Mets win for 3rd time in 22 games

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Piazza and the New York Mets made sure
manager Art Howe had at least one thing to smile about Monday.

Piazza and Richard Hidalgo homered, pinch-hitter Craig Brazell
came through with a go-ahead double and New York rallied past the
Atlanta Braves 9-7 in the first game of a doubleheader.

It was an uplifting victory after a newspaper reported Monday
that the slumping Mets have already decided to fire Howe after the
season. He said if that's true, he wants to be let go immediately.

"I didn't read any stories. I didn't even know what was going
on. I don't think that changes anything," winning pitcher Aaron
Heilman said. "We've got to go out there and give it everything
we've got, every game, every pitch, every inning. I don't think
it's changed our approach at all."

After the Mets spent all afternoon answering questions about
Howe, they came back from a three-run deficit to win for only the
third time in 22 games.

With less than 1,000 fans in the stands at the start, Heilman
(1-1) earned his first major league win in more than a year and
Wilson Delgado also homered for New York.

"Good pitching, timely hitting, and hopefully we can get the
nightcap," Howe said.

Jae Seo started the second game against Atlanta's Paul Byrd.

Andruw Jones hit a two-run shot to help the NL East-leading
Braves build a 4-1 lead, but Jaret Wright (14-7) couldn't hold it.

New York scored five times in the sixth. Piazza hit a two-run
homer, and Brazell's two-out, two-run double down the right-field
line gave the Mets a 5-4 lead.

"I didn't have my best stuff, the stuff you'd like to have, but
I was getting through it," Wright said. "That inning I left some
pitches up that they could hit."

The RBI were the first of Brazell's major league career. Mike
Cameron capped the burst with an RBI single off Kevin Gryboski.

J.D. Drew hit an RBI double off Ricky Bottalico in the seventh,
but Hidalgo's three-run homer off Travis Smith in the bottom half
made it 9-5.

Bartolome Fortunato struck out two in a perfect eighth, and
Braden Looper got three outs to finish it. He gave up a two-run
double to Chipper Jones in the ninth.

Heilman, recalled from Triple-A Norfolk for the second time this
year last Wednesday, allowed four runs and seven hits in six
innings for his first win since Aug. 12, 2003, against San
Francisco. The 2001 first-round draft pick struck out six.

"He did a nice job mixing his pitches," Howe said. "He was
ahead in the count most of the night, that's the key."

Wright, who had won three straight decisions, gave up six runs
and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings.

"I needed one more strike on the pinch-hitter. He just hooked
it down the line," Wright said.

Rafael Furcal hit an RBI triple and Marcus Giles had a
run-scoring double in Atlanta's four-run fourth.

Game notes
Howe on finishing the season as manager if he's going to be
fired anyway: "Why put me through this?" he said. "I'd rather
have it happen now. There's no sense in waiting." ... Braves LHP
Mike Hampton has a torn meniscus in his left knee and will need
surgery during the offseason. He's expected to rejoin the team
Tuesday, but whether he can pitch will depend on how he feels. ...
Piazza's 377th homer tied him with Norm Cash for 55th place on the
career list. ... New York LHP Tom Glavine felt better, one day
after he was hit on the left shin by a comebacker. The team was
unsure if Glavine could make his next scheduled start Friday. ...
Mets backup catcher Vance Wilson will have surgery Tuesday on a
ruptured ligament in his left hand, ending his season. Wilson
caught the last two innings. ... The doubleheader was scheduled to
make up a July 23 rainout.