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Mets snap Twins' three-game win streak

6/20/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Mets haven't scored many runs for
Al Leiter, so he took care of the offense himself.

Leiter pitched into the eighth inning and sparked a sluggish
Mets lineup with two surprising hits, leading New York to a 4-2
victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.

One of the worst-hitting pitchers in the majors, Leiter went
2-for-3 with a key double to raise his career average to .095.

"My hits come in bunches,'' he said.

Tony Tarasco had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth, and
Mike Piazza added an RBI single as the Mets snapped Minnesota's
three-game winning streak.

Leiter (7-6) also gave the Mets a gritty effort on the mound,
allowing one run and five hits in 7 1/3 innings to improve to 6-0
lifetime against the Twins. He struck out eight and walked four in
winning for only the second time in six decisions.

The Mets have not scored more than four runs in any of Leiter's
last six starts.

"I would take a good-pitched game and a 'W' next to my name
over two hits any day,'' he said.

Scott Strickland relieved and retired Torii Hunter and Corey
Koskie with a runner on second to preserve a one-run lead in the
eighth.

Armando Benitez worked the ninth for his 16th save in 18
chances. He allowed a pinch-hit, RBI single to A.J. Pierzynski with
two outs.

Matt Kinney (2-6) started for Minnesota in place of ex-Met Rick
Reed, who was pushed back to Saturday at Philadelphia after cutting
his right thumb on a suitcase. The 25-year-old right-hander gave up
two runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings.

The Twins put a runner on in seven of the first eight innings,
but Leiter worked out of trouble. He escaped major damage in the
fifth, when singles by Doug Mientkiewicz and Brian Buchanan and a
walk to Tom Prince loaded the bases with no outs.

After Kinney flied out to shallow center, Leiter hit Luis Rivas
with a pitch to force in a run. But the lefty got Cristian Guzman
to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"Mr. Leiter was pretty tough on us,'' Minnesota manager Ron
Gardenhire said. "Our right-handers, he just absolutely wears them
out, cutting the fastball in there.''

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the fifth, behind a
big hit by Leiter. The pitcher bunted foul, then faked another bunt
and lined a one-out double over Buchanan's head in right.

"It's worked a few times,'' Leiter said. "After that I said,
'I'm going to pretend to do it again and whack it this time.' I
think it messed up Kinney a little bit.''

Roberto Alomar walked and Timo Perez blooped a single to center,
loading the bases. Piazza drove in Leiter with a single that chased
Kinney.

Mo Vaughn hit a bouncer to second, and Piazza's hard slide
helped keep shortstop Guzman from turning a double play. That
allowed Alomar to score the go-ahead run and earned Piazza a nice
ovation from the crowd of 26,967.

Leiter also lined a single in the sixth. His two hits tied a
career high done four times previously, the last on Sept. 29, 1999,
against Atlanta.

"I thought Al got lucky at first, but then I saw him hit that
second one the other way, and look good doing it, and I said, `Man,
this guy can hit,''' Hunter said. "We're going to have to break
him off with curveballs or something next time, because he can
hit.''

Tarasco's homer off Mike Jackson was his first since Sept. 21,
1998, for Cincinnati against Philadelphia -- also as a pinch-hitter.
That one came off Leiter's brother, Mark.

"It's awesome. I couldn't sit down for a while,'' said Tarasco,
who has bounced between the minors and the big leagues the last few
years. "I knew when my last home run was. In the major leagues,
it's something you don't forget.''

Game notes
Leiter's double was his first since Aug. 12, 1999, although
he did hit a two-run triple against Florida in August 2001. ...
Leiter earned his 12th interleague victory, tied with Minnesota's
Brad Radke for second-most behind Greg Maddux's 14. ... Piazza, who
has struggled mightily trying to throw out basestealers all season,
nailed Guzman with a strong throw to second in the first inning.
... Mets LHP Shawn Estes said he has not received an official
letter yet, but he knows his fine for throwing a pitch behind
Yankees ace Roger Clemens is $750. Estes said he does not plan to
appeal. "I want this thing to die, and the appeal process will
just drag it out.'' ... Strickland has inherited 20 runners this
season and allowed only one to score. ... The Mets have three
pinch-hit homers this year. They had one all of last season.