Mets manager Willie Randolph dearly wanted to get a victory for John Maine.
After all, the starter had done what had become routine all season - step into the breach for an injured front-line pitcher, this time fallen ace Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (calf injury).
And Maine acquitted himself well enough early on in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yet Randolph pulled Maine out of a 2-1 game the Mets led with two on and one out in the top of the fifth.
"I wanted to get six out of him, and definitely more than four. ... I wanted to hang in there a little bit with him," said Randolph. "But I always manage with my gut, and do what is right for the team.
"So when this guy over here [on his left shoulder] says, 'hey, it's good for his morale to get a win and he's really stepped up for you a lot,' then this other little knucklehead over here [pointing to his right shoulder] says 'hey, man, go by what you see and what you feel."
And what he felt was, Maine was done, having hit a familiar wall about the third time through the Dodgers' lineup.
So began the march of the relievers out of a well-rested bullpen. Pedro Feliciano (strikeout of Kenny Lofton) and Chad Bradford (Nomar Garciaparra groundout) ended the fifth.
L.A. would get three back in the seventh off of Guillermo Mota, tying it at 4. One more would come in against closer Billy Wagner in the ninth, but it was never enough to steal the lead, or the game eventually won by Mets' bullpen committee, 6-5.