It wasn't pretty but Billy Wagner put the first save of his postseason career in the books.
Brought in to a game led, 6-4 by the Mets in the ninth inning today at Shea Stadium, Wagner immediately gave up a leadoff double to the Dodgers' Wilson Betimit. The ex-Philles fireman then got pinchhitter Olmedo Saenz on a fly ball and Rafael Furcal on a swinging third strike.
The angst in Flushing jumped a notch moments later, though, when Wagner allowed an RBI double to another pinchhitter, Ramon Martinez.
Wagner ended the drama one batter later, however, when he struck out the dangerous Nomar Garciaparra, swinging, to end the game.
"You know, that's the life of a closer," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He's gone live on the edge a lot of times, but he's had a phenomenal year for us. It's nice to see him get the save for us."
Randolph also put credit where it was due. The Dodgers know that Wagner will always come at you, the manager said, "and they put some good swings on him."
Then there was the backdrop, with the always noisy she really rocking with anticipation of the Mets' first postseason victory since 2000.
"The music was [so] loud, almost deafening," Randolph said. "He gets into it. He feeds off his adrenalin. He's always that kind of guy who gets pumped in those situations. The key for him I to just kind of channel it."
Wagner eventually did just that, then, in a calm afterglow of the game, dissected his interesting trip to the save.
"You want to go out there, want to throw strikes and make them beat you," Wagner said, "but I threw a few festival's to bedmate that got away and he hit it a ton. At first I thought it was a popup, but the ball was carrying out to right ..."
Wagner then settled down, he said, "kind of collected himself. You just have to go out and make pitches. you can't worry about one run scoring, you can't worry about any of those little things. You have to go out there and get three outs before they get two runs."
He achieved that goal by setting up Garciaparra with a fastball, away - "the best pitch that inning," said Wagner. "Somehow he fouled it off, but it set him up for a slider, and the slider had tonight was the best I've had in a while."
"I thought he threw the ball really well," said Randolph. "Just made a couple pitches up in the zone where they drove the ball to right-center field. But he was able to get through it."