Mets 4, Phillies 1
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Al Leiter knows it’s too early to talk about division titles.
But after three seasons of falling out of the race early, Leiter and the New York Mets are enjoying contending for the NL East.
Leiter pitched seven solid innings and Kaz Matsui went 3-for-5, leading New York to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.
Leiter (5-2), who leads the major leagues with a 2.05 ERA, won for the fourth time in six starts and helped the Mets pull within two games of the NL East-leading Phillies. New York has won five of its last six.
“There’s a much more confident feeling,” said Leiter, who won his 150th career game. “What we’ve been going through has been much more fun than the last two or three years.”
Leiter allowed one run and three hits, striking out three and walking three. He hasn’t lost since May 11 against Arizona, going 4-0 with three no decisions since then.
Richard Hidalgo went 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs for the Mets, though didn’t hit a home run, ending his team-record streak of homers in five consecutive games. Hidalgo was originally hitting fifth until cleanup hitter Cliff Floyd asked manager Art Howe to flip spots.
“I can’t hit a home run everyday,” Hidalgo said, smiling.
Randy Wolf (3-4) lasted only 4 2-3 innings as the Phillies ended a three-game winning streak.
The Phillies brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, after Mike Lieberthal and pinch-hitter Chase Utley singled against Braden Looper. He then struck out Placido Polanco to get his 17th save in 19 chances.
The Mets have won six of their last 10 games thanks largely to Matsui.
Matsui has been on a tear, starting with New York’s three-game weekend sweep of the Yankees. He is 11-for-26 with 12 runs scored and five RBIs in his last six games after struggling for most of his first year with the Mets.
Matsui was robbed of a career-high fourth hit in the eighth on a nice diving catch by left fielder Pat Burrell.
“He’s a scoring machine,” Howe said. “When he gets on, he just finds a way to step on home plate.”
Matsui led off the fifth with a single, then advanced to third on a blooper by Mike Piazza. Hidalgo hit a hard single down the left-field line that scored Matsui for a 2-1 lead.
Piazza, though, was thrown out at third by Burrell and Hidalgo advanced to second. That cost the Mets at least one more run after Cliff Floyd followed with a single to right that Bobby Abreu bobbled, allowing Hidalgo to score for a 3-1 lead.
Wolf then left after walking Todd Zeile, allowing nine hits and three runs in his second shaky start since coming off the disabled list. Reliever Roberto Hernandez walked Mike Cameron to load the bases, but struck out Leiter.
Leiter pitched out of a couple of early jams. In the third, Leiter gave up two hits to start the inning, but allowed only one run. Leiter loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Lieberthal flied out and Tomas Perez popped to short.
“We had a couple of opportunities, but he made the right pitches,” Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. “Sometimes you have to credit the other pitcher.”
Howe said Leiter had a veteran’s confidence to get out of those jams.
“He’s just a master of making pitches when he has to,” Howe said. “I’ve seen him do it time and time again. He minimizes damage or stops any damage.”
The Phillies threatened in the eighth inning when All-Star Jim Thome batted as the tying run against left-hander Mike Stanton. Thome flew out to center for the second out, and Looper came in and got Burrell to fly out to center aswell.
Wolf leads all Philadelphia pitchers with four RBIs. … Hidalgo is 9-for-16 career against Wolf. … Matsui had three hits for the fourth time this year. … Abreu and Polanco each had 10-game hitting streaks snapped. … Wolf is 0-4 career at home against the Mets. … The Phillies are 6-3 during a season-high 14-game homestand. … The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Hidalgo’s RBI triple. … Leiter has pitched 83 1-3 innings for the Mets, who have played 82 games. When New York plays its 84th game, he won’t haveenough innings to qualify for the ERA lead until his next start.