Mets' victory seals NL East for Braves

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The New York Mets didn't give the Atlanta
Braves a chance to celebrate another division title on the field.

The Braves clinched their 11th straight division championship
when the Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-4 Monday night
behind Mike Piazza's grand slam.

Philadelphia's loss wrapped up the NL East for the Braves, who
didn't play Monday. The second-place Phillies are a staggering 21
games behind Atlanta.

The Braves became the first team this season to secure a
postseason berth, and they did it earlier than any team in Atlanta
history. The 1975 Cincinnati Reds have the earliest clinching since
divisional play began in '69, wrapping up the NL West on Sept. 7.

The Mets, who begin a three-game series at Turner Field on
Tuesday, avoided possibly having to watch the Braves win the

"We didn't want to be around when they celebrate,'' Mets first
baseman Mo Vaughn said. "They've been a great team time and time
again and they deserve it. They'll be the team until someone knocks
them off. We knew they would clinch sooner or later, but we didn't
want to see it.''

Piazza went deep in a six-run seventh inning as the Mets set a
season high with their seventh consecutive victory.

The Mets, swept by the Phillies at Shea Stadium last weekend,
completed their second four-game sweep at Veterans Stadium. The
other came in 1972. They haven't lost since setting an NL record
with 15 consecutive home losses.

"It's as good a roll as we've been on,'' manager Bobby
Valentine said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going.''

The Phillies have lost seven of eight since reaching a
season-high three games over .500.

Jeff D'Amico (6-10) pitched two scoreless innings in relief for
his first victory since July 23. Armando Benitez got three outs for
his 32nd save in 36 chances, allowing an RBI single to Mike

Trailing 3-0 in the seventh, the Mets loaded the bases with one
out against reliever Mike Timlin (4-5) on singles by Ty Wigginton,
Raul Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Jeromy Burnitz.

Valentine then sent injured first baseman Mo Vaughn out to bat
for D'Amico, hoping to draw left-hander Dan Plesac into the game
and then send a right-handed hitter in to bat for Vaughn, who has a
sore left hand.

When Phillies manager Larry Bowa kept Timlin in the game,
Valentine called Vaughn back to the dugout and sent John Valentin
to the plate.

"Mo failed his acting course,'' Valentine said. "He went up
there with his sneakers on.''

Valentin cut it to 3-1 with a sacrifice fly. Timlin then walked
Roger Cedeno and Roberto Alomar, forcing in a run. Jose Santiago
replaced Timlin, who was ejected by plate umpire Larry Vanover for
arguing on his way back to the dugout.

Piazza hit a 2-0 pitch from Santiago over the left-center fence
for his 27th homer and 14th career slam.

"I hadn't been swinging that great,'' Piazza said. "I went up
there and in my mind I said I'm not going to swing at a bad

The Phillies took a 3-0 lead against Mets starter Mike Bacsik on
a two-run homer by Pat Burrell and an RBI double by Lieberthal.

Hector Mercado, making his first start in the majors after 93
relief appearances, allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out
four in four innings. Carlos Silva pitched two scoreless innings
before giving way to Timlin.

"Mercado threw great,'' Bowa said. "He came up as a starter
and we may give him a chance at being a starter in spring

Bacsik allowed three runs and six hits in four innings.

Bobby Abreu hit a single to start the fourth inning and scored
on Burrell's 36th homer. Burrell has 17 homers and 49 RBIs,
including seven homers and 19 RBIs this season, in just 172 career
at-bats against the Mets.

Jimmy Rollins started the fifth with a double and Abreu walked,
chasing Bacsik. D'Amico struck out Burrell before Lieberthal hit a
liner down the left-field line to score Rollins.

D'Amico intentionally walked pinch-hitter Travis Lee and got
Marlon Anderson to hit into a double play to end the inning.

Game notes
The Mets hadn't swept a four-game series since 1997. ...
The Phillies, who lead the majors in runners left on base, stranded
11. ... Mets SS Rey Ordonez was a late scratch from the lineup. ...
The Phillies hadn't been swept in a four-game series since 1999.
... New York got OF Brady Clark from Cincinnati to complete last
month's trade that sent left-hander Shawn Estes to the Reds.