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YORK -- On a night the Mets desperately needed their starter to preserve a tattered and deflated bullpen, Miguel Batista carried their pitching staff.
After a forgettable ninth inning in Miami that cost the Mets the rubber game of their previous series, they needed a positive response Monday. Batista, making his third start of the season, threw 108 pitches in seven scoreless innings and fanned five Brewers to lead the Mets to a 3-1 win at Citi Field.
"This was the best I've seen him," catcher Mike Nickeas said. "I've caught him now for two years, and all of his pitches were terrific."
While Monday was Batista's best start in a Mets uniform this season, he started the game in some trouble. He needed 25 pitches to get through the first inning, but exited the frame unscathed after striking out Corey Hart with two men on base. Batista needed just 26 pitches to get through the second and third innings.
"He struggled early with his command, but he made key pitches when he had to," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "What he does, he has the ability to expand the strike zone, and when he needs it, he can make a quality pitch."
In the sixth inning, Collins noticed his starter was limping as a result of a groin injury that Batista suffered during his last start. When confronted, Batista lobbied for one last inning. He said the wrap around his leg was the culprit for the limp, rather than the pain of the muscle. Collins obliged, and his trust was rewarded with a scoreless seventh inning.
"I got a little worried about it, but he said he was fine and he wanted to go one more inning," Collins said. "Hopefully it's nothing serious."
Batista said the tightness does not affect his throwing motion and expects it to be better for his next scheduled start.
"I feel the pull, but there's no pain," Batista said. "The doctor looked at it, and he said we'll see how it feels tomorrow. We'll just keep an eye on it. It should be OK."
Monday's win comes less than a week after Collins said he'd give Batista a chance at starting in the rotation. With younger arms in Chris Young and Jenrry Mejia due to return from injury in the near future, the Mets' rotation is about to get crowded. Before the game, Collins said he knew he didn't have to explain anything to his 41-year-old veteran starter. There was no need for a vote of confidence; Batista has been in this situation before.
"I think if it was somebody other than Miguel Batista, but I'll bet you he can tell you that this is not the first time in his career that he knows that someone, that guys, were waiting to get healthy," Collins said. "Miguel Batista has pitched way too long in this league, in both these leagues, with all the experience that he has."