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Leiter, two relievers combine on 5-hitter

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Al Leiter kept the St. Louis Cardinals' bats
silent.

Leiter allowed one run in seven innings, winning for the first
time in four starts, and Mo Vaughn homered as the New York Mets
extended the Cardinals' woes with a 2-1 victory Friday night.

"Not that I don't get up for the teams that are not as good,
but I enjoy facing quality hitters and quality ballclubs,'' Leiter
said. "You realize that the room for error is very minute and I just get after it.''

The NL Central-leading Cardinals have lost eight of nine and
totaled one run in five of the last six games. The exception was a
5-3 victory over Montreal on Thursday that ended their season-worst
seven-game losing streak.

St. Louis has been outscored 50-20 during its slump.

Reliever Mike Matthews (2-1) handed the Mets the go-ahead run in the sixth.

After walking Roger Cedeno with two outs, Matthews had him
picked off but threw wildly to first for an error. Cedeno advanced
to third and, with Leiter at the plate, scored on a wild pitch.

Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny was crossed up on the pitch, setting up on the outside corner for a delivery that was well inside.

"Roger is aggressive on the bases, and I think he would have
had it stolen on the fake to first,'' manager Bobby Valentine said.
"We'll take that and we'll take the one that Mo Vaughn hit over
the fence.''

Vaughn hit his 19th home run in the fourth for the Mets on a
fastball that Cardinals starter Andy Benes said he put in his
"nitro zone.''

Eduardo Perez hit his eighth leading off the second for the
Cardinals, the only damage against Leiter.

The Mets have won three of four to move a game above .500 at
58-57.

New York pitchers have allowed one run the last two games. Steve
Trachsel shut out the Brewers 9-0 Thursday.

Leiter (10-8) allowed 14 runs in 16 innings his three previous
starts, going 0-1, but entered with an NL-leading 2.03 ERA at
night. He gave up five hits, with two strikeouts and three walks.

"I'm very much into routine,'' Leiter said. "I guess I like pitching at night.''

David Weathers worked the eighth, and Armando Benitez finished
for his 27th save in 30 chances.

Perez made the defensive play of the game when he robbed Mike Piazza of a two-run homer with a leaping catch at the right-field wall for the second out of the fifth, cradling the ball in the crook of his left arm after bobbling it on the way down.

"I did, and then I didn't, then I did,'' Perez said. "It happened in slow motion.''

Perez also robbed Timo Perez of a hit with a diving catch of his
liner in the seventh, turning it into a double play.

Benes worked five innings, giving up one run on four hits. He
was removed after his surgically repaired right knee buckled as he
crossed first base on an infield hit in the bottom of the fifth.

The knee buckled again when Benes went into second standing up
on a force play. But Benes said the knee was not a problem.

"I just look bad when I run,'' he said. "I'm always injured, what do you want me to say? I'm almost 35.''

Valentine was confident the Mets would have scored more off
Benes had he stayed in.

"We weren't getting too much off him,'' Valentine said. "But I
think we would have gotten to him.''

Game notes
When Benes went on the disabled list with an arthritic knee
April 16 he had a 10.80 ERA. Since returning July 16, he has a 2.08
ERA in six outings. ... Benes hasn't beaten the Mets in the regular
season since Aug. 12, 1997, although he beat them 8-2 in Game 3 of
the 2000 NLCS at Shea Stadium. ... The Mets are 3-1 against the
Cardinals this year. ... Two of Eduardo Perez's homers this season
have come against Leiter. ... Leiter was 0-for-3 at the plate,
lowering his career average to .095.