Mets get it done in D.C.

Mets Notes & Quotes for July 7: The Mets scratch out an ugly win at RFK and seek a series win; Ramon Castro to get more playing time; Nick Evans and Kyle Brown promoted to Brooklyn...

It wasn't pretty, but the Mets scratched out a 5-3 victory on Wednesday over Livan Hernandez and the Nationals at RFK Stadium, setting up a possible series win after Thursday's matinee performance.

Hernandez (12-3) lost for the first time in 11 starts as both Marlon Anderson and Ramon Castro collected a pair of RBI and Mike Cameron homered, supporting a so-so effort by Tom Glavine (6-7), who scattered nine hits and three runs over 5-2/3 innings.

Aaron Heilman picked up the slack with 2-1/3 scoreless, hitless innings out of the bullpen. Braden Looper pitched the ninth inning in a game that also featured two errors by the left side of New York's infield.

Trade Winds: Mets GM Omar Minaya spoke with reporters on Wednesday and revealed that he still feels his club is a 'buyer' as the July 31 trading deadline approaches.

The Mets enter Thursday's action 42-42 and nine games behind division-leading Atlanta, mired in last place in the NL East, but trail the Braves by only five games for the Wild Card.

One player the Mets do not appear interested in is former Seattle Mariners second baseman Bret Boone, who was designated for assignment by his old club on Monday.

Castro catching on: With a day game Thursday after Wednesday's night game, Mets manager Willie Randolph elected to rest Mike Piazza and give the start to backup Ramon Castro. It's expected to become a common theme in the second half, as Randolph plans to rest Piazza more during the so-called "dog days" of summer.

"I have to try to keep [Piazza] as fresh as I can," Randolph told reporters. "So he'll probably start to get more rest."

Piazza, in the midst of an 0-for-14 slump, admits he hasn't been swinging the bat well, but believes his defense has been solid.

"Whatever's good for the team," Piazza said.

Minor League Report

TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Victor Diaz homered twice and collected five RBI as the Tides unleashed a 19-hit attack on the Columbus Clippers, rolling to a 9-2 win Wednesday. Eric Valent went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and Anderson Hernandez laced three hits and an RBI, raising his average to .404 in 13 games since joining Norfolk. The outburst supported Eric Junge (6-5), who started and allowed two runs on five hits over a season-high 7-2/3 innings.

DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: The B-Mets split a doubleheader with New Hampshire Wednesday, winning the first game 4-2 and losing the nightcap, 6-2. Yusmeiro Petit (3-2) tossed a complete game in the opener and struck out ten, and the B-Mets came within three outs of a sweep before Anderson Garcia blew up for six runs (five earned) in a save situation, including a three-run homer. Orlando Roman started that game and threw six shutout innings of three-hit ball, also striking out ten and settling down after walking the bases loaded in the first inning.

SINGLE-A ST. LUCIE: Vincent Cordova (5-7) fired seven shutout innings of three-hit ball and Lastings Milledge went 2-for-4 with two RBI as St. Lucie blanked Fort Myers Wednesday, 4-0. Wilson Batista and Jonathan Slack also added two-hit performances for the Mets.

SINGLE-A HAGERSTOWN: The Suns rallied for three runs in the ninth inning but fell short Wednesday, 8-7. Carlos Gomez led the Hagerstown attack with three hits and three runs scored, plus two walks, and Jesus Flores and Corey Coles also contributed three-hit efforts. Starter Rafael Cova (4-4) was tagged with the loss after just 2-2/3 innings, in which he allowed five runs (four earned) and three walks but just one hit. Charles Bowman tossed the remaining 5-1/3 innings for Hagerstown, allowing three runs on seven hits.

SINGLE-A BROOKLYN: Jeff Landing (1-2) was a tough-luck loser as the Cyclones managed just one run against Staten Island Wednesday, failing to erase Landing's five-inning, two-run (one earned) start. The Yankees added two runs in the sixth off reliever Travis Hope. Ivan Naccarata hit his first homer for Brooklyn.

ROOKIE-LEAGUE GULF COAST: Leivi Ventura hit a three-run homer and the Mets withstood a four-run rally in the ninth inning, edging the GCL Nationals 6-4 on Thursday. Robert Manuel (3-0) scored the win in relief with 4-1/3 innings of shutout, three-hit ball, while Jose Coronado – hitting .404 – contributed three hits, including a double, at the top of the Mets lineup.

ROOKIE-LEAGUE KINGSPORT: The K-Mets dropped both ends of a doubleheader to Elizabethton Wednesday, 3-0 and 2-1, completing a suspended game from Tuesday. Matt Anderson, Nick Evans and Ricky Oliveras had one hit in both games. After the games, Evans and outfielder Kyle Brown were promoted to Brooklyn, while Yuri Santana was promoted to Hagerstown.

On Deck

The Mets shoot for three of four in D.C. behind Kris Benson (6-3, 3.75) on Thursday. Tony Armas (4-4, 5.27) counters for the Nationals.

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