Expos 6, Mets 1

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MONTREAL (AP)—With the Expos on the verge of climbing out of last place in the NL East for the first time in more than five months, manager Frank Robinson is just happy his team is finishing strong.

Tony Batista homered twice to reach 30 this season, Livan Hernandez pitched another complete game and Montreal beat the New York Mets 6-1 Tuesday night before just 3,839 at Olympic Stadium.

The Expos, last in the NL East since April 15 after getting off to a 2-7 start, got their fifth win in seven games to move within one game of tying New York—which has lost three straight—for fourth place in the division.

“It’s all right for me, but what’s important is the way we’re playing,” Robinson said. “We’re just trying to win as many games as we can.”

Hernandez (11-14) allowed six hits, including Mike Piazza’s 20th homer, in his major league-leading ninth complete game. But it came in front of the third-smallest Montreal crowd of the season, the lowest attendance since 3,766 showed up for a 5-4 loss to Minnesota on June 16.

“It’s a tough year for a lot of people on this team,” Hernandez said. “A lot of guys have been hurt. This team is really good.”

Hernandez struck out five and walked one for his 40th career complete game and second in a row. He went eight innings in a 4-3 loss at Florida last Thursday. The right-hander matched his career high for complete games, set in 1998 with the Marlins.

“We got him some runs to work with and he did the rest of it,” Robinson said.

Batista, whose three RBIs increased his team-leading total to 106, hit his 29th homer off Al Leiter (9-8) leading off the fifth. Facing Heath Bell in the sixth, Batista connected on a 3-2 pitch for his third multihomer game of the season.

“Batista swung the bat great tonight,” Mets manager Art Howe said. “He’s been swinging the bat great for them.”

Batista has hit at least 30 homers four times and driven in 100 runs three times, including 1999 when he totaled 31 homers and 100 RBIs with Arizona and Toronto.

“Those are the numbers everybody’s looking for,” he said. “I’m going to continue on and finish the season strong.”

Juan Rivera slammed Bell’s next pitch over the left-field wall for his 10th homer to put Montreal up 6-0.

It was the sixth time this season the Expos hit back-to-back home runs, and the second time Batista and Rivera accomplished the feat.

Terrmel Sledge went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Montreal. Sledge hit an RBI single in the third, a run-scoring triple in the fifth and doubled in the seventh, falling a home run short of the cycle.

Mets center fielder Mike Cameron left after he singled in the seventh. He injured his left wrist while swinging during an earlier at-bat.

“It’s an unusual pain, something I can’t play through,” Cameron said. “We’ll check it out (Wednesday). If it feels good, I’m playing.”

Hernandez held the Mets to two hits through six scoreless innings before Piazza led off the seventh with a shot over the center-field wall.

Leiter extended his losing streak to four games, tying the worst streak of his career. He allowed six hits and three runs in five innings.

Hernandez hit Cameron with a pitch with one out in the second. Cameron broke for second as Richard Hidalgo swung and missed at a 1-2 pitch and got in the way of catcher Einar Diaz’s throw to second, which sailed into center field.

Cameron was initially sent back to first base on batter’s interference against Hidalgo. Robinson came out of the dugout to speak to first base umpire Joe Brinkman, the crew chief. Plate umpire Marty Foster joined them before signaling that Cameron was out for an inning-ending double play.

Notes

Hernandez leads the major leagues with 240 innings pitched. … Leiter walked five and struck out four, throwing just 64 of 115 pitches for strikes. … The Expos’ smallest Olympic Stadium crowd this season was 3,613 on May 5 for a 2-0 loss to Colorado. … Batista, who has 14 career multihomer games, tied Larry Parrish’s team record for homers by a third baseman.

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