Mets Win But It's No Cake-WALK

It looked like Jeromy Burnitz was going to be the hero for the Mets, breaking out of a 0-14 slump with a two-run go-ahead home-run, but Tim Raines ruined that story with a game-tying home run off Armando Benitez in the ninth inning. Then Burnitz took the hero mantle back, in a ways.

In the 10th inning, with Alomar on second and Piazza on first, Burnitz laid down a gutsy 2-strike bunt to set up the scenario where Marlins pitcher Vic Darensbourg walked Jay Payton with the bases loaded to force in the winning run as the Mets beat the Florida Marlins 5-4 Friday night to keep their hold on first place.

Mets starter Shawn Estes was already pitching out of trouble in the first inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Luis Castillo, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the single. Andy Fox, the former Yankee, then advanced Castillo to second with a fielders' choice ground ball to second. Estes seemed to calm down and subsequently struck out Preston Wilson, but then he walked the dangerous Cliff Floyd and Mike Lowell to load the bases. Derrek Lee then popped the ball in the infield, which looked like an inning-ending play for Roberto Alomar. Of course, this being the Mets, things are never that easy, as Alomar, backpedaling had to make a heart-stopping dive to catch the ball, which had been wind-blown.

Josh Beckett, the next product in the Marlins assembly line of wunderkind pitchers, started off the game dominating, striking out Roger Cedeno on three pitches. He then got Alomar to fly out to left and after working the count full to Mike Piazza, he fooled Piazza on a change-up and had him hit a one-handed flyball to the warning track.

When the Mets traded Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Desi Relaford to San Francisco for Estes during the off-season, they knew occasional lapses of concentration were a problem Estes had. That problem resurfaced in the third inning. After he got Fox to ground out, he gave up consecutive singles to Wilson and Floyd. His concentration faltered, and on a pick-off play at second, he wheeled and threw the ball about five feet to the left of the base allowing Wilson to advance to third and Floyd to second. He then got a ball in on the hands of Lowell, but Lowell's hands were fast enough to bloop the ball to left for a single. Wilson scored, and Floyd was able to score, as the ball took a funny bounce on the charging Burnitz, making him have to stretch out while still running to catch the ball and make an off-balance throw to the plate. That off-balance throw was well off the mark and Floyd was able to easily elude a diving swipe-tag by Piazza.

The Marlins added a third run in the fifth inning when Wilson doubled with one out and scored on a two-out Lowell double to make it 3-0. A Timo Perez-Alomar relay to Edgardo Alfonzo at third was able to cut down Lowell trying to stretch it into a triple.

Beckett was sailing until the fifth, until he issued his first two walks of the game, and Rey Ordonez got the Mets first hit of the game, a two-out single, which scored Burnitz to cut the lead to 3-1. With two men out and Beckett struggling, manager Bobby Valentine yanked Estes to have Mo Vaughn come in and pinch-hit. Vaughn was unable to capitalize after working the count to 3-2, flying out to Wilson in center to end the inning.

Grant Roberts and David Weathers combined for three innings of scoreless relief.

The Mets were greeted by a welcome sight in the bottom of the seventh: Beckett in the dugout and a new pitcher on the mound, Michael Tejera. Alfonzo led off the inning with a walk. Payton pinch-hit for Perez and popped the ball up. Lee lost the ball in the lights, but Alfonzo wasn't able to get to second as he had tagged up when the ball was in the air and was easily forced out at second. Johnson then popped out to Castillo at second. With Joe McEwing announced as the pinch-hitter, Marlins manager Jeff Torborg came out and replaced Tejera with Braden Looper. McEwing worked Looper to a 3-1 count and took off after he thought the next pitch was ball four. The umpire had ideas and called it strike two. After fouling off the pitch, McEwing hit a flyball to right that Floyd made an over-the-shoulder catch of to end the inning.

Roger Cedeno was definitely happy to see Beckett leave, having struck out his previous two times up. In the top of the eighth he led off the inning with an opposite field double over the head of the Marlins leftfielder Eric Owens. Alomar then led off with a double of his own, scoring Cedeno to make it a 3-2. With no one out and Shea going ballistic, Piazza strode to the plate. After battling to a 3-2 count, Piazza swung at a wicked slider for strike three. Burnitz then hit his slump-busting two-run home run.

Notes


-No Met regular had more than one hit tonight.
-Strickland got the win to raise his record to 4-2
-Vaughn didn't play Friday, Mark Johnson was given the start in his place.
-Ty Wiggington is still searching for his first major league hit.
-Saturday's starters will be Pedro Astacio and Kevin Olsen.

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