Late Home Run Crushes Mets & Bullpen Again

Although he was not in position to win Wednesdays's game, Pedro Astacio might still be considering suing the Mets bullpen for non-support. Scott Strickland gave up a two-run home run in the eighth inning to Henry Blanco, more noted for being a defensive specialist as a catcher than his bat, that broke a 4-4 tie, and John Smoltz showed that he's not susceptible to Bobby Valentine's mind-games by slamming the door on the Mets in the ninth with a perfect inning.

The Mets got on the board first in the fourth inning, when Edgardo Alfonzo led off the inning with a single. Roberto Alomar singled, and Alfonzo moved to second. Mike Piazza hit the third single in a row to load the bases. Mo Vaughn took a little air out of the attack by striking out, but Jeromy Burnitz hit a sacrifice fly to score Alfonzo and give the Mets the early 1-0 lead.

The Braves took the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. The ageless Julio Franco led off with a single. Astacio got Gary Sheffield to pop out to shallow left, but then the Jones "twins" hit him with a one-two punch. Chipper Jones singled, and then Andruw Jones hit a bases-clearing double that gave the Braves a 2-1 lead.

The Mets took the lead again in the fifth when Timo Perez took a Maddux offering deep to left for a two-run home run, scoring both him and Rey Ordonez, who had doubled to lead off the inning. 3-2 Mets.

Once again, the Mets defense played a role in giving the Braves back the lead. Henry Blanco hit a ground ball to Ordonez, who threw the ball away. Maddux then bunted a poor bunt, and Astacio was able to pounce on it and force out the slow-running Blanco at second. Rafael Furcal then hit a ground-rule double that had Maddux at third and Furcal at second. Franco hit a double that scored both Maddux and Furcal to give the Braves the 4-3 lead.

The eighth inning started off very well. Alfonzo led off with a double, and then Alomar hit an infield single, and stole second. The Braves walked Piazza to load the bases. Vaughn showed patience, and got a bases-loaded walk that tied the game. Jeromy Burnitz, who is finding that June is no more kind than May, popped the ball up to Vinny Castilla at third for the first out. Valentine then pinch-hit John Valentin for Roger Cedeno when the Braves brought in lefty reliever Chris Hammond. Hammond threw an inside pitch to strike out Valentin, and Valentin took exception to the call. He jawed with the umpire for a bit, but Valentine got out there fast enough to keep Valentin in the game. Ordonez then grounded into a fielder's choice and end the inning.

Strickland came in to pitch the eighth inning, and he sailed through the first two hitters, but then gave up a single to Keith Lockhart, and then Blanco's home run. Strickland then got pinch-hitter Darren Bragg to pop out to Alomar at second, but the damage was done.

Notes


-Strickland got the loss to fall to 5-3. Hammond got the win to rise to 3-2, and Smoltz got his 16th save of the year.
-Alfonzo and Alomar were the offensive stars for the Mets, each having two hits.
-Burnitz saw his average fall to .199.
-Thursday's starters will be Jeff D'Amico (4-4, 3.45 ERA) and Tom Glavine (9-2, 1.57 ERA)

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