Pedro helps Mets win fourth straight game


• Summary: Pedro Martinez got the victory in his return from rotator cuff surgery, pitching five encouraging innings and recording his 3,000th career strikeout in the process.


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• Pedro's line: Martinez threw 76 pitches over five innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out four and walking three.

• Hunt for October: The Mets won their fourth straight game to increase their NL East lead to five games over the Phillies.

-- news services

Mets 10, Reds 4

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The first pitch left Pedro Martinez's fingertips and reached the catcher's mitt at an unimpressive 82 mph. The next one clocked in at 82. Then, 83 mph.

This is a comeback?

After a couple of those very tentative first tries, Martinez got back to doing what he's been able to do so well for so long -- get batters out no matter what he's got on any given day.

Taking the mound 11 months after major shoulder surgery, the 35-year-old pitcher was the amazing Met. He squeezed five innings out of his shoulder on Monday, got his 3,000th career strikeout and led the New York Mets to a 10-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

"Today was another one of those days when he amazes you," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

The mind-boggling part? He's still rusty, still getting a feel for his fastball, and still limited by a pitch count that makes it tough to win a game.

He won anyway, giving up three runs and five his in five innings.

"Indescribable," the three-time Cy Young Award winner said. "So far, so good. It was good enough. I did what I was supposed to do. I got 75 pitches in. I gave my team an opportunity. I felt I settled down after the first inning and got everything in control again."

With Martinez back on the mound, the Mets appear to have regained control of the NL East. They moved five games ahead of Philadelphia with their fourth straight victory, which ties their season high.

A swoon last week cut the Mets' lead to only two games over the Phillies. Fretting over their slide, the Mets decided to put Martinez back in the rotation after only four minor league rehabilitation appearances.

Too soon? Sure looked that way at the start. Especially when those first few pitches made the radar gun put up the kind of numbers that used to signify his change-up.

"In that first inning, he was feeling everything out," catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "When he started hitting 88, 89, it was like, 'Here we go again," Lo Duca said. "He was good. It's amazing."

The Reds scored twice in the first, a turn of events that was totally unacceptable to Martinez (1-0). He started letting it fly, and his fastball was up to 89 mph by inning's end.

Working with that past-its-prime fastball, he made a vintage comeback.

He fanned Aaron Harang (14-4) in the second inning to become the 15th pitcher to reach 3,000 career strikeouts. Martinez, who led the AL in strikeouts four times with Boston, knew he'd reach the mark when he got back on the mound. He was only two away when he had the surgery last October, so it wasn't a big deal.

"The only reason I didn't really think about it was because I knew it would come," he said. "It feels great, but it doesn't compare to me being back with the team and having fun."

His teammates did everything they could to get him a win.

Moises Alou had three hits, including a solo homer, and scored three times. David Wright also had three hits, including a two-run homer. Carlos Delgado hit a solo home run in the ninth, his 22nd.

The only question left was whether Martinez could last five innings to qualify for the victory.

"It's almost as under-the-radar as you can be for Pedro Martinez," Wright said. "It was nice that we could score 10 runs for him."

Martinez was closing in on that 75-pitch limit when he faced Adam Dunn with two outs and two aboard in the fifth. He knew it was his last batter, so he went after him with everything he had.

When Dunn grounded out, Martinez pumped his fist.

"That's Pedro, and he's going to get better," Lo Duca said.

The flummoxed Reds came away thinking the same thing.

"He didn't look like he had his old stuff, and I wouldn't expect him to," said Scott Hatteberg, his teammate in Boston in for four years. "He has a long way to go to get back to his old stuff.

"He may get there, but it isn't close now. It's obvious he knows how to pitch."

As long as his shoulder stays solid, Martinez expects to get a little better each time out.

"I'm not as consistent as I used to be with my mechanics and the strike zone," Martinez said. "I'm the first to tell you I'm not there yet."

Game notes
Mets RHP Orlando Hernandez, who had a cortisone shot in his sore right foot last week, will miss his scheduled start Friday against the Astros. RHP Mike Pelfrey is expected to start in his place. "He's doing fine," Randolph said. "But we're going to skip one turn." ... Martinez hadn't pitched in the majors since Sept. 27 last year. ... Nolan Ryan holds the career strikeout record with 5,714. ... Ken Griffey Jr.'s sacrifice fly in the first inning was the 1,695th RBI of his career, tying Cal Ripken for 17th. Reggie Jackson is next at 1,702.