<
>

Nationals' six-game win streak ends

WASHINGTON (AP) -- On the day he lost his leadoff spot, Jose
Reyes looked like a pesky No. 1 hitter.

Batting seventh instead of first, Reyes legged out an infield
single for one of his two hits, got an RBI and scored the tying and
go-ahead runs. He stole a base, worked the count by taking pitches
and fouled off several more, helping wear down the opposing
starter.

Not only did the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 5-2
Monday, they also seemed to effectively send a message to a speedy
player who entered the game with an odious .276 on-base percentage.

"Hopefully, I'll come back tomorrow and do the same thing,"
Reyes said.

The victory moved the Mets back to .500 and snapped the
Nationals' six-game winning streak in the first Fourth of July game
in the nation's capital in 37 years. It was a rare setback at RFK
Stadium for the Nationals, who still lead the majors with a 29-11
home record.

Reyes saw eight pitches in his first at-bat and 10 his second
time up. He didn't get on base either time, but the patience of
Reyes and his teammates took a toll on Nationals starter John
Patterson on a hot afternoon. After Patterson hit the wall in the
seventh, Reyes singled in the Mets' first run off reliever Luis
Ayala and came home on new leadoff hitter Mike Cameron's broken-bat
single.

Then, with the score 2-2 in the ninth, Reyes got an infield hit,
stole his 24th base and scored on pinch-hitter Jose Offerman's
single off Sun-Woo Kim (1-1).

"He gave us a nice little shot in the arm with his speed and
the way he makes things happen. He had a good game today, and I'm
proud of him," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "I spoke to
Jose about what I was going to do and he was fine with it. He's a
team player and he's a player who wants to play every day. He wants
to win."

A day after his team was shut out by Florida's Dontrelle Willis,
Randolph batted Cameron leadoff for only the second time this
season, while Carlos Beltran hit second for the first time. The
most glaring stat that prompted the moves: Reyes has just 10 walks
this season.

"He's learning how to play the game. It's very difficult to be
selective overnight when you're used to being aggressive,"
Randolph said. "He understands that it's not easy. I give credit
to guys who understand the art of taking a walk. To ask a kid who's
20-something years old to do that, on the job, when he's used to
swinging, it's unfair."

An RBI double by Cameron and an RBI single by Beltran provided
insurance runs in the ninth, making a winner of Roberto Hernandez
(4-2), who pitched two scoreless innings in his 14th consecutive
appearance without yielding a run. Hernandez has a 0.00 ERA in 17
2/3 innings in road games this season.

Braden Looper worked the ninth for his 18th save.

Randolph's new lineup was ineffective early against Patterson,
who allowed just two hits through six innings. But he departed
after Marlon Anderson singled and David Wright doubled to start the
seventh, having thrown 116 pitches. He walked two, struck out seven
and left to a standing ovation, but got his ninth no-decision in 14
starts.

"He used a lot of pitches, and that took a lot out of him,"
manager Frank Robinson said. "When he made it to the seventh
inning, he was spent."

The Nationals' bullpen usually picks up the slack, but most of
the arms needed rest after Sunday's extra-inning victory against
the Chicago Cubs. Ayala and Kim were left to try to get the crucial
outs.

"What we used for the bullpen today -- that was the bullpen,"
Robinson said.

Vinny Castilla, celebrating his 38th birthday, doubled to open
the second inning and scored on Junior Spivey's two-out double.
Jose Guillen made it 2-0 in the sixth with an RBI double.

New York lefty Kazuhisa Ishii had his best start since late May,
allowing five hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Game notes
The injury-riddled Nationals played only three regulars --
Brad Wilkerson, Guillen and Castilla. The missing contingent
included Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, Cristian Guzman and Ryan Church.
... Attendance was 44,331, just short of a sellout. The Nationals
said it was the biggest crowd of the season because the 45,596
announced at the home opener has since been adjusted to 43,861. ...
All six of Offerman's RBI have come as a pinch-hitter. ... Matt
Cepicky grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh for the
Nationals, becoming the majors-leading 44th player the club has
used this season. ... The Senators beat the New York Yankees 4-2 in
1968 in RFK Stadium's last Independence Day game. ... Woodward
departed in the seventh with a bruised left knee and was scheduled
for X-rays.