Terry Collins counted at least a dozen instances this season when the Mets paid the price for failing to add on to an early lead. That precise failure had been a common theme during a season-high six-game losing streak, one that prompted questions about the manager's job security.
Enter catcher Taylor Teagarden, who with one swing in Tuesday night's 6-2 victory over the Brewers, reversed what had been a disturbing trend. With the Mets clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth, the Mets received their biggest boost from an unlikely source.
In his first game with the Mets, Teagarden drilled a grand slam to the opposite field, breaking open a game that the Mets desperately needed to win.
"That was a huge hit for us in all phases," said Collins, who hours before had received the public backing of general manager Sandy Alderson.
Daniel Murphy gave the Mets (29-35) a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot in the third inning -- his fifth homer of the season -- before Teagarden made Brewers righthander Marco Estrada pay the price for loading the bases with three walks.
"Four quality at-bats, it's nice to get rewarded for that," Murphy said.
Teagarden, 30, was promoted Sunday when catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud was sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas. His primary concern had simply been getting on the same page with winning pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0). Though both began the season in Las Vegas, they had not worked with one another.
"Getting a big knock there in the sixth, that was just icing on the cake," Teagarden said.
The game-changing hit came from a most unlikely source. A lifetime .206 hitter in 163 career games in parts of six big-league seasons, Teagarden had had not homered since June 22 last year with the Orioles.
He whiffed twice against Estrada, and in his third at-bat, found himself just one strike away from doing it again. But when Estrada threw a 1-and-2 fastball over the plate, Teagarden was ready for it.
"He was trying to sneak a fastball by me," said Teagarden, whose drive sailed over the fence to the opposite field.
With that, the Mets overcame another demon. At the start of play, the Mets were hitting just .159 with the bases loaded, the third-worst mark in the NL. But Teagarden was blissfully unaware of those failings until after he delivered his big hit.
Of the Mets' 11 hits with the bases loaded, three have been home runs, including Teagarden's game-breaking grand slam.
Said Collins: "He didn't know he wasn't supposed to get a hit."
Notes & quotes: Following the game, the Mets activated reliever Gonzalez Germen from the disabled list and optioned struggling lefty specialist Scott Rice to Triple-A Las Vegas. "I'm obviously not happy," said Rice, who had a 5.93 ERA. "But I understand their decision. I wasn't getting the job done, so they had to make a move. I'll go to Vegas and work my butt off to get back here." . . . Matsuzaka remained in the game after taking a hard comebacker off his right thigh. He grimaced, scrambled to field the ball, then fired a strike to first base. Then, he crumpled to the ground before convincing trainers to let him keep pitching. Before the comebacker, Collins said the Mets planned to begin the seventh with Matsuzaka, who expects his leg to swell up by Wednesday.