Leiter wins for fourth time in six starts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Al Leiter knows it's too early to talk about
division titles.

But after three seasons of falling out of the race early, Leiter
and the New York Mets are enjoying contending for the NL East.

Leiter pitched seven solid innings and Kaz Matsui went 3-for-5,
leading New York to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on
Tuesday night.

Leiter (5-2), who leads the major leagues with a 2.05 ERA, won
for the fourth time in six starts and helped the Mets pull within
two games of the NL East-leading Phillies. New York has won five of
its last six.

"There's a much more confident feeling," said Leiter, who won
his 150th career game. "What we've been going through has been
much more fun than the last two or three years."

Leiter allowed one run and three hits, striking out three and
walking three. He hasn't lost since May 11 against Arizona, going
4-0 with three no decisions since then.

Richard Hidalgo went 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBI for the
Mets, though didn't hit a home run, ending his team-record streak
of homers in five consecutive games. Hidalgo was originally hitting
fifth until cleanup hitter Cliff Floyd asked manager Art Howe to
flip spots.

"I can't hit a home run everyday," Hidalgo said, smiling.

Randy Wolf (3-4) lasted only 4 2-3 innings as the Phillies ended
a three-game winning streak.

The Phillies brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth,
after Mike Lieberthal and pinch-hitter Chase Utley singled against
Braden Looper. He then struck out Placido Polanco to get his 17th
save in 19 chances.

The Mets have won six of their last 10 games thanks largely to

Matsui has been on a tear, starting with New York's three-game
weekend sweep of the Yankees. He is 11-for-26 with 12 runs scored
and five RBI in his last six games after struggling for most of
his first year with the Mets.

Matsui was robbed of a career-high fourth hit in the eighth on a
nice diving catch by left fielder Pat Burrell.

"He's a scoring machine," Howe said. "When he gets on, he
just finds a way to step on home plate."

Matsui led off the fifth with a single, then advanced to third
on a blooper by Mike Piazza. Hidalgo hit a hard single down the
left-field line that scored Matsui for a 2-1 lead.

Piazza, though, was thrown out at third by Burrell and Hidalgo
advanced to second. That cost the Mets at least one more run after
Cliff Floyd followed with a single to right that Bobby Abreu
bobbled, allowing Hidalgo to score for a 3-1 lead.

Wolf then left after walking Todd Zeile, allowing nine hits and
three runs in his second shaky start since coming off the disabled
list. Reliever Roberto Hernandez walked Mike Cameron to load the
bases, but struck out Leiter.

Leiter pitched out of a couple of early jams. In the third,
Leiter gave up two hits to start the inning, but allowed only one
run. Leiter loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but
Lieberthal flied out and Tomas Perez popped to short.

"We had a couple of opportunities, but he made the right
pitches," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "Sometimes you have
to credit the other pitcher."

Howe said Leiter had a veteran's confidence to get out of those

"He's just a master of making pitches when he has to," Howe
said. "I've seen him do it time and time again. He minimizes
damage or stops any damage."

The Phillies threatened in the eighth inning when All-Star Jim
Thome batted as the tying run against left-hander Mike Stanton.
Thome flew out to center for the second out, and Looper came in and
got Burrell to fly out to center as well.

Game notes
Wolf leads all Philadelphia pitchers with four RBI. ...
Hidalgo is 9-for-16 career against Wolf. ... Matsui had three hits
for the fourth time this year. ... Abreu and Polanco each had
10-game hitting streaks snapped. ... Wolf is 0-4 career at home
against the Mets. ... The Phillies are 6-3 during a season-high
14-game homestand. ... The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the third inning
on Hidalgo's RBI triple. ... Leiter has pitched 83 1-3 innings for
the Mets, who have played 82 games. When New York plays its 84th
game, he won't have enough innings to qualify for the ERA lead
until his next start.