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Rookie comes through in a pinch for Mets

NEW YORK (AP) -- With one swing, rookie Marco Scutaro made a name
for himself at Shea Stadium.

Scutaro delivered his first major league hit, a pinch-hit
two-run triple that broke a seventh-inning tie and sent the New
York Mets over the Montreal Expos 5-2 Monday night.

As the ball was taken out of play for a souvenir and the Expos
changed pitchers, the crowd of 23,655 chanted ''Mar-co! Mar-co!''

''It's a great feeling. There's no explanation for the
feeling,'' Scutaro said. ''I couldn't ask for anything better.''

A day after making his big league debut after eight seasons in
the minors, Scutaro's enthusiasm was still showing. The front of
his uniform dirty from a headfirst slide, the 26-year-old pumped
his fist to the rock music in the clubhouse and bounced around from
teammate to teammate, eager to accept their congratulations.

''He should enjoy this,'' said Jay Payton, who homered and hit a
sacrifice fly.

The Mets, scrambling back into the NL wild card race, began
their most important stretch of the year by winning the opener of a
season-long 13-game homestand.

And while Mo Vaughn's hustle and homer, Roberto Alomar's hitting
and Mike Piazza's throwing helped, Scutaro made the difference as
New York won for the seventh time in nine games.

The Expos ended their scoreless streak at 27 innings -- their
worst drought since 1991 -- on Michael Barrett's two-run homer in
the fifth. Still, Montreal lost its fourth in a row and missed a
chance to catch the Mets in the standings.

''We don't seem to be clicking on all cylinders,'' Expos manager
Frank Robinson said. ''We're not making the big pitch when we need
to, not getting the big hit, not making the plays when we need
to.''

It was 2-all in the Mets seventh when Tony Tarasco, in the game
after left fielder Roger Cedeno cut his right hand trying to make a
catch, singled with one out. Rey Ordonez followed with a sinking
liner to left that bounced out of Cliff Floyd's glove for a single
off Tomo Ohka (8-5).

Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who admitted he hadn't seen much
of Scutaro, chose to send him to the plate because John Valentin
had tweaked his hamstring and wasn't in good shape to pinch-hit.

So Scutaro, who flied out in his major league debut Sunday,
batted for reliever David Weathers (4-3). In only his second
at-bat, the Triple-A All-Star hit a sharp grounder that rolled into
the left-field corner.

Showing exceptional speed, Scutaro streaked into the third base
with a headfirst slide, barely beating the throw as third baseman
Fernando Tatis rolled over him.

Even after Scutaro was caught in a rundown when he broke from
third base and Timo Perez swung after missing a squeeze sign -- ''I
hope it doesn't hit my head,'' Scutaro said -- the backup infielder
got a standing ovation from the fans behind the first-base dugout.
Among those in the crowd were his wife, Marine, and their
2-month-old daughter.

Piazza met him with a hearty high-five at the on-deck circle and
there was an enthusiastic greeting on the bench. There was a joke,
too -- when the Mets gave him the souvenir from his triple, they
playfully presented an old, scuffed-ball.

''I said, 'For real?''' Scutaro kidded.

Scutaro was claimed on waivers from Milwaukee on April 5. He was
hitting .336 at Norfolk when he was promoted Friday.

''We knew he was a scrappy player, a hard-nosed player,''
general manager Steve Phillips said.

Vaughn added a solo homer, his 15th, in the eighth for
insurance. It was his 10th homer in his last 23 games.

Alomar added three hits and Piazza threw out two runners trying
to steal. Armando Benitez closed for his 24th save.

In the fourth, Vaughn doubled and then lumbered home on a pair
of fly balls. He went to third on a long drive to right fielder
Vladimir Guerrero and hustled to beat center fielder's Brad
Wilkerson's on-target throw on Payton's sacrifice fly.

''Station to station, you have to know when to go,'' Vaughn
said.

Payton homered in the second for a 1-0 lead.

Steve Trachsel was activated from the 15-day disabled list and
started for the Mets. He went five innings, gave up three hits and
threw 101 pitches.

The Expos, coming off consecutive shutouts at Florida, had their
longest scoreless streak since going 29 innings without a run in
1991.

Game notes
Montreal's record for being shut out was 32 innings on
Sept. 24-30, 1972. ... Barrett was back in the lineup after sitting
out Sunday, a day after bruising his left forearm. ... Mets LHP
Mark Guthrie pitched a scoreless eighth. He has not allowed a run
in 22 1-3 innings over 28 appearances. ... Cedeno cut his right
little finger when he misplayed Floyd's liner for an error. ...
Floyd is in an 0-for-14 slump. ... The last Mets player to get a
triple for his first major league hit was pitcher Eric Cammack on
July 5, 2000.