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Leiter's Shutout Stops Slide

Mets pitcher Al Leiter throws to a Phillies batter in the second inning.
AP
Al Leiter hugged Turk Wendell in a loud clubhouse. Derek Bell played catch with fans in the second deck. Mike Hampton skipped off the field after shaking hands with teammates.

And manager Bobby Valentine wore a disguise in the dugout and even could laugh about it.

All around, these New York Mets looked like winners Sunday.

Leiter restored a sense of calm to Shea Stadium, pitching his first shutout of the season as the Mets put a stop to their September swoon with a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

"We came out and played relaxed ball," Valentine said.

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  • Valentine got in on the act, too, using a few strips of black tape to concoct a mustache and goatee in the sixth inning. Last season, he put on a similar face with eye black and sneaked into the dugout after being ejected, drawing a two-game suspension and $5,000 fine.

    This little prank played out much better.

    "I just wanted to have a little fun, that's all," Valentine said. "Life's too short."

    The Mets broke their three-game slide, winning for only the second time in nine tries this month to move 4 1/2 games ahead of Arizona in the NL wild card race.

    Leiter (15-7) gave up five singles and struck out nine in his seventh career shutout, and first since blanking Cincinnati 5-0 last Oct. 4 in a playoff for the wild card spot.

    "Any win is nice. But obviously, with the way we've been playing, it's nice to end the losing streak and start a winning streak,"said.

    Leiter walked two and threw 135 pitches.

    "I didn't treat this like a playoff game, because it wasn't, but I was determined and focused in on every pitch," he said.

    Leiter, who told Valentine before the game that he intended to pitch nine innings, allowed only one runner to reach second base. Doug Glanville drew a leadoff walk in the first and moved up when Scott Rolen singled, but was stranded.

    "He threw the ball very Al Leiter-ish," Rolen said. "He was up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out."

    Mike Bordick drove in two runs, albeit with a groundout and a hit by pitch, and Mike Piazza added a sacrifice fly.

    The Mets' offensive woes continued as they got only six hits, but that was enough to beat Omar Daal (3-18).

    Daal, who leads the major leagues in losses, dropped his sixth straight start.

    New York is batting just .199 in 14 games since battering Arizona ace Randy Johnson on Aug. 25.

    "We didn't get a whole lot of hits, but we did things to win the game," said Jay Payton, who singled twice. "I think we all came to the park upbeat today. We're still in a good position."

    In a series that already had seen Hampton knock over two water coolers and Wendell toss his glove into the stands, there was subtle sign of early Mets' frustration. Piazza threw down his bat at the plate after stranding two runners with a comebacker that ended the third.

    By the top of the eighth, however, Bell was delighting the sellout crowd of 53,775 by throwing the ball into the second deck while warming up.

    The Phillies, with the worst record in the majors, were trying to complete their first three-game sweep at Shea since Sept. 11-13, 1979. On the day they finished that sweep, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt scored and Steve Carlton was the winning pitcher as manager Joe Torre's Mets lost 2-1.

    New York's win made Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs the first two teams in the majors to be eliminated from postseason contention.

    Phillies second baseman Kevin Jordan did Daal no favors in the fourth inning.

    In the top half, Jordan pulled a hard foul that hit Daal in the right rbs while he sat in the Phillies' third-base dugout. In the bottom half, Jordan let a hard grounder bounce off his chest, setting up the Mets' first run.

    Todd Zeile doubled with one out right fielder Brian Hunter broke in, then fell as the ball sailed over his head and advanced as Payton was credited with a single on his hard hopper to Jordan. Bordick then recorded his 500th career RBI, getting thrown out on an infield chop that scored Zeile.

    Bordick was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the sixth, making it 2-0. With one out, Daal suddenly lost his control, issuing his first three walks of the game and hitting Bordick in the foot.

    Daal moved closer to becoming the first pitcher in the majors to lose 20 games since Oakland's Brian Kingman in 1980. Phillies manager Terry Francona said Daal, 1-8 since being acquired from Arizona, would remain in the rotation.

    "I can't give up," Daal said. "I don't worry about that."

    Piazza picked up his third RBI in 14 games with a sacrifice fly in the seventh that scored Bell, who led off with a double.

    Notes

  • Mets 3B Robin Ventura, in an 0-for-22 skid, sat out.
  • The Phillies had a four-game sweep at Shea in June 1995.

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