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Gonzalez belts first two big-league homers

8/25/2002

DENVER (AP) -- After 11 years of waiting, Raul Gonzalez is
finally getting an opportunity in the majors.

Gonzalez hit his first two career homers and drove in four runs
to lead Al Leiter and the New York Mets past the Colorado Rockies
7-4 Sunday.

"There were times I never thought I would get a chance to play
in the major leagues, let alone hit home runs,'' Gonzalez said.

Acquired from Cincinnati on Aug. 15 in a trade for left-hander
Shawn Estes, Gonzalez went 2-for-4 in his ninth career start -- four
with the Mets.

The 28-year-old outfielder has played in 1,238 minor league
games. He appeared in 10 games for the Reds this season before
being sent down to Triple-A Louisville on July 22.

"The Reds were so loaded in the outfield that they gave me
little hope playing with them or that I would be called up in
September,'' he said.

The Mets are glad to have him.

"Our reports had Gonzalez being a good hitter and a good
player, and he's lived up to them,'' manager Bobby Valentine said.
"He's one of those overlooked guys, but he's been a hero for us.''

Edgardo Alfonzo also homered and had three RBI for the Mets,
who have won two in a row following a 12-game losing skid.

The teams traded beanballs in the ninth inning, leading to the
ejection of Rockies reliever Kent Mercker, Mets pitcher David
Weathers and both managers.

Alfonzo, who came off the disabled list Saturday, was 2-for-3
with a single and his 11th home run as the Mets handed Denny Neagle
(7-8) his first loss in six starts.

Leiter (11-10) limited the Rockies to two runs and five hits
through seven innings. He struck out eight and walked one.

"Leiter has had the better of us and has given us fits over the
long haul,'' Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "He pitched
another good ballgame against us today and in our ballpark.''

After Weathers was ejected for hitting Juan Uribe with a pitch,
Armando Benitez got one out for his 29th save in 32 chances.

Neagle allowed four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings.

"I can't really hang my head with this outing,'' he said. "For
the most part I did my job, but made one too many bad pitches.''

Mike Piazza doubled past third base leading off the fourth and
Alfonzo homered to center. One out later, Gonzalez hit a
letter-high changeup into the seats in left.

"The home run was a dream come true, one that took a long time
to happen,'' Gonzalez said. "But hitting home runs isn't me. They
happen when they happen.''

Colorado scored twice in its half on back-to-back doubles with
one out by former Mets Jay Payton and Todd Zeile. Sandy Alomar
drove in Zeile with a single past shortstop.

New York regained a two-run lead in the fifth on Alfonzo's
two-out RBI single. Timo Perez drew a one-out walk and stole
second.

Gonzalez hit his second homer of the game, a three-run shot, off
Victor Santos in the eighth.

"I got a pretty good pitch because he thought I was going to
bunt,'' Gonzalez said. "They had the bunt on and changed and gave
me the green light.''

Gabe Kapler hit a two-run homer off Weathers in the ninth for
Colorado. It was Kapler's first home run with the Rockies since
being acquired from Texas at the trade deadline.

Game notes
Mets OF Roger Cedeno was out of the lineup with soreness in
his right shoulder. ... Slumping Mets 1B Mo Vaughn, 3-for-19 on the
road trip, got the day off. ... The seven runs were the most scored
by the Mets since a 9-0 victory over Milwaukee on Aug. 8. ... The
Mets and Rockies split the season series 3-3. ... With Larry Walker
missing his fourth straight game because of a dislocated rib, Terry
Shumpert made his seventh start of the year in left field for
Colorado. ... Neagle's ERA in August is 1.99. ... Plate umpire
Jerry Crawford issued a warning in the first inning to Neagle for
throwing a pitch behind Perez. Hurdle and Mercker were ejected
after the left-hander threw a pitch behind Perez in the top of the
ninth. Weathers and Valentine were tossed in the bottom half.