PIazza smacks 10th homer of season


NEW YORK (AP) -- A struggling Shawn Estes kept the New York Mets
in the game long enough for Mike Piazza to win it.

Piazza hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning and the
Mets rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 Wednesday night.

"That's Mike. He's a big player and came up big tonight,'' Mets
manager Bobby Valentine said. "That home run just kept going. That
was a big hit.''

The Phillies took a 3-0 lead against Estes in the fifth inning,
but starter Randy Wolf couldn't hold it and Philadelphia lost for
the 22nd time in 27 road games this season.

Piazza hit an RBI groundout in New York's three-run fifth inning
before giving the Mets their first lead of the game with one out in
the seventh.

Piazza drove a 2-2 pitch from Jose Santiago (1/3) over the
410-foot mark in center field for his 10th homer of the season.

"I'm seeing the ball a little better and taking better
swings,'' said Piazza, who went 8-for-21 on the homestand to raise
his average to .271. "I'm not a pull hitter and never have been. I
try to stay in the middle of the park.''

Estes struggled allowing nine hits and four walks in five
innings. But he induced three double plays and held Philadelphia to
three runs.

"He won the game for us by staying away from the big inning,''
Valentine said. "He made the big pitches when he needed to.''

Scott Strickland (5-2) pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings for the win
and Armando Benitez got three outs for his 10th save in 11 chances.

New York started the day out of first place in the NL East for
the first time since May 16 and looked little like a first-place
team in the early going.

But the Mets ended the day back in first after Atlanta lost 4-3
to Montreal to fall into a tie with New York.

"No one is going to run away with this division,'' New York's
Mo Vaughn said. "We can if we start hitting. But it's going to be
a dogfight down to the wire.''

The Mets, who had scored three or fewer runs in 17 of their past
23 games, struggled against Wolf before breaking through in the

Trailing 3-0, New York took advantage of two infield hits, a
walk and a hit batsman to tie the game.

Rey Ordonez started the rally by bouncing a high chopper off
home plate for an infield single. Pinch-hitter Ty Wiggington
followed with his first career hit.

Roberto Alomar, hitting .179 against lefties this season,
blooped an RBI single to right field for his second hit of the game
against Wolf.

Wolf then hit Edgardo Alfonzo with an 0-2 pitch and Piazza
followed with his run-scoring groundout. Wolf was late covering
first on the play, costing the Phillies a chance at a double play.

"We're not doing the right things,'' Wolf said. "I didn't do
the right things today. You're not going to win when you don't do
the little things.''

After Vaughn was walked, Jay Payton hit an RBI infield single to
tie it.

Wolf recovered to retire Jeromy Burnitz and Roger Cedeno on
popups to preserve the tie.

It didn't last for long as Philadelphia's middle relief let down
manager Larry Bowa again. Phillies relievers are 3-8 this month and
a big reason why the team is in last place in the NL East.

"We need our pitchers to go deeper into the game,'' Bowa said.
"We're getting killed in the middle.''

The Phillies scored single runs in the second, fourth and fifth
innings and could have had more except for hitting into three
double plays.

Bobby Abreu doubled and scored on Doug Glanville's sacrifice fly
in the second, and doubled and scored on Pat Burrell's single in
the fifth. Wolf added a two-out RBI single in the fourth.

"We had opportunities to break it open and we didn't do it,''
Bowa said. "You can't let that many opportunities get away.''

Game notes
After going 3-3 on a brief homestand, the Mets hit the road
for the next 13 games. New York is in the middle of a stretch
playing 23 of 29 games on the road. ... Wiggington, who will likely
be sent back to the minors when John Valentin comes off the DL on
Friday, had been 0-for-3. ... Wolf gave up three runs and seven
hits in six innings. He has not allowed a homer in his last 23 1/3