<
>

Mets get three in first, pitching does the rest

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jeff D'Amico enjoyed working with a rare early
lead.

Mike Piazza hit a two-run double in a three-run first inning and
D'Amico pitched three-hit ball for seven innings as the New York Mets defeated the Florida Marlins 3-0 Sunday.

"Pitching with the lead is a lot easier than 0-0 when one
mistakes costs you,'' D'Amico said. "I had good command of my
fastball, especially in and out, and we got some early runs.

D'Amico (4-4) allowed only three singles and one walk, striking
out five.

"He was hitting his spot, throwing that curveball and a
changeup. He just kept us off balance,'' Florida third baseman Mike
Lowell said.

Mark Guthrie pitched the eighth and Scott Strickland worked the
ninth for second save, completing the combined five-hitter.

Piazza's double highlighted a three-run first inning against
A.J. Burnett (5-5). The Mets got three hits, drew two walks and
were helped by a wild pitch.

"It was weird first inning, all right. But you're down three in
the first, there's still a lot of ballgame left,'' Burnett said.

Leadoff man Roger Cedeno was hit with an 0-2 pitch, Roberto
Alomar beat out a perfect drag bunt for a single and both moved up
on a wild pitch. Piazza's drive to right-center scored the first
two runs of the inning.

After Jeromy Burnitz walked, Joe McEwing sacrificed both runners
up and Mo Vaughn hit an RBI single. A two-out walk to Rey Ordonez
loaded the bases, but Burnett struck out D'Amico.

Burnett allowed six hits, walked three and struck out nine in
seven innings.

D'Amico made sure that the Marlins weren't able to come back and
he had some help from Burnitz whose spectacular catch with one out
in the fourth robbed Cliff Floyd of a probable extra-base hit.

Floyd hit a hard liner to deep right that Burnitz caught just as
he arrived at the wall, bouncing hard against the fence and falling
onto the warning track.

"I'm running as hard as I can when the ball was hit and I hit
the wall at top speed.'' Burnitz said. "I'm glad all of my parts
are back where they belong.''

D'Amico was pleased but not actually surprised by his former
Milwaukee Brewers teammate's catch.

"That was a great play. He's one of the most underrated
outfielders around. He gets great jumps and if its anywhere near
him, he's going to catch it,'' said D'Amico.

When Burnitz hit the wall, the ball bounced out of his glove
onto his chest and then his left knee but he grabbed it before it
hit the ground.

Florida mounted its most serious threat in the sixth when Andy
Fox singled with one out and Preston Wilson drew D'Amico's only
walk. But Floyd popped out and Mike Lowell grounded into an
inning-ending force play.

Luis Castillo singled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak
to 14 games, the longest this season for the Marlins.

Game notes
With throwing errors by McEwing and Piazza, the Mets have
now committed 49 errors in 50 games, the highest total in the NL.
... Castillo had his stretch of multihit games stopped at four.
...Guthrie struck out the side in the eighth but also gave up a
single by Castillo. ... D'Amico had allowed only 10 hits in his
last three starts, spanning 23 2/3 innings. ... Marlins expect to
recall INF Kevin Millar (strained left abdominal oblique muscle)
from injury rehab on Tuesday.