Maine's two-run homer, which capped a four-run fourth inning, was pretty much the only surprising thing about his performance Tuesday night. He struck out seven in seven innings to lead New York to an 8-4 win over the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates.
"It's always good to do well for New York and the city," Maine said. "It makes it easier to pitch with a little bit of a lead."
Maine (11-5) leads the Mets in wins and strikeouts, and his ERA of 3.04 is second only to Oliver Perez's 3.00 among New York's starters. He won for the first time since the All-Star break, allowing an RBI double to Xavier Nady, a solo homer to Jason Bay in the fourth, and scattering three other hits.
"John just gets better and better," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.
The Pirates, meanwhile, are bad and getting worse. Despite two homers from Bay, they lost for the ninth time in 10 games and appear headed for another lost season.
Pittsburgh is among the worst in the major leagues in on-base percentage, walks and slugging percentage, and Pirates hitters didn't show much patience Tuesday night. Despite combining for 12 runs and 20 hits, the game lasted a mere 2 hours, 22 minutes.
"This is to take nothing away from John Maine, but we're just not hitting the ball," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "The game turned in that inning where they put up that four-spot. The way things have been going for us, that was a big number."
Jose Reyes and Ruben Gotay led off the game with back-to-back doubles off Ian Snell, and after Bay's solo shot tied the game at 2 in the fourth, the Mets scored four times in their half. Lastings Milledge, who singled before Maine's first career homer, windmilled his arm at the plate after he scored, like a third-base coach waving in a runner. Maine had to be urged to the dugout's top step for a curtain call.
Snell (7-8) hit Milledge with a pitch his next time up, but said it was unintentional. Milledge didn't seem miffed.
Snell gave up six runs, 10 hits and lasted only four innings. He lost his third straight start since the All-Star break and has won only two of his past eight.
The Mets, who have won eight of 12 since the break, began a seven-game homestand against the Pirates and Nationals, two teams among the worst in baseball.
Bay also homered in the ninth, a two-run shot off Guillermo Mota that gave him the team lead with 15 and his first multihomer game of the year.
"It was good to see Jason Bay offensively have the kind of night he had," Tracy said. "But you know, that's been our problem. We scratch out a run here, a run there. We have absolutely no room for error."
Especially not when one of their best starters lets the opposing pitcher go deep. Even by pitchers' standards, Maine has a rough time at the plate. His 1-for-1 evening lifted his average to .114 and surprised even him.
"I thought he was going to catch it. I was getting ready to turn around and go back to the dugout," Maine said. "I got lucky. There's no way around it."
- Mets 1B Carlos Delgado made a diving stop on Adam LaRoche's grounder down the line to end the eighth inning.
- Pedro Martinez threw 50 pitches Monday in a simulated game against Mets minor leaguers. GM Omar Minaya said the next step for Martinez would likely be another simulated game, not a rehab start.
- In the fourth inning, the out-of-town scoreboard suddenly changed to display pitchers with the numbers 15 and 22 supposedly pitching in nearly every game. The numbers were slowly fixed as the game went on.
- New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro took batting practice with the Mets before Tuesday's game. "If I could go back and do it again, I'd be a baseball player," the sweaty, ebullient DiPietro said afterward.