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Pirates Sweep Mets 3-0


Aramis Ramirez might have been one of the few major leaguers to receive a standing ovation while in an 0-for-24 slump. Then he really gave the Pittsburgh fans something to cheer about.

Jon Lieber outdueled Rick Reed with eight shutout innings, and Ramirez's first career hit helped Pittsburgh finish off a three-game sweep of the New York Mets with a 3-0 victory Wednesday night.

All the Pirates' runs were manufactured by hitters in major slumps. Jermaine Allensworth, 1-for-21, led off the first with a triple and scored on Al Martin's groundout. Ramirez at 19 the majors' youngest starter was hitless since his May 26 callup until he hit a two-run double in the seventh.

As Ramirez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, many of the 17,691 fans stood and cheered apparently, a gesture intended to let him know they hadn't given up on him despite his slow start.

"I don't know about him, but it surely gave me chills," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "I think the fans wanted to show they were behind him and they like young, hungry players, which I think he is."

Ramirez promptly lined a double into the left field, then fought off the urge to smile as he stood on second base.

"All I could think was `Thank God,"' Ramirez said. "I just watched the people and you could tell they were real happy."

The Mets weren't. They came into the series with a nine-game winning streak, only to be swept by Pittsburgh for the first time since 1995. New York managed five runs in the three games after scoring 51 in its previous six.

"That's baseball. That's the way it happens. Everybody gets real hot together and you're probably going to get real cold together," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "This is the same team that was getting all those hits and scoring all those runs."

It was the Pirates' first three-game sweep of the season and extended a season-high five-game winning streak that has brought them to within a game (29-30) of .500.

"This was a big series and, hopefully, things are starting to click around here," Lieber said.

Allensworth's hit was one of only two off Reed until he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Reed has yielded only the lone run and six hits over 13 2-3 innings in his last two starts, yet has managed only a split.

"He (Allensworth) hit it into a perfect spot and then they got a perfectly placed ground ball. Three pitches and it's 1-0," Reed said.

Lieber's strong outing he gave up four hits continued a season-long trend that has seen him pitch either very poorly or very well. Lieber (3-7) also shut out San Diego over eight innings on April 26, yet had won only one other time in his first 11 starts, partly because he had given up he most homers (13) among NL starters.

Lieber, who struck out seven and walked one, didn't allow a runner to third until Butch Huskey with two out in the seventh. Lieber dodged that threat by getting pinch-hitter Matt Franco to pop up.

The Pirates gave him two insurance runs when Jason Kendall singled and Kevin Young and Jose Guillen walked ahead of Ramirez's two-run double to left off Greg McMichael.

"You want to take your chances with somebody other than their best hitter," said McMichael, who pitched carefully to Guillen with the hitless Ramirez due up next. "I made a mistake on a changeup and I didn't get it where it needed to be. It was up and over the middle of the plate. I didn't execute. I didn't make the pitch."

Jason Christiansen pitched the ninth for his first career save in 159 career appearances.

"He's been bugging me to get him one," Lamont said. "Now I guess I'll hear from him even more."

Notes:

  • Lieber avoided getting into immediate trouble as he had in his previous three starts, when he allowed eight first-inning runs.
  • Lieber was the second Pirates starter in as many nights to beat New York for the first time. He was 0-2 against them in seven games. Chris Peters was 0-5 against New York before winning 5-2 on Tuesday night.
  • The National Weather Service determined Wednesday that the vicious storm that ripped the roofs off houses overlooking Three Rivers Stadium on Tuesday night was a tornado.
  • Guillen appeared to have doubled in the fifth, but was called out by first base umpire Angel Hernandez after the Mets appealed that he missed first base.
  • Carlos Baerga is 23-for-51 (.451) in his last 13 games.

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

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