Again: Benitez Blows Save as Mets Lose 2-1

In the early years of the Astrodome, the Mets often went to Houston and came out winless. They must be beginning to get the same feeling about Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Mets lost their third straight in Puerto Rico, and their fifth game overall, dropping a 2-1, 10 inning decision to the Montreal Expos when Jose Vidro led off the bottom of the tenth with a homerun off Mike Stanton.

The damage however, had occurred one inning earlier, when Mets closer Armando Benitez blew his third save opportunity in a week. New York entered the bottom of the ninth, leading by a score of 1-0, paced by very strong pitching by Al Leiter and David Weathers. Benitez promptly yielded a game-tying homerun to Expos shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

Al Leiter pitched superb baseball once again, only to be the recipient of virtually no support. The anemic Mets offense did manage to tally a run in the opening stanza, when Timo Perez hit a one-out double off Expos starter Zach Day, and moved to third on a wild pitch. Hometown hero Roberto Alomar then delivered Timo with a run-scoring single for 1-0 New York advantage.

The Mets had several other opportunities to extend their lead, but could not take advantage of them. Back-to-back walks to Perez and Alomar in the third inning gave Mike Piazza some fine RBI chances, but the slumping catcher remains in the doldrums as Day made him his third strikeout victim.

In the top of the ninth, the Mets loaded the bases with one out against newly anointed Montreal closer Rocky Biddle, but Jay Bell fanned and pinch hitter Cliff Floyd flied out to snuff out the scoring threat.

That brought on Benitez who once again was bitten by the homerun. Armando barely had time to adjust himself on the pitching mound, when Cabrera sent the tying run out of the park.

Benitez managed to struggle through the remainder of the ninth, and send the game into extra innings. Biddle (1-0) put the Mets down without a whimper in the top of the tenth, however, setting the stage for Vidro's dramatic blast in the bottom of the inning, shocking Stanton (0-2).

New York will try to salvage the final game of the Puerto Rican sojourn on Monday. They will have to deal with Montreal ace Javier Vazquez, who is coming off a fantastic 14-whiff performance in his losing duel against Cubs' wunderkind Mark Prior. So it won't be getting any easier for the hitless Metropolitans in the series finale. The Mets version of the human rain delay, Steve Trachsel, takes the mound for New York and will try to end the five-game slide.

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