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Updated: Thursday, April 24, 2003 12:27 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Houston Astros
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
2 8 0
New York Mets
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
4 8 1
W Leiter (3-0)
L Oswalt (2-2)
S Benitez (6)
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NY METS 4, HOUSTON 2
 

FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- Al Leiter remained one of few constants for the New York Mets .

Leiter pitched six solid innings and Raul Gonzalez homered in his season debut as the Mets defeated the Houston Astros , 4-2, for their fourth win in six games.

While others have battled ineffectiveness and injuries, Leiter (3-0) remained the only New York starter without a loss. He worked at least six innings for the fifth time in as many outings, limiting the Astros to two runs and seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

"I'm really having success with my curveball to go with my fastball and cutter, and I'm using both sides of the plate," said Leiter, who is off to his first 3-0 start since 2000. "I've given the team five quality starts and I'm happy with that, but I'd like to cut my pitches down and go deeper into games."

Leiter twice came up with big pitches, retiring Morgan Ensberg on a fly ball to deep left field with two on to end the fourth inning and striking out Craig Biggio with runners at first and second to escape trouble in the sixth.

"He sat on a cutter inside and had a hard single in the fifth inning, but I basically got him with curveballs and kept the ball outside on him in the sixth," Leiter said of Biggio. "That was a big strikeout there, and then the bullpen did a great job."

David Weathers walked one and struck out two in two hitless innings and Armando Benitez worked around a one-out double in the ninth for his sixth save in 10 chances.

"We worked on some stuff with Armando over the last couple of days and he deserves credit for working on what was said," Mets manager Art Howe said.

Gonzalez had his contract purchased from Class AAA Norfolk before the game and made an immediate contribution. He had two hits, including a solo homer off starter Roy Oswalt (2-2) in the second that gave New York a 2-0 lead.

Jeff Bagwell singled in both runs for the Astros, who fell to 3-6 on a 13-game road trip.

"Al's reputation is he has the tough cutter inside, but he used both sides of the plate tonight," Bagwell said. "He's the kind of guy that you'll hit a lot of foul balls down the third base line or foul home runs because he stays inside so much. But he used his curve on the outside part of the plate effectively tonight."

New York wasted little time giving Leiter a lead. With one out in the bottom of the first, Timo Perez and Mike Piazza walked around a single by Cliff Floyd . Bagwell fielded Mo Vaughn 's potential double play grounder but had trouble getting the ball out of his glove, settling for one out as Perez scored.

In the second, Gonzalez slugged a 1-0 pitch into the bleachers in left-center field.

"It was a fastball right down the middle," he said. "I never faced him (Oswalt) before, I saw him on TV. He throws the ball hard and keeps it low. I just wanted to try to hit the ball hard."

"I got beat on a fastball over the middle for a home run and in the third, I was careless," said Oswalt, who allowed three runs, seven hits and four walks in six innings. "I think I gave up six hits in the first three innings and then I settled down. It was cold out there."

Floyd led off the bottom of the third with a double and scored as Vaughn and Ty Wigginton delivered one-out singles.

Oswalt and Biggio started the fifth with singles and former Met Jose Vizcaino sacrificed before Bagwell's single made it 3-2. But Leiter struck out Lance Berkman and retired Jeff Kent , another ex-Met, on a flyout.


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