Payton's Careeer Night Propels Mets

Jay Payton collected three hits and a career-high five RBI to lead the New York Mets to a 9-3 victory over the Florida Marlins in a rain-lengthened series finale at Pro Player Stadium. The contest started at 4:05 in the afternoon, but over three hours of rain delays prolonged the finish to 10:33 at night.

Grant Roberts (2-0) picked up the win in relief, tossing 1 1/3 innings without giving up a run. New York earned a split in the four-game set, and won for just the third time in its last eight games. The Mets enter the All-Star break a disappointing 12 1/2 games behind the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves.

Oswaldo Mairena (2-2) absorbed the loss after giving up two runs -- one earned -- in 2 1/3 innings of relief. Florida lost for the third time in its last five games, and enters the break 11 games back of the Braves, and 1 1/2 games behind the second-place Montreal Expos.

The Mets were without Mike Piazza in the starting lineup. Piazza collected a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning, and used the time on the bench to rest an ailing back in anticipation of his 10th consecutive appearance behind the plate for the National League All-Star team on Tuesday.

New York opened the scoring with a two-run double in the top of the first inning. Timo Perez reached base on a fielder's choice with one out, and moved to third when Edgardo Alfonzo singled. One out later, Payton doubled to the wall in left to knock in both runners.

Florida answered with a two-run double of its own in the bottom of the first inning. Luis Castillo led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout. Cliff Floyd and Derrek Lee walked with two outs to load the bases, and Kevin Millar knocked in Castillo and Floyd with a double to the wall in left. Charles Johnson walked to re-load the bases, but Andy Fox popped up to end the inning after rain forced a short delay.

The game was delayed a second time with one out and runners at first and second base in the bottom of the third inning. When play resumed, Millar grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The game was delayed a third time prior to the start of the fourth inning.

Play finally resumed nearly two hours later. Vic Darensbourg replaced starter Brad Penny on the mound for Florida, while Roberts replaced Mets starter Pedro Astacio.

New York grabbed a two-run lead off Mairena in the top of the fifth inning. Alfonzo walked with one out and moved to second when Mo Vaughn singled. One out later, Tony Tarasco singled to center, scoring Alfonzo, and Vaughn came home when centerfielder Preston Wilson could not glove the ball on the ground. Wilson faked a throw home, but Vaughn was not fooled and came home safely. Millar backed up Wilson to retrieve the ball, holding Tarasco at second base. Vance Wilson flied out to end the inning.

The rains came again in the middle of the sixth inning, and play was delayed for a fourth time.

After play resumed, Florida's All-Star representatives combined to produce a run in the seventh inning. Castillo singled with one out and moved to second on a groundout. Mike Lowell then knocked in Castillo with a single. Castillo stumbled in the wet dirt at third base, but made his way home safely.

However, the Mets added five insurance runs in the ninth inning to secure the victory. John Valentin led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno. Roberto Alomar then knocked in Valentin with a triple off the wall in right. Piazza hit for Perez and stroked the first pitch he saw into left field to knock in Alomar.

Vaughn kept things going with a walk, as Piazza moved to second. Payton closed out the scoring with his seventh homer of the season, a three-run shot off the foul pole in left field.

Mother Nature showed her face again in the bottom of the ninth, as she poured on the Marlins' hopes for a six-run comeback. The umpires kept play going, but Florida was retired without damage to finally end the game.

Game Notes

Roberts was taken out of the game, suffering from tendinitis in his right biceps...Rey Ordonez also left the game in the sixth inning with a contusion to his left big toe...New York outhit Florida by a 13-6 margin...The Mets finished their 10-game road trip with a 4-6 record, and improved to 22-26 as the visitor this season.

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