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Mets rookie Soler throws two-hitter, shuts out D-Backs

PHOENIX (AP) -- Orlando Hernandez wrapped fellow New York Mets
pitcher Alay Soler in a bearhug after the rookie threw a two-hitter
to beat Arizona 5-0 Saturday night in his fourth major league
start.

Both pitchers made it to the major leagues from Cuba, and both
shut down the Diamondbacks this week.

Two nights after Hernandez tossed a three-hitter in a 7-1
victory, Soler threw New York's first complete-game shutout of the
season.

"I felt very happy having a guy like El Duque, that had so much
success at the major league level, right after the game he went to
the mound and hugged me," Soler said through a translator.

Hernandez has 74 major league wins in 170 career starts. Soler
(2-1) has two in four starts. It may be a while before he tops this
one.

"I was very happy for him," Hernandez said. "He was very
aggressive tonight. He threw everything he had with big
confidence."

It was the first shutout by a Mets rookie since Jason Jacome
beat Los Angeles 3-0 on July 7, 1994.

Coming off seven innings of one-run ball Monday night at Dodger
Stadium, Soler outpitched Arizona's ace in this one. Brandon Webb
(8-1) gave up four runs, one earned, in eight innings, striking out
a season-high nine.

The Mets improved to 38-23, the most wins in the NL. They have
won four straight and are 5-1 on their 10-game road trip. They'll
go for a four-game sweep Sunday with Pedro Martinez facing winless
Russ Ortiz.

New York won for the ninth straight time at Chase Field,
formerly known as Bank One Ballpark. The Mets have won the last
seven games here by a combined score of 61-14.

The Diamondbacks lost their sixth straight but remained tied for
first in the NL West with Los Angeles, which lost at Colorado.
Arizona dropped to 0-5 since learning that federal agents had
searched Jason Grimsley's home Tuesday in an investigation into
performance-enhancing drugs. The team released the reliever
Wednesday and doesn't want to pay him the remainder of his $825,000
salary.

Grimsley plans to fight the decision, according to agent Joe
Bick, and the players union is expected to file a grievance.

Arizona has appeared listless since the Grimsley news broke. The
Diamondbacks had no answer for Soler on a night he had superb
command.

"He was throwing strikes from his different pitches and mixing
it up," Shawn Green said. "He's got a sneaky fastball and he's
got a good changeup or splitter, whatever that pitch is that's 83
mph that was keeping our timing off."

Soler walked three and struck out two. He gave up a double to
Orlando Hudson in the third inning and a double to pinch-hitter
Jeff DaVanon in the eighth. The right-hander dominated a team that
touched him for seven runs in five innings May 30 at Shea Stadium.

Only one runner reached third against Soler -- DaVanon, who
advanced on a groundout by Craig Counsell.

"Tonight, I was throwing my pitches around the plate, and the
hitters, they were the ones that were getting out," Soler said.

If the 26-year-old Soler seems like an unknown commodity, it's
because he pitched in only 13 games in winter ball the last two
years after defecting from Cuba in 2003.

"He's a guy that, even though you don't know who he is, you get
the sense that he's pitched a lot and knows how to pitch," Mets
manager Willie Randolph said. "We're finding out a lot about him
as a pitcher. He needs to just continue to throw the ball the way
he has."

If Soler does that it bodes well for the Mets, who already have
Martinez and Tom Glavine at the front of their rotation.

"It's only four starts," Randolph said. "I'm happy about it
because it makes me feel better about the tail end of our
rotation."

The Mets gave Soler a 3-0 lead before he took the mound. With
one out in the first, Arizona third baseman Chad Tracy was charged
with a throwing error, allowing Paul Lo Duca to reach second. Lo
Duca scored on a double by the streaking Carlos Beltran, his
seventh hit in 10 at-bats in the series.

After Carlos Delgado flied out, Beltran stole third, his 11th
stolen base. Beltran scored on a single by David Wright, who came
around on Jose Valentin's opposite-field double to the left-field
corner. None of the runs were earned for Webb, whose major
league-low ERA dropped eight points to 2.06.

New York made it 4-0 in the eighth when Jose Reyes singled,
stole second, went to third on Lo Duca's bunt single and scored on
Delgado's sacrifice fly.

Reyes added an RBI single in the ninth off reliever Brandon Lyon
to put the Mets up 5-0. Endy Chavez doubled and stole third before
scoring on Reyes' hit.

"Every time your team gives you some run support, it's easier
for the pitchers to go out and perform," Soler said.

Game notes
New York utilityman Eli Marrero, acquired Friday from
Colorado for INF Kaz Matsui, joined the Mets and wore No. 32. ...
It was Tracy's sixth error of the season, tied for most on the team
with SS Counsell. ... New York OF Lastings Milledge got his first
career stolen base.