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Piazza hears cheers in likely final game

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Piazza has heard everything from boos to
advice in his nearly eight seasons in New York.

On Sunday, it was nothing but cheers.

Piazza was hitless in what likely was his final home game at
Shea Stadium, and the Colorado Rockies beat the Mets 11-3 to avoid
a season-ending four-game sweep and a franchise-record 96th loss.

Piazza went 0-for-3 before he was removed at the start of the
eighth inning. Manager Willie Randolph put him back in the cleanup
spot one final time, but he could manage only three groundouts to
shortstop.

One of the best hitters in franchise history, Piazza was greeted
by standing ovations in all of his at-bats. The crowd gave him one
more cheer and chanted "One more year!" when he came back out of
the dugout for a postgame interview.

"I was very humbled by these fans," Piazza said. "I just feel
embraced. I just feel like part of the family."

The Mets lost for the fourth time in 16 games and finished
83-79, their best season since reaching the 2000 World Series.

Finishing a $91 million, seven-year contract he signed after the
Mets acquired him in 1998, Piazza turned 37 last month and his
production has declined in recent seasons while injuries have taken
their toll. The Mets have made it fairly obvious they don't plan to
bring him back, and weeks ago began playing highlights at Shea
Stadium of some of his biggest moments with the team.

On Sunday, they showed clips of an interview with him talking
about some of those, including his go-ahead homer in a victory over
the Braves in the first game in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, and his home run last season that gave him the
career record for homers by a catcher.

They also played a video tribute during the seventh-inning
stretch -- which got the crowd cheering again after it had spent the
top of the inning booing Mets relievers Heath Bell and Danny
Graves. With the Rockies waiting on the top stop of their dugout,
Piazza came out of the dugout three times for three curtain calls.

"They're passionate about what they believe in," third baseman
David Wright said of the fans. "Obviously we played sloppy today,
but I'm glad they gave the ovations. They came out in full force
for Mike and I'm glad they showed the appreciation because he's
done a lot for this city on and off the field."

Piazza finished this season with a .251 batting average, 19
homers and 62 RBI. Though still good for a catcher, those numbers
are well below his totals from 1999-02, when he averaged more than
36 homers and 107 RBI.

The fans didn't seem to care about that Sunday.

"They let you know what they think," said Piazza, who said he
didn't know what to expect when he was dealt to New York. "Some
years ago a guy came up to me on the street and said 'Why don't you
stand closer to the plate?' I did it and it worked. Maybe I should
have done it today."

Clint Barmes homered and drove in three runs, and Todd Helton
added a two-run homer for the Rockies.

Luis Gonzalez hit a tiebreaking two-run single in the third, and
the Rockies put away the game with a five-run seventh. Aaron Cook
(7-2) pitched a complete game for Colorado, which also went 67-95
in 1993, its inaugural season.

With the game tied at 2, singles by Helton and Garrett Atkins
and a walk to Brad Hawpe loaded the bases with two outs in the
third. Gonzalez followed with a single for a 4-2 lead.

Colorado jumped on Victor Zambrano (7-12) for two runs in the
first. Barmes hit his 10th homer, and Atkins drove in another run
with a two-out single.

The Mets tied it in the second with back-to-back homers by Mike
Jacobs and Victor Diaz. Jacobs hit his 11th in just his 97th
at-bat, and Diaz followed two pitches later with his 12th to a
similar spot in right-center.

Cook tripled with one out in the sixth and scored on Cory
Sullivan's single. Matt Holliday added an RBI single later in the
inning to chase Zambrano and give the Rockies a 6-2 lead.

Cliff Floyd hit his 34th homer, but Barmes doubled in two runs,
and Helton hit a two-run homer in the seventh. That made it easy
for Cook, who pitched his fourth career complete game and second in
his last five starts.

"After he gave up that homer in the sixth, I think he had a
little talk with himself," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He
just put the hammer down after that. He wanted to pitch a complete
game."

Game notes
Colorado LF Holliday singled and scored in the first. He
reached base via hit or walk in his final 22 games.