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Pirates climb over .500 for first time since 1999

4/4/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Break out the champagne. The Pittsburgh Pirates
are over .500 for the first time since 1999.

"It's three games," manager Lloyd McClendon said after the
low-budget Pirates defeated the high-priced New York Mets 3-2 on
Thursday to take two out of three in their opening series.

"Talk to me after 160. I hope we're over .500 then," he said.

The last time the Pirates poked their way past .500 was Aug. 15,
1999, when they were 59-58. "Half these guys weren't here then,"
said Kevin Young, whose two-run homer put Pittsburgh in front to
stay. "Me? I've been here forever."

Jimmy Anderson (1-0) allowed just three hits over 6 2/3 innings
as the Pirates went to 2-1. Mike Williams saved both victories in
the season-opening series.

Anderson was in trouble at the start. He surrendered a leadoff
home run to Joe McEwing in the first inning, then walked Roberto
Alomar and hit Mo Vaughn in the shoulder with a pitch. But he got
Mike Piazza to hit into a double play and retired Edgardo Alfonzo
on a grounder to third to end the threat.

"Jimmy came up big," McClendon said. "The first inning was a
little hairy. I said to myself that inning would define his season,
whether he would show the character to come out of it. He certainly
did."

Anderson knew he was on the spot.

"That double play ball to Piazza was huge," he said. "It gave
me a new breath of life. I wanted to throw strikes, make them hit
my pitch."

The strategy worked. After hitting Vaughn, Anderson retired 19
of 20 Mets hitters before surrendering a home run to Jeromy Burnitz
in the seventh inning that ended his day. Sean Lowe, Scott Sauerbeck and Williams finished up.

Young's first home run of the season was a 403-foot shot in the
second inning against Shawn Estes (0-1) following a single by
Aramis Ramirez.

In the third, the Pirates scored again on singles by Anderson,
Adrian Brown and Armando Rios. Estes, making his first start for
the Mets after a winter trade from San Francisco, then retired
Ramirez and Wilson to end the inning.

"It was an exciting atmosphere," Estes said. "I made some
mistakes early. Young ended getting on one of those mistakes."

Until Burnitz' homer the Mets did little with Anderson (1-0),
who lost 17 games last season. The Mets had runners in the eighth
and ninth but could not convert the threats.

After Mark Johnson delivered a pinch single in the eighth,
Sauerbeck threw one pitch and got an inning-ending double play from
pinch-hitter John Valentin.

Alomar led off the Mets' ninth with a single against Williams.
With Vaughn batting, the ball squirted away from Jason Kendall, who
recovered to throw out Alomar trying to make it to second.

Last season, the Pirates were 1-1, 3-3 and 4-4 at the start but
never made it over .500. Their best mark two years ago was 2-2.

"I'm sure our guys feel good," McClendon said. "This series
is over. We played great. The fact is, we've got a tough game
tomorrow against the Chicago Cubs. You've got to move forward."

Game notes
McEwing made an unassisted double play in the first inning
when he caught a fly ball by Rios in left field and tagged Kendall,
who had been running from first and stopped at second base. It was
the fifth unassisted double play by an outfielder since 1990. ...
The Mets assigned LHP John Bale, acquired Wednesday night from
Baltimore for Gary Matthews Jr., to Triple-A Norfolk. ... Pirates
OF Brian Giles missed his third straight game after pulling a
muscle in his right side during batting practice on opening day.
... The Pirates and Mets don't meet again until Sept. 24 in
Pittsburgh.