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Soler shuts down Dodgers for first big league win

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Alay Soler found fewer distractions in his
first start on the road.

Soler allowed one run in seven innings for his first major
league victory, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado homered in the first,
and the New York Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 Monday
night.

"I was more relaxed today, especially when the team gave me
those three runs and it was 3-0 in the first inning," Soler said
through a translator. "My concentration was much better and I had
a better rhythm than the two times before. I was more focused and
thinking about every pitch."

Soler (1-1) scattered six hits, struck out seven and walked one
in his third big league start. The 26-year-old right-hander, who
defected from Cuba in November 2003 and made the jump from Double-A
to the Mets on May 22, shut down the NL's highest-scoring team
after giving up nine earned runs over 11 innings in his first two
outings. He also singled in the fourth for his first hit in the
majors.

Soler avoided the first-inning problems that plagued him in his
first two starts, although Nomar Garciaparra singled his first time
up to stretch his streak of reaching base to 29 games. The Dodgers
managed four hits until the sixth, when rookie Willy Aybar extended
his hitting streak to 11 games with his second homer of the season.

"He pitched real well," manager Willie Randolph said. "He
made pitches when he had to. He hit his spots and did a great job
of mixing in his changeup. Maybe the first couple of times out, it
was all about the jitters and settling down. He threw some good
changeups and used his fastball effectively. It was just a matter
of him getting through the first couple of innings."

Chad Bradford replaced Pedro Feliciano in the eighth with two
outs and runners at the corners, and retired Olmedo Saenz on a
grounder to third with his first pitch. Bradford pitched a perfect
ninth, converting his first save opportunity in the National
League. His previous save was June 18, 2004, with the Athletics.

"He's got the pop, so I was really trying to make him swing at
my pitch because I didn't want to fall behind him," Bradford said
of Saenz. "I was just hoping he's be a little aggressive and go
after my pitch."

Bradford, a right-hander with an unorthodox submarine delivery,
has allowed only one of his 19 inherited runners to score.

"Anytime I face somebody I've never faced before, I'm hoping
that they have to take a couple of pitches to kind of see where I'm
coming from," Bradford said. "Guys that have seen me before, they
know the arm angle with the slider, sinker and changeup. So maybe I
had an advantage there."

Four-time All-Star closer Billy Wagner, who has 295 career saves
and is 11-for-14 this season, was surprised that he spent the ninth
inning in the bullpen. But the Dodgers sent up three right-handed
hitters, and Randolph liked the matchups.

"I was warming up, but Willie decided to stay with Bradford and
it worked out," said an obviously perturbed Wagner, one of only
five left-handed closers in the majors. "A win is a win."

Brett Tomko (5-4) lost his third straight start, allowing four
runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings without striking out a batter.
The right-hander has allowed 15 earned runs and four homers in 13
innings over his last three outings.

Tomko found himself behind 3-0 against the NL East leaders after
17 pitches. First, the switch-hitting Reyes hit his sixth home run
of the year and third career leadoff homer. Carlos Beltran singled
one out later and Delgado followed with his 16th homer.

"The pitch to Delgado was a mistake," Tomko said. "He's the
kind of hitter that if you make a mistake to him, he'll punish you
for it."

Lastings Milledge, who made a lasting impression among the fans
at Shea Stadium on Sunday when he high-fived a bunch of them
following his first major league home run, made it 4-0 in the sixth
with an RBI single. Milledge, the Mets' first-round draft pick in
June 2003, is 6-for-19 with four RBI in six games since his
promotion from Triple-A Norfolk on May 30.

Game notes
The Mets are 117-101 since Willie Randolph took over as
manager. The last Mets manager who had a better record in his first
218 games was Bud Harrelson, who was 122-96 between 1990 and 1991.
Davey Johnson, who guided the team to its last World Series
championship in 1986, also started out 122-96. ... Soler faced the
Dodgers in spring training, surrendering four runs in 1 2-3 innings
on March 5 at Vero Beach.