Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Bragging rights go to Mets after series

PRO BASEBALL The New York Mets beat the highest paid team in the major leagues with only about half the payroll, winning 4-3 on Sunday to secure the series 2-1

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE AND AP , NEW YORK

It is hard to say, for sure, if the Mets have caught up with the Yankees. The Mets, after all, have not reached the playoffs since the Yankees beat them in the 2000 World Series. The Yankees get there every year.

But their first interleague matchup is over, and these are the facts: The Mets are in first place, the Yankees are not. The Mets have a better overall record and a better head-to-head record, too.

They also have better health, which might have been the most important factor in their 4-3 victory over the Yankees at Shea Stadium on Sunday night. The Yankees' depleted lineup stranded 15 runners, and their fill-in starter, Aaron Small, lasted just four and a third innings.

The Mets scored in only one inning, on consecutive homers by Carlos Delgado and David Wright in the fourth. But Tom Glavine and three relievers made it hold up, and the third one-run game of the weekend went to the Mets, who won the series, two games to one.

"What are the chances of having this much excitement in three days?" Mets closer Billy Wagner said.

Wagner was referring to his own performances, which included a victory and a save sandwiched around a ninth-inning implosion Saturday. On Sunday night, he gave up two one-out singles in the ninth before striking out Kelly Stinnett and getting Miguel Cairo to ground to second, ending the game.

"Today was a good game for me, other than the final score," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We got them on the ropes, and they got some double-play balls to get them out of trouble. You have to give them credit for that. Glavine's been in that situation before, and he's not going to melt away."

Glavine waded through his six innings. The Yankees left nine runners against him, including six in scoring position. A fourth-inning rally ended with Alex Rodriguez's scorching liner to left with the bases loaded; double plays saved Glavine in the fifth and sixth.

"For me, the whole game was a struggle," said Glavine, who gave up two runs on seven hits, four walks and two hit batters. "Nothing was easy. It was mentally as tough a game as I've had all year long."

At least, for Glavine's sake, he did not have to face Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui or Gary Sheffield. Matsui and Sheffield are on the disabled list -- though Sheffield plans to come back this week, perhaps by Tuesday -- and Posada was out with back spasms.

Torre believes the remaining hitters might be trying too hard to make up for the missing. Rodriguez, who grounded into a double play off Duaner Sanchez with the bases loaded to end the eighth, said he disagreed.

"It's been pretty much the same for me," Rodriguez said. "We aren't trying to make up for Matsui and Sheff. We have a good enough team. If the projection was to score 1,000 runs, 900 is just fine. I can't use that as an excuse."

Small was filling in for Shawn Chacon, who was placed on the disabled list with a hematoma of his left leg. Small gave up one hit his first time through the order, which included eight hitters who had never faced him before.

But the fourth inning was different. Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Beltran started the inning with singles, and Delgado stepped in. Delgado, a former minor league teammate of Small's, had three hits off him in six career at-bats.

On the first pitch, Small tried to come inside with a four-seam fastball. He left it up in the strike zone, where he cannot afford to make a mistake with a pitch that tops out around 89 mph. Delgado buried it over the wall in right center for a three-run shot, his 15th homer of the year.

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