Rueter shuts down slumping Mets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- While the San Francisco Giants are getting
some of their best pitching in decades, Bobby Valentine isn't
getting a kick out of his New York Mets.

Kirk Rueter pitched five-hit ball for eight shutout innings
Wednesday night in the Giants' 3-1 victory over the Mets, who lost
their 10th straight.

On the heels of consecutive shutouts by teammates Livan
Hernandez and Jason Schmidt, Rueter (11-7) got within three outs of
finishing the Giants' first string of three straight complete-game
shutouts since 1960 -- but manager Dusty Baker went to closer Robb
Nen after a long San Francisco rally in the eighth.

"Seeing the way Livan and Schmitty pitched, you want to keep it
going,'' said Rueter, who hasn't had a complete game in 108 starts.
"I was keeping the ball low, and I got my groundballs and double
plays. My thing isn't getting the complete games. Consistency is
important to me.''

Meanwhile, another narrow defeat prompted Mets manager Valentine
to kick his desk repeatedly during a postgame interview.

While Rueter dominated, Valentine watched his Mets waste another
strong start with another horrible offensive performance. New York
has scored just 19 runs during the losing skid, and it couldn't get
a runner to second base Wednesday night until the ninth.

"Individuals are struggling. We're just not hitting the ball
like we should,'' Valentine said. "Hitting is contagious, and we
haven't caught the bug this year. We've got some good starts. It's
a shame, that's what it is.''

Valentine then kicked his desk in the visiting clubhouse at
Pacific Bell Park several times, and he shooed a television camera
out of the office. Later, well after reporters left the room, he
cursed loud enough to be heard out in the locker room.

"If I knew an answer, I'd use it,'' said Mike Piazza, who went
0-for-4 to extend his slump to 3-for-27. "Obviously, it's very
frustrating. We haven't got a lot of big hits. We've had guys on
base, but we haven't taken advantage of it. Even though we're
pitching well, we've just got nothing offensively right now.''

The Mets have made at least one error in 11 straight games, and
have led for a total of one inning during their 10-game skid.

Rueter faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings,
retiring 11 straight at one point. He also was helped by four
double plays while winning for the fourth time in six starts.

Though Rueter bunted in the eighth and still looked strong,
Baker couldn't be swayed -- and Rueter didn't try to change his
manager's mind.

''(Rueter) barely lobbied. He's a team man,'' Baker said. "They
had some good guys coming up, and it can't go that well too many
days in a row. We had a couple of complete games already.''

Nen allowed two quick hits in the ninth. Timo Perez then scored
on a wild pitch to snap San Francisco's string of 28 scoreless
innings -- the team's longest since July 5-9, 1988.

After blowing the shutout, Nen got three straight outs for his
30th save in 37 chances.

Jeff Kent homered for the Giants. Los Angeles' 4-3 victory over
Florida kept San Francisco 2½ games behind the Dodgers in the NL
wild card race.

The Mets' misery continued despite an outstanding start from
John Thomson (7-11), who allowed four hits over 7 1/3 innings.
Piazza, Mo Vaughn and Roger Cedeno all grounded into double plays --
Cedeno twice -- as New York extended its longest losing streak since
an 11-game skid from Aug. 9-21, 1991.

"They had a pretty rough homestand, and they know their playoff
chances are dim to none,'' said Kent, who played for the Mets from
1992-96. "Maybe that's why they're playing like they are, but
they're tough. We just have a little bit more to play for.''

The Giants are unbeaten in five games against New York this
season. The Mets have never won a regular-season game at Pacific
Bell Park, going 0-9.

Thomson, roughed up in his last two starts, was sharp against
the Giants -- but just as the Mets wasted Al Leiter's outstanding
work on Tuesday night, Thomson got no support.

San Francisco has scored just 11 runs in its last seven games,
but with shutout starting pitching, not many are necessary. The
Giants took the lead in the second when Benito Santiago scored on
Rich Aurilia's groundout.

In the sixth, Kent added his 28th homer -- which was also his
NL-leading 158th hit. In the eighth, David Bell reached on an
error, got to second on Rueter's sacrifice and scored on a wild

Game notes
Barry Bonds went 0-for-4. ... Raul Gonzalez, acquired from
Cincinnati on Tuesday as part of New York's trade of former Giants
left-hander Shawn Estes, singled in his first at-bat with his new
team. He singled again in the seventh. ... Apparent food poisoning
kept Giants OF Reggie Sanders out of the lineup for the second
straight game. ... Utah men's basketball coach Rick Majerus munched
on popcorn while watching the game. ... Rueter won just once in his
previous 13 career starts against the Mets. His first career
victory over New York was May 8.