<
>

Reyes beats out single, steals second, then scores

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jose Reyes proved an old baseball theory to the
Houston Astros on Thursday night: Where the ball is hit is often
more important than how hard it is hit.

Reyes beat out a dribbler in the seventh inning, driving in the
tying run and then stole second and scooted home on an error as the
New York Mets rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Astros and a sweep
of the three-game series.

The winning rally was right out of new manager Willie Randolph's
playbook.

"Put the ball in play," Randolph said. "You make things
happen."

The Astros were sitting on a 3-1 lead in the seventh behind
starter Brandon Backe, who tripled and singled, scored one run and
drove in another. He also had the Mets looking futile at the plate,
allowing just four hits.

But Backe walked David Wright leading off the seventh and left a
ball in the middle of the plate for Victor Diaz, who doubled.
Suddenly, the Mets had a chance.

"I'm very happy with the way I pitched but the only thing I can
think about right now is the pitch I gave to Diaz," Backe said.
"A pitch right down the middle to put my bullpen in that
situation."

Ex-Met John Franco relieved and got pinch hitter Marlon Anderson
on a grounder that scored Wright. Now it was Reyes' turn and he
squibbed a ball up the third base line and beat Franco's throw as
the tying run scored.

Franco knew he had no chance to get Reyes.

"Not with his speed," the pitcher said. "It's frustrating but
it's part of the game. It was good placement. It happens. You make
your pitch, but what can you do?"

What Reyes did was almost immediately steal second, putting the
winning run in scoring position.

"You have to wait one pitch to watch him," Reyes said. "I go
on my own. We have to play aggressively. You have speed, you've got
to use it."

Next, Reyes raced home when third baseman Mike Lamb was unable
to handle Miguel Cairo's grounder and just like that, the Mets had
their fourth straight come-from-behind victory.

Houston manager Phil Garner said there was no one to blame for
the loss.

"You can't defend a dribbler," he said.

Mike Matthews (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh to earn the win.
Mets reliever Roberto Hernandez retired Jeff Bagwell with the tying
run at second base to end the eighth. Braden Looper pitched the
ninth for his first save.

Backe did almost as much damage with his bat as he did with his
arm.

With the score tied 1-1 in the second inning, the pitcher
tripled into the right field corner and then scored on a sacrifice
fly by Adam Everett.

That gave the Astros the lead and Backe padded it in the sixth
against Mets starter Victor Zambrano. Willy Taveras walked with one
out, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher
Mike Piazza. Backe followed with an RBI single.

The Astros took the lead in the first inning.

Craig Biggio doubled and moved to third on a single by Bagwell.
Zambrano walked Lamb to load the bases. After Jason Lane flied out
to short right field, rookie Luke Scott delivered a single, the
first of his three hits, scoring Biggio.

The Mets tied it in the bottom of the first on consecutive
two-out singles by Carlos Beltran, Piazza and Doug Mientkiewicz.

In the second, Backe's triple and Everett's sacrifice fly put
the Astros back on top.

Houston loaded the bases with one out in the third on singles by
Bagwell and Scott sandwiched around a walk to Lamb. But Zambrano
escaped, getting Brad Ausmus and Taveras on grounders to end the
rally.

The Mets got the tying run to third base with one out in the
fifth when Chris Woodward doubled and moved up on an infield out.
But Backe struck out Zambrano and Reyes to strand him.

Then Backe's RBI single in the sixth upped the lead to 3-1
before the Mets battled from behind in the seventh.

Game notes
Zambrano, who threw 100 pitches in five innings in his
first start, needed 25 to get through the first inning. ... Scott's
RBI in the first inning and steal in the fifth were both his first
in the majors. ... Backe's triple was the first of his career. He
batted .313 (5-for-16) with the Astros last season. ... Biggio
stretched his hitting streak to eight games. ... Lane was out at
the plate in the fifth after stealing third and then trying to
score when the ball got away from Piazza.