<
>

Grand again: Beltran's 2nd slam in two nights lifts Mets

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Two games, two grand slams. Carlos Beltran has
started a very rare streak.

Beltran hit the last of New York's three homers Tuesday night, a
seventh-inning grand slam off Eric Milton that powered the Mets to
an 8-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Beltran's slam off Milton (6-5) was the sixth of his career and
his second in two games. He and Cliff Floyd connected Sunday during
a club-record 11-run sixth inning that set up a 13-7 win against
the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

He became the 23rd major leaguer to hit grand slams in
consecutive games. David Eckstein was the last to do it, for the
Angels in April 2002.

"That's baseball," Beltran said. "Some days you feel good,
some days you feel not so good."

Beltran added a run-scoring double in the ninth off left-hander
Bill Bray, acquired in an eight-player trade with Washington last
week. The loss was Cincinnati's first since the All-Star break,
coming off a four-game sweep of Colorado.

Xavier Nady and Jose Valentin also hit solo homers that helped
right-hander Mike Pelfrey improve to 2-0 after two major league
starts. The 22-year-old rookie gave up seven singles and a pair of
runs in six innings.

A first-round draft pick last year, Pelfrey was called up from
Double-A on July 7 to help a short-handed rotation. He's the third
Mets player to win the first two starts of his career, joining Dick
Selma (1965) and Gary Gentry (1969).

"He's got a long way to go, guys," manager Willie Randolph
cautioned. "I wish I could throw a lot of superlatives at him.
Eventually, I will."

The Mets have won five of their last six games, improving the
NL's best record to 56-37. New York has led the NL East by
double-digits since June 22.

New York's offense is one of the league's most prolific, and its
bullpen one of its stingiest. The main concern at this point is a
rotation missing right-hander Pedro Martinez, on the disabled list
since July 6 with an inflamed hip.

Pelfrey, who was born at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in
nearby Dayton, is the third Mets starter to make his big-league
debut this season. He won on July 7, allowing three runs in five
innings of a 17-3 win over Florida.

The 6-foot-7 pitcher was under a lot more pressure the second
time around, but came through again.

"Today I just trusted myself and went after guys," Pelfrey
said. "They hit some balls hard. Luckily, most of them were right
at guys."

The Mets turned double plays in each of the first three innings
-- Ken Griffey Jr. grounded into two of them against an infield
shift -- to keep Pelfrey out of trouble. He also got Milton to fly
out with the bases loaded in the second, and fanned Adam Dunn on a
96-mph fastball with two aboard in the fifth.

"I reared back a little and threw it for a strike," Pelfrey
said. "I got lucky he missed it."

While the Mets' defense bailed out Pelfrey, their power-laden
lineup pulled him through.

Milton gave up 43 and 40 homers in the last two seasons, a bad
mix of flyball pitcher and home run-friendly ballpark. The
left-hander is giving them up at the same pace this season.

Reds manager Jerry Narron decided to leave Milton in with the
bases loaded and two outs in the seventh to face Beltran, even
though he had thrown 103 pitches at that point. Beltran missed
badly on a changeup, then hit his 27th homer into the upper deck in
left field.

"I went with my heart, and I got burned a little bit," Narron
said. "What can you do? I have a lot of guys who've shown a lot of
heart, and I wanted to repay it a little bit."

Beltran, who is 2-for-5 with the bases loaded this season, got
hold of a slider over the inside half of the plate -- right where
Milton didn't want it to be.

"I felt good all night," Milton said. "It just didn't work
out. It came down to one at-bat. If I get that guy out, I end up
pitching pretty good, and maybe we win the game. It came down to
one pitch, and it was bad."

Game notes
Martinez is back to a full diet, four days after he was
treated at a Chicago hospital for food poisoning. He'll throw in
the bullpen on Wednesday. Randolph said Martinez will throw a
simulated game near the end of the week, and a decision on his
future will be made after that. ... Jose Reyes was back at
shortstop Tuesday. He needed seven stitches in the small finger on
his left hand after he slid into first base on July 7. ... Reds LHP
Brandon Claussen had a sore back, forcing him to skip his latest
scheduled rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Monday night. ...
3B Rich Aurilia extended his hitting streak to a season-high 11
games.