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Piazza hits third homer in two days

NEW YORK (AP) -- Everything feels right for Mike Piazza, and the
New York Mets' slugger is on a tear.

Piazza hit his third homer in two days and drove in four runs
Sunday, sending New York to a 5-2 victory over the Florida Marlins.

"I feel very comfortable at the plate," Piazza said. "I'm
seeing the ball well. I'm putting pretty good swings on the ball.
I'm using the whole field, I can't complain."

Manager Art Howe thought about giving Piazza a day off this
weekend but the catcher-turned-first baseman was in the lineup both
days.

"If they pitched a right-hander yesterday, he probably would
have sat," Howe said. "But since it was a left-hander, his eyes
lit up and he said he'd like to play. He told me a couple of days
ago he wanted to play Sunday."

Sunday often was a day off when Piazza was a full-time catcher.
Now, at first base, he remains in the lineup, a good thing for the
Mets.

"Now he's finding out what he was missing when he didn't play
on Sunday," Howe said.

Al Leiter pitched two-hit ball for 5 2-3 scoreless innings to
help New York gain a split of the four-game series. The Mets
finished 6-6 during a key stretch of games against division rivals
Philadelphia and Florida.

"We showed we're capable of playing with everybody," Howe
said. "Psychologically, it's been good for us."

Piazza hit a two-run double in the first inning and his 371st
home run in the fifth. His 13th homer of the season put him in 56th
place on the career list, one in front of former Mets manager Gil
Hodges and four back of Rocky Colavito.

Leiter (2-2) worked around six walks and threw 114 pitches in
his second start since returning from the disabled list. He gave up
a pair of hits to the Marlins in the first, and struck out five.

When Leiter walked the bases loaded in the sixth, he was lifted
for David Weathers, who retired Alex Gonzalez on a fly ball, ending
the inning.

Leiter said he senses a change in this Mets team.

"There is a feeling we are going to play a good game and we've
got a chance to win every night," he said. "I can't say that was
always the feeling."

Weathers threw 2 1-3 scoreless innings, handing Braden Looper a
5-0 lead in the ninth. Looper allowed RBI singles to Juan Pierre
and Mike Lowell before finishing it.

With the bases loaded and one out, Jeff Conine popped up and
pinch-hitter Mike Mordecai flied out to end it.

"You've got to make some pitches when the game's on the line,"
Looper said. "In that situation, you want to throw strikes. I made
good pitches. They got hits on good pitches."

The Mets bunched three hits for three runs in the first inning
against Brad Penny (6-3), who dropped to 1-8 lifetime in 12 starts
against New York.

Todd Zeile singled with one out, and Lowell booted a grounder to
third by Shane Spencer for an error. Piazza doubled to right,
scoring Zeile and Spencer. Piazza advanced to third on a long fly
ball by Jason Phillips and scored on Karim Garcia's bloop single to
center.

In the fifth, Spencer came within a couple inches of a home run
when his drive to right field bounced off the top of the wall and
back into play for a double. Piazza followed by hitting a 1-1 pitch
410 feet to center for a two-run homer.

Florida manager Jack McKeon didn't consider walking Piazza, who
connected twice in a 7-6 loss Saturday.

"Not really," McKeon said. "We're down 3-0. Had it been the
eighth, yeah. If my pitcher can't get good hitters out ... there's
only one way you're going to learn to become a good pitcher. If
you're going to pitch in the big leagues, you should be able to get
Piazza out."

Weathers got in trouble in the seventh on hits by Hee Seop Choi
and Luis Castillo, but Spencer made a tumbling catch in right field
on Lowell's fly ball, ending the inning.

Game notes
The Marlins' two first-inning hits against Leiter traveled
a total of about 50 feet. Pierre opened the game by beating out a
first-pitch bunt down the first base line, then was thrown out
trying to steal. Lowell then beat out a swinging bunt down the
third base line. ... After morning rain, the game started with
temperatures of 58 degrees and 14 mph winds. ... Leiter's
fourth-inning single was his third hit of the year. He had just one
hit in 53 at-bats last season. ... Garcia stole his first two bases
since 1999. ... Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson was ejected by
plate umpire Ted Barrett for arguing balls and strikes in the
seventh.