ANAHEIM, Calif. - If Jerry Manuel’s first game as the New York Mets’ manager was any indication, he has plenty of work to do.
The struggling Mets managed just six scattered singles, made three errors and generally appeared ragged as the Los Angeles Angels beat them 6-1 on Tuesday night.
“We looked very tired. I know I was tired. Maybe they were going through what I was going through,” said Manuel, promoted from bench coach to interim manager when Willie Randolph was fired late the previous night. “Hopefully now that the cloud has lifted, we can get back to playing baseball.
“We’ve got a good team. It’s just a matter of all of us getting on the same page and doing the things we need to do to win. I don’t think we had the opportunity to dot all our I’s and cross all our T’s. I think that’s a process that’s going to be ongoing for a period of time. But once we get beyond that, we’ll be OK.”
Even New York ace Johan Santana, facing Angels counterpart John Lackey, couldn’t make Manuel’s debut a winning one. Santana (7-5) gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits and two walks in six innings. Lackey (4-1) held the Mets to one run on six hits in 7 2-3 innings.
Santana believes things will turn around for the Mets, who have lost eight of 12 and are 6½ games back of Philadelphia in the NL East.
“Everything was very positive (during the pregame meeting), so I think we’re going to feel more confidence about ourselves and there’s going to be a better atmosphere in this clubhouse,” he said. “There was a lot of talk about what was going on here, but now that it’s over with, we’re just going to try to have some fun and try to play the game the right way.”
Lackey, asked if he saw a good opportunity to go after the Mets because of the distractions, said: “I see a good opportunity to go after everybody every start. It’s not my problem.”
He struck out seven and walked just one, the final batter he faced. Scot Shields pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings to earn his second save.
After New York scratched out a run in the first inning, the Angels responded with three in their half.
Torii Hunter doubled home a pair of runs with two outs against his former Minnesota Twins teammate, then scored from second on a fielding error by first baseman Carlos Delgado.
Casey Kotchman singled home another run for Los Angeles in the third, also with two outs. Jeff Mathis’ solo home run in the sixth made it 5-1, and Los Angeles tacked on another run in the eighth.
“There were a lot of positives for us,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Getting six runs off Santana, we had some good situational hitting. And to get a performance from John Lackey like we did.”
Randolph was fired after New York had won its second in a row, 9-6, in the series opener in Anaheim. Mets general manager Omar Minaya caught a flight to the West Coast during the day, told Randolph at the team hotel several hours after the game that he was dismissed, and asked Manuel to take the job.
Manuel noted Minaya’s comment that the GM had waited until after the game because he thought it was disrespectful to fire a manager in uniform.
After addressing a swarm reporters outside the clubhouse door following his first game in his new position, Manuel walked away and quipped: “I made it through. I’m going to have to sleep in this uniform, though.”
The 2000 AL manager of the year with the White Sox, Manuel is in his fourth season with the Mets after managing Chicago from 1998 until he was let go after the 2003 season.
Minaya also made coaching changes, cutting loose first base coach Tom Nieto and pitching coach Rick Peterson. Ken Oberkfell, the manager of their Triple-A New Orleans club, and the pitching coach there, Dan Warthen, replaced them.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Mets when shortstop Jose Reyes left in the first inning, when he led off with a single and felt stiffness in his left hamstring while running to first base. He was replaced by a pinch runner. Manuel said after the game that he expects Reyes back in the lineup for the next game.
Notes: Two-time Cy Young winner Santana had pitched extremely well in his last three outings, posting an 0.87 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20 2-3 innings despite going just 1-1. ... Los Angeles RHP Kelvim Escobar, an 18-game winner last year who hasn’t pitched this season because of a labrum tear in his right shoulder, threw 30 pitches from the Anaheim Stadium mound as he faced hitters for the first time since last October. He said afterward that his shoulder felt fine and that he grew stronger as the session wore on. There is no timetable for his return. ... The Angels optioned INF Sean Rodriguez to Triple-A Salt Lake and will activate SS Erick Aybar (dislocated finger) from the DL.
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