<
>

Pedro hurls 17th career shutout in beating Braves

NEW YORK (AP) -- For Pedro Martinez, the assignment Friday night
was simple. All he had to do was lift the gloom and doom that was
surrounding the New York Mets after 12 losses in 14 games this
month and 15 in their last 18 games.

Martinez responded brilliantly with his 17th career shutout,
outpitching John Smoltz in their fourth meeting this season and
leading the Mets to a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

"It was just a regular game," Martinez said, a mischievous
grin creeping across his face. "I wanted to change the atmosphere
around here. Give the fans something positive. It was in my hands
to do it. I wanted to do it."

So Martinez (15-7) took a four-hitter into the ninth inning, got
himself into an ugly first and third, none-out jam, then struck out
Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones and left the bases loaded when Jeff
Francoeur flied out to end the game.

The ninth-inning strikeouts of the two most dangerous hitters in
the Atlanta lineup gave Martinez 10 for the game and moved him
ahead of Hall of Famer Jim Bunning into 14th place on the career
list with 2,860.

All season long, Martinez has injected electricity into his
starts and Friday was no different. The fans were roaring in the
ninth as he wiggled out of the jam with an assortment of pitches
thrown at an assortment of speeds.

Chipper Jones described the hitters' dilemma against Martinez's
arsenal.

"When you have so many pitches that you have to cover, when you
have to cover five inches off the plate, that's a lot," he said.

Martinez threw a season-high 122 pitches. After seeing the
bullpen blow so many of his games this season, he was not coming
out.

"My way of doing things, I am a professional," he said. "When
the manager hands me the ball, I go out and do whatever possible to
win the game. They asked me how I feel and I said I'm going for it.
It was a complete game, a good game, everything I wanted. We all
needed it."

Asked if matching up with Smoltz, the Braves' ace, gave him a
little extra incentive, Martinez shook his head.

"No, I wish they had their worst guy out there," he said. "It
didn't happen that way."

Rookie Mike Jacobs gave the Mets a quick lead against Smoltz
(14-7) in the second inning when he hit his fifth home run after
David Wright singled. It was Jacobs' first homer since Aug. 24,
when he completed a stretch of four home runs in his first four
days in the major leagues.

The Braves' best chances before the ninth came in the first and
sixth innings, when they left runners on third base.

In the first, Giles doubled with one out, moved to third on a
fly ball but was stranded when Andruw Jones flied out.

Furcal beat out an infield single in the sixth and Giles
followed with a single to left. But Giles was thrown out by left
fielder Cliff Floyd trying to stretch his hit into a double. It was
Floyd's 12th assist of the season.

Martinez then retired Chipper Jones on a grounder, ending the
inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Jose Reyes singled and stole second,
his 52nd stolen base of the season. He moved to third on a
sacrifice and scored on an infield single by Carlos Beltran.

Victor Diaz singled, stole second and scored on a RBI single by
Ramon Castro in the seventh.

The loss was the fifth in the last seven games for the Braves,
leaders in the National League East.

"We had a couple of chances, especially in the ninth," Braves
manager Bobby Cox said. "Pedro is a master out there. He really
is. He's one of the great pitchers to come along."

Game notes
Braves LF Ryan Langerhans recorded the first four outs, all
on fly balls hit to the opposite field by left-handed Mets batters.
... Jacobs' second-inning homer traveled an estimated 440 feet to
straightaway center field. ... Martinez's third-inning strikeout of
Smoltz was his 200th strikeout of the season, the first Mets
pitcher to reach that total since Al Leiter in 2000. ... Braves 1B
LaRoche struck out three times. ... Martinez evened his season
record against Smoltz at 2-2. He beat Smoltz on April 10, the Mets
first victory of the season. Smoltz won showdowns on April 26 and
Sept. 6. ... Martinez now has nine seasons of 200 or more
strikeouts.