Ramirez smacks tiebreaking homer in sixth

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Aramis Ramirez is trying to finish with a bang
because his season has been a dud.

Ramirez hit a tiebreaking homer and the Pittsburgh Pirates held
on to beat the New York Mets 4-3 Wednesday night.

He was in a 3-for-45 slump when he stepped in against Grant
Roberts (3-1) and drove a 2-1 pitch into the center field seats.

Ramirez is batting .232 and the homer was his 17th -- and his
68th RBI. He's well off the pace of his breakthrough 2001 season --
a .300 average, 34 homers and 112 RBI.

"I haven't played well and as a team we haven't played well,''
Ramirez said. "But it looks like we're going to finish pretty
strong and that's pretty good. We can take it to next year and
hopefully we can play pretty good.''

The Pirates have won six of their last eight and 10 of their
last 14 at home. The Mets have lost four of five.

Ramirez charged the mound in Milwaukee on April 17 after Ben
Sheets hit him with a pitch. He sprained his ankle in the melee,
missed two months and struggled when he came back. Then he tried to
make up for lost time and made things worse.

"I'd go up there trying to hit two home runs in one at-bat,''
he said. "That's why I just take the approach (now), go up and
just put the ball in play.''

Said Manager Lloyd McClendon: "It's good to see him keep
battling. It's been a tough year for him. I know this year has been
an aberration. When you see him hit a ball like that, you realize
what he did last year wasn't a fluke.''

Mike Williams pitched a perfect ninth for his 46th save in 50

The Mets tied the game at 3 in the top of the inning with three
runs on two homers against starter Brian Meadows.

Mike Piazza led off the inning with his 32nd homer and Edgardo
Alfonzo hit his 16th after Mo Vaughn singled.

Meadows called Piazza's homer, "probably one of the hardest hit
balls in the history of the game.''

McClendon was at a loss to explain what happened to Meadows and
why it happened so quickly.

"In a span of four pitches, he just lost it,'' McClendon said.
"He was really on a roll.''

Ron Villone (4-6) pitched the sixth inning for the win.

Roberts was mentioned in a story last week that alleged
marijuana use by a number of Mets players. He said that attention
wasn't a distraction on Wednesday.

"It's been tough but I was better this time than the last,''
Roberts said. "I felt good. I was mentally in it. I just made a
bad pitch.''

Armando Rios hit a two-run single in the first for Pittsburgh.

Scott Sauerbeck set a team record for a lefthander with his 77th
appearance, breaking the mark Rod Scurry set in 1982.

Game notes
The Mets left the bases loaded in the eighth, stranded two
runners in two other innings and grounded into a pair of double
plays. ... Two excellent catches cost the Mets at least one run in
the third. CF Rob Mackowiak ran back and leaped at the wall to grab
Piazza's drive before he crashed into the padding. One batter
later, LF Brian Giles made a diving catch as he ran toward the foul
line to glove Alfonzo's sinking liner. ... In the ninth, Giles
ranged back and snagged a ball hit by Roberto Alomar before it
could clear the short fence. ... Opponents have hit .190 against
Meadows in the first three innings, .317 after the third. ... Giles
drew three walks and has 133, four short of Ralph Kiner's 1951 team
record. ... Pirates first base coach Tommy Sandt was ejected by
umpire Paul Emmel after arguing a call at first on Ramirez in the
eighth. He is the third member of the coaching staff to be thrown
out of a game this year.