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Reds pass Mets in race for NL wild card

NEW YORK (AP) -- When he was finally called upon, Todd Walker
made sure that the effort by the Cincinnati Reds pitchers wouldn't
go to waste for the second straight game.

Walker hit a one-out, pinch-hit RBI single in the 11th inning
Saturday to lift the Reds over the New York Mets 2-1.

"I felt pretty good, I hadn't been out there for 11 innings so
I was pretty focused,'' Walker said after the game that took 3
hour, 55 minutes. "To lose this game would have been really
tough.''

Walker fell behind 0-2 before lining a 2-2 pitch off rookie
Jaime Cerda to center to score Austin Kearns, who doubled off
Mark Corey (0-3) to start the inning.

After Brandon Larson struck out, Corey walked Kelly Stinnett,
who struck out in his first four at-bats. Cerda relieved and gave
up Walker's hit. One out later, both baserunners moved up when
Cerda made a wild pickoff throw to second. Danny Graves grounded
out to shortstop to end the inning.

New York and the Reds have split the first two games of this
three-game series between playoff contenders. The Mets won 3-2
Friday night on Mo Vaughn's two-out single in the ninth inning.

With the win, the Reds moved a game ahead of New York into third
place in the wild card race, 4˝ games behind Los Angeles.
Cincinnati is four games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL
Central.

"This was a pretty big win, we needed to get this one,'' Reds
manager Bob Boone said. "Those guys pitched as good as they can.
Every one of them.''

Adam Dunn homered off Al Leiter in the sixth to tie the game at
1. The Reds, who improved to 7-3 in extra-inning games, had a
runner on third with one out in the ninth but couldn't score.

The Mets did not put a runner in scoring position after the
third inning and managed just five hits in losing for only the
fourth time in 13 games.

New York could do little against rookie knuckleballer Jared
Fernandez, who had Mets batters flailing awkwardly at his
fluttering pitches and Stinnett scrambling behind the plate to
catch them.

Fernandez was not as sharp in his previous start against the
Mets, allowing three runs and six hits in five innings on July 19.

"I thought the ball was moving really well, a lot better than
last time,'' Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "The catcher was
really having trouble catching it.''

New York managed just two weak singles in six innings against
Fernandez and scored their only run off him in the third without a
hit.

Fernandez walked Leiter, a .094 career hitter, to start the
inning. After getting Roberto Alomar to ground into a force,
Fernandez walked Roger Cedeno.

Both runners advanced on Stinnett's passed ball before Mike
Piazza walked. Vaughn then hit a fly to the warning track in center
field to score Alomar. Edgardo Alfonzo struck out to end the inning.

"I didn't have any power behind it,'' Vaughn said. "It's not
like hitting a 90 mile-an-hour fastball. You need some juice from
them, too.''

Scott Sullivan pitched two scoreless innings, Bruce Chen had a
perfect 10th inning and Graves (4-3) pitched the final two innings
for the win, getting Vaughn to ground out with a runner on first to
end it.

"It was all pitching,'' Boone said. "That's as good as we can
pitch.''

Leiter, making his first start since signing an $18 million,
two-year contract extension Wednesday, labored through six innings.
He gave up only one run and five hits, but needed 120 pitches to do
so. He went to three-ball counts to eight batters, walking just
one.

"I thought Al had really good velocity. He threw harder than
last time,'' Valentine said. "I don't think he could've gone
longer.''

In his last start, Leiter allowed six runs and seven hits in
four innings of a 9-1 loss to the Reds last Sunday.

Leiter retired 12 straight -- seven by strikeout -- before giving
up Dunn's 21st homer with two outs in the sixth. Leiter struck out
eight overall.

Game notes
Alfonzo stole his fifth base of the season in the second
inning, matching his total from last year. ... Reds SS Barry Larkin
did not start after injuring his lower right calf in the fourth
inning Friday. He is day-to-day. ... Mets reliever Mark Guthrie
extended his career-best scoreless streak to 25 2/3 innings. He
struck out Dunn with Aaron Boone on third and intentionally walked
Griffey in the eighth. Mets closer Armando Benitez pitched 2 1/3
innings, his longest outing of the season.