Easley's Homer Leads Mets Over D'backs

Friday, May 4th 2007, 7:12 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ No longer wanted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Damion Easley had to find a new team last fall. He said he talked to several clubs, including the New York Yankees, before agreeing to an $850,000, one-year contract with the New York Mets. Easley thought he would probably spend much of his time on the Mets' bench. One month into the season, he's become an offensive weapon.

His three-run homer in the ninth inning Thursday night helped lead New York to a 9-4 victory over Arizona. David Wright added another three-run shot in the inning as the Mets won their 11th straight at Chase Field.

Easley, a 37-year-old infielder, has seven hits this season, including three homers. Only Carlos Beltran, with seven, has more homers on the Mets.

Easley had a pinch-hit homer against Colorado in the 10th inning of a 2-1 Mets' win in 12 innings on April 24.

``That's what he is: clutch,'' manager Willie Randolph said. ``He just lays in the weeds on you and just comes through with the big hits. I've seen him do it many times.''

Easley, who'll see a lot more time with starting second baseman Jose Valentin on the disabled list with a torn knee ligament, is hitting .241 in 13 games.

``Quite honestly, I didn't know how much I'd play,'' Easley said. ``My purpose for coming here was to win. I thought they had the best chance of getting to the World Series. Whether or not that happens, I still believe that this team has the best chance, at least in the National League.''

Especially if they keep playing the way they did Thursday night.

In other NL games Thursday, it was: Houston 7, Cincinnati 5; Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 2; and Philadelphia 9, San Francisco 7.

Arizona's last victory over the Mets in Phoenix came on May 11, 2004. In sweeping two four-game series in 2005 and 2006, New York outscored Arizona by a combined 76-16.

When Stephen Drew singled home Eric Byrnes in the second inning, it gave the Diamondbacks their first lead over the Mets in 81 innings at Chase Field, dating to May 13, 2004.

It looked like Arizona would break the streak when Orlando Hudson hit a homer off Tom Glavine in the sixth, giving the Diamondbacks a 4-3 lead.

But closer Jose Valverde (0-2) blew it in the ninth and two former Diamondbacks _ Easley and Shawn Green _ helped make it happen.

Green reached with one out on first baseman Tony Clark's fielding error. Then Valverde walked Paul Lo Duca after getting ahead 0-2.

The emotional Valverde seemed to lose his poise after the walk.

``To have a guy 0-2 and it turns out where he ends up walking, that can be a little unnerving,'' Easley said.

Randolph sensed Easley was about to come through for him again.

``I had a good feeling about that 'AB,''' Randolph said. ``The pitcher was struggling a little bit, and usually when you do that, you try to get a ball over the plate, and Damion made him pay for it.''

Easley took two balls, then drove a fastball into the left-center-field bleachers. It was Valverde's second blown save in 12 opportunities, and his first since April 3 in Colorado.

``I try to make sure I'm real relaxed, and not make the moment any bigger than it is, because the bottom line is I've still got a pitch to hit and not try to do too much with it,'' said Easley, who lives in nearby Glendale after spending last season with the Diamondbacks.

Valverde didn't speak to reporters before leaving the park.

``He seemed fine,'' said catcher Chris Snyder, who hit a two-run homer. ``His fastball was live. He had his good stuff. But he walked some guys and got behind some hitters.

``You get behind a veteran guy like Easley, he's looking for one thing, and one thing only,'' Snyder said. ``He got it and did what he's supposed to do with it.''

Valverde's meltdown cost Micah Owings his second career victory. Owings allowed three runs and five hits in six innings.

Owings, making his fourth major league start, pitched on even terms with Glavine, who started his 642nd game. Glavine gave up four runs and five hits in six innings.

After Easley's homer, Valverde walked pinch-hitter Julio Franco and gave up a single to Jose Reyes before manager Bob Melvin lifted him.

``He's been as good as any closer in the league,'' Melvin said. ``He just didn't finish one out.''

Wright greeted Dustin Nippert with a three-run homer, his second.

Aaron Heilman (2-2) earned the victory with a scoreless eighth.

``When good teams smell it like that, we go for it,'' Randolph said.

Astros 7, Reds 5

Luke Scott's two-run double in a three-run eighth inning gave Houston a 6-5 lead, and Dan Wheeler got three outs for his fifth save, inducing Ken Griffey Jr. to ground into a game-ending double play with two on.

The Astros took two of three for their first series win since sweeping two games at Cincinnati on April 18-19.

Griffey hit his 566th homer in the first and tied the game in the eighth with a single.

Pirates 4, Brewers 2

Jose Bautista and Ronny Paulino hit consecutive home runs in a four-run seventh inning and Pittsburgh snapped the Brewers' four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee (18-10), which leads that NL Central, hasn't been 10 games over .500 since finishing the 1992 season 92-70. That also was the last time the Brewers finished with a winning record.

Tom Gorzelanny (4-1) won his fourth straight road start, giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings. Salomon Torres pitched the ninth for his ninth save.

Dave Bush (2-3) gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings, allowing just one runner past second base in the first six innings.

Phillies 9, Giants 7

Jimmy Rollins had two triples and drove in two runs, and Adam Eaton (3-2) allowed six runs and eight hits over five-plus innings. He still managed to beat the Giants for the first time since June 7, 2001, when he was with San Diego. He was 0-4 in 10 starts against San Francisco until Thursday.

Shane Victorino and Chase Utley both drove in two runs for the Phillies, who beat San Francisco for the 11th time in their last 13 meetings.

Giants starter Matt Cain (1-2), who entered with the NL's third-best ERA (1.54), allowed seven earned runs, eight hits and four walks in three-plus innings, the shortest start of his career.