Orlando Hernandez was a winner in his Mets debut on this date in 2006, as the Amazins beat the Marlins in Miami, 7-3. The Mets' offense treated El Duque like royalty, staking him to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. After the Marlins closed the gap with three runs of their own in the second, the Mets scored again in the third on an RBI single by Jose Valentin and in the fourth on a two-run homer by Carlos Beltran.
El Duque needed 101 pitches to get through his five innings, but he was tough when he needed to be, racking up seven strikeouts. Acquired four days earlier from Arizona for reliever Jorge Julio, Hernandez filled a hole in the Mets' rotation created by an injury to Brian Bannister and the failure of Jose Lima to pick up the slack. He would go 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.4 WAR with the Amazins, but a calf injury kept him out of the postseason.
This game also marked the debut of the Mets' "new" second baseman, Jose Valentin, replacing the struggling, soon-to-be-traded Kaz Matsui. Valentin, who had been mostly pinch-hitting and playing the outfield, was himself on the verge of being an ex-Met until his bat picked up two weeks earlier. He would prove a valuable addition to the lineup, finishing the season with a WAR of 1.9.
Three years ago on this date, right-handed reliever Ryota Igarashi had a birthday he would rather forget. He gave up a two-run, walk-off home run to the Brewers' Corey Hart that not only ended the game, but also ended a streak of 35 shutout innings by Mets pitchers. Today he celebrates his 34th birthday in the bullpen of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Defensive specialist Mike DiFelice, turning 44 today, had three short stints with the Mets in 2005, 2006, and 2007 as an emergency backup catcher. His primary role was mentoring and handling upcoming pitchers and catchers in Triple-A Norfolk and New Orleans. He went on to manage the Rookie-level Kingsport Mets in 2009 and 2010.
Happy 79th birthday to original Met Bobby Gene Smith. A career fourth outfielder, Smith was literally the fourth outfielder New York selected in the 1961 expansion draft. He had three hits in 22 at-bats with the Amazins, the last coming on April 23, 1962, when he tripled home the final two runs in the new franchise's first ever victory, a 9-1 rout of the Pirates. Three days later he was traded to the Cubs for catcher Sammy Taylor.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On May 28, 1957, National League owners unanimously approved the relocation of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles and New York Giants to San Francisco. NL President Warren Giles, who, coincidentally was born on this date in 1896, would quickly sign off on the moves. Three years later, pressured by the specter of competition from the embryonic Continental League, Giles begrudgingly approved adding new NL franchises in New York and Houston. Perhaps it was his reported disdain for New York that led him to turn a blind eye to league owners' penurious guidelines for the expansion draft that all but ensured neither new team would be competitive for several years.