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Updated: Thursday, September 16, 2004 12:45 AM EDT
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FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- John Thomson spoiled the official beginning of Art Howe 's farewell tour.

Thomson pitched seven strong innings to outduel Al Leiter and J.D. Drew had an RBI single in a two-run first inning as the Atlanta Braves defeated the New York Mets , 2-0.

The Mets confirmed before the game that Howe will not be back as manager in 2005 after finishing what has become another disastrous season. Howe agreed to finish the year at the request of Mets general manager Jim Duquette and he watched his team lose for the 21st time in the last 25 games.

"Once you get into a game, it's a game," Howe said. "I was glad to get on with this and finish up the rest of the season."

Thomson (12-8), who finished the 2002 season with a Mets team that finished in last place, has had some of his better recent outings against New York. The righthander improved to 3-0 in four starts against the Mets this season, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out five.

"I threw a lot more curveballs," Thomson said. "This is the fourth time I faced them this season and I thought they might be sitting on my fastball outside. I had to keep them off-balance."

Thomson also worked his way through a series of delays. Rain halted play for 56 minutes after the first. Plate umpire Brian O'Nora left the game in the third inning due to flu-like symptoms, delaying the game another nine minutes. In the seventh, the game was stopped briefly when a fan ran onto the field.

"Earlier in my career, that would have bothered me," said Thomson, who is 6-1 in his last 13 starts. "I was able to get back into my rhythm."

Chris Reitsma pitched the eighth and John Smoltz worked the ninth for his 38th save in 42 chances.

The Mets wasted a solid effort from Leiter (9-7), who has lost three straight decisions and is winless in his last six starts. Leiter had 11 strikeouts, the most by a Met this season, and became the first Met to reach double digits since he did it on August 17, 2003 against Colorado, a span of 184 games.

But the effort did not leave Leiter with any consolation.

"Not really," Leiter said. "Under the circumstances and with all that's gone on in the last few days and the year, it's about winning."

Pitching on the 17th anniversary of his major league debut, Leiter lasted seven innings and allowed two runs - one earned - and three hits while walking two. Eight of his strikeouts came in the first four innings as the lefthander reached double digits for the 15th time in his career.

With the Florida Marlins losing a doubleheader Wednesday, the Braves' magic number for clinching their 13th straight division title fell to 10.

"We just want to clinch," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The quicker the better."

Marcus Giles doubled with one out in the first and scored on a single by Drew, who went to second on the throw. Shortstop Wilson Delgado then misplayed a line drive by Julio Franco , allowing Drew to score.

The Mets left runners at second and third base in both the third and fourth innings, losing a possible run in the fourth when Richard Hidalgo was held at third on a ground-rule double by Jason Phillips .

New York opened the seventh with back-to-back singles before Thomson retired the next three batters.

The game was completed with three umpires as second base umpire Phil Cuzzi went behind the plate. O'Nora was taken to New York University Medical Center for further evaluation.

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