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Mets 6, Braves 3: Smoltz chased early, cites shoulder discomfort

POSTED: May 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Atlanta Braves' John Smoltz delivers a pitch in the second inning against the New York Mets Sunday at Shea Stadium in New York.

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NEW YORK — Mets fans were still disappointed with first baseman Carlos Delgado even after he broke out of his 3-for-34 slump Sunday. Their only regret this time was he didn’t come out of the dugout for a curtain call following his second home run.

Delgado had his first two-homer game in nearly a year — and first homer since April 8 — in a 6-3 win over Atlanta.

For the Braves, fortunes reversed in the other direction, from sizzling to struggling: Starter John Smoltz had his first shaky outing of the season and later complained of discomfort in his throwing shoulder.

After losing five of six, the Mets beat Tim Hudson and Smoltz on back-to-back days. They did it behind some unlikely contributions, with the beleaguered bullpen protecting a lead and backup catcher Raul Casanova getting three hits.

Booed during pregame introductions, Delgado went 2-for-2 with two walks. He hit one solo homer in the third inning and another in the seventh. The second one was hit so far he was pumping his fist before it cleared the fence.

"The way I look at is I hit a solo home run in the seventh inning," Delgado said. "I’ve got a great deal of respect for the game. I don’t think that’s a place for a curtain call."

He said he has come out of the dugout only twice in his career: for his four-homer game in 2003, and his 400th home run in ‘06.

"Having said that, I’m not going to lie that I feel good," he added. "It’s a lot better than the boos."

Smoltz (3-2) had allowed just two runs in four games. He gave up more than that in the first 1 1-3 innings Sunday.

Smoltz surrendered four hits and seven runs in his four innings, but the shoulder was the reason he left the game, he said. Smoltz described his problem as "discomfort," which prevented him from delivering pitches the way he wanted. He was vague about what will happen next.

"The next couple of days I should know what paths we’re looking at," Smoltz said.

The odds didn’t exactly favor a home run in Smoltz’s second-inning matchup with Casanova, who has been pressed into action with Brian Schneider hospitalized with an infected thumb. Smoltz hadn’t allowed a homer in more than 24 innings this season. Casanova hadn’t homered since July 25, when he was playing for Tampa.

He snapped both those streaks with a two-run shot that put the Mets up 3-0.

Mets starter Nelson Figueroa (2-1), like Casanova a veteran journeyman, can relate to being thrown into a significant role. Figueroa was called up to the Mets after Pedro Martinez went on the disabled list. A former teammate of Casanova’s with the Brewers and in winter ball, Figueroa praised his pitch-calling.

Figueroa cruised through the first five innings, allowing just three hits as his teammates built a 4-0 lead. But he gave up hits to four of the first five batters in the sixth to get the hook.

After the Braves pulled within 4-3, relievers Joe Smith, Scott Schoeneweis, Pedro Feliciano and Billy Wagner held Atlanta scoreless the rest of the way. Wagner finished for his sixth save, giving up his first hit of the season after nine innings.

Schoeneweis gave up two deep flyball outs but escaped the seventh without allowing a run. With Jeff Francoeur on second and two outs, Mark Teixeira drove the ball to right-center. Ryan Church and Carlos Beltran collided on the warning track, with Church holding on to make the catch.

Church was slow to get up after his left foot was pinned against the wall, rolling his ankle, but he said afterward he was fine.

"I saw him. He heard me. The only thing he could do, he was telling me after, was to do that slide and get out of the way," Church said. "It could’ve got ugly, but I made the play."

In the dugout, Schoeneweis said, he told Church, "I’m on my way to buy a lottery ticket."

Meanwhile, the Mets offense was adding insurance runs. Third baseman David Wright, who broke an 0-for-19 skid with two hits Saturday, was having a tough day when he came to the plate in the sixth with one out and Luis Castillo on third. This time, he singled to put the Mets up 5-3.

An inning later, Delgado got his first two-homer game since May 29.

"When our offense gets going, it cures a lot of things that go on around the team," manager Willie Randolph said. "When we’re consistent in getting hits and scoring runs, it’s able to take some pressure off our bullpen."Notes: Mets OF Moises Alou will undergo an MRI on Monday to try to determine the cause of swelling in his left ankle. On the 15-day disabled list after hernia surgery, Alou has been in extended spring training in Florida. But he will return to New York for the test after the ankle swelled up two straight days, general manager Omar Minaya said. ... Braves third baseman Chipper Jones sat out the second straight day after experiencing back spasms before Saturday’s game. He said the spasms were gone but he still felt a sharp pain in his back. Jones hoped to return for Atlanta’s next game Tuesday at the Nationals. ... Schneider remained in the hospital Sunday receiving treatment for his infected left thumb. Minaya said he expects Schneider to be released Monday, then it could be another day or two before he’d be ready to play.



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