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El Duque steps up as Mets shut out Rockies

NEW YORK (AP) -- Knowing that Pedro Martinez is sidelined and
perhaps Tom Glavine, too, Orlando Hernandez came up with one of his
performances of old.

Baffling hitters by changing speeds and arm angles, Hernandez
won for the fifth time in six decisions, leading the New York Mets
over the Colorado Rockies 2-0 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

"Vintage El Duque," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "It
reminded me of when he was on top of his game."

Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran homered as the Mets completed
their eighth series sweep.

Before the game, Glavine said his pitching shoulder is being
examined for a possible blood clot, and depending on the diagnosis
he could miss the rest of the season or be back on the mound next
weekend. Martinez is on the 15-day disabled list after straining
his right calf Monday, leaving Hernandez in a rotation that
currently includes Steve Trachsel, John Maine and Dave Williams.

"Guys are going out there, stepped up and pitched some big
games here lately. That's part of being a championship team," said
Billy Wagner, who saved all three games of the series to increase
his season total to 31 in 36 chances.

Hernandez (9-9) struck out eight in six innings, and allowed
five hits and one walk. Chad Bradford, Aaron Heilman and Wagner
followed with hitless relief.

El Duque got into his biggest jam in the fifth, when Brad Hawpe
singled leading off and Yorvit Torrealba doubled. Hernandez struck
out Clint Barmes, threw a called third strike past pitcher Jason
Jennings (7-10) and then fanned Jamey Carroll. He punched his
pitching hand into his glove in excitement, and the public address
system played Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke."

"It's some good luck," Hernandez said.

Hernandez caught a break in the sixth when catcher Mike DiFelice
threw out Cory Sullivan trying to steal second, and Matt Holliday
followed with a ground-rule double. The 40-year-old right-hander
then threw a called third strike past his final batter, Garrett
Atkins.

"He was absolutely at his best in traffic today," Rockies
manager Clint Hurdle said. "When he had men on, he was able to
throw at different speeds and different arm angles. I don't think
anyone has ever pitched in the majors who can show you that variety
and three different arm angles and change of speeds, except maybe
Luis Tiant."

Yet before the game, Hernandez felt sore, according to Beltran,
and the Mets had Darren Oliver in reserve in case El Duque didn't
feel good warming up.

"Every veteran pitcher that has gone through the wars that
these guys have gone through, they all have their days," pitching
coach Rick Peterson said. "Sometimes you don't know how your body
is going to respond until you actually start to warm up, but he
felt very confident going in there."

At the plate, Hernandez reached twice, on a single and an error,
and he stole the first base of his major league career.

"He doesn't get paid to steal bases," Delgado said with a
smile.

Wearing the uniform style of their 1986 World Series
championship team for the second straight day, the Mets won despite
getting just four hits, extended their home winning streak to eight
and beat the Rockies for the 13th time in their last 14 matchups at
Shea Stadium. New York, an NL-best 75-48, is 27 games over .500 for
the first time since 1999.

Jennings dropped to 1-4 in his last 11 starts, giving up four
hits in six innings. The Rockies have scored just nine runs in his
last six starts.

Leading off the bottom of the first, Jose Reyes hit a liner off
the inside of the pitcher's left thigh.

"It hurts. It got a little stiff each inning and it's stiff
now," Jennings said. "But I don't think it affected my
pitching."

Delgado homered leading off the second (No. 29) and Beltran
leading off the sixth (No. 35). Colorado dropped to 5-15 on the
road since the All-Star break.

"In a series like this, whatever weaknesses we may have kind of
come out and show themselves," Jennings said. "We think we can
play with these guys, but it's obvious that they're better in some
ways."

Game notes
Mets OF Cliff Floyd, recovering from an Achilles' injury,
is expected to start working out at the spring training complex
Tuesday. Floyd is returning to workouts following the death of his
sister, Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. ... Wagner's 315th
save moved him past Robb Nen into sole possession of 14th on the
career list.