New York (35-23) at Arizona (34-25)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ, US
Temp: 64° F
  • Game info: 9:40 pm EDT Thu Jun 8, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Arizona Diamondbacks suddenly have bigger things on their minds than just a losing streak.

One day after reliever Jason Grimsley was released amid new steroid allegations, the Diamondbacks look to set aside their distractions when they open a four-game series Thursday with the New York Mets in a matchup of division leaders.

Federal agents searched Grimsley’s home as part of an investigation into steroid use by athletes on Tuesday. Grimsley admitted to using human growth hormone, steroids and amphetamines, and also implicated other major league ballplayers.

General manager Josh Byrnes said Grimsley asked for his unconditional release in meetings with team officials, and he was granted his request Wednesday.

Grimsley’s locker was empty when the home clubhouse was opened to the media Wednesday morning.

“Obviously, this is a huge difference for our team,” veteran left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. “This is kind of a huge distraction that we don’t want to have.”

Philadelphia beat Arizona 7-3 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep. Initial news reports about Grimsley reached players early during Tuesday’s 10-1 loss, but the Diamondbacks are downplaying the effect it has had on them.

“Obviously, we’ve played poorly the last two days,” shortstop Craig Counsell said. “But when you go on the field, at least myself, I’ve got enough things to worry about.”

Grimsley, a journeyman for most of his career, was 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA in 19 games this season, his first with Arizona. His agent, Joe Bick, told The Associated Press he thought this would mark the end of the 38-year-old right-hander’s career.

Arizona (34-25) leads second-place Los Angeles by 1 1/2 games in the NL West. The Mets (35-23), who beat the Dodgers 9-7 on Wednesday, own a 3 1/2 -game lead over second-place Philadelphia in the East.

Rookie Lastings Milledge tripled, homered and drove in three runs Wednesday, and Carlos Beltran and David Wright each had three hits for the Mets, who are 4-4 in their last eight games.

Shortstop Jose Reyes (sore right wrist) and left fielder Cliff Floyd (sprained left ankle) sat out Wednesday and are day-to-day.

Orlando Hernandez (3-5, 6.19 ERA) will take the mound for New York in the series opener. The veteran right-hander is 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts since being acquired in a May 24 trade that sent reliever Jorge Julio to Arizona.

In his home debut with the Mets on Saturday, Hernandez allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-4 loss to San Francisco in the first game of a doubleheader.

Hernandez, sent to Arizona in a December trade with the Chicago White Sox for starter Javier Vazquez, went 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA in nine starts for the Diamondbacks before being shipped to the Mets. Julio, who threw a scoreless inning Wednesday, has allowed one run in seven innings since the deal.

Julio was 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in 18 appearances with the Mets.

Hernandez made his only career start against Arizona on June 14 last season while still with the White Sox. He gave up six runs and eight hits, including two homers, in 4 2-3 innings of a 10-4 loss.

Arizona will counter with Claudio Vargas (6-2, 5.20), who allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 13-9 win over Atlanta. He’s 0-1 with a 10.26 ERA in five appearances, including two starts, against the Mets.

In his last two appearances against New York, both starts, Vargas has allowed 14 runs and three homers in 11 innings.

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Starting Pitchers

O. Hernandez WAS vs. C. Vargas TOR
11-11 Record 12-10
4.66 ERA 4.83
164 K 123
61 BB 52
1.33 WHIP 1.41