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Distraught Pedro, Mets fail to clinch East

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pedro Martinez was close to tears, and it
wasn't only because the New York Mets failed to clinch the NL East
on Friday night.

Martinez struggled in his first start in more than a month,
allowing four runs in three innings in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh
Pirates.

When he came out of the game, Martinez sat in the dugout, head
in his hands, and manager Willie Randolph put an arm around him.

"My pitches weren't there. That was the biggest frustration,"
Martinez said. "I was about to snap and let it all out. Thank God
Willie was there. I felt like crying at that time."

Martinez (9-6) had been on the disabled list because of a
strained right calf since Aug. 14, and Randolph said he would be
limited to 60-to-80 pitches.

He threw 68 pitches and gave up six hits, walked one, hit a
batter and made a throwing error. He struck out four.

"I didn't see the results I was expecting," Martinez said.
"When you come off so many days without throwing the ball, you
want to make a statement. I wanted to do a little bit better. My
physical body didn't feel quite as well as I was expecting for the
time being. I can't expect to be 100 percent fine. I still have
plenty of time to do it."

Randolph said Martinez was healthy and would take his next turn
in the rotation.

"I thought he did pretty well, actually," Randolph said.
"He's a competitor. He's a warrior, and it didn't work out like he
wanted. He's a little frustrated."

Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson said he was not alarmed,
saying Martinez showed good command of all four of his pitches.

"I thought his stuff was good," Peterson said. "He just made
some mistakes. You've got a young club that swings the bats
decently and aggressively, and if you make some mistakes out over
the plate they're pretty good at hitting those pitches."

After the game, the Mets missed a second chance to clinch its
first division title in 18 years when Philadelphia held on for a
4-3 win at Houston. Many of the Mets watched on television as
Houston's Humberto Quintero hit into a game-ending double play.

"Some of us I think want to try to win the game on the field,"
catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "It would have been nice. We're not
backing into anything. We've won a lot of games, and we've played
well. But still, hopefully, we will take care of it tomorrow
night."

Paul Maholm (8-10) allowed one run and two hits in seven innings
as the Pirates beat the Mets for the second time in seven tries
this season. Maholm, who walked three batters and hit three, is 4-0
in his last seven starts.

"Them being in first place and if they win they get to
celebrate, that was another incentive to go out there and pitch
good, because I don't think there's a player in here that wants to
watch them celebrate on our field," Maholm said.

Salomon Torres pitched the ninth for his eighth save -- all
coming in Pittsburgh's last eight wins.

Jason Bay hit his 33rd homer and drove in three runs. Jose Reyes
had two hits and two RBI for the Mets.

"It shows the way we've been playing," said Bay, whose team is
31-27 since the All-Star break after a 30-60 start. "Regardless of
who we're playing, we are playing good baseball. It's somewhat
gratifying against teams like this to stack yourself up to see how
you have been doing."

Pittsburgh jumped on Martinez in the first inning when Bay
doubled home Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez went 2-for-4
and is hitting .340 but lost his lead in the NL batting race to
Florida's Miguel Cabrera, who had three hits and is batting .342.

The Pirates added two more runs in the third when Ryan Doumit
hit an RBI double and scored on Ronny Paulino's single. Paulino was
3-for-4.

The Mets, who dropped to 23-19 against left-handed starters, did
not get a hit until the fourth and did not score until the fifth,
when two batters were hit before Reyes' RBI single.

New York scored twice in the eighth off John Grabow. Mike
DiFelice led off with a double and scored on Reyes' triple, and
pinch-hitter Julio Franco had an RBI grounder.

The Mets' next chance to clinch was Saturday afternoon, when the
Phillies play a day game at Houston. If Philadelphia wins, New York
could clinch with a win over the Pirates on Saturday night.

"However it gets done, we want it done with, so Willie can
start with his planning," outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "We're
very fortunate to be in this position. There's lots of teams
battling right now playing for their lives. You turn on the ESPN
and you see how this team has to win or that team has to win. We're
fortunate the position we are in."

Game notes
Lo Duca was ejected from the game when he argued with
umpire Jeff Kellogg after being called out on strikes to end the
fifth. ... Sanchez has 48 doubles this season, setting a club
record for right-handed hitters. ... Martinez has 2,990 strikeouts.
... The Mets are 11-10 in games started by Martinez.