The Atlanta Braves, having already won the first two games of the NL Championship Series, took advantage of two errors by the New York Mets to take a 1-0 lead after three innings in Game 3 Friday night.
After losing the first two games in Atlanta, the Mets sent their ace and slump-breaker, Al Leiter, to the mound.
He snapped an eight-game losing streak in June by beating Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees. He beat Greg Maddux and the Braves on Sept. 29 to break the seven-game skid that almost cost the Mets a playoff berth.
Leiter then won the one-game playoff at Cincinnati to put the Mets in the postseason for the first time since 1988. While this wasn't a mathematical must-win game, Leiter and the Mets know that no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
Leiter contributed to Atlanta's run in the first inning, when he walked Gerald Williams to lead off the game. Bret Boone followed with a comebacker and Leiter looked toward second, decided not to throw, and then pulled first baseman John Olerud off the bag at first with a wide throw for an error.
One out later, Braves manager Bobby Cox called for a double steal and when catcher Mike Piazza's throw to second sailed into center field, Atlanta took a 1-0 lead.
Melvin Mora, making his fourth career start for New York, kept the deficit at 1-0 when he caught Brian Jordan's fly to center and fired a perfect one-hop throw to Piazza, who withstood a violent collision with Boone for the out.
Piazza, who missed the final two games of the first-round series with a swollen left thumb, stayed in the game despite a slight concussion.
The Mets had runners on first and third with two outs in the second, but couldn't score off Tom Glavine. Leiter swung at a 3-2 pitch that was well below the knees and talked to himself in the dugout before coming out to pitch the third.
It didn't take long for Braves closer John Rocker to fire up the Mets fans after he called them "stupid" and a "tired act" earlier this week. Rocker jawed with some fans in the outfield during warmup and bowed and waved his cap when fans booed him during the pregame introductions.
Baseball officials were concerned enough for Rocker's safety that they stationed police officers in the bullpen to protect him.
The Mets' fans saved some of their venom for Chipper Jones, who is making his first appearance at Shea Stadium since telling them "to go home and put their Yankees stuff on."
Jones was also booed loudly and heckled with chants of "Lar-ry, Lar-ry" his given name, but one he doesn't like.
After the middle of the Mets' lineup Olerud, Piazza and Robin Ventura went 1-for-21 with one RBI in Atlanta, Mets manager Bobby Valentine re-tooled his lineup.
He moved Olerud from No. 3 to No. 2 in a switch with Edgardo Alfonzo, and Ventura dropped one spot to sixth. With the left-handed Glavine starting, Benny Agbayani started in right field and batted fifth, and Mora batted seventh.
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