Mets 5, Braves 2


ATLANTA (AP) – Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz had another memorable duel.

Martinez allowed four hits in seven innings and the New York Mets strengthened their hold on first place in the NL East, getting two homers from David Wright in a 5-2 win over Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The 38-year-old Smoltz also went seven innings, striking out 10 and hanging around long enough to throw 122 pitches. But he left trailing 3-2, and Chris Reitsma gave up two more runs in the ninth to clinch the Braves’ fourth straight loss.

Wright homered off Smoltz (1-2) in the fifth and went deep on Reitsma in the ninth. He also had a sacrifice fly.

Martinez’s only slip-up came in the sixth, when he surrendered a two-run homer to Chipper Jones on an 0-2 pitch. Martinez (5-0) helped the Mets stretch their lead over the Braves to six games in the division race.

With 379 wins and 1,062 appearances between them coming into the game, Smoltz and Martinez were facing each other for the fifth time.

Four of those games came last season – two wins for Smoltz, two for Martinez. The other head-to-head matchup came during the strike-shortened 1994 season, when Martinez got the win pitching for the Montreal Expos. Smoltz didn’t get a decision in the Braves’ 6-4 loss.

Smoltz managed his 37th career game with double-figure strikeouts – his first since he fanned 15 against the Mets last April. He lost that one, too, with Martinez getting the win in New York’s 6-1 victory.

Smoltz broke a tie with Bob Feller for 23rd on baseballs’ career strikeout list, then passed Warren Spahn for 22nd. As if that wasn’t enough, Smoltz made the best defensive play of the night in the sixth when Kazuo Matsui hit a bouncer to the right of the mound. The pitcher grabbed the ball with his bare hand, threw back across his body and got Matsui at first by about a half-step.

But Martinez was better on the mound. He retired the first seven Atlanta hitters and didn’t run into any serious trouble until the sixth. Smoltz led off with an infield single, but the rally appeared to fizzle when Martinez retired the next two hitters and got two quick strikes on Jones.

The next pitch hung over the plate, and Jones crushed a two-run shot over a picture of Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews on the wall just to the left of center.

Billy Wagner worked the ninth for his sixth save, though he had to escape a bases-loaded jam, striking out Todd Pratt for the final out.

Martinez had a lead before he even took the mound. Jose Reyes led off the game with a walk, scooted around to third on Paul Lo Duca’s single and scored on Wright’s sacrifice fly to left.

The Mets threatened again in the second with consecutive singles by Xavier Nady and Matsui leading off the inning. The runners moved up when Endy Chavez grounded out, but Smoltz escaped the jam by striking out Martinez and Reyes.

But Reyes got back at Smoltz in the fourth. With a runner at second and the crowd roaring after consecutive strikeouts, Reyes got hold of a 3-2 pitch and sent a triple to the gap in right-center. He trotted into third without a slide, clapping his hands furiously and pointing at the sky.

Wright went even deeper in the fifth. On a 1-2 pitch, he drove his fourth homer of the season over the left-field wall.

Notes: The Braves played just their seventh home game of the season, compared with 15 on the road (not including a rainout at Washington). Atlanta will play just five games on this homestand before heading off on another long road trip – eight games in nine days at Philadelphia, New York and Florida. This will all work out in the end, of course, when the Braves close the season playing 25 of 38 at Turner Field. … Braves SS Edgar Renteria returned to the lineup after missing nine games and extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a ninth-inning single. … Mets 1B Julio Franco received a standing ovation when he came up as a pinch hitter in the eighth. The 47-year-old Franco played for the Braves from 2001-05.

AP-ES-04-28-06 2222EDT