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Mets' Relief Sink Mac, Cards


On a day that got off to a rough start for the New York Mets, Pat Mahomes, Turk Wendell and Armando Benitez came to the rescue.

The trio teamed on six innings of one-hit relief and struck out 11, and Mike Piazza homered again as the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-4 Saturday.

"To have those guys out there in the bullpen and then have them come in and do that kind of job, it's great for the club," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "It was a nice team effort."

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Game Summary

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  • A crowd of 45,491 sat through a drizzly, blustery afternoon and watched New York win for the 21st time in 28 games and hold its lead in the NL East.

    Starter Kenny Rogers was forced to leave after the third because of back spasms with the Mets trailing 4-3. But the Mets' bullpen bailed him out, stretching its scoreless streak to 24 2-3 innings.

    Mark McGwire barely missed a three-run homer in the first inning when his drive into the loge level hooked foul. He singled and struck out three times, fanning against Wendell with a runner on third and one out in the seventh with St. Louis trailing 5-4.

    "It's just one of those days," McGwire said. "I swung through a couple of pitches. But there are a lot of people tough on me."

    Piazza homered for the sixth time in seven games, connecting for a three-run shot that gave him an RBI in eight consecutive starts, one short of obby Bonilla's team record.

    Rickey Henderson's RBI single in the sixth broke a 4-all tie and Shawon Dunston drove in two runs against the team that traded him July 31.

    Rogers struggled from the start, giving up Fernando Tatis' two-run single in the first. Only a great play by shortstop Rey Ordonez, who made a diving stop and glove flip to begin a double play, prevented more damage.

    "It may not have won the game," Valentine said, "but it kept us from losing it."

    Tatis hit an RBI double in the third and Craig Paquette, sent to the Cardinals in the Dunston deal, added a sacrifice fly. Rogers was pulled after the inning, and Valentine said he hoped the left-hander would be OK to pitch Wednesday against Houston.

    Mahomes (7-0) took over to begin the fourth, making his first appearance in 10 days, and St. Louis did not score again. He struck out five and walked three.

    "They called down and said Kenny was hurting a little bit," Mahomes said. "I kind of felt I had a good chance to get in the game."

    Mahomes left after walking J.D. Drew with one out in the seventh. After Drew stole second and continued to third on Piazza's throwing error, Wendell preserved a 5-4 lead by striking out McGwire and Ray Lankford. McGwire, who has 48 home runs, is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts lifetime against Wendell.

    "There's always some extra juice when you face someone like that," Wendell said. "He's the home run king. Those are the guys I get fired up facing."

    Benitez struck out the side in the ninth for his 15th save.

    Piazza homered in the first inning off Kent Mercker (6-5). In the sixth, Benny Agbayani led off with a double and, with two outs, Henderson greeted Heathcliff Slocumb with an RBI single. Henderson went 3-for-3 with two walks.

    "I pitched sort of like the weather today," Mercker said. "Cloudy, overcast, not too good, not too bad."

    Notes

  • Piazza avoided injury when he slipped and fell feet first into the Cardinals dugout after catching Drew's foul pop in the fourth.
  • Cardinals 2B Adam Kennedy, hitting .328 at Triple-A Memphis, went -for-4 in his major league debut.
  • Tatis is 8-for-11 with 24 RBIs with the bases loaded.
  • McGwire has four homers in 24 career at-bats against Rogers.
  • Mahomes has won 10 straight decisions in the majors since Minnesota traded him to Boston in August 1996.
  • Strange Play Dept.: With Agbayani on second and one out in the sixth, Mahomes hit a broken-bat chopper. The barrel split off and hit the ball in mid-air, knocking it toward second base, and Mahomes was thrown out.
  • The Cardinals cost themselves with a baserunning mistake in the fifth. With one out, Tatis broke for second base, where Ray Lankford was standing. Tatis was thrown out in a rundown.
  • At 75-48, the Mets are 27 games over .500 for the first time since finishing 100-62 in 1988.
  • Benitez has struck out 102 in 60 2-3 innings.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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