Leiter pitched seven shutout innings, Shane Spencer hit the most
emphatic of New York's four homers, and the Mets held on for a 7-6
victory Thursday.Facing a lineup missing Ken Griffey Jr. and Sean Casey, Leiter
(4-2) got to use his cut fastball against hitters who have rarely
faced him. He gave up only two hits."My cutter was working, and I get a lot of groundballs when it
is," said Leiter, who walked two and struck out four. "Plus,
there are a lot of guys there that I haven't faced."You can tell them what an 88 mph cutter is like, but until
they face it, they don't know."Now, they all know why he's been so good since returning from
shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him in May. The left-hander is
3-0 with a 1.70 ERA since coming off the disabled list."It's not like we're facing some guy who's not very good,"
said Adam Dunn, who doubled twice and hit a solo homer in the
ninth. "He's one of the best pitchers in the league, and has been
for some time."Leiter left the game with a 6-0 lead and watched it nearly
evaporate.The Reds sent 10 batters to the plate for five runs in the
eighth. Dunn's run-scoring double off Ricky Bottalico broke up the
shutout.Braden Looper relieved with two outs and gave up a bloop RBI
single to pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr. and a run-scoring single by
Javier Valentin, cutting it to 6-5.Looper got out of the inning, and Jason Phillips doubled home
another Mets run in the ninth. It turned out to be pivotal when
Dunn hit his 24th homer with two outs. Looper then got Wily Mo Pena
on a grounder, clinching his 15th save in 17 chances.Spencer hit a three-run homer in the sixth off Jose Acevedo
(4-7). Eric Valent, Jose Reyes and Richard Hidalgo added solo shots
as New York matched its season high for homers in a game.The Mets took two of three in the series, then headed home for a
rematch with the Yankees. The Mets dropped two of three at Yankee
Stadium last weekend.Leiter had his way with a lineup missing Griffey and Casey, both
hampered by sore legs. Casey, one of the NL's top hitters all
season, missed the series. Griffey was limited to two pinch-hit
singles.It might not have mattered much even if they were in the lineup.
Leiter was that good against the Reds.Again.The left-hander has a prominent place in Reds history. His
two-hitter beat them 5-0 in a one-game playoff for the NL wild card
in 1999, ending one of Cincinnati's most enchanting seasons with a
deep disappointment at Cinergy Field.He's been nearly as tough on the Reds ever since, a trend that
continued in his first career start at Cincinnati's new ballpark.
An injury to his foot didn't even slow him.D'Angelo Jimenez stepped on Leiter's right foot as he covered
first on a grounder to Valent, twisting his ankle awkwardly. Leiter
fell to the ground and got up wincing, but continued after a few
warmups and pitched out of a scoring threat.Since returning on June 1 from his shoulder problems, Leiter has
allowed only 21 hits and seven runs in six starts, a huge boost for
a rotation that is one of the majors' best so far.Hitting and defense have been the Mets' downfall. They had two
more errors on Thursday, but made up for it with homers. The most
important came from Spencer, who flied out with the bases loaded in
the seventh inning of a 2-0 loss to the Reds on Wednesday night.He watched tape of that at-bat, fixed a flaw during batting
practice Thursday and homered into the upper deck."I watched the tape and noticed a little thing," Spencer said.
"I hit off a tee and felt better. I worked on it, and got a good
pitch to hit. He threw it right where I was looking."
The Mets hit three homers in a series-opening 7-5 win on
Tuesday. ... The Mets signed 19th-round draft pick Jim Burt Jr.,
son of the former New York Giants defensive lineman. He was
assigned to Class-A Brooklyn. Burt was carried on the field by his
father after the Giants beat Denver in the 1987 Super Bowl. ...
Mike Piazza caught after playing the first two games of the series
at first base. He has started 33 games behind the plate and 33 at
first. ... Valentin was 0-for-23 this season with runners in
scoring position before his eighth-inning single.