Comebacker puts Mets over top in 11th

NEW YORK (AP) -- Roberto Hernandez walked two batters in the 11th
inning and loaded the bases. Then, he failed to throw a strike when
he really needed one.

Hernandez couldn't handle Ty Wigginton's bases-loaded
comebacker, bouncing a throw to the plate and allowing the winning
run to score Thursday night in the New York Mets' 3-2 victory over
the Philadelphia Phillies.

"I just couldn't get a good grip to make a good throw,"
Hernandez said.

Jose Parra (1-0) struck out two in a hitless 11th for his first
major league win since Aug. 20, 1996, with Minnesota against

The Mets have won 16 of their last 22 home games after taking
the opener of a key four-game series against the Phillies, who
dropped into a first-place tie with Atlanta in the NL East.

New York is in third place, just one game back.

"This is how it's going to be. I'm not saying it's going to be
3-2 in 11 innings every night, but it's going to be nip-and-tuck,"
said Mike Stanton, one of four Mets relievers who combined for 5
1-3 scoreless innings.

Bobby Abreu hit a two-run homer for the Phillies, who began a
stretch of 24 consecutive games against teams that currently have a
winning record -- including 19 on the road.

It's an important string for the Mets, too. They started an
11-game homestand and a run of 18 straight against NL East

"Our division is all bunched up, and it was a big win," New
York manager Art Howe said. "Coming back from the break, it's good
to get started in the right direction."

Mike Piazza drew a leadoff walk from Hernandez (1-3) in the
11th, Cliff Floyd hit a one-out single and Shane Spencer walked to
load the bases.

Wigginton hit a one-hopper back at Hernandez, who knocked it
down with his bare hand and scurried after the ball as it rolled
off the mound. But he struggled to pick it up, then bounced a throw
that glanced off catcher Mike Lieberthal as pinch-runner Vance
Wilson slid safely across the plate.

Wigginton was credited with a base hit and an RBI.

"The one I'm more disappointed with myself in not giving my
defense a chance to make a play is Shane Spencer. I didn't make
quality pitches," Hernandez said.

The Phillies had their own chance to go ahead in the ninth. With
a runner on second and two outs, pinch-hitter Chase Utley hit a
hard single to left, but Lieberthal had to hold up at third. Braden
Looper then made a tough, twisting grab of Jimmy Rollins'
comebacker, ending the inning.

"When you're a great athlete, you're expected to make those
plays, right?" Looper said, not so seriously. "It's just a
reaction thing, and I came up with it. But it was an important

Trying to become the NL's first 12-game winner, Philadelphia
starter Eric Milton retired his first nine batters before Jose
Reyes outlasted him leading off the fourth. Reyes fouled off seven
two-strike pitches and doubled down the left-field line on the 13th
pitch of the at-bat.

Kaz Matsui followed with an RBI double -- but then Milton caught
a break.

Piazza smashed a liner right back at the left-hander, who
knocked it down with the heel of his glove and threw to first for
the out.

Milton, sick to his stomach all day, looked to the sky and
breathed a sigh of relief, thankful he avoided injury.

Steve Trachsel held the Phillies hitless until David Bell
singled with two outs in the fifth, prompting polite applause from
the crowd of 36,803.

The Mets made it 2-0 on Trachsel's two-out RBI single to left in
the bottom of the inning, a ball that never should have fallen in
front of Pat Burrell. It was the fourth RBI of the year for
Trachsel, hitting .237.

But Trachsel tired in the sixth. Placido Polanco singled with
one out, and Abreu hit the next pitch over the left-center fence
for his 19th homer.

"You can't dwell that we lost the game," Jim Thome said.
"They got a break there at the end."

Game notes
Wigginton is hitting .347 with 11 RBI in July. ... Abreu
reached 20 stolen bases for the sixth straight season. He's been
caught only once this year. ... The Mets are 8-3 in extra-inning
games this season, tied for the most wins in the majors. The
Phillies are 3-7.