NEW YORK (AP) -- John Valentin has one of the toughest jobs in
baseball, and he's getting very good at it.
Starting in place of an ailing Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentin hit a
two-run double with two outs in the seventh inning to send the New York Mets past the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 Sunday. Signed as a free agent last winter, the 11-year veteran has 23
RBI in just 134 at-bats this season, many as a pinch-hitter. "John has made some of the best adjustments,'' Mets manager
Bobby Valentine said. "He keeps himself ready to play. He has a
regular program and sometimes even hits during the game to keep
himself sharp. He savors these chances when he gets to start.''
Steve Trachsel got stronger over seven solid innings, and some
shaky Cincinnati defense helped the Mets recover from a 4-0 deficit
after four innings. New York took two of the three one-run games in
a key series between playoff contenders. Ken Griffey Jr. homered for the Reds, who are tied with the Mets
for third in the NL wild-card race -- within striking distance of
Los Angeles. "That's what baseball is all about,'' Griffey said. "Two teams
that never gave up. We just came up on the short end two days.
We're in the middle of something that's exciting for everybody --
not just the guys in here but the fans, too.'' Rey Ordonez started the go-ahead rally with a bunt single, and
Reds left fielder Russell Branyan botched Timo Perez's RBI single
for an error that left runners at second and third. Roberto Alomar scored on a passed ball to cut it to 4-3, and
reliever Scott Williamson (2-3) walked Mo Vaughn intentionally. Valentin drove a 2-0 pitch off the left-field fence to cap a
four-run rally and give New York a 5-4 lead. The long carom allowed
the slow-footed Vaughn to score all the way from first, and
Valentin clapped his hands and pumped his fist as he stood on
second base. "I know my name is most likely not going to be in the lineup,
so I take an approach that prepares me for a situation from the
fifth inning on,'' Valentin said. "It's so different. I've gotten
so used to coming in and getting that one at-bat, you have to
adjust your thinking.'' Reds manager Bob Boone was comfortable with his decision to walk
Vaughn. "I would do that again, even though you're always leery of
putting the go-ahead run on base,'' he said. "We got burned by
it.'' Roger Cedeno added his fourth home run of the season in the
eighth, a 414-foot shot to center that made it 6-4. David Weathers got Austin Kearns to ground into a double play to
end the eighth. Armando Benitez got three outs for his 26th save in
28 chances, allowing a leadoff homer to Russell Branyan in the
ninth. Cedeno made a leaping catch of Brandon Larson's drive at the
left-field wall one batter later to help preserve New York's 10th
victory in 14 games. "It was a tough loss for us today, a really tough loss,''
Branyan said. Making his second start since coming off the disabled list,
Trachsel (7-7) won for the first time since beating Atlanta on June
25. He gave up four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in seven
innings, retiring 12 of his last 13 batters. Griffey hit a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence leading off
the second inning, just his third homer of the year and first since
June 6. The 11-time All-Star has missed 79 starts this season
because of knee and hamstring injuries. Jason LaRue reached on a throwing error by Valentin to start the
third. Trachsel walked Aaron Boone with two outs to force a matchup
with dangerous slugger Adam Dunn, who delivered an RBI single for a
2-0 lead. In the fourth, Branyan blooped a double down the left-field line
to put runners at second and third before Larson looped a two-run
single over first. "I felt much better today than the last time,'' Trachsel said.
"I thought there was a little more life on the ball.'' Piazza hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth for his 70th RBI.
Cincinnati starter Jimmy Haynes allowed four runs and nine hits
in 6 1/3 innings. He has not lost in eight starts since June 16
Reds SS Barry Larkin did not play for the second straight
day after injuring his lower right calf Friday. He is day to day,
and expects to return to the lineup Tuesday against Los Angeles.
... Mets RF Jeromy Burnitz did not start because of a bad shin. He
popped out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and was booed by the
crowd of 37,391. ... Alfonzo is bothered by a sore left shoulder.
... Perez drew his eighth walk in 80 games. ... Vaughn is 2-for-16
lifetime against Haynes with seven strikeouts. ... Trachsel
improved to 7-3 career against Cincinnati.