Eleven Runs Later...

As Mike Hampton walked off the mound in the third inning, his Atlanta Braves already down by six runs, it looked for all the world like another one of those nights – those odd, strange evenings when the Mets actually dominate at Turner Field. <P> Could the Mets possibly experience two of those nights in a row? Not a chance.

The Mets' bubble burst in a hellish fourth inning, done in by a seemingly never-ending series of bloops and bleeders. By the time the carnage subsided, the Braves had put up 11 runs, tying a club record for most runs scored by a Mets opponent.

Staked to a 6-0 advantage, Mets starter Steve Trachsel had shown signs of coming apart in the third, allowing an RBI single to Marcus Giles and a two-run homer to Chipper Jones. The floodgates opened even wider in the fourth, as Trachsel found himself headed for the clubhouse after facing five batters and failing to retire any of them.

Grant Roberts certainly didn't have any answers either. Making his first relief appearance of the season after an unsuccessful bid to become New York's fifth starter, he surrendered five runs in just two-thirds of an inning.

Dan Wheeler finally got the last out of the inning, striking out Rafael Furcal, but not before allowing run-scoring hits to Mark DeRosa and Julio Franco. Final totals: 11 runs, nine hits, no errors and no runners left on.

"They really poured it on," manager Art Howe told reporters.

The amazing thing about Atlanta's rally was that, unlike the Mets' memorable 10-run eighth inning against the Braves at Shea Stadium in 2000, Atlanta was able to complete all of their damage without the benefit of a home run.

In fact, the Braves only hit one ball over an outfielder's head in the marathon inning. Adam LaRoche's two-run double to right off of Roberts scored Chipper Jones and J.D. Drew for Atlanta's 10th and 11th runs of the night.

The bright spot for the Mets on this evening was the continued hot hitting of catcher Mike Piazza, who went 5-for-5 with two home runs, including a monstrous 457-foot blast to dead center off of former Met C.J. Nitkowski leading off the seventh inning.

Piazza is locked in at the plate: he collected four RBI on the night and also hit a two-run homer in the first inning, when it looked as though he might be giving Trachsel an early cushion.

That didn't quite work out, so by the time he crushed the second shot of the night, all of its value had to be placed in the fact that Piazza – who now has 350 career homers -- is just one long ball shy of his coveted career home run record for catchers.

"I just want to continue what I'm doing," he told reporters.

Mets Briefs: Last night was the fourth time the Mets have allowed 11 runs in an inning. The last time was April 1, 1997, New York's opener against San Diego in Monterrey, Mexico. … Piazza and Mike Cameron homered back-to-back in the first inning … Piazza's second home run tied him with Joe DiMaggio (361) on the all-time list for career home runs. … Scott Erickson will make his major league start since 2002 tonight.

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