NEW YORK (AP) -- There were times Monday when the Florida
Marlins looked like a track team, running around the bases almost
at will in a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets.
Florida catcher Mike Redmond greets reliever Vladimir Nunez after the Marlins got the final out.
The Marlins finished with seven stolen bases, four in one
inning, and that was nothing new for the runningest team in the
major leagues. The seven steals gave them 65 for the season and it
was their 20th game with more than one swipe. ''We have the ability to run because we have some speed and we
have to take advantage of that,'' manager Jeff Torborg said.
''Running the bases aggressively ... I think that stirs up the
dugout as much as a home run. It gets you excited.'' All the steals came against Mets catcher Mike Piazza, who now
has thrown out just four runners in 43 attempts. He had no explanation for what happened. ''Honestly, I felt I threw the ball as well as I have in a long
time,'' he said. ''They got good jumps. They're quick off the base.
All you can do is make consistent throws. That's the way it is.'' Piazza wasn't the only one to blame. Loser Al Leiter (5-4) did a
poor job of holding the runners and manager Bobby Valentine never
called a pitchout. So it was off to the races for the Marlins. ''Al has a quick move, but he didn't use it,'' Valentine said.
''He was trying to make good pitches, thinking about getting the
hitters. ''There was a lot of shared responsibility. I could have pitched
out more. We could have thrown over more. Al could have been
quicker.'' Nobody was quicker than Luis Castillo, who had two of the steals
and extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a pair of
run-scoring singles. Castillo drove in Florida's first run in the third inning after
Derrek Lee and Mike Redmond opened with singles and moved up on a
sacrifice by winning pitcher Ryan Dempster (3-5). Two innings later, Redmond led off with a double to right field.
Dempster sacrificed again and again Castillo delivered the run with
a single through the drawn-in infield. Andy Fox followed with an infield single. Then Fox and Castillo
worked a double steal and when Piazza's throw was wide for an
error, Castillo scored. Fox then stole third and Preston Wilson
walked. Wilson then stole second -- the fourth stolen base in the
inning. Cliff Floyd singled Fox home but Wilson was thrown out trying to
score by center fielder Jay Payton. ''Leiter went to the slide step after I got the hit up the
middle,'' Floyd said. ''I don't know why he didn't go to it
earlier. It hurt him. Every time we got a guy on base, he was in
scoring position.'' In the sixth, Eric Owens led off with a single that rolled just
inside the third-base line, the Marlins' third infield hit of the
game. He immediately stole second and scored on Redmond's third
hit, another double. The seven stolen bases against the Mets were one short of the
record set July 16, 1988, by the Atlanta Braves. Florida stole 10
bases in a defeat against San Diego on May 18, 2000. The Mets scored in the sixth on singles by Roberto Alomar,
Jeromy Burnitz and Edgardo Alfonzo and knocked Dempster out with
three more hits in the seventh. But relievers Armando Almanza and
Branden Looper retired Alomar and Piazza to end the inning. Mo Vaughn hit a solo homer, his fourth, off Looper in the
eighth. Vladimir Nunez pitched the ninth for his 12th save.
Castillo's two steals gave him 21, tops in the National
League. ... Piazza's fourth-inning triple was his first three-base
hit in four years. His last one was May 18, 1998, during the week
he played for Florida. ... Outfielder Roger Cedeno was a late scratch for
the Mets because of a sore ankle. ... A Ground Zero flag flew over
Shea Stadium for Memorial Day, accompanied to the game by Major
General Jack A Davis, commanding officer of the 4th Marine
Division, who threw out the first pitch. ... The Marlins finished
their longest road trip ever at 5-9.