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Cubs' five-game win streak snapped

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs' run at the postseason hit a
little snag -- with some help from a fan.

No, Steve Bartman wasn't in the crowd. It was New York Mets
rookie Victor Diaz.

Diaz grew up in Chicago rooting for the Cubs, idolizing fellow
Dominicans Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou. But on Saturday, he hit a
tying, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to help
the Mets rally for a stunning 4-3 victory in 11 innings.

Craig Brazell provided the winning shot, his first major league
home run, off Kent Mercker (3-1), and Diaz could not have been
happier with the result.

"I grew up a Cubs fan and to do that against this team, it's
good," said Diaz, selected in the 37th round of the 2000 draft by
Los Angeles. "I wished I got drafted by the Cubs. But everything
worked out for me. I'm a Met now."

Brazell, who entered in the 11th as part of a double switch, led
off the bottom half and lined a 1-2 pitch over the right-field
wall, ending Chicago's five-game winning streak.

The rookie pumped his fist as he rounded first and was mobbed at
home plate by his teammates, a rare moment of celebration for the
Mets, who are 24-44 since the All-Star break.

"It's definitely something you dream about as a kid," said
Brazell, still covered in shaving cream from a pie in the face.
"As soon as it went out, my heart started thumping as fast as it
could."

The Cubs blew a great opportunity to improve their playoff
chances. Chicago's lead in the NL wild-card race was cut to a
half-game over San Francisco, which beat Los Angeles 9-5.

"Tomorrow is big," Cubs starter Mark Prior said. "It's going
to be a battle. The Mets aren't going to roll over for us."

Chicago appeared to be cruising to its 14th victory in 17 games
behind 7 2/3 strong innings from Prior and a two-run homer by Todd
Walker. But Diaz hit his second career homer, to the opposite
field, off closer LaTroy Hawkins to tie it at 3.

After getting an out to start the inning, Ryan Dempster walked
Eric Valent and Jason Phillips before giving way to Hawkins.
Looking for his second save in two days, Hawkins retired Jeff
Keppinger before Diaz lined a 2-2 pitch over the right-field wall.

"He's pitched six out of seven days so we didn't even have him
warming up," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said when asked why Hawkins
didn't start the ninth.

In the 10th, the Cubs put runners on first and second, but Sosa,
in a 5-for-38 slump, grounded into a double play. He struck out in
his first four at-bats and left eight runners on base -- five in
scoring position.

Jae Seo (5-10), the seventh Mets pitcher, worked the 11th for
the win.

Prior took a three-hitter into the eighth inning, seemingly
finding his stride after missing the first two month of the season
with a sore right Achilles tendon.

Baker said before the game that it might have been a blessing
that Prior was out early because he'll be stronger in the
postseason.

And Prior looked nearly as dominant in his 20th start of the
season as he did in pitching a two-hitter in Game 3 of the 2003
division series. He allowed four hits, two walks and struck out
five, running into trouble only in the fifth when he loaded the
bases with no outs. But he worked out of that jam, retiring the
next three batters.

Prior was replaced by Dempster with runners on first and third
and two outs in the eighth. Prior left to a loud ovation from the
many Cubs fans in the crowd of 34,284.

"I felt good out there, threw the ball well," Prior said. "I
would have liked to stay in."

Aaron Heilman has had two of the best starts of his
disappointing career since being recalled from the minors on Sept.
8. Once heralded as the Mets' No. 1 starter of the future, he has
foundered against major league hitters.

But he was sharp last Sunday against Pittsburgh, allowing a run
and two hits in 7 2/3 innings, and he gave up just three hits in
five innings Saturday. Heilman struck out five, including Sosa
twice.

His only mistake came in the second when Walker followed Nomar
Garciaparra's leadoff single with his 14th homer to put Chicago up
2-0.

The Cubs added a run in the eighth on Prior's leadoff single and
three walks. Sosa struck out with the bases loaded to end the
inning.

Game notes
The Cubs have 222 homers at Shea Stadium, more than any
other existing ballpark except Wrigley Field. ... The Mets improved
to 1-4 against Chicago this season. ... Mets SS Kaz Matsui made his
first start since sitting out Aug. 9 with a strained back. He went
0-for-2 in three innings.