Mets 4, Dodgers 1

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NEW YORK (AP)—Thanks to a stellar performance by steady Tom Glavine, the otherwise pitching-depleted New York Mets are on the cusp of a first-round sweep.

Making his 33rd postseason start—but first since joining the Mets in 2003 — Glavine tossed six shutout innings and New York scratched out enough runs to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 Thursday night for a 2-0 lead in their NL playoff series.

“This is the opportunity that I wanted to have here in New York,” said Glavine, grateful to be healthy after a blood-clot scare in August. “I understand the opportunity that’s in front of me and I understand the expectations on this team, and certainly on me as a player.”

Jose Reyes drove in two runs from the leadoff spot, 48-year-old pinch-hitter Julio Franco hustled to beat out a potential double-play ball for an RBI, and Billy Wagner earned his second consecutive save.

Two days earlier, the NL East champions lost starting pitcher Orlando Hernandez to a calf injury—leaving him on the sidelines with ace Pedro Martinez all postseason.

But suddenly, New York is one win from the NL championship series.

“A beautifully pitched ballgame,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “Big-money pitcher.”

The Mets will go for the sweep Saturday in Los Angeles against Greg Maddux, who has 333 career wins. Steve Trachsel will pitch for New York.

“We’re in a tight spot,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “We’ve got to come out ready to win three in a row.”

The Dodgers dropped to 1-11 in the postseason since winning the 1988 World Series.

They also lost Nomar Garciaparra in the sixth inning because of a leg injury — he hobbled across first on an infield hit in the fourth. The All-Star first baseman has been playing with a strained left quadriceps. His status for Game 3 was uncertain.

The matchup at Shea Stadium was the second of two playoff games in New York on Thursday. Up in the Bronx, Detroit beat the Yankees 4-3 in the afternoon.

The Mets were the only team in the first round to win its first two home games. They capitalized on an embarrassing baserunning blunder for a 6-5 victory in Game 1, when the Dodgers had two runners cut down at home plate on one bizarre play.

The 40-year-old Glavine, with 290 major league wins, was facing a 25-year-old rookie who owns one.

Hong-Chih Kuo shut out the Mets for six innings on Sept. 8 at Shea in his only big league victory. That was one reason he got the start in this one. The Dodgers also figured a lefty might have success against New York’s lineup—the Mets struggled down the stretch vs. left-handed starters.

But this time, New York fouled off many of Kuo’s tough pitches and chased him in the fifth.

“He was tough again,” Randolph said. “We just made him pitch a little bit. We had some at-bats where we taxed him a little bit.”

Glavine was at his deceptive best—changing speeds, nipping the corners and escaping jams. With runners at first and third in the fifth, he got Kenny Lofton on an inning-ending grounder, then calmly handed Lofton’s shattered stick to a Dodgers bat boy.

“It was the wrong guy for us to face,” Dodgers slugger Jeff Kent said. “A lot of pitches just off the plate, and you get frustrated.”

Glavine, who beat Los Angeles twice during the regular season, gave up only four hits in his first playoff win since 2001 with Atlanta. After making the playoffs year after year with the Braves, he improved to 13-15 in the postseason with a 3.34 ERA.

“I know I’ve lost a lot of close games in the postseason,” Glavine said. “For me, I don’t feel as though I have anything to prove. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m just trying to live in the moment.”

Wilson Betemit homered for the Dodgers off Aaron Heilman in the eighth.

Randolph mentioned before the game that the Mets needed to have a more patient approach against Kuo this time, and they forced him to throw 51 pitches in the second and third innings alone.

Super sub Endy Chavez, starting in right field instead of Shawn Green, dropped a beautiful drag bunt for a hit to start the third. He scampered around the bases on a wild pitch and Glavine’s tapper, then scored on Reyes’ RBI groundout.

“I told you I like Endy. I love him, actually,” Randolph said. “The guy can play, that’s why he’s in the game. No more questions about Endy. He’s a big part or our offense and a big part of our team. It’s been that way all year.”

Garciaparra’s infield single with one out in the fourth was the first hit off Glavine. Garciaparra didn’t even run out a grounder in the sixth, and was removed before the bottom half.

Jose Valentin drew a leadoff walk from Kuo in the fifth, Chavez singled and Glavine put down a typically perfect sacrifice. Paul Lo Duca’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0.

The Mets loaded the bases in the sixth on two singles and a throwing error by reliever Brett Tomko. Franco beat out a potential double-play ball to make it 3-0.

“He’s stolen a few bases for us. It’s amazing how he competes,” Randolph said. “That was a huge play for us.”

Reyes added a two-out RBI single for New York’s final run.

Notes

Martinez had successful surgery on his right rotator cuff. He is expected to be sidelined until next June. … It was the first time the Mets and Yankees hosted playoff games on the same day since Oct. 7, 2000. That day, the Mets edged San Francisco 3-2 on Benny Agbayani’s 13th-inning homer, and Oakland’s Barry Zito beat Roger Clemens 11-1 at Yankee Stadium. … The Mets are 6-0 in division series home games. They are 4-0 in five-game playoff series. … Kuo played high school ball in Taiwan with 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees.

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