NEW YORK (AP) -- In August, the New York Mets couldn't win at
home. Now, they can't lose.
Roger Cedeno drove home the winning run with an infield single
in the 12th inning Thursday night as the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs
3-2 to win their sixth straight at Shea Stadium following a 15-game
home losing streak.
"It's never too late,'' Cedeno said of the Mets' sorry season.
"It's no fun to be around here when we lose a lot.''
The Mets, who expected to contend for a World Series title,
instead passed Florida to improve to 73-79 and climb out of last
place in the NL East. The big-name, big-money stars didn't create
Instead, it was a time for young kids to introduce themselves to
the several hundred fans who stayed late, sort of a "Meet the
Mets'' promotion. Key plays late were made by Raul Gonzalez and
Marco Scutaro following early contributions by Jason Middlebrook
and Ty Wigginton.
"They can do the little things to help us win a game,'' general
manager Steve Phillips said. "We've gotten nice contributions down
the stretch from some of the young players.''
New York, which tied the game in the ninth against Antonio
Alfonseca on Cedeno's double-play grounder, won it after Gonzalez
led off the 12th against Will Cunnane (1-1) with a one-hop double
off the left-field wall.
Scutaro fouled off two sacrifice attempts, then fouled off a
pair of 1-2 pitches and grounded to second as Gonzalez advanced.
"He did an unbelievable job,'' Cedeno said. "He kept fighting
and fighting, and got the runner over.''
Cedeno followed with a grounder to third that Mark Bellhorn
scooped up. Gonzalez was running all the way and scored as Bellhorn
bounced the throw home, ending the game after 4 hours, 22 minutes.
"We had some younger guys in there who were hungry, and they
did a good job for us,'' Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
Middlebrook, who was in the Fresno airport when he learned the
Mets acquired him from San Diego on July 31, gave up two runs and
six hits in six innings.
Six pitchers combined on six innings of three-hit shutout
relief. Grant Roberts (3-0), activated last week following two
months on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder,
got the final out of the 12th, retiring Bellhorn on a popup to
shortstop with two on.
"It's real exciting. The closer role is a lot of fun,'' Roberts
said. "But you take a lot of heat, too.''
New York trailed 2-1 in the ninth but tied the score as
Alfonseca blew a save for the seventh time in 26 chances, allowing
singles to Wigginton and Jeromy Burnitz single before Cedeno's
Armando Benitez struck out the side on 12 pitches in the 10th,
then escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the 11th, created by
shortstop Joe McEwing's double error on Kevin Orie's grounder.
Benitez got Alex Gonzalez to foul out, then struck out pinch-hitter
Sammy Sosa, needing three homers for 50 this season and 500 in
his career, went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and a walk. He is
hitless in 10 at-bats and was 6-for-28 (.214) on the road trip.
"It's been a tough year, but what can you do?'' he said.
Chicago, at 64-89, is an even bigger bomb than the Mets.
Seeking to tie the career high of 13 wins he set two years ago
with San Diego, Matt Clement allowed one run and five hits in seven
innings and struck out nine. He has 213 strikeouts, third in the NL
behind Arizona's Randy Johnson (326) and Curt Schilling (300).
Joe Girardi hit an RBI single in the second inning, and Bobby
Hill homered in the fifth, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Wigginton
hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to the warning track in the sixth.
"The combo hasn't come together for us,'' Clement said. "It's
been a rough year all around. The pitchers have let us down
sometimes, and the hitters have let us down sometimes. That's the
life of a bad team.''
Chicago leads the major leagues in strikeouts by its
pitchers (1,249) and hitters (1,206). The last major league team to
lead in both in the same year was Boston of the Union Association
in 1884 (787 by its pitchers, 753 by its batters). ... Cubs
pitchers fanned 14, including Vaughn three times, and Chicago
batters struck out 14 times. ... Mets 3B Edgardo Alfonzo was
scratched because of a stomach virus. He pinch hit with two outs
and none on in the ninth and struck out.