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Leiter earns first win vs. Astros since 1998

4/24/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- For Al Leiter, beating the Houston Astros is
hardly routine.

"I had a lot of guys in that lineup to be concerned about,"
Leiter said after leading the Mets over Houston 4-2 Wednesday night
for his first victory over the Astros in nearly five years.

Leiter (3-0) had been winless in five starts against Houston
since Sept. 15, 1998, going 0-4 with a no-decision. He escaped a
jam in the sixth when he struck out Craig Biggio with two on and
two outs.

"It was fun," Leiter said. I have a lot of enjoyment in
pitching today when I don't throw 95 (mph) like I used to. It's fun
to see the reaction of the hitters to pitching, using the changeup
away and the two-seamer in. When both sides of the plate are
working, it's fun no matter who you pitch against."

David Weathers pitched two hitless innings and Armando Benitez,
who has struggled for much of the season, got his sixth save in 10
chances.

"Their pitching just shut us down tonight," Astros manager
Jimy Williams said.

Before the game, New York announced center fielder Roger Cedeno
was being benched and replaced by a platoon of Timo Perez and
Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

New York, which entering last in the NL in batting average
(.225) and runs (71), also brought up Raul Gonzalez from the minor
leagues. Gonzalez homered off Roy Oswalt in his first at-bat, a
leadoff drive in the second inning that went into the left-field
bleachers.

Cedeno, booed every time he batted Tuesday, is hitting just .177
with one homer and four RBI, and has played poorly in center.
Perez went 1-for-3, raising his average to .229, and Shinjo came in
to start the bottom of the eighth.

Benitez was booed by a few fans when he entered, and by some
more after Orlando Merced's one-out double to deep right. Benitez
then retired Biggio on a groundout and struck out Jose Vizcaino to
end it.

Oswalt gave up runs in each of the first three innings and wound
up allowing seven hits and four walks in six innings with five
strikeouts. Houston lost for the fourth time in six games.

New York built a 3-0 lead on Mo Vaughn's RBI groundout,
Gonzalez's homer and Ty Wigginton's RBI single. Jeff Bagwell cut
the lead to 3-2 with a two-run single in the fifth.

Pinch-hitter Jay Bell added a sacrifice fly in the eighth off
former-Met Octavio Dotel.<

Game notes
Leiter had been 2-6 against Houston. ... Weathers made his
12th appearance in the Mets' first 21 games. ... Oswalt was 2-0 in
two starts against the Mets in his career. ... Mets catcher Mike
Piazza left the game in the eight with ``a mild groin strain'' but
said after the game that he expected to play Thursday. ... RHP Pat
Strange was optioned to Norfolk after the game to make room for RHP
Pedro Astacio, who will be activated Thursday and start the series
finale.

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