Mets 3, Nationals 1


WASHINGTON (AP) – Pedro Martinez escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam and finished with seven strong innings in New York’s 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night for the Mets’ fifth straight win.

With both teams playing under a season-long warning to cut the beanballs after the Nationals’ Jose Guillen declared “enough is enough” when Martinez hit him twice in the same game last week, baseball theater at its best was played out in the bottom of the sixth.

Martinez (2-0) struck out Jose Vidro for the first out to bring up Guillen with the bases loaded in a one-run game. After Martinez’s first pitch was a ball, catcher Paul Lo Duca called time, went to the mound and gave Martinez a hard “Let’s go” pat on the behind as they parted.

Three pitches later, Guillen hit a 91-mile-per-hour pitch to the shortstop on one hop, and Martinez got out of the inning with a routine double play to end the Nationals’ last real threat.

Except for that one inning, Martinez was impeccable. No one could accuse him of throwing at anybody because he barely strayed from the strike zone, allowing only three hits and walking one.

Billy Wagner got the last three outs for his second save.

Carlos Beltran went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI sacrifice fly for the Mets, whose 6-1 start is their best since they went 8-1 to begin the 1985 season. Carlos Delgado doubled home a run, and David Wright went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple and a run scored to raise his average to .444.

Seven batters were hit – six by Mets pitchers – and a near-fight ensued when the teams met in a three-game series last week in New York. Guillen, after threatening to charge the mound after being plunked for the fifth time by Martinez in his career, said: “We used to be friends, but that relationship is over.”

Before the game, both managers confirmed that they had been warned by umpires that brushbacks and hit batters would be scrutinized whenever these two teams play for the rest of the season. Washington right-hander Felix Rodriguez and manager Frank Robinson were suspended by Major League Baseball, although Rodriguez’s suspension is under appeal. Guillen was fined.

Under such circumstances, Martinez and Nationals starter Tony Armas Jr. (0-2) were on their best behavior. The only pitch that caused a batter to do more than twitch was a high-and-tight ball four from Martinez to pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson in the sixth.

Otherwise, Martinez was content to let the Nationals hit fly balls in the spacious outfield of RFK Stadium. He allowed 11 fly ball outs and struck out only three before he was replaced by Aaron Heilman in the bottom of the eighth. The Nationals’ only run came on Jose Vidro’s homer in the fourth.

The fans booed Martinez whenever they could, but he quieted them quickly by retiring the first 10 batters he faced. He threw only five balls over the first three innings.

Guillen managed to take Martinez to the warning track in center field in the first, and Ryan Zimmerman’s drive required center fielder Beltran to make a rolling catch in the second. Vidro hit an 0-1 pitch to right for his third homer of the year in the fourth.

Martinez only wavered in the sixth. Brian Schneider singled, Anderson walked, and Brandon Watson loaded the bases with a bunt single. But Martinez got Vidro to chase a high-and-outside fastball for a strikeout, then got Guillen to hit into the double play.

The Mets scored a run apiece in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings. Wright tripled to straightaway center and came home on a single by Cliff Floyd that second baseman Vidro couldn’t handle in the fourth. In the fifth, Delgado’s two-out double to the right field corner scored Beltran from first. Reyes scored on Beltran’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Notes: The Nationals have homered in eight straight games, their longest streak since the Expos went long in nine straight from Sept. 11-14, 2004. … Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, one of the Washington Redskins’ marquee free agent signings this offseason, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Unlike Vice President Dick Cheney the night before, Randle El got his pitch to catcher Brian Schneider without a hop. … A day after failing to sell out their home opener, the Nationals drew 29,985 to their first home night game.

AP-ES-04-12-06 2152EDT