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Backup shortstop goes 3-for-4 with four RBI

5/4/2002

HOUSTON (AP) -- John Valentin is making the best of a brief
opportunity.

Filling in for injured Rey Ordonez, the Mets shortstop went
3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and four RBI to lead New York
to an 11-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

"The more you play, the better you feel," Valentin said.
"When you don't play, it's hard to relax the first time you come
back. You have a lot of adrenaline."

Ordonez strained his left oblique muscle April 24 and has missed
seven of nine games, including the last five. He worked out Friday
and reported he was not as sore as before, but he's not expected
back before next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Valentin has gone 9-for-24 (.375) in his last seven
games, including 7-for-11 (.636) on this road trip. He said getting
to play regularly has been the difference.

"When you play awhile, you start to relax a little. You have a
tendency to wait on the breaking balls more."

Jay Payton, who homered twice for his first career multihomer
game, praised Valentin as well. The Mets won for the seventh time
in eight games.

"Johnny pretty much put us on his back and carried us
tonight," Payton said. "He definitely had a great game. The
doubles and the home run came at key times."

Pedro Astacio (5-1), traded from Colorado to Houston late last
season, pitched well again. He signed with the Mets as a free agent
last winter.

But Mets manager Bobby Valentine wanted to talk about Valentin.

"Valentin's at-bats were the game really," Valentine said.
"Jeromy (Burnitz) had a two-out RBI single that was big two
innings before. But Valentin's hit broke it open in the fifth."

That doesn't mean Valentin has assured himself a job after
Ordonez returns.

"John's doing a good job at shortstop," Valentine said. "It's
too hypothetical to say what we'll do, but we'll get everybody
enough playing time."

That's fine with Valentin.

"I knew coming in here this infield was set," Valentin said.
"I knew I was just going to play when someone wanted a day off or
someone was injured and I accept that."

The Astros wish Valentin had taken the day off.

"Valentin hurt us," manager Jimy Williams said. "Our scouting
report was right on him. He drove in four runs and put us in a
hole."

Former Met Dave Mlicki (3-3) was hit hard as his three-game
winning streak ended. He was tagged for six runs and 10 hits in 4
2/3 innings.

"I made some good pitches that (Valentin) fouled off," Mlicki
said. "Then when I made a bad pitch he made me pay. The fifth
inning was a disaster. It was pretty much over after that."

Jeff Bagwell hit two home runs for Houston.

Astacio went six innings and allowed two runs on three hits and
two walks, striking out five.

Bagwell homered in the first for a 1-0 lead. Burnitz had a run-scoring single and Valentin then hit a two-run double to put the Mets ahead
3-1 in the third.

Valentin's two-run homer in the fifth was his second of the
year. Payton followed with his third homer for a 6-1 edge.

Bagwell hit a 435-foot shot for his sixth homer in the sixth. It
was his 24th career multihomer game, and first since last July 13
at home against San Diego.

Game notes
Bagwell's homers gave him 355 overall, moving him ahead of
Lee May for 58th place on baseball's career list. ... Houston catcher Gregg Zaun is 0-for-10 in trying to throw out basestealers this
season. Edgardo Alfonzo stole a base for the Mets. ... Valentin and
Payton hit the Mets' second pair of back-to-back homers this
season. Roberto Alomar and Mike Piazza did it April 10 at Chicago.
... The Mets matched their highest-scoring game of the season. They
had 11 runs April 6 at Atlanta.