<
>

Clark finishes rally with ninth-inning homer

7/7/2003

CINCINNATI (AP) -- No carrying on after this Mets comeback. They
were too hot, too tired and too far out of contention for anything
more than a handshake.

Tony Clark led off the ninth inning with a homer high off the
batter's eye in center, completing a late rally that gave New York
a 7-5 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Reds.

One week before the All-Star break, the Mets got their first
series sweep of the season. Trailing 5-2, they pulled off only
their second victory when trailing after seven innings.

"We can't get caught up in looking at the standings and at our
record," said Clark, sapped by the humidity on an 87-degree
afternoon. "You get frustrated with it. We've been fortunate the
last six games to play some decent ball."

The Mets entered the season with a $116.9 million payroll --
second-highest in the majors -- and great expectations. They've
spent most of the season in last place in the NL East, causing
general manager Steve Phillips to lose his job and the Mets to
start unloading stars.

They've won five of their last six, and showed some spunk
against a team struggling to stay in contention.

Ty Wigginton's two-out, two-run double off closer Scott
Williamson tied it at 5 in the eighth, and Clark hit his 10th homer
off Brian Reith (1-1) to set up the Mets' first three-game sweep in
Cincinnati since 1991.

The Mets' other victory when trailing after the seventh came on
May 21 in New York, when they overcame a 3-2 deficit against the
Phillies. They streamed onto the field for a wild celebration after
Clark's RBI single in the ninth.

Given the setting, things were much more subdued this time
around.

"It was so hot," said Armando Benitez, who got the last three
outs for his 21st save in 26 chances. "It was not easy for me
today."

The Reds have lost 11 of their last 15, falling six games under
.500 (40-46) for the first time since April 29.

"We're just playing bad baseball right now, plain and simple,"
said Aaron Boone, who end the game with a flyout. "As simple as it
sounds, that's it. But there's no time to pout about it. It's time
to do something. Obviously, that was a tough one today."

Timo Perez opened the game with a homer, had an RBI single as
part of the tying three-run rally in the eighth, and doubled home
another run in the ninth. His three RBI matched his career high.

Jaime Cerda (1-1) pitched the eighth to get the victory.

The Reds wasted a solid performance by Paul Wilson, who pitched
seven strong innings against his former team. The Mets' top pick in
the 1994 amateur draft gave up four hits, including solo homers by
Perez and Jeromy Burnitz, before turning a 5-2 lead over to the
bullpen.

Todd Van Poppel gave up an RBI single to Perez in the eighth and
Wigginton tied it with his double off Williamson, who blew a save
for the fourth time in 24 chances.

"It's the midpoint of the season," Williamson said. "We've
got to get going. We got some great pitching from Paul Wilson. You
hate to see a loss after that."

Adam Dunn and Sean Casey hit solo homers as the Reds roughed up
rookie Aaron Heilman, scoring five times in his four innings.
Heilman, a first-round pick in 2001, has yet to win in three starts
since his big-league promotion.

Perez started the game with the Mets' first leadoff homer of the
season and his second overall. Burnitz hit his 17th homer in the
third inning.

Ken Griffey Jr. was out of the Reds lineup for the entire
series. He was dizzy on Saturday, the result of dehydration, and
was still feeling bad before the final game.

Griffey, in the fourth year of a $116.5 million, nine-year
contract, has missed 47 starts because of a dislocated shoulder, a
sore groin, a sore hip, a virus and dehydration. He's hitting .245
with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Dunn led off the second with his 24th homer, only his second RBI
in the last 17 games. Thirty-eight of Dunn's 47 RBI have come off
homers.

Game notes
It was Perez's second career leadoff homer. He also did it
June 20 last season off Montreal's Javier Vazquez. ... The Reds
made a minor deal to strengthen their bench, acquiring
switch-hitting INF D'Angelo Jimenez from the White Sox for minor
league pitcher Scott Dunn. ... RHP Luke Prokopec will have more
shoulder surgery Tuesday, sidelining him for the season. He had
surgery to repair a torn labrum last Sept. 18, and has been on the
disabled list since the Reds got him from Los Angeles in the winter
meeting draft.