Mets Send Unit To Early Shower

The signatures of World Trade Center victims' families and workers are visible as construction workers adjust one of three 25-ton steel columns into position to be bolted into place at ground zero in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006, marking the beginning of the Freedom Tower's vertical construction. The columns, were produced in Luxembourg and fabricated in Lynchburg, Va.
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The New York Mets keep causing big problems for the Big Unit.

Randy Johnson was anything but his dominant self against the Mets, failing to strike out a batter for the first time in 10 years and lasting only 2 1-3 innings as New York routed the Arizona Diamondbacks 13-3 Friday night.

"Nothing worked," said Johnson, who is 0-3 with a 7.29 ERA in his last four starts, including a playoff game last year, against the Mets. "I just didn't pitch very well today. I wish I could pitch tomorrow so I could redeem myself. But it doesn't work that way."

The Mets lead Arizona by 5 1/2 games in the wild card race. The Diamondbacks, who trail first-place San Francisco by 3 1/2 in the NL West, have lost four in a row following a seven-game winning streak.

"We've got to win baseball games regardless of whether it's our division or the wild card," Arizona manager Buck Showalter said. "None of it matters unless you win. I think that's our focus right now. "

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Game Summary

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  • Johnson allowed six runs - three earned - on six hits. He also made a throwing error in his shortest outing since April 15, 1998, when he also worked 2 1-3 innings.

    For only the third time in his career, the 6-foot-10 left-hander - the NL leader in ERA and strikeouts - did not fan anyone in a start.

    The only other times Johnson (16-5) started and didn't strike out a batter came in consecutive outings for Montreal in 1989 on April 10 at Philadelphia and again five days later at Pittsburgh.

    "I have no way to figure that out," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said of his team's success against Johnson. "We come to play and he probably didn't have his best stuff tonight. A couple of our hits fell and we took advantage of some breaks."

    Rick Reed worked seven innings, allowing five hits and Steve Finley's 31st homer, a three-run shot in the sixth. Only two of the runs against Reed (8-4) were earned because of an error by shortstop Mike Bordick.

    "I felt pretty good," said Reed, who snapped a personal two-game losing streak. "I was able to hit my spots and keep them off-balance. For the most part, they hit it at someone except for Steve Finley."

    The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the second, helped out by the first of two key Arizona errors.

    Jay Payton squirted a grounder inside the first-base bag for a single to drive in Todd Zeile. Bordick then grounded to third baseman Matt Williams, who was playing in. Williams dropped the ball, picked it up and fired home but Benny Agbayani slid around the tag of Damian Miller to score.

    Edgardo Alfonzo, who was 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored, singled to open the third. Mike Piazza followed with a one-hopper back to the mound. Johnson gloved it cleanly, but skipped a throw past shortstop Tony Womack, sending Alfonzo to third. Zeile singled in Alfonzo.

    Payton sliced a shot to right that Danny Bautista broke in on, but let sail over his head as he jumped. The ball rolled to the fence for a double, scoring Piazza and Zeile to make it 6-0. Agbayani was thrown out at the plate, but Johnson's night had come to a close.

    "I think they are very confident and they are selective," Showalter said. "I think a lot of teams are confident, but aren't able to carry it over. It's not like he's never pitched well against them, but lately he's struggled."

    Mike Morgan relieved and worked 3 1-3 innings, allowing four sixth-inning runs. The big blow was Agbayani's three-run double that made it 10-3. Agbayani, who was 3-for-3 with two wlks, has reached base safely in nine straight trips.

    Johnson lost to New York at home on Aug. 4, when he lasted only 3 2-3 innings. In the 6-1 loss, Johnson yielded five runs two earned on eight hits. He struck out five and walked two.

    Johnson gave up five runs on eight hits in 6 2-3 innings on May 21 at Shea Stadium in a no-decision. New York won that game 7-6.

    The Mets also tagged Johnson for a loss in Game 1 of last year's division series. Johnson gave up seven runs on eight hits in 8 1-3 innings.

    "I take full responsibility when I go out there and pitch," Johnson said. "I pitch to keep our team in the game and I didn't do that tonight."

    Notes

  • New York LHP Mike Hampton threw for 12 minutes in the bullpen before the game and he was deemed fit to start on Sunday. Hampton missed his last start because of a stress fracture in a rib.
  • Alfonzo returned after missing one game with a stiff neck.
  • The Diamondbacks have lost six straight at Shea Stadium, including the final two games of last year's division series and a three-game sweep in May. Arizona is 1-6 against New York this season.
  • Payton's three RBIs were a career high.
  • Agbayani walked in his first two plate appearances against Johnson, seeing only eight pitches.

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