The New York Mets and their rabid fans want to know what John Maine's spotty start for the Buffalo Bisons will mean for his role in the rotation. But most of the folks who left Coca-Cola Field following the every-Friday-night fireworks show probably weren't talking much about Maine.
That's because they saw a piece of ballpark history.
Bisons right fielder Valentino Pascucci became just the third Buffalo player to slug three home runs in a game in the park's 23-season history, driving in five of the six runs in a 6-4 victory over the Indianapolis Indians.
Pascucci, 31, launched a three-run bomb on to Oak Street in the first and a solo shot into the left-field screen in the third, both off Indy starter Brian Burres (1-2). In the eighth, he torched Vinnie Chulk with another screen shot to join Jeff Manto (1997) and Dusty Wathan (2005) as the only players to go deep thrice.
And all this from a guy who entered the game batting .203 with four home runs since being signed out of the independent Atlantic League on May 14. Pascucci, in fact, was hitless in 12 at-bats and in a 1-for-20 nosedive heading into the game.
"After I hit my second, I was thinking it would be nice to get the third one," Pascucci said. "I had done it once for the Mets before [in 2008 at New Orleans] ... It was great tonight, a big house and if you're going to do it, it was a great time."
Pascucci's third homer was the 200th of his minor-league career. Injured Buffalo third baseman Mike Hessman is the active minor-league leader at 329. Pascucci is ninth.
"It was huge. He swung the bat great," said manager Ken Oberkfell. "We figured they had a lefty out there pitching tonight and it was a good time to get Val in there. He'll be in there [tonight] too."
"Everybody was having a good time, especially after the third one," Pascucci said. "Guys were banging on my helmet and jumping on me so it was a good time in the dugout."
Pascucci, a former Pacific Coast League home run champion (34 for Albuquerque in 2007), was with the Bisons in spring training but the Mets released him. It was his fourth three-homer game in Triple-A; he also had two in 2004 at Edmonton.
Pascucci's bat made a winner of Bobby Livingston (3-7), the second of three relievers. Maine was not eligible for a win because he lasted just 4 1/3 innings. Maine threw 88 pitches (50 strikes), allowed just one hit and one unearned run but walked three. His stiff shoulder was fine and his velocity topped at 88 mph. But he's hardly ready for prime time.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel said Friday he will make another rehab start for the Herd next week. In addition to the walks, Maine ran several deep counts.
"I worked a lot harder than I should have," Maine said. "The strike zone for some reason was both inconsistent and just bad. I walked a couple guys I shouldn't have ... that's what happens when you get an umpire [Stephen Barga] like that."
Maine gave up only former Bison Jonathan Van Every's leadoff double in the fifth. Van Every eventually scored when Maine didn't field a throw from Mike Jacobs covering first on Brandon Jones' grounder.
So what's Maine's thought on another start for the Bisons?
"I got no thought on it. I can't control anything," he said. "Whatever they [the Mets] say is whatever goes."
Despite Manuel's nixing of the idea, Maine said he'd go to the bullpen if that got him back to the big leagues.
It may be his only chance. The only possible candidate to be removed from the Mets' rotation is Hisonari Takahashi, and he threw six shutout innings of four-hit ball Friday in Yankee Stadium. Maine, meanwhile, is sitting on a 6.13 ERA.
"If they want me in the bullpen, they can put me in the bullpen," he said. "I just want to get back there and pitch."