Mets Complete First 3-Game Sweep at Home

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The New York Sun

At his age, Orlando Hernandez takes his starts inning by inning. Add them up, and they have produced some strong outings for the Mets.

Hernandez won his fourth straight decision yesterday, allowing four hits in seven innings in a 7–3 win over San Diego that stretched New York’s NL East lead to a seasonhigh 14 games.

“I don’t look at seven innings,” El Duque said. “I look at it one inning at a time, three outs. I get through that inning, I look at the next inning.”

Hernandez (8–8) came to the Mets from Arizona on May 24 to bolster the back end of the rotation. He has won four straight decisions and in seven of his last nine starts, he has pitched at least seven innings. He has not lost in his last six starts since June 30.

The attitude of the 40-year-old Hernandez sits well with manager Willie Randolph.

“When he gets in a rhythm, he throws the breaking ball, the backdoor slider, he’s tough,” the manager said. “It’s command on the mound, working his spots. He’s really starting to feel his rhythm on all his pitches. His fastball is up. His velocity is really good.”

With their fifth straight win, the Mets completed a three-game sweep and dropped the Padres into a firstplace tie in the NL West with idle Arizona and Los Angeles, which played Colorado later Thursday night.

Randolph rested several regulars in the day game and surrounded Hernandez with a lineup of bench players, including three — outfielders Ricky Ledee and Michael Tucker and catcher Mike DiFelice — who weren’t on the roster a week ago. He kept the left side of his infield intact, though, and Jose Reyes and David Wright made the difference.

Reyes tripled home two runs in the second inning and then touched off a four-run rally in the seventh that broke a 3–3 tie. Wright had a pair of doubles including the hit that scored Reyes with the go-ahead run.

“You have to be confident every atbat,”Wright said. “You can’t be scared. You have to want to be there.You can’t shy away from it.”

Reyes opened the seventh with a single, and Endy Chavez beat out a bunt for his second hit.Wright followed with a double to left against Doug Brocail (2–1) for a 4–3 lead. An intentional walk to Carlos Delgado loaded the bases, Jose Valentin singled for two more runs and Tucker followed with an RBI double.

San Diego took the lead in the first inning on Adrian Gonzalez’s 20th homer.

Todd Walker walked with one out and moved to second on what might have been a double-play ball. Valentin let Brian Giles’ soft liner to second drop in front of him but then threw to first base, allowing Walker to reach second. Gonzalez followed with homer on a 2–0 pitch.

“He just made a mistake,” Gonzalez said.”He didn’t make many in the whole game.He keeps the ball down.He moves it around. He keeps you off balance.”

New York went ahead 3–2 in the second when Reyes drove in two runs with his 14th triple of the season and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chavez.

After Gonzalez’s homer, Hernandez allowed just one more hit until the seventh, retiring 15 of 16 hitters over one stretch. Brian Giles ended that string with a leadoff double in the seventh and scored on Josh Bard’s double

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