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Valentin slam makes Mets grand against Astros

NEW YORK (AP) -- In the hours before Friday night's game, New
York Mets general manager Omar Minaya talked about how he was
shopping for pitching as the trading deadline approaches. John Maine's performance against the Houston Astros may have reduced the
urgency for Minaya.

Plugged in at the last minute, Maine responded with a brilliant
four-hitter, shutting out the Astros 7-0. He had plenty of help
with Jose Valentin hitting his second grand slam home run in two
weeks and Carlos Delgado adding a two-run shot.

But this was Maine's show.

"How about that, huh?" manager Willie Randolph said. "Johnny
Maine threw the ball great. He did an outstanding job. He kept
hitting his spots and putting up zeroes. He was strong and stayed
in his rythym."

Not bad for a guy who wasn't supposed to pitch.

Maine was slotted for Saturday's game against the Astros with
Orlando Hernandez set to go Friday. But with heavy rains falling
before the game, Randolph decided to move Maine up a day to protect
El Duque from having his start interrupted by the weather.

"They told me about 5 o'clock," Maine said. "They said, 'Are
you ready to pitch?' and I told them I was ready to go. I didn't
have much chance to think about the hitters. I think that was the
best thing for my performance. I located my fastball well and got
away with some changes. I got some quick outs."

He threw 98 pitches, 67 for strikes and produced his first major
league complete game. It was his first win since Sept. 5, 2005 when
he was with Baltimore.

Houston manager Phil Garner was frustrated by the loss.

"We got fastballs, that's why," he said., "We put them in
play but didn't get anything for it."

Maine (1-3) walked one and struck out four. It was his first
complete game and the sixth shutout of the season for the Mets.

"I just want to win," he said. "They're an aggressive team.
They put the bat on the ball but hit it at people. My goal is to
pitch well. You just want to pitch well."

Valentin gave him a quick margin with his second inning slam,
the ninth of his career and the Mets fifth in the last two weeks.

Delgado added his 24th homer of the season, his second homer in
two days.

The Mets loaded the bases with none out in the second.

Delgado walked and David Wright singled up the middle. Cliff Floyd grounded to first but Mike Lamb's throw to second, trying for
the force, pulled Adam Everett off the base and everybody was safe
on the error.

Valentin followed with his 11th homer of the season, hitting a
3-2 pitch from Taylor Buchholz (6-8) to give the Mets a 4-0 lead.
He gave up seven runs and six hits in five innings.

"I'm trying to do too much with my fastball right now, yanking
it," Buchholz said.

An inning later, Paul Lo Duca opened with a double, moved to
third on an infield out and scored on Delgado's sacrifice fly,
making it 5-0.

In the fifth, Carlos Beltran doubled with two out and Delgado
followed with his home run.

Beltran and Lo Duca combined to preserve Maine's shutout in the
eighth inning. With Eric Munson on third base, Beltran caught Craig Biggio's fly to center and made a one-hop throw off the mound to Lo
Duca, who blocked the plate.

Game notes
Mets bullpen coach Guy Conti felt ill before the game and
checked himself into a local hospital where he was undergoing tests
Friday night. ... The start of the game was delayed 54 minutes by
rain. ... Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal was a guest on
Merengue Night at Shea Stadium. ... Buchholz's first six pitches
and Maine's first nine were strikes. ... Valentin's other grand
slam this season came on July 8 against Florida. ... LF Floyd
reached over the fence to rob Chris Burke of a home run in the
fourth. ... The Astros activated Brandon Backe to start Saturday
and optioned RHP Fernando Nieve to make room for him on the roster.
Nieve pitched two scoreless innings Friday night.