, Reds 7
By Howie Rumberg
NEW YORK ó Even the home run apple wasn’t prepared for the Mets’ sudden power surge.
The apple didn’t fail to pop up because it’s had little practice at spacious Citi Field ó the Mets have hit just 28 homers there this season. Rather, Fernando Tatis’ shot came too quickly after Brian Schneider’s for the apple to do its job: show itself after every Mets homer.
New York went 80 innings overall without a home run until Schneider and Tatis connected in the eighth inning of the Mets’ 9-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
So, as the cherished home run apple took the 21/2 minutes it needs to reset after Schneider’s home run, the 40,014 fans who’ve had little to cheer for the past two months chanted “Apple! Apple!” until the end of the inning. Then the gleaming new apple ó Shea Stadium’s is now on display near an entrance ó finally popped out of its center-field hole.
“It was good to see the apple finally come up,” manager Jerry Manuel said after New York’s second straight win. “It took its time, but it finally came up.”
Even better for Manuel was seeing a robust Mets offense.
“It’s good. It’ll give us a little momentum, and I think a little more importantly some confidence going into the second half,” David Wright said. “I’m excited the way we swung the bats. Got some big hits, took some walks. Got some big RBIs.”
Gary Sheffield had three RBIs and Daniel Murphy drove in two runs to key the Mets, who had their best offensive output at home since June 24, when they scored 11 against St. Louis.
Luis Castillo had three hits and scored three runs, Wright hit a long RBI double and Jeff Francoeur had two hits in his second game with New York. The Mets amassed 16 hits in improving to 8-12 since Carlos Beltran went on the DL June 22.
The Mets needed the offense after the bullpen nearly wasted a 9-3 lead. Francisco Rodriguez gave up a run in the ninth but finished for his 23rd save.
New York scored more than five runs in a game for only the fourth time since Beltran went out.
High expectations for a playoff run wrecked by injuries, the Mets head into the All-Star break 42-45, 61/2 games back of Philadelphia in the NL East. The Reds, who added Jay Bruce to their injury list Saturday with a broken wrist, are also 42-45.
After Wright had an RBI double to center in the first, New York batted around in the third, helping extend Aaron Harang’s winless skid to nine starts dating to May 25.
Sheffield had a two-run single, Murphy an RBI double and Alex Cora a run-scoring hit to make it 5-0. The last time the Mets scored at least four runs in an inning was July 2.
Pelfrey (7-4) rebounded from his start July 7 against the Dodgers in which he gave up five runs in three innings by shutting down the poor-hitting Reds. He gave up two singles in the first, then retired 10 in a row before walking the first two batters of the fifth.
After walking Ramon Hernandez leading off, Pelfrey committed his sixth balk, becoming the first pitcher with six balks in season since Chris Michalak for Toronto and Texas in 2001.
He gave up an RBI double to Adam Rosales, who was called up from Triple-A Louisville on Sunday, and RBI singles to Chris Dickerson and Willy Taveras to make it 7-3. But his manager left Pelfrey in to work through the jam, and he rewarded Manuel with two scoreless innings.
“I think that was huge. As a pitcher you want to be left out there,” Pelphrey said.
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