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Vidro hits game-winning shot on hot afternoon

4/13/2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The Montreal Expos must feel like
they're on paradise island.

The surprising Expos won a hot one Sunday, beating the Mets 2-1
when Orlando Cabrera homered off Armando Benitez leading off the
ninth inning and Jose Vidro hit another shot off Mike Stanton on
the first pitch of the 10th.

"This kind of ballgame can put you on a roll,'' Montreal
manager Frank Robinson said.

It was 136 degrees on the field when the game started, and the
Expos walked off with a fiery win, mobbing Vidro at home plate as
the crowd chanted "Vi-dro! Vi-dro!'' in honor of the Puerto Rican
star. Montreal is 3-0 at its new part-time home and has won four
straight overall going into Monday's series finale.

For the Mets, it seems like they're as stranded as Gilligan,
hoping someone, anyone, will step up and rescue them. They've lost
five straight, dropping four games behind the NL East-leading Expos
and falling into last place, where they finished last season. New
York (4-8) has scored only 35 runs and is hitting .218 -- just .150
with runners in scoring position.

While the bats are missing, injuries keep hitting. First baseman
Mo Vaughn left in the third inning with an inflamed left knee, and
catcher Mike Piazza came out in the ninth after jamming his left
foot on first base -- while legging out an infield hit that ended an
0-for-17 skid.

Cliff Floyd, who strained his right Achilles' tendon Saturday,
couldn't run hard to first when he pinch hit with two outs in the
ninth and popped out with the bases loaded.

"If this goes longer, then we're going to go nowhere,'' Roberto
Alomar said. "We all know what we need to do. We all know what
we're doing wrong. We must hit with runners in scoring position. We
must save the games we need to save.''

Manager Art Howe held a short postgame meeting, telling players
he didn't want them to get down.

"We're being tested early to see what we're made of,'' he said
with a stern look.

Benitez is under the most scrutiny. He converted 33 of 37 save
opportunities last season. On Sunday, he blew a save chance for the
third time in eight days.

"I've got my confidence. I know what I can do. More
importantly, I know my people believe in me,'' he said, pointing to
teammates in the clubhouse. "They know what I can do. This is my
family.''

Even with the wind blowing in, Cabrera hit Benitez's third pitch
into the left-field bleachers. Jay Bell went over to console the
closer, the first of many teammates who tried to lift his spirits.

Montreal won it an inning later against Stanton (0-2) when
Vidro, one of the team's Puerto Rican stars, golfed a low pitch
over the left-field wall for his second homer of the weekend.

"We're kind of struggling in all facets. We're not getting the
big hit, we're not making the big pitch,'' Stanton said. "This is
gut-check time.''

Vidro, meanwhile, heard the cheers from the local fans.

"I'm just happy that we won the game and it was me who hit the
home run,'' he said.

Rocky Biddle (1-0) pitched two innings of two-hit relief for the
win.

It was the first day game among the 22 shifted from Montreal to
San Juan this season. The temperature outside Hiram Bithorn Stadium
was 95 at gametime, but it was 41 degrees hotter on the
artificial-turf field, which retains heat.

Some fans used sun umbrellas to create shade, and some Montreal
players put towels on their heads as they sat in the dugout during
batting practice. The turf was so hot that Alomar put his feet in
an ice bucket between innings. Mets starter Al Leiter used two
jerseys and four undershirts.

"I cut down my movements,'' he said.

Montreal, for those looking for a hot stat, is 8-0 when the
gametime temperature is above 40, and 0-4 when it is below.

Leiter allowed three hits in six shutout innings, but walked
four, hit Fernando Tatis with a pitch twice and struck out one. The
lefty got help from his fielders, who turned three double plays,
and got a lead in the first when Timo Perez doubled and scored on
Alomar's single.

But it didn't hold up. A few more games like this, and the $117
million Mets will sink out of contention.

"I don't want to think that,'' Leiter said. "Geez, we're two
weeks into the season.''

Game notes
There was a five-man band playing through the stands,
adding some more Latin flavor to the series. The crowd of 16,332
was slightly less than the first two night games, which drew 17,906
and a sellout of 18,264.