Vintage El Duque boosts Mets


The Associated Press
New York Mets starting pitcher Orlando Hernandez reacts after he stops a third inning Arizona Diamondbacks rally last night.

PHOENIX (AP) — After dominating the Arizona Diamondbacks, Orlando Hernandez insisted he felt no ill will for the team that traded him away less than a month ago.
“I have respect for every team,” Hernandez said. “I have nothing special for Arizona.”
Maybe not. But Hernandez removed his cap and pumped his fist after throwing a three-hitter and beating the Diamondbacks 7-1 Thursday night, his first complete game in six years.
Perched on the top step of the visitors’ dugout, Mets manager Willie Randolph flashed back to Hernandez’ days as a stalwart with the New York Yankees.
“That’s the way it seemed to me,” said Randolph, a former Yankees coach. “Vintage El Duque.”
In a showdown of division leaders, Hernandez (4-5) took a shutout into the ninth and finished with his ninth career complete game and first since Sept. 16, 2000, for the Yankees against Cleveland. The 36-year-old Cuban struck out three and walked two on 114 pitches.
Hernandez said it meant little to beat the Diamondbacks, but Randolph thought his pitcher seemed inspired from the start.
“He’s a competitor, and he’s always going to compete every day,” Randolph said. “I’m sure that any time you play against your former team, it’s a little nicer to pitch a shutout.”
Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer, his 15th, and Endy Chavez drove in three runs with two singles to back El Duque. The NL East leaders acquired Hernandez from Arizona for reliever Jorge Julio on May 24 to help plug a starting rotation beset by injuries.
Claudio Vargas (6-3) took the loss for the Diamondbacks, who have lost four straight after returning from a 7-3 road trip. The NL West leaders have been outscored 24-5 in the three games since they learned that federal agents had searched the home of reliever Jason Grimsley in a steroid investigation. The club released Grimsley on Wednesday.
“I don’t think there’s any lingering effect,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “(Hernandez) just pitched well. They swung the bats better than we did. They beat us across the board tonight.”
The Diamondbacks’ batting order consisted of switch-hitters and left-handers from No. 1 to No. 8. The reason: Lefties were hitting .372 against Hernandez this year, while righties were batting .213.
“They know sometimes I have problems with the left-handed hitters, but I had good luck today,” Hernandez said with a shrug.
The numbers meant nothing as Hernandez breezed through the early innings, retiring seven of the first eight Diamondbacks. The right-hander worked out of a jam in the third, retiring Chad Tracy on a fly ball to strand runners at first and third.
“I’ve seen him do that so many times, get out of big jams,” Randolph said. “He’s almost more effective when he gets guys on base or gets behind in the count because he uses your aggressiveness against you.”
Hernandez retired 11 straight batters from the third through the sixth. He walked Luis Gonzalez to lead off the seventh but struck out Tony Clark looking. Then Gonzalez inexplicably tried to steal second — his first attempt of the season — and was thrown out by Paul Lo Duca. Hernandez retired Shawn Green to end the inning.
Arizona avoided being shut out when Craig Counsell led off the ninth with a double and scored on Tracy’s sacrifice fly.
The Diamondbacks might not have parted with Hernandez if he had pitched this well for them. Hernandez went 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA with Arizona.
In his first two starts for the Mets, Hernandez went 1-1 and gave up eight runs in 11 innings. Pitching coach Rick Peterson said he thought Hernandez might have been trying to impress his new team.
“I think he just settled in,” Peterson said. “He looked so much more relaxed and under control today.”
The Mets made it easy from the start. In the first, Lo Duca singled, took third on Beltran’s single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Delgado to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
In the third, New York stretched its lead to 3-0 when Jose Reyes doubled and scored on Beltran’s home run, a 428-foot blast into the right field seats on an 0-2 pitch from Vargas. One out later, David Wright singled and Jose Valentin doubled, setting the table for Chavez, who singled home both runners to make it 5-0.
At that point, Melvin jogged to the mound and had an animated conversation with Vargas. After the talk, Vargas retired the next 13 batters.
Vargas left after seven innings, allowing five runs and eight hits. He struck out two.


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Terry provides spark as Mav's grab opener

DALLAS (AP) — Jason Terry had no idea what just happened. He was headed to the hoop for an uncontested score that might clinch Game 1 of the NBA finals for the Dallas Mavericks — and then he was on the ground after inexplicably jamming the ball into the rim, rather than through it.
Terry soon figured it out: The tension and excitement had finally got to him, just as they messed with his teammates and their fellow finals neophytes in Miami Heat uniforms.
Sure, Terry knocked himself down. But he got back up and matched his playoff high with 32 points in the Mavericks’ 90-80 victory Thursday night, holding off the nervousness that had pro basketball’s top two teams looking like amateurs.
“It’s just another game,” Terry said. “The rims are still 10 feet (high), even though it didn’t seem like that on my layup.”


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Schilling picks up win No. 9

NEW YORK (AP) — Curt Schilling became the American League’s first nine-game winner Thursday night, pitching the Boston Red Sox to a 9-3 victory over the New York Yankees.
Schilling (9-2) allowed just four hits in eight innings, retiring his final 12 batters.
Three of the Yankee hits were home runs by Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams and Robinson Cano. That gave New York a 3-1 lead before the Red Sox came back against Jaret Wright (3-4) in the sixth inning.
“It was another weird game,” Schilling said. “I go through periods like that and it’s no singles. That’s the way it’s going. Mentally, I’m trying to stay positive. I’m still searching.”


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