NEW YORK (AP) — Jeremy Hefner made only one huge mistake — he nearly skipped over first base on his home-run trot.
Hefner earned his first victory in the majors and highlighted the occasion by homering for his first big league hit, leading the New York Mets over the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 on a rainy Tuesday night.
The 26-year-old rookie became the first major league pitcher to hit his first homer in his first win since 2002, when Dennis Tankersley did it with San Diego, STATS LLC said.
“I happened to get lucky and caught it good,” Hefner said. “I didn’t know if it was out and I was watching, that’s why I almost missed first base.”
Hefner took away a couple of souvenirs, too.
The home run ball was already inside a plastic bag in his locker. Hefner said Mets ace Johan Santana signed a bat for the fan who wound up with the ball. Hefner also had the lineup card from a most special night.
Pinch-hitter Scott Hairston had a two-run homer and newcomer Omar Quintanilla doubled twice and singled to help New York win for the fourth time in five games. After a storm delay of 64 minutes in the eighth inning, the Mets improved to 6-2 against Philadelphia this year.
Earlier in the day, the last-place Phillies learned ace Roy Halladay is expected to be out six to eight weeks because of a strained right shoulder.
“I’m concerned about our starting pitching right now,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Hefner (1-2) pitched six innings and finished strong after a shaky beginning in his second major league start. He gave up a leadoff double to Jimmy Rollins and later bounced a wild pitch in the opposite batter’s box that let him score.
The Mets led 4-2 in the sixth when Juan Pierre opened with a single and scored when Hunter Pence followed with double and took third on left fielder Mike Baxter’s error. But Hefner prevented Pence from scoring the tying run, retiring three straight batters.
Hefner got a nice ovation from the fans, plus pats on the back from his teammates in the dugout when he got Placido Polanco on an inning-ending flyout.
“There’s a point where you’ve got to grow and let them get themselves out of trouble,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Hefner drew an even bigger cheer when he launched a solo home run in the fourth off Joe Blanton (4-5), the ball sailing high down the left field line. Hefner neatly put down a sacrifice bunt earlier in the game.
In Hefner’s only other big league at-bat, he struck out last week while getting tagged by San Diego in his first start. Hefner did have one previous pro homer, last year for the Padres’ Triple-A team.
Hefner said he was a pretty good hitter in high school. The Mets, in fact, looked at him as an outfielder and pitcher when they twice drafted him, though he didn’t sign either time.
Hefner became the first Mets player to earn his first career win and hit his first career home run in the same game, STATS said. The last major leaguer to get his first career victory and also homer for his first hit in the same game was Tony Saunders for the Marlins in 1997, STATS said.
Hefner allowed six hits, walked none and struck out four. Bobby Parnell pitched the seventh, Jon Rauch worked the eighth and Frank Francisco closed for his 14th save in 16 chances.
Blanton gave up six runs and nine hits in five-plus innings after Boston and St. Louis racked him in his prior two starts.
“It’s so bad I can’t even get mad,” he said.
Blanton hit Baxter with a pitch to begin the first and David Wright broke an 0-for-14 slide by lining an RBI single off Rollins’ glove at shortstop. Ike Davis added a single for a 2-1 lead.
Brian Schneider hit a second-deck homer in the Philadelphia second. The Mets got that run back in the bottom half when Quintanilla, promoted from Triple-A Buffalo before the game, doubled off the wall in his first Mets’ at-bat and scored on Baxter’s hustling double.
Hairston batted for Hefner in the sixth and connected for his seventh career pinch-hit home run. The Mets began the game 28th in the majors with just 32 homers.
NOTES: Phillies C Carlos Ruiz did not play for the second straight game because of hamstring trouble. … Hefner became the first Mets pitcher to hit a home run since Santana in 2010. … The Mets put INF Justin Turner on the disabled list with a sprained ankle and cut RHP Manny Acosta. Turner was in a walking boot. … Quintanilla tied his career high with three hits. … Mets C Josh Thole (concussion) is set to DH in Triple-A Wednesday, catch RHP Chris Young on Thursday and, if all goes well, rejoin the Mets on Friday. … Mets SS Ruben Tejada (strained right quad) get treatment in New York this week. … Mets GM Sandy Alderson said the team planned to talk with Wright’s agents this season about a new deal.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)