Mets rough up slumping, fighting Brewers

Mets 12, Brewers 4

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Already fighting to stay in first place, the Milwaukee Brewers are now scuffling among themselves.

Catcher Johnny Estrada and manager Ned Yost nearly tangled in a dugout tunnel late in Thursday's 12-4 loss to the New York Mets, the Brewers' 10th defeat in 14 games.

"There was frustration expressed on a number of different sides about our style of play and about the way we've been playing," Yost said. "We handled it and took care of it like good teams do."

Damion Easley hit the first inside-the-park homer at Miller Park in five years, breaking a sixth-inning tie. The Mets scored three more times in the seventh, helped by shortstop J.J. Hardy's error and an RBI double from reliever Jorge Sosa.

When the half-inning ended, Estrada and Yost got into a heated dispute in the tunnel leading from the dugout to the clubhouse. Infielder Tony Graffanino stepped between them while pitcher Ben Sheets and pitching coach Mike Maddux stood in front of Estrada.

The next inning, Yost motioned with his finger for Estrada to come talk with him, and they disappeared out of sight down the tunnel.

Asked if such a conflict could spur a team, Yost said, "We'll see." He then abruptly walked out of his postgame news conference.

Estrada declined comment through a team spokesman.

"It's our business," Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said. "It's team business. I think it's good for the players, for us, we go over some business stuff and it should put us back on track."

Bill Hall was one of several players who claimed not to see the incident. He insisted there aren't any problems in the Brewers clubhouse.

"I know that for a fact," Hall said. "Everybody is fine with everybody."

Corey Hart homered twice for Milwaukee, which lost two of three in the series. The Brewers led the NL Central by 8˝ games on June 23, but their defeat Wednesday night dropping them out of first place for the first time since April 21.

First-place Chicago also lost Thursday, and the Cubs remained one percentage point ahead of Milwaukee.

"We'll stick together," Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins said. "We'll be fine."

Before this game, Yost said it was too early to start worrying about the division race, a point he'll likely be driving home to his young team in coming weeks.

"I wish we could just erase our minds at the start of every game and just focus on this game and not worrying about being in first or being in second," Yost said prior to the first pitch.

Brian Lawrence (1-0) gave up three runs and eight hits in five innings for the victory -- his first major-league win since Aug. 16, 2005.

Chris Capuano (5-8) gave up 10 hits and five runs in six innings and lost his eighth straight decision. He started the season 5-0 but hasn't recorded a victory since May 5.

The game was tied at 3 when Moises Alou led off the Mets sixth with a double. Easley followed with a shot to deep right-center and ball hit the angled fence on a fly. The carom eluded Hall and Easley scored easily ahead of the relay.

Not bad for a 37-year-old guy.

"It was tough," Easley said.

It was the Mets' 24th such homer, the last by Jose Reyes last September at Shea Stadium. Easley hit his second career inside-the-parker, the other coming for Detroit in 2001 against Anaheim, and Mets teammates playfully waved towels to cool him off.

"When he rounded third base, he looked tired," Reyes said.

Houston's Lance Berkman hit the previous inside-the-park home run at Miller Park on June 17, 2002, the Elias Sports Bureau said. Fernando Vina hit the other inside-the-park at the stadium in 2001, the year it opened.

Easley came into Thursday's game with a career .311 average against the Brewers. Yost said Wednesday that the Brewers always pay extra attention to Easley because he "just hammers us."

Lawrence, who last pitched in the major leagues with the San Diego Padres, missed the entire 2006 season after having surgery to repair a tear in his right shoulder. He was called up from Triple-A New Orleans and added to the roster on Thursday morning after the team moved Sosa to the bullpen.

As if giving up an inside-the-park homer wasn't bad enough, Capuano also ran into home plate umpire Bill Miller while running to back up first base later in the sixth inning.

The Mets loaded the bases against reliever Carlos Villanueva in the seventh and Lastings Milledge's ground ball glanced off Hardy's glove for an error and two runs scored. Sosa then hit a ground-rule double to put the Mets ahead 8-3.

Reyes hit a two-run homer in the ninth and Marlon Anderson had a two-run double.

David Wright hit his 19th home run in the fifth on his way to the eighth four-hit game of his career.

Game notes
Hart had his third multihomer game and second this season. ... Luis Castillo's family hasn't yet made the move from Minneapolis, so the Mets' new second baseman was initially concerned when he heard about the bridge collapse on Wednesday evening. His family was fine, but the former Twins player was left shaking his head about the tragedy. "It's unbelievable," Castillo said. ... The Mets designated catcher Mike DiFelice for assignment on Thursday.