ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — After blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning on one ill-fated pitch to Raul Ibanez, Jose Valverde needed a lift, and so did his New York Mets teammates.
They got one four innings later from Anthony Recker.
The backup catcher, the eighth batter in the lineup, led off the 13th with a home run off rookie Matt Shoemaker and also had a two-run single earlier, leading the Mets to a 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
“Obviously, it’s great to be able to pick him up,” Recker said of Valverde. “We want him to have confidence every time he goes out there – because, let’s face it, he’s a pretty darn good pitcher. So we don’t want to lose that.”
The Mets evened up their interleague series at a game apiece, but it wasn’t easy. Valverde came on in the ninth to protect a 6-3 lead for Jonathon Niese, but the 41-year-old Ibanez drove Valverde’s 1-0 pitch deep into the right-field seats after David Freese singled with two outs and Erick Aybar walked. The homer was Ibanez’s 302nd in the majors – and his 2,000th hit.
Valverde, who converted all 49 save chances in 2011 for the Tigers, was the 239th pitcher Ibanez has homered against in 19 big league seasons.
“Jose wasn’t able to come through tonight, but I know he will next time,” Recker said. “He’s been there before. He’s been through the good and the bad. He’s a veteran, and he’ll be OK. We just look forward to moving on from here and getting some more wins.”
Omar Quintanilla, the Mets’ No. 9 hitter, provided some temporary insurance in the ninth with a two-run single off Kevin Jepsen. But Valverde, who spent the previous four years in Detroit and lost his closer role last season, ended up with his first blown save in three chances since signing with the Mets as a free agent in February.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” manager Terry Collins said. “He didn’t pitch a lot last year, so we were hoping that the added rest was going to help him get some arm strength back. And he’s throwing the ball very well. Tonight’s really the worst outing he’s had. But the at-bat by Aybar is the one that dismantled him. I was told that when he walks people, he gets in trouble.”
Shoemaker (0-1), the eighth Angels pitcher, escaped his own bases-loaded jam in the 12th by striking out Juan Lagares. But Recker drove the right-hander’s second pitch of the 13th into the left-field bullpen for his first homer this season.
“The 12th inning was a momentum boost. It got us going and it got me going. That was exciting,” Shoemaker said. “I tried to stay in there as long as could to give the team a chance to win. But the next inning, I was supposed to be locating the fastball low and away and definitely missed my spot. It was much higher than it was supposed to be, and he didn’t miss it.”
John Lannan (1-0) pitched two perfect innings for the victory.
Niese allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings with five strikeouts and a walk.
Jered Weaver was charged with four runs, three hits and four walks in 6 2-3 innings and struck out five. Lucas Duda’s two-out solo homer in the second was the Mets’ only hit against him until the seventh, when Duda singled Curtis Granderson – who walked – to third with two outs. Lagares followed with an RBI single on Weaver’s 99th and final pitch.
“He struggled a little bit with location early, but he was able to get by and still made a lot of pitches to get out of trouble,” catcher Chris Iannetta said. “In the middle of the game, I thought he pitched great. That last inning he made one tough pitch and that was it. Other than that, it was a really good ballgame for him.
“I think it’s more of a mechanical issue that he’s fighting right now. He just needs to make a couple of adjustments here and there, but it’s minor. He’ll be fine. I’m not necessarily worried about that.”
Recker greeted Fernando Salas with a sinking liner to center field that bounced off Mike Trout’s glove as he attempted to make a diving catch. The hit gave the Mets a 4-3 lead.
Iannetta homered for the Angels in the fifth, thwarted an attempted double steal and tagged out a runner at the plate to complete a double play started by left fielder Collin Cowgill – who also homered against Niese, in the sixth.
NOTES: Pujols had 21 homers, 63 RBIs and a .311 average in 71 career games against the Mets during his 11 seasons with St. Louis. … Weaver is 27-15 with a 3.38 ERA in 51 starts since his no-hitter against Minnesota on May 2, 2012. … The Angels obtained Cowgill from the Mets last June in a trade that sent OF Kyle Johnson to Flushing. … Duda’s homer was his first in 27 career at-bats as a designated hitter to that point. … Freese was 0 for 3 against Niese and is hitless in 12 career at-bats against the left-hander, who struck him out with a runner at third to end the fourth.