Mistakes Doom Mets To Loss

Mets starter Steve Trachsel has been a lot more consistent as a pitcher since his demotion last year, but still, he is prone to mistakes, and on Monday night, two mistakes ultimately cost the Mets the game as they lost 5-4 in the opening game of a four-game series to the Atlanta Braves.

Trachsel found himself in immediate trouble in the first inning. He struck out Rafael Furcal to start off the inning, but then walked Julio Franco and gave up a looping single to Gary Sheffield to put runners on first and third. Chipper Jones then popped out to Vaughn I n foul territory, but then Trachsel lost his command of the strike zone again and walked Andruw Jones to load the bases. Trachsel's first mistake: Vinny Castilla then hit a long fly ball to right field that looked like it would hook foul. It hit the foul pole instead, and was a grand-slam home run and the Mets found themselves in a 4-0 hole very quickly.

The Mets got two runs back in the third, but they were at a price. After Roger Cedeno was called out on strikes, Rey Ordonez hit a double. Ordonez got caught napping however, when Trachsel checked his swing and hit a ball back to Braves starter Kevin Millwood. Ordonez had strayed too far from second and Millwood caught him and got him in a rundown, which resulted in him getting tagged out by Castilla. Millwood then walked Roberto Alomar and then Timo Perez singled. Since Trachsel is a slow runner, he could only hold at third. Mike Piazza came to the plate, looking to at least single in two runs. Instead a pitch got away from Millwood and hit Piazza on the hand. Since the bases were loaded, that drove in a run. Both Valentine and the Mets trainer came out to check on Piazza, but Piazza stayed in the game. Millwood then hit Mo Vaughn on the hand, which caused Braves manager Bobby Cox to look like he wanted to kick something, and Valentine and the Mets trainer to get more exercise than they expected as they again had to run to the first base line to check on Vaughn, who also stayed in the game. Since the bases were still loaded, it drove in another run. The Mets couldn't break through though as Edgardo Alfonzo grounded out to Castilla who threw to second for the force to get out of the inning and leave the score 4-2.

The Mets simultaneously tied the game and knocked Millwood out of it in the fourth. Jeromy Burnitz, who has been in a terrible slump the past month, led off with a single. Cedeno then beat out an infield single. Ordonez flied out to right, with Burnitz tagging up and advancing to third. Millwood got ahead in the count on Trachsel 0-2, but Trachsel laid down a perfect two-strike bunt to move Cedeno to second. Alomar, who has shown glimpses of his All-Star form on the field but looked lost at the plate, came up with a pressure situation. In the past, he'd looked lost at the plate, even bunting at bad times, but in this game, he looked confident and showed it by stroking an opposite field double to score both Burnitz and Cedeno to tie the game. Millwood was then shown the door by Cox, and brought in Chris Hammond, who got Perez to ground out to Franco at first to end the inning.

Hammond and Trachsel dueled the next couple of innings until Andruw Jones led off the sixth with a solo home run to dead center to give the Braves the lead again and that was Trachsel's second mistake.

The bullpen for the Mets and Braves pitched superbly for the rest of the game. The Mets did have the tying and winning run on base in the ninth, with Piazza hitting, but Smoltz, who was throwing some truly nasty pitches (he struck Alomar out with a splitter that began in the hitting zone and then just dropped under his bat head), got Piazza to ground out to Furcal to end the game.


-Burnitz had a rough game. In the sixth inning, he made a catch of a Keith Lockhart fly ball, by ran into the wall in the process and appeared to hurt his elbow. He stayed in the game. In the eighth, his bat slipped out of his hand on a swing and went spiraling into the crowd on the first base side. It hit a little girl, but she appeared to be only shaken up. Burnitz was shaken up too and needed a few moments to compose himself.
-Trachsel fell to 3-6 while Hammond got the win for the Braves to even his record at 2-2.
-Alomar had a two-hit night. He was the only Met with more than one hit. Castilla and Andruw Jones had multi-hit nights, with Castilla having three hits and Jones two.
-Tuesday night's pitchers will be Shawn Estes (2-4, 4.36 ERA) and Jason Marquis (4-3, 4.40 ERA)

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