PHILADELPHIA _ Aaron Heilman stared eye-to-eye with his demon of pitching in this park and didnâ€™t twitch.
And, thatâ€™s hard to do when the bases are loaded and Citizens Bank Park was rocking knowing their Phillies were about to roll the Metsâ€™ reliever.
After all, thatâ€™s what always happens here with Heilman.
“You have to have a short-term memory,â€™â€™ said Heilman, who less than 24 hours after giving up a three-run, pinch-hit homer, was again facing the Phillies with the game on the line.
Heilman immediately gave up a run-scoring single to Carlos Ruiz, the first batter he faced, but struck out Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth to stifle a combative crowd that when it wasnâ€™t jeering the Mets was fighting amongst themselves.
“I was happy. It was a great feeling,â€™â€™ Heilman said of finally making a positive contribution that lead to a Metsâ€™ victory, 4-2, in their fourth straight over the Phillies.
“Itâ€™s not easy to forget,â€™â€™ Heilman said of the 10.76 ERA he had here entering the game.
“It definitely takes time. It doesnâ€™t come easy.â€™â€™
Heilman hasnâ€™t had a good start, and says the problem has been the location of his pitches, not his locale in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation.
On Friday he almost scuttled Johan Santanaâ€™s strong game when he gave up a pinch-homer to Greg Dobbs. Jenkins then took him to the warning track, a few feet shy of tying the game.
He was greeted yesterday by Ruizâ€™s run-scoring hit, and then fell behind 3-and-1 before punching out Jenkins.
“He made some great pitches,â€™â€™ said catcher Brian Schneider as he held his bruised right arm at his side. “Thatâ€™s what we needed at the time.â€™â€™
Heilmanâ€™s strikeout of Werth ended the inning and the Philliesâ€™ last threat.
“He did a great job,â€™â€™ manager Willie Randolph said. “You donâ€™t jump ship on your guys this early in the season. You take your lumps and to get right back at it.
“You have to be tough-minded in the bullpen and heâ€™s as good as anybody.â€™â€™
Ballplayers are like kids and pets in that they can smell fear, whether it is an opponent or a teammate.
The Mets know they will need Heilman before this season is over, and they know they will need him against the Phillies.
No Met flinched when Heilman entered the game; they acknowledged later he passed a gut check.
Most importantly, Heilman showed no fear against the Phillies.
“It takes times like that that make you who you are,â€™â€™ closer Billy Wagner said of Heilmanâ€™s struggles. “He really shined. â€¦ Heâ€™s as mentally tough as anybody Iâ€™ve played with.â€™â€™
Heilmanâ€™s effort, along with five other Met relievers _ including Duaner Sanchez, who got pinch-hitter Jimmy Rollins to ground out to end the sixth with two runners on _ preserved Oliver Perezâ€™s second victory of the season.
The Mets staked Perez to a 2-0 lead in the first on David Wrightâ€™s two-run double, and increased it to 4-0 in the seventh on Jose Reyesâ€™ two-run homer.
Chase Utley homered off Scott Schoeneweis in the seventh, but with the game appearing to slip away Heilman got the biggest outs in the eighth.
Heilman was asked if yesterday had erased his slow start.
“My ERA doesnâ€™t say so,â€™â€™ Heilman joked. “It doesnâ€™t erase it, but it certainly helps.â€™â€™