Reyes will not have a chance to steal Leiter’s headlines this time.
Expected to miss the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury, Reyes will be a spectator when Leiter and the New York Mets continue a three-game series with Mike Hampton and the Braves at Shea Stadium.
Reyes, injured in the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia, became the youngest player in the modern era to homer from both sides of the plate during the Mets’ 3-1 win at Turner Field on Thursday. The 20-year-old shortstop connected right-handed off Hampton in the fifth before homering from the left side in the ninth.
The slice of history overshadowed a brilliant performance from Leiter, who hurled seven innings of shutout ball in beating Hampton, who had won nine straight decisions.
Leiter, a 37-year-old left-hander, walked one and struck out six, winning for the fifth time in seven starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list July 20 because of an inflamed right knee.
“I lost 20 pounds and I feel better physically,” said Leiter, who trimmed his 6-foot-3 frame down to 200 pounds.
“The difference is I’ve been pitching ahead in the count instead of pitching with bad counts like 2-0 and 3-1 and they know what’s coming,” he added.
Aside from a bad pitch to Reyes, Hampton had everything working. He allowed five hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out four.
“Al pitched a heck of a game. He battled us all night,” Hampton said. “Those things happen. What can I say? He outpitched us and they won.”
Long out of the playoff races in the National League, the Mets carried their improved play from August into September by defeating the Braves 3-2 on Monday. New York is 16-12 since Aug. 1.
With the best record in baseball, the Braves haven’t had much to play for this summer and it has shown in the standings as they’ve won just 16 of their last 29. However, they received a scare during Monday’s game as MVP candidate Gary Sheffield fell, clutching his right leg, as he tried to catch Timo Perez’s sinking liner to right field in the fourth inning.
“I thought he did something to his knee really bad,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Sheffield, who expects to play Tuesday, was wearing a pad on the leg to protect it against slides and said the pain came from the calf area.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Mets - 5th place, 26 1/2 GB, NL East.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Hampton (12-6, 3.97 ERA). The ex-Met is 1-2 with a 1.35 ERA against his former team this season, and 7-7 with a 2.21 ERA against New York during his career.
METS PROBABLE STARTER: Leiter (13-7, 4.25 ERA). The veteran southpaw is 9-9 with a 2.81 ERA in his career against Atlanta, including a 2-0 mark and 3.00 ERA this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Sheffield, .333 avg. and 112 RBIs; Javy Lopez, 35 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 114 runs and 24 SBs. Mets - Jason Phillips, .317 avg.; Cliff Floyd, 18 HRs and 68 RBIs; Ty Wigginton, 64 runs; Reyes, 13 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 11-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - With a league-leading .283 average, the Braves could lead the NL in hitting for the first time since 1983, when they batted .272. … Atlanta has five players with 20 or more homers—C Lopez 35, RF Sheffield 34, CF Andruw Jones 33, LF Chipper Jones 23 and 3B Vinny Castilla 22—and 2B Marcus Giles has 19. If Giles hits his 20th, the Braves will have six players reach 20 for the first time since the Milwaukee Braves did it in 1965, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Despite having the best record in baseball, the Braves are just 14-21 in one-run games. Mets - SS Reyes is to have an MRI Tuesday, but Mets physician Dr. Andrew Rokito already has recommended that he not play for a minimum of three weeks—there are only four weeks left in the season. … Batters have one hit in their last 24 at-bats (.042) with runners on base against RHP David Weathers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … C Mike Piazza has thrown out just 19 of 61 basestealers this season, and was 0-for-3 Monday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 41-29 on the road; Mets - 30-38 at home.
INJURIES: Braves - 1B Julio Franco (finger), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP John Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL. Mets - OF Floyd (Achilles’), 15-day DL; RHP Pedro Astacio (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Strickland (groin), 60-day DL; 1B Mo Vaughn (knee), 60-day DL.