<
>

El Duque, Mets hand D-Backs fourth straight loss

PHOENIX (AP) -- After dominating the Arizona Diamondbacks,
Orlando Hernandez insisted he felt no ill will for the team that
traded him away less than a month ago.

"I have respect for every team," Hernandez said. "I have
nothing special for Arizona."

Maybe not. But Hernandez removed his cap and pumped his fist
after throwing a three-hitter and beating the Diamondbacks 7-1
Thursday night, his first complete game in six years.

Perched on the top step of the visitors' dugout, Mets manager
Willie Randolph flashed back to Hernandez' days as a stalwart with
the New York Yankees.

"That's the way it seemed to me," said Randolph, a former
Yankees coach. "Vintage El Duque."

In a showdown of division leaders, Hernandez (4-5) took a
shutout into the ninth and finished with his ninth career complete
game and first since Sept. 16, 2000, for the Yankees against
Cleveland. The 36-year-old Cuban struck out three and walked two on
114 pitches.

Hernandez said it meant little to beat the Diamondbacks, but
Randolph thought his pitcher seemed inspired from the start.

"He's a competitor, and he's always going to compete every
day," Randolph said. "I'm sure that any time you play against
your former team, it's a little nicer to pitch a shutout."

Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer, his 15th, and Endy Chavez
drove in three runs with two singles to back El Duque. The NL East
leaders acquired Hernandez from Arizona for reliever Jorge Julio on
May 24 to help plug a starting rotation beset by injuries.

Claudio Vargas (6-3) took the loss for the Diamondbacks, who
have lost four straight after returning from a 7-3 road trip. The
NL West leaders have been outscored 24-5 in the three games since
they learned that federal agents had searched the home of reliever
Jason Grimsley in a steroid investigation. The club released
Grimsley on Wednesday.

"I don't think there's any lingering effect," Arizona manager
Bob Melvin said. "[Hernandez] just pitched well. They swung the
bats better than we did. They beat us across the board tonight."

The Diamondbacks' batting order consisted of switch-hitters and
left-handers from No. 1 to No. 8. The reason: Lefties were hitting
.372 against Hernandez this year, while righties were batting .213.

"They know sometimes I have problems with the left-handed
hitters, but I had good luck today," Hernandez said with a shrug.

The numbers meant nothing as Hernandez breezed through the early
innings, retiring seven of the first eight Diamondbacks. The
right-hander worked out of a jam in the third, retiring Chad Tracy
on a fly ball to strand runners at first and third.

"I've seen him do that so many times, get out of big jams,"
Randolph said. "He's almost more effective when he gets guys on
base or gets behind in the count because he uses your
aggressiveness against you."

Hernandez retired 11 straight batters from the third through the
sixth. He walked Luis Gonzalez to lead off the seventh but struck
out Tony Clark looking. Then Gonzalez inexplicably tried to steal
second -- his first attempt of the season -- and was thrown out by
Paul Lo Duca. Hernandez retired Shawn Green to end the inning.

Arizona avoided being shut out when Craig Counsell led off the
ninth with a double and scored on Tracy's sacrifice fly.

"I'm happy with my job today," Hernandez said.

The Diamondbacks might not have parted with Hernandez if he had
pitched this well for them. Hernandez went 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA with
Arizona.

In his first two starts for the Mets, Hernandez went 1-1 and
gave up eight runs in 11 innings. Pitching coach Rick Peterson said
he thought Hernandez might have been trying to impress his new
team.

"I think he just settled in," Peterson said. "He looked so
much more relaxed and under control today."

The Mets made it easy from the start. In the first, Lo Duca
singled, took third on Beltran's single and scored on a sacrifice
fly by Carlos Delgado to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

In the third, New York stretched its lead to 3-0 when Jose Reyes
doubled and scored on Beltran's home run, a 428-foot blast into the
right field seats on an 0-2 pitch from Vargas. One out later, David
Wright singled and Jose Valentin doubled, setting the table for
Chavez, who singled home both runners to make it 5-0.

At that point, Melvin jogged to the mound and had an animated
conversation with Vargas. After the talk, Vargas retired the next
13 batters.

Vargas left after seven innings, allowing five runs and eight
hits. He struck out two.

Game notes
Beltran has driven in 18 runs in his last 19 games. ...
Chavez' two-run single snapped an 0-for-10 skid on the Mets' road
trip. ... Vargas lost for the first time since May 13 at St. Louis.
... Arizona pitchers have three extra-base hits. Two were doubles
by Vargas. ... Jeff DaVanon started in center field for the second
straight day as Melvin rested Eric Byrnes, who had three hits in
his last 19 at-bats.