Expos, Bentz suffer loss to Mets

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2004

NEW YORK - Mike Piazza's move to first base paid off for the New York Mets.

With a day game after a night game, Thursday almost certainly would have been a day off for Piazza last season.

Instead, the All-Star catcher doubled twice, drove in one run and set up two others, leading the Mets over the still-slumping Montreal Expos 3-2.

For Piazza, who was not always enthusiastic about the first base experiment, it was a productive day.

"This is a game last year that Piazza doesn't play," New York manager Art Howe said. "It's good to have him in there."

Piazza's hitting was enough to help the Mets offset an Expos rally in the ninth inning.

His third-inning double led to New York's first run, and Piazza made it 2-1 in the seventh before pinch-runner Vance Wilson scored the winning run on a two-out double by Mike Cameron. Juneau's Chad Bentz took the loss in relief for Montreal, although he didn't give up the game-winning hits to Piazza and Cameron.

"It's a good situation personally to stay in the lineup when I'm swinging the bat well, no matter where I play," Piazza said. "It's important if I'm swinging the bat well for me to be in the lineup."

And Piazza is swinging the bat well even though he has not homered in two weeks. He remains one home run away from Carlton Fisk's record of 351 for a catcher. Piazza went 11-for-32 (.344) on the homestand and raised his season's average to .328.

After Montreal tied it in the seventh, the Mets rallied in the bottom half of the inning.

Kaz Matsui walked and raced to third when Karim Garcia hit a broken-bat single off Bentz (0-1), who didn't get any hitters out and saw his season ERA jump from 2.08 to 6.23.

"I didn't do the job today," Bentz told MLB.com reporter Bill Ladson. "I can't let it affect me. I have to keep the confidence up. I have to go out there tomorrow and do a better job. I was trying to throw strikes. It wasn't happening."

Fikac relieved Bentz and got Spencer to fly out, but Piazza came up with runners on the corners and one out.

"We didn't do what we were supposed to do," said Montreal manager Frank Robinson, who didn't want Jeremy Fikac to give Piazza anything to hit. Instead, the reliever put a 2-0 pitch over the plate and Piazza connected for an RBI double and 2-1 lead. "You have to hope they're smart enough to execute in certain situations."

Cameron's RBI double in the seventh was vital, when ninth-inning errors by Ricky Gutierrez and Shane Spencer got Montreal within a run with two out. But Braden Looper retired pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll with runners on the corners for his fourth save.

That made a winner of Steve Trachsel (2-2), who limited the Expos to four hits in seven innings. His only mistake was an 0-2 pitch with two out in the seventh that Brian Schneider hit off the right field foul pole to tie the game at 1-all.

"It wasn't supposed to be a strike," Trachsel said. "It was supposed to be up and in. You let it go and go after the next guy."

The Expos are the first team not to score more than four runs in any of its first 16 games since the 1968 Chicago White Sox, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Montreal's 26 runs tie the third-fewest in major league history in 16 games, according to Elias, matching the 1972 Milwaukee Brewers and ahead of only the 1907 Brooklyn Superbas (15) and the 1909 Washington Senators (25).

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