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Mets Escape Marlins' Hold

John Franco sprinted off the field with youthful energy, pumping his fists in the air after getting three outs.

Problem was, he had to get three more.

Franco escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth inning Sunday and the New York Mets held off the Florida Marlins 3-2 to end a four-game losing streak.

"My emotions were flying," Franco said. "I stayed in the locker room in-between innings in the air conditioning to try and calm myself down. I don't ever remember being this pumped up."

After the Marlins loaded the bases in the eighth against Mets relievers John Hudek and Dennis Cook, Franco entered.

John Wehner hit a comebacker to Franco, who got a forceout at the plate. The 37-year-old then struck out Mike Redmond and pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay, and ran off the mound with his arms raised.

"Hopefully I showed them (teammates) that the old man pulled a rabbit out of a hat," Franco said.

Franco worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth, getting Edgar Renteria to hit into a double play, and got his 16th save. The Mets stopped the Marlins' three-game winning streak.

"His emotional burst was good to see," manager Bobby Valentine said.

"He knows what to do," Marlins manager Jim Leyland. "John's been one of the best of all time."

Al Leiter (9-3), traded from Florida to the Mets in the offseason, won his sixth straight decision. He allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking a season-high five.

Rookie Joe Fontenot (0-5) yielded the three runs on five hits in seven innings.

The game was tied at 2 when Brian McRae singled to open the Mets seventh. Rey Ordonez sacrificed and, after Leyland took a trip to the mound, Edgardo Alfonzo hit an RBI single with two outs.

"I left a curveball up to Alfonzo and he hit it," Fontenot said. "Jimmy gave me a chance to do it myself and I didn't do it."

John Olerud's groundout scored Alfonzo to make it 1-0 in the first. Florida tied it in the third on Dave Berg's RBI single.

The Marlins went ahead in the fifth inning on Cliff Floyd's RBI single. The Mets made it 2-all in the fifth when Fontenot's wild pitch scored a run.

Notes: Leiter has a 1.43 ERA in his six straight wins. He has pitched at least six innings in 13 of his 14 starts this season. ... This was the second time Franco was used in the eighth. On May 22, in a 3-2 Mets victory over Milwaukee, Franco got one out in the eighth before pitching a perfect ninth. ... Renteria had a third-inning single to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He holds the team record with a 22-game string in 1996. ... The Mets have the fewest errors in the NL with 39. ... The Mets are tied with Tampa Bay and Philadelphia in outfield assists wit 22.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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