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Clark's first career pinch-hit homer beats Marlins

4/19/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tony Clark knew exactly what he would be called
on to do. What he didn't know was where his batting helmet was.

Wearing the helmet of teammate Jeromy Burnitz, Clark hit his
first career pinch-hit homer, a three-run shot in the eighth inning
that sent the New York Mets to a 6-3 win over the Florida Marlins
on Friday night.

"I couldn't find my left-handed helmet anywhere," said Clark,
signed in the spring to give the Mets a switch-hitter with power on
the bench.

Mo Vaughn and Mike Piazza also knocked in runs for the Mets, who
have won three of four following a six-game losing streak. Ty
Wigginton tied it at 3 with a two-out RBI single in the seventh.

Clark, a first baseman, signed a minor league contract with the
Mets after the start of spring training. He hit .207 with three
homers and 29 RBI in 275 at-bats with the Boston Red Sox last
year. The former AL All-Star began the season at Triple-A Norfolk.

With Vaughn as the Mets' regular first baseman, Clark knew he
would be relegated mostly to pinch-hitting duty.

"`My job is real clear on this ballclub. My role is real
clear," Clark said. "I'm just thankful to have this job."

He hit a go-ahead homer for the Mets last week against Montreal
in Puerto Rico, but Armando Benitez blew the save.

Not this time.

Benitez pitched the ninth for his fifth save in eight chances,
getting Luis Castillo to ground into a double play with two on to
end it.

Roger Cedeno singled off Vladimir Nunez (0-2) with one out in
the eighth and Roberto Alomar walked on four pitches. Clark batted
for light-hitting shortstop Rey Sanchez and hit a 1-1 splitter over
the right-center fence for his third homer this season.

"That's the pitch I wanted, right down inside," Nunez said.
"He made good contact. That's the pitch I use to get a
groundball."

David Weathers (1-0) worked a scoreless eighth for the victory.

Derrek Lee drove in two runs for the Marlins, who ran all over
Al Leiter, Piazza and the Mets. Stealing four bases in an inning to
tie a club record for the second night in a row, the Marlins got
three runs in the fourth. The night before, the Marlins did the
same thing to Philadelphia.

"We don't care, as long as we score one more than the other
team," Mets manager Art Howe said. "The bottom line is, we
limited the damage and won the ballgame."

The Marlins also stole four bases in an inning against the Mets
on May 27 last season, totaling seven against Leiter and Piazza in
a 5-3 win at Shea Stadium.

Wigginton tied it at 3 in the seventh against Nunez, hitting a
single with two outs to score Cliff Floyd, who singled off reliever
Michael Tejera.

Leiter had a season-high nine strikeouts. He went six innings,
allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks.

He kept the Marlins from adding an extra run in the sixth, when
Lee singled, stole second and went to third on Piazza's throwing
error.

"Leiter did a pretty good job of pitching," Marlins manager
Jeff Torborg said. "With a man on third and none out, he struck
out the side. That's pretty good pitching."

Marlins starter Mark Redman was relieved by Tejera to start the
sixth after allowing two runs and six hits. Redman struck out
seven.

Piazza bounced a throw off the mound trying to catch Castillo
stealing in the fourth, then threw the ball into center field for
an error when Juan Encarnacion stole second after driving in
Castillo.

Mike Lowell stole second without a throw before scoring on Lee's
two-run double, and Mike Mordecai stole second after the Mets
walked him with two outs to get to Redman.

Encarnacion stole second again in the fifth, and Lee's steal in
the sixth drew another throw -- and another error -- by Piazza.

"This game is very humbling and it's not easy. I've got to keep
on going out there and working on it," Piazza said. "Everyone has
been really supportive. My teammates, obviously, picked up for me.
... I've just got to go out there and work on it."

He atoned with an RBI single in the fifth to make it 3-2. Vaughn
gave the Mets a 1-0 lead when he drove in Piazza with a single in
the first inning.

Game notes
Leiter made his 300th major league start. Leiter, in his
sixth season with the Mets, is the longest-tenured player on the
team behind only the 14 seasons of reliever John Franco, who is on
the disabled list. ... Encarnacion has reached base safely in 15 of
16 games. ... Wigginton received an ovation for trying to bowl over
Marlins C Mike Redmond at the plate in the sixth inning. ... Mets
RHP Pedro Astacio (shoulder tendinitis) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a
rehabilitation start for Class-A Port St. Lucie. He allowed five
hits, struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

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