WITH just six days to go until Opening Day, the New York Mets fine-tuned their preparations with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Oliver Perez gave up just one run on 93 pitches and Fernando Tatis won the game for the Mets in the bottom of the 8th inning in a game dominated by the starting pitchers.
The Mets approached Monday night's exhibition game against the Orioles as if it was a regular season matchup, with Jose Reyes leading off the game for Jerry Manuel's side, Daniel Murphy batting in the two hole and Luis Castillo batting eighth as he will when the season starts in ernest on April 6.
Perez threw well in six-and-two-thirds innings of one-run ball, JJ Putz recorded four outs and hard-throwing Bobby Parnell came in to close the game with a 6-4-3 double play.
With the game tied at 1-1, Fernando Tatis led off the bottom of the 8th inning with a triple to centre field.
Ryan freel, who had just moved from left field to centre, played the ball off the wall but rainbowed his throw into the infield, prompting Tatis to leg out a three-bagger.
Shortstop Chris Gomez then made a bad throw trying to get the out at third, one-hopping the ball towards Melvin Mora and off of Tatis' leg, allowing him to score. Gomez was officially charged with the error, although it could easily have been Freel's.
Good news for the Mets was that Perez's fastball touched 91mph - something it failed to do in his previous start on his return from the World Baseball Classic - and he came out throwing strikes and locating his pitches.
After performing below par against the Tigers on Wednesday, Perez looked sharper than in his last start, despite never reaching the 93- or 94mph on the gun the pitching coaches were accustomed to in 2008.
He gave up four hits and one walk and struck out three batters through 6.2 innings of work and he got 9 of his 20 outs on groundballs, although four of these were the first four batters he faced.
Adam Jones gave the Os the lead on a 2-out, 3-2 home run to straightaway centre field on a high 80s knee-high fastball in the 3rd inning.
Luke Scott almost doubled the Os lead in the 4th inning, but the leftie pulled Perez's hanging slider narrowly foul down the first base line.
But the Mets tied the game in the bottom of the frame on Daniel Murphy's first home run of the spring - a solo shot off of Alfredo Simon.
This was all of the scoring until the 8th inning when Tatis - who came into the game an inning earlier as part of a double switch - lit up the basepaths after going down and away to rip a fastball to the wall.
Elsewhere for the Mets, David Wright went 1/3 with a single, a walk and his first stolen base of the year and Jose Reyes went 0-4. Reyes will likely bat leadoff for most of the year and had 15 RBI from 38 at bats this year prior to today's game.
Murphy also hit the ball hard with a home run, double off the centre-field wall and deep fly out to the warning track among his 2/4 day.
The Mets will now travel to play the Marlins tomorrow and the Cardinals on Wednesday before hosting their final 2009 Spring Training game in Port St Lucie against the Os on Thursday lunchtime.
From the east coast of Florida, the Amazings will then play back-to-back exhibition games at Citi Field against the Red Sox, before taking to the road to open their campaign in Cincinatti.