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Leiter's Back To Winning Ways

For five innings Friday night, Al Leiter pitched hitless ball against the St. Louis Cardinals. Equipped with his best stuff of the season, he began thinking this might be the time for a little history.

"I know a no-hitter becomes reality after seven," said Leiter, who pitched one for Florida in 1997. "But knowing there's never been a no-hitter here, I was thinking about it."

Not manager Bobby Valentine, though.

"That's a pretty good hitting team over there," he said. "They've got seven guys hitting .300."

So the Mets settled for a 3-2 victory as Leiter ended his three-game losing streak with seven innings of three-hit ball.

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  • Turk Wendell bailed New York out of a tight jam in the eighth with a pickoff of Jim Edmonds and Armando Benitez pitched the ninth for his 24th save of the season.

    It was the Mets' fourth straight victory and their fourth straight win against the Cardinals, leaders of the NL Central.

    The win came on a busy trading day for Mets general manager Steve Phillips. He acquired shortstop Mike Bordick from Baltimore for shortstop Melvin Mora and three minor leaguers, then got reliever Rick White and outfielder Bubba Trammell from Tapa Bay for outfielder Jason Tyner and pitcher Paul Wilson.

    Leiter (11-4), retired 15 of the first 16 batters and 11 in a row over one stretch. He struck out eight and walked two in seven innings, besting Pat Hentgen (9-8).

    Reliever John Franco gave up a pair of singles in the eighth to bring on Wendell, who picked Edmonds off first base.

    "You've only got so many outs left," manager Tony La Russa said. "That's a big play. He's got a real quick move and it threw Jim off. It's a mistake. You can't get picked off in that situation. He knows it."

    The Cardinals still got a run on third baseman Lenny Harris' fourth error in two days before Wendell struck out Eric Davis to end the inning and tiurned the game over to Benitez.

    Hentgen gave up all three Mets runs in the second inning.

    Mike Piazza opened with a single and Todd Zeile walked. Benny Agbayani's double off the wall in right center-field scored Piazza. Then Zeile scored on Jay Payton's grounder to second with Agbayani taking third on the play.

    Kurt Abbott followed with a fly ball to center field. Agbayani tagged up and scored when catcher Mike Matheny dropped Edmonds' throw for an error.

    The Cardinals nicked Leiter for a run in the sixth. Matheny led off with a single, St. Louis' first hit of the game, and moved up on a sacrifice by Hentgen. Fernando Vina also bunted, moving Matheny to third. Then Placido Polanco delivered the run with a two-out single to center. Leiter ended the rally by getting Edmonds on a line drive to left.

    In the seventh, St. Louis loaded the bases with one out on a single by Davis, a walk to Ray Lankford and an error by Abbott. Leiter struck out Matheny and got pinch-hitter Craig Paquette on a soft liner to second.

    "I knew what I had to do," Leiter said. "I was not giving in. If I walk the guy, then I walk him. I was going to stay aggressive."

    The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh. But reliever Matt Morris struck out Zeile and tossed Agbayani's broken-bat dribbler to Matheny for a force at the plate and the final out of the inning.


  • The Mets are 15-5 in games started by Leiter.
  • The Cardinals, completing a stretch of 17 of 20 games on the road since the All-Star break with visits to New York and Montreal, did not check into their Manhattan hotel until 5 a.m.
  • Mets 3B Robin Ventura is expected to come off the DL (bruised right rotator cuff) for Saturday's game.
  • The Mets expect Bordick, White and Trammell to report Saturday.

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