NEW YORK (AP) -- Moises Alou measured his words, trying to
control his anger. Eventually, the frustration spilled over and the
Cubs' slugger let loose.
Alou was called out on strikes twice by plate umpire Bill Miller
during a 3-2 loss Sunday to the lowly New York Mets, preventing
Chicago from increasing its lead in the NL wild-card race.
"The guy had a terrible strike zone," Alou said. "It was
terrible, not even close. I think because I argue, they're after
me. Is it a coincidence? I don't know, but I've got to do something
about it. I got a letter that said if I get thrown out again, I'll
get suspended. Maybe they know. Maybe they're baiting me. It's like
guarding Shaq with five fouls."Al Leiter struck out Alou with the bases loaded to end the
fifth. Alou glared at the umpire, dropped his helmet at the plate
and walked away."It was definitely a strike, I looked at the replay," Mets
catcher Jason Phillips said. "It's where it crossed the plate, not
where I catch it."In the eighth, Miller called Alou out on strikes again, and he
made a long, agonizingly slow walk back to the dugout."I'm not a guy to complain. But just make the right call. If
they make the right call, it's tied and we'd still be playing right
now," Alou said.Maybe the Cubs should be more concerned about their offense.
They managed only seven runs in 30 innings over the weekend, losing
two of three games to the fourth-place Mets.That could be costly. Chicago is only a half-game in front of
San Francisco in the wild-card chase, with Houston and San Diego
not far behind. The Giants lost 7-4 to Los Angeles.The fifth-inning strikeout of Alou was the turning point for
Leiter (10-8), who pitched two-hit ball for six innings to earn his
first win in six weeks."For a team that's out of it, there's a responsibility to try
and win the game against a potential playoff team," Leiter said.
"There's a consequence to the other team. It feels good to play
well against a playoff-caliber team."The Mets gave him an early cushion, scoring three runs in the
first by capitalizing on a wild stretch by Chicago starter Kerry
Wood (8-8).Leadoff batter Jose Reyes walked, stole second and scored on a
single by Kaz Matsui. After a double play, rookies Craig Brazell
and Victor Diaz, the heroes of the Mets' victory Saturday, both
singled. Then Eric Valent and Jason Phillips were hit by pitches,
forcing in one run, and a bases-loaded walk to Gerald Williams
brought in another."Anytime you spot a team three runs, it's tough to come back,"
Wood said.The Cubs' starter said it wasn't a matter of losing his
location."I never had it to start with," he said. "Then I made some
adjustments."Wood settled down after the first inning."He couldn't find his rhythm at the start, but that was all
they scored. He was awesome after that," Cubs manager Dusty Baker
said.Wood allowed just four singles after the first. He struck out
seven and walked three in seven innings.The Cubs got two runs back in the fourth when Aramis Ramirez and
Alou walked with one out. Nomar Garciaparra followed with a drive
to left-center that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule
double, scoring Ramirez. Sammy Sosa's RBI grounder brought Alou
home.Sosa, in a 5-for-41 slump, went 0-for-3 and finished 0-for-12 in
the three-game series. He struck out four times and grounded into a
double play Saturday, stranding eight runners -- five in scoring
position.Chicago loaded the bases in the fifth on a single by Neifi
Perez, an error by first baseman Brazell and a walk to Ramirez. But
Alou took a called third strike on Leiter's 98th pitch, ending the
threat."That was a big call in the game," Baker said. "We didn't
have a strong offensive game."Leiter left after 110 pitches and won for the first time since
beating Arizona 4-3 on Aug. 14. He was 0-4 in seven starts between
victories. He walked five and struck out five.Mike Stanton and Tyler Yates each pitched a scoreless inning.
Braden Looper finished the three-hitter, working a perfect ninth
for his 28th save in 33 chances.
Reyes and Matsui were in the starting lineup together and
batting 1-2 for the first time since Aug. 8. Reyes had been on the
disabled list with a stress fracture in his leg, Matsui with a
lower back strain. ... Reyes' first-inning steal was his 15th of
the season. ... Stanton appeared in his 80th game, tying a Mets
record set by Turk Wendell in 1999.