Mets wild-card winners
New York For the first time ever, the New York Mets are going to the playoffs in consecutive years.
Rick Reed limited Atlanta to four hits in eight innings and pinch-hitter Darryl Hamilton singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth as the Mets beat the Braves, 6-2, Wednesday night to clinch the NL wild-card berth.
"This is just one step," Reed said in the clubhouse, where the champagne celebration was more businesslike than wild. "Last year, it was a tough battle for us. Once we won the game in Cincinnati, a lot of steam was let out."
Last year, New York needed to beat the Reds in a tiebreaker playoff on the day after the regular season was scheduled to end. This time, the Mets clinched with four games to spare, eliminating Los Angeles, its final wild-card rival.
When the Mets clinched last year, the emotion was elation. This year, it was relief.
"I think everyone knew we were going to clinch, it was just a matter of when," pitcher Al Leiter said. "We kind of knew that coming out of spring training."
After slumping for the third straight September, the Mets survived and will open the playoffs Oct. 4 at San Francisco or St. Louis. The NL East champion Braves start a day earlier against the Giants or Cardinals, with the matchups depending on final records.
After the final out, the Mets celebrated on the field in low-key fashion, with hugs and handshakes, much like the Braves did the previous day when they clinched their ninth straight division title at Shea Stadium.
"It's good just to get it over with," Mike Piazza said.
Before last year, the Mets' only trips to the playoffs were in 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1988. This year's clincher came as they beat their biggest rival for only the 13th time in 42 games over three years, including a 4-2 loss in last year's NL championship series.
"Everyone said we've struggled, and this is our 90th win," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
Mets right fielder Derek Bell made the most spectacular play of the game, bruising his left knee and shin catching Andruw Jones' drive to the top of the right-field fence in the sixth.
"I thought it was gone. Sure did. No doubt about it," Reed said. "I let out a lot of air. I didn't think he had a chance."
Giants 4, Dodgers 0
Los Angeles Kirk Rueter pitched seven scoreless innings, and San Francisco defeated Los Angeles. Rueter (11-9) scattered five hits, struck out two and walked none while combining with Felix Rodriguez and Robb Nen on the shutout. Doug Mirabelli hit a three-run double and J.T. Snow homered for the Giants, who sent the Dodgers to their second loss in 11 games and their third home shutout loss.
Rockies 6, D-backs 4
Denver Terry Shumpert hit a tying home run and Jeff Cirillo and Todd Helton had RBI singles as Colorado rallied in the eighth inning to defeat Arizona. Todd Walker went 4-for-4 and Todd Hollandsworth hit a two-run homer for the Rockies. Shumpert's solo shot off the left-field foul pole against Dan Plesac (5-1) made it 4-all.
Cardinals 3, Padres 0
San Diego Rick Ankiel broke Dizzy Dean's single-season Cardinals record for strikeouts by a rookie, pitching six sharp innings to lead St. Louis. Ankiel (11-7) yielded five hits and did not allow a runner to reach third base in his last regular-season start. Ankiel struck out seven to raise his total to 193, surpassing Dean's mark of 191 in 1932.
Astros 10, Pirates 1
Pittsburgh Jeff Bagwell hit his career-high 46th home run and drove in four runs as Houston beat Pittsburgh.
Brewers 10, Reds 6
Milwaukee Scott Sullivan's wild pitch allowed the go-ahead run to score in the seventh as Milwaukee beat Cincinnati. The last night game in Milwaukee County Stadium history was followed by a fireworks show. The teams close the venerable stadium's 48-year run with a sold-out afternoon game today.
Marlins 6, Expos 3
Miami A.J. Burnett hit an RBI triple to spark a four-run fifth-inning and also pitched 62/3 strong innings to lead Florida. Burnett (3-7) allowed two runs one earned three hits and five walks to help Florida win for the fourth time in five games.
Cubs 1, Phillies 0
Chicago Kerry Wood closed his comeback season with eight scoreless innings, striking out 10 to lead Chicago over Philadelphia. Sammy Sosa singled home Wood for his 137th RBI.