Castilla, Reynolds Power Braves to 5-3 Win

The New York Mets lost another tough contest at home on Tuesday evening, as they were edged by the Atlanta Braves 5-3. Veteran Shane Reynolds had just enough gas left in the tank and spoiled a fine outing by Mets rookie Jason Roach. Vinny Castilla hit a crucial two-run homer for the Braves, and John Smoltz completed the chore by registering his 33rd save.

Atlanta continues to roll right along and opened the scoring in the first inning. Slumping Marcus Giles doubled with one out and scored on a Gary Sheffield single for a quick 1-0 lead. Roach retired Chipper and Andruw Jones and prevented further scoring.

The Mets came roaring back in the second frame. Jeromy Burnitz opened with a single and moved to third on a Jason Phillips double. The Mets were poised for a big inning against the junk-balling Reynolds, but he managed to wriggle free with only one run scoring. He caught Vance Wilson's pop for the first out. Joe McEwing then tied the score when he beat out an infield hit, and Burnitz tallied. Young Jose Reyes, back in the line-up after missing some time with hamstring problems, grounded into an inning-ending double play, as Phillips tried to score and was nailed at the plate. They had let Reynolds off the hook.

Atlanta extended the lead in the 4th inning. Run-scoring singles by Robert Fick and Castilla gave the Braves a 3-1 lead, but the Mets answered in the 5th when Burnitz blasted his team-leading 18th homerun of the year, and shaved the margin to 3-2. It has been a magnificent comeback year for Jeromy thus far.

Reynolds (6-4) shut down the Mets after that. He went six innings, allowing the two runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out two. The Braves finished off Jason Roach (0-2) in the bottom of the sixth. He managed to induce Andruw Jones to ground out, but then walked Fick. He fanned Javy Lopez for the second out, but Castilla essentially put the game away when he slammed his 13th homerun of the season. For the game, Roach allowed five runs on five hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. Other than allowing the Castilla blast that decided the game, he pitched quite decently.

With the Braves up by a score of 5-2, the bullpens took over. The Mets threatened one more time in the eighth inning, when they tagged Braves set-up man Roberto Hernandez for a run. Jason Phillips led off the inning with a walk and scurried to third on a double by catcher Vance Wilson. Raul Gonzalez managed to drive home Phillips with a ground out, which also moved Wilson to third, and sliced the Atlanta lead to 5-3.

Jose Reyes reached when Hernandez threw wildly to first, and pinch hitter Tony Clark walked to load the bases. Things were definitely looking up for the Mets, but manager Bobby Cox again went to his bullpen and brought in Korean reliever Jung Bong to face Roger Cedeno. And Bong put an end to the threat as Cedeno grounded into an inning-ending double play. The Mets would get no closer.

As it has the entire season, the ninth inning belonged to Braves closer John Smoltz. The Mets did manage a hit off him, but the game was quickly over, and John had his league-leading 33rd rescue. He needs only 25 in the second half of the season, to set an all-time single season record, and he could very well become the first closer to record 60 saves in a season. He has been virtually flawless this year.

The Mets have now lost consecutive home games, following their weekend sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati. They are 3-5 overall against Atlanta this season. The season record stands at 39-49, a full 18 games behind the Bravos. Respective staff aces Russ Ortiz (11-4) and Tom Glavine (6-8), coming off a strong outing in his last start, will hook up in the finale of the series in a day game on Wednesday.

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