Blanton Spectacular in Loss

By: AP
By: AP

Once every piece of Paul Lo Duca's gear was picked up off the field, the New York Mets finished tossing a clean slate against Oakland.

David Wright dropped an RBI double in front of diving right fielder Travis Buck in the ninth inning, giving New York a 1-0 victory over the Athletics on Saturday night.

Orlando Hernandez and Oakland starter Joe Blanton matched zeros most of the way in a tight game that included an equipment-throwing tirade by Lo Duca after he was ejected in the sixth.

"Good Italian temper in me," the Mets' fiery catcher said.

Ramon Castro, who batted for Lo Duca after he was tossed, started the decisive rally to help the NL East leaders win consecutive games for the first time since May 27 and 29 against Florida and San Francisco.

By taking the first two against the A's, New York has finally won a series after losing six straight.

"It's a small measure right now. It's good to win a couple of games, but we need to put together a bunch of good games," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "I don't think we played a good, crisp game. Too many mistakes. Poor execution. Defense was shabby. I wasn't really happy about the way we played."

Oakland went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position after entering with a .227 batting average in such situations, the worst mark in the majors. The A's stranded 10 runners in all, eight against El Duque.

The A's, who have lost five of seven, were shut out for the sixth time this season -- most in the AL. They haven't scored since the second inning of a 9-1 loss to Tom Glavine on Friday night.

"We've seen some pretty good pitching," manager Bob Geren said.

Castro opened the ninth with a double off Santiago Casilla (2-1). Carlos Beltran was intentionally walked, and Wright hit a looper to right field. Buck, playing deep out of respect for Wright's opposite-field power, came in and tried to make a diving catch. But he came up short and the ball bounced past him.

"That's me being aggressive. I'm a guy that likes to dive for balls. I don't like balls falling in front of me," Buck said. "I had a good jump. It's just one of those balls that died right at the end."

Buck started the game in left field and threw out a runner at the plate in the sixth. He was moved to right in the eighth when Shannon Stewart came in.

Billy Wagner (1-0) worked a scoreless ninth for the win.

"We're going to go for the kill tomorrow and try to sweep," Wright said.

Lo Duca was ejected for arguing a strike call, prompting a wild tantrum.

He came to bat in the sixth with two runners on. After taking a low strike that made the count 0-2, he got in Marvin Hudson's face and barked at the plate umpire, gesturing vehemently with his hand.

His point made, Lo Duca walked slightly up the third-base line, gathered himself and prepared to get back in the batter's box. That's when Hudson ejected him, sending Lo Duca into a rage.

"When he came back, that's when he said something else. I had warned him twice and I wasn't warning him anymore," Hudson said.

His bulging eyes wide with anger, Lo Duca screamed at Hudson before Randolph tried to restrain him. Lo Duca grabbed Randolph by the sleeve, nudged him aside and went right back at Hudson.

"I get along with Marvin. It's one of those things. Obviously, it's my fault for snapping. I was a little bit upset," Lo Duca said. "I swear to my mother I didn't cuss at him one time. That's what upset me. I had already turned my back. I told him, 'Let's go,' and I got thrown out of the game. I've said a lot worse in my life and never got thrown out. Obviously I started, but I felt like he came after me a little bit, too."

Crew chief Ed Montague came down from first base and finally ushered Lo Duca away.

"From Paulie's end, you can't get thrown out of a situation like that. I don't agree with that," Randolph said. "I don't know. Maybe it was justified."

As Randolph continued the argument with Hudson, Lo Duca walked to the dugout and heaved his helmet, bat and elbow guard toward first base.

Once he reached the bench, Lo Duca tossed his shin guards into foul territory. He chucked his chest protector, too, but that got hung up on the dugout railing. Finally, he retreated up the tunnel toward the clubhouse with the Shea Stadium crowd of 52,920 chanting "Paul Lo Duca! Paul Lo Duca!"

"If that's what he wants to do, then that's up to him," Hudson said. "I'll write it up and send it in and the commissioner will take care of whatever needs to be done."

Hernandez whiffed cleanup batter Eric Chavez on an eephus pitch and finished with seven strikeouts while throwing 119 pitches over seven innings. It was the fourth time in seven starts he's pitched shutout ball and gotten a no-decision.

Blanton was even better, lasting eight innings. He lowered his June ERA to 1.14 in five starts, the best mark in the majors this month.

"They're an aggressive team. I was trying to throw a lot of strikes early and it worked out," Blanton said.


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