Duckworth strikes out nine as Mets fall again

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- After a disastrous start that included seven
walks in 3 2/3 innings in his previous outing, Brandon Duckworth
was content on changing things around with his control.

Duckworth pitched 7 1/3 strong innings and Travis Lee homered
and drove in four runs as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the
New York Mets 6-3 Monday night.

"I wanted to get ahead of hitters 0-2 as soon as possible,''
Duckworth said. "I used the middle of the plate more instead of
going after the corners like I did in my last start. It was a big

Relievers Dan Plesac and Jose Mesa helped the Phillies escape an
eighth-inning jam. Philadelphia has won six of eight and the Mets
have lost four of five.

Duckworth (5-5) was masterful at the start, retiring the side in
order in five of the first six innings.

"I wanted to stay aggressive,'' he said.

Duckworth, who surrendered five hits and walked seven in 3 2/3
innings in his previous start at Florida on June 26, had set down
11 in a row before Roberto Alomar singled in the seventh.

"It's all part of the maturation process for Brandon,''
Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "He's young and he's going to
ride that roller coaster for a while. He struggled in his last
start but he made the adjustments this time around. When Brandon is
on, he's tough to beat.''

Tony Tarasco and pinch-hitter Jay Payton hit solo homers in the
Mets eighth, chasing Duckworth and making it 6-3. The Mets made
things interesting as Timo Perez and Edgardo Alfonzo followed with
singles off Carlos Silva.

Plesac relieved and struck out Mo Vaughn. Mesa took over and
fanned Mike Piazza looking on a nifty curveball.

Mesa closed out the game for his 21st save in 25 chances.

Duckworth allowed three runs on five hits. He struck out nine
and didn't walk a batter.

Shawn Estes (3-6) retired the side in the first inning on 10
pitches, but things quickly unraveled for the Mets starter from
that point.

"It was all downhill from there,'' he said. "When you don't
have your best stuff, you don't have a lot of fun. I didn't have a
lot of fun tonight.''

Lee hit a two-run homer to right-center field in the second
inning. It was his seventh home run of the season and drove in
Scott Rolen, who had walked.

"In the back of my mind, I knew he had that big looping curve
ball, so I wanted to jump on the fastball instead,'' said, who is
8-for-17 (.471) for his career off Estes.

New York cut the deficit to 2-1 in the third on Estes'
ground-rule double that caromed off a fan and scored Rey Ordonez.

On the play, left fielder Pat Burrell fielded the ball and threw
to second base, where Estes slid awkwardly into the bag. Both
players were unaware that third base umpire Chuck Meriwether ruled
the ball was out of play.

Philadelphia added three more runs in the third after a walk to
Bobby Abreu. Burrell and Rolen followed with singles to load the
bases and Lee hit a two-run single to center. Two outs later,
Duckworth had a RBI single.

In the fourth, Jason Michaels led off with a double, Abreu
singled and Burrell walked. Estes' night was finished as Grant
Roberts relieved.

Rolen followed with a sacrifice fly to center field as Perez
made a great leaping catch against the fence.

Estes finished with three-plus innings, allowing six earned runs
on eight hits with four walks in his shortest start of the season.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine felt Estes lost his curveball.

"Warming up, he threw about a dozen in a row that were gold,''
he said. "But during the game, it wasn't the same.''

The Mets finished the first-half of their season at 40-41. Last
year, they were 35-46 at the midpoint.

"The next 81 have to be a lot better. I think they will be,''
Valentine said.

Game notes
Rollins returned to the leadoff position for the Phillies.
He batted second in his previous six starts. He went 1 for 4 with a
walk. ... Alomar made his fifth error of the season. ... Michaels
has 21 hits, and 12 are for extra-bases. ... Estes' previous
shortest start of the season was five innings, which he threw seven
times. ... Rolen has 10 RBIs in his last nine games. ... Todd Pratt
tied a career-high with his second stolen base of the year. He
previously accomplished the feat in 1999 with the Mets. ... Payton
hit his first career pinch-hit homer.