Green’s go-ahead single in 8th sends Mets to 4-3 victory over Braves

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NEW YORK (AP)—Relegated to part-time duty much of the summer, Shawn Green came through with a huge hit Wednesday night that helped the New York Mets tighten their firm grip on first place.

Green lined a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning to drive in Carlos Beltran as New York edged the Atlanta Braves 4-3 for its 10th victory in 12 games.

Super sub Marlon Anderson homered off John Smoltz, and John Maine stymied Atlanta again for six innings. The Mets padded their NL East lead to seven games over second-place Philadelphia, which was routed by Colorado. They get their final day off of the regular season Thursday before the Phillies arrive at Shea Stadium for a three-game series beginning Friday night.

“We’re obviously in the driver’s seat and we want to close it out as soon as we can and focus on the postseason,” Green said.

Jose Reyes drove in one run and scored another, and New York took two of three from Atlanta to split the season series 9-all. The Mets won five of the final six meetings.

Proud of his Jewish heritage, Green delivered the decisive blow on the first night of Rosh Hashana, the high holiday that marks the Jewish New Year.

“It’s really nice to contribute any game, but I guess if you put it in that perspective it adds a little bit to it,” said Green, undecided about whether he’ll sit out next weekend on Yom Kippur, which he’s done twice before.

The Braves, missing slugger Chipper Jones (strained muscle) all series, fell 9 1/2 games behind the Mets. With 16 games remaining, Atlanta’s slim wild-card hopes are fading fast.

“I’ve run out of things to say. We’re not as good as them,” Smoltz said. “They’ve won every game against us they had to win. That’s why they’re where they are. We have to find a way to win these close games, and I am talking about next year as well as the next couple of weeks.”

The Mets are 21-11 in one-run games. Atlanta is 16-24.

New York led 3-1 with two outs and nobody on in the eighth but Atlanta tied it on Jeff Francoeur’s two-run single off much-maligned Guillermo Mota, booed by the crowd of 51,648 as he trotted to the mound with a 5.82 ERA.

“I’m going to keep going to him. He’s got some of the best stuff in our bullpen,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

Mota (2-1) struck out Andruw Jones to end the inning.

Beltran opened the bottom half with a single off rookie Manny Acosta (0-1) and stole second against catcher Clint Sammons, who had just been inserted as a defensive replacement and was making his major league debut.

Beltran aggressively advanced to third on Moises Alou’s sharp groundout to third, then scored when Green smacked a clean single to right-center.

Once a feared slugger, Green has only eight homers and 43 RBIs this year. He’s been forced to share playing time in right field lately, a role that’s been difficult for him to swallow.

“To get a hit in a key situation like that, it feels good—not only being in the role that I’m in but also as we get close to October,” Green said. “The more times you can do that, the more confidence you have in that situation.”

Billy Wagner worked a perfect ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances.

The Mets went ahead on Beltran’s sacrifice fly in the third.

Atlanta tied it in the fourth when Mark Teixeira singled with two outs and Maine walked the next three batters, forcing in a run. That drew a visit from Randolph, who appeared to have some sharp words for the right-hander. Maine then retired No. 8 batter Matt Diaz on a grounder.

“I always like when he comes out there,” said Maine, who departed with a blister on his middle finger but insisted he was fine. “He always seems to know the right thing to say.”

Maine came through for the Mets in perhaps their most important game of the season on Aug. 31 at Atlanta. New York entered on a five-game losing streak after getting swept four games in Philadelphia, but he tossed seven excellent innings to beat Tim Hudson and the Braves 7-1.

That game got the Mets started on their 10-2 surge, and now they get another crack at Philadelphia.

“Our mind-set is to try to return the favor,” Green said.

Anderson, filling in at first base for injured Carlos Delgado, hit a solo homer in the fifth. Pinch-hitter Lastings Milledge opened the seventh with a triple and scored on Reyes’ single through a drawn-in infield.

Smoltz allowed two runs and six hits in six innings with eight strikeouts and two walks.

“Smoltzie has pitched so darn well,” Francoeur said. “We need to score some runs for him early, but you have to give some credit to Maine.”


Alou extended his hitting streak to 17 games with an infield single in the second, tying David Wright for the longest streak by a Met this season. … Reyes extended his errorless streak to a career-best 41 games at SS. … Sammons was called up from Double-A Mississippi on Tuesday. … Beltran has eight RBIs in his last eight games. … The Mets have won four consecutive series.

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