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Mets Continue to Amaze

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Mike Nikeas and Daniel Murphy Mike Stobe Getty Images Sport

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By MIKE FITZPATRICK   AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Miguel Batista pitched seven shutout innings of
four-hit ball and Daniel Murphy supplied the offense, sending the
surprising New York Mets to a 3-1 victory over the Milwaukee
Brewers on Monday night.

Given a vote of confidence by manager Terry Collins before the
game, struggling closer Frank Francisco bounced back from a pair of
rough outings to earn his ninth save. Murphy extended his recent
tear at the plate by hitting an RBI single and scoring on a suicide
squeeze _ a play the Brewers failed to execute earlier.

The 41-year-old Batista, replacing injured Mike Pelfrey in the
rotation, outpitched Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo (2-4), who matched
his career high with six walks in six shaky innings.

Making his third start of the season, Batista (1-1) struck out
five and walked one. He escaped a second-inning jam and retired 10
straight during one stretch.

Third baseman David Wright made a diving play to stop the
Brewers from getting started in the eighth.

Francisco came on in the ninth with an 8.56 ERA and was booed
after giving up Corey Hart’s run-scoring single. But with two on
and Jon Rauch warming in the bullpen, Francisco threw a called
third strike past hitless Brooks Conrad (0 for 15 this season) and
retired pinch-hitter George Kottaras on a fly ball to end it.

Francisco blew a save Friday night in Miami and had a major
meltdown Sunday, when he was pulled by Collins and ejected by plate
umpire Todd Tichenor as the Marlins rallied in the ninth.

Angry that he didn’t get some close calls, Francisco hollered in
Tichenor’s face, waving his finger and then his cap at the ump as
Collins stepped between the two. The big right-hander finally
headed to the dugout and Collins said after the game he’d wait
until Monday to address whether a closer change was coming.
But on Monday, Collins said he was sticking with Francisco _ for
now. The manager said the Mets noticed evidence of Francisco
tipping pitches and made a couple of suggestions they hope will
help.

Wright doubled off former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez to
open the eighth and scored from third when the Brewers botched a
rundown, with third baseman Aramis Ramirez dropping the ball for an
error as he chased Wright toward the plate.

Milwaukee had won six in a row at Citi Field.

After a 4-2 road trip against division foes that could have been
perfect if not for Francisco’s flops, the banged-up Mets (20-15)
are beginning to open eyes. They have won six of their last seven
home games and seven of nine overall.

Attendance was only 20,061, however, as New York began a 21-game
stretch that includes 15 home games.

Gallardo walked two in the first inning and Murphy punched a
two-out RBI single through a vacated hole at shortstop to extend
his hitting streak to 10 games.

Milwaukee likes to overshift on defense as much as any team in
baseball and shortstop Cesar Izturis was shaded toward the middle _
a curious alignment against the left-handed hitting Murphy, who
often goes the other way.

The Brewers put a runner on third with none out in the second
but failed to score. Batista struck out Conrad, and then Milwaukee
tried a squeeze play. Taylor Green broke late from third, though,
and was an easy putout when catcher Mike Nickeas scooped up
Izturis’ bunt just in front of the plate. Gallardo flied out to end
the inning and Batista didn’t allow another runner until the fifth.
Murphy doubled to start the sixth and advanced aggressively to
third on Ike Davis’ flyout to medium center. Murphy held at third
as Ronny Cedeno faked a bunt on the first pitch, then broke for
home on the next delivery from Gallardo. Cedeno dropped a perfect
bunt toward first and Milwaukee’s only play was to first as Murphy
scored easily.

NOTES: Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks was out of the starting lineup
for the third straight game with a sore left wrist after getting
hit by a pitch Friday night. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said
Weeks was closer to playing, but Roenicke wanted to give him
another day. Weeks grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. An
All-Star starter last season, he is batting .157 and is hitless in
his last 18 at-bats. … OF Carlos Gomez, on the 15-day disabled
list with a strained left hamstring, is scheduled to begin a rehab
assignment Wednesday with Class-A Wisconsin. … RHP Zack Greinke
(3-1, 3.35 ERA) starts for Milwaukee in the series finale Tuesday
night against RHP Dillon Gee (2-2, 4.78). Greinke gave up two hits
and struck out 11 in eight scoreless innings Wednesday against
Cincinnati. … Brewers SS Alex Gonzalez is scheduled for surgery
Thursday in Milwaukee on his torn ACL. … Mets LF Jason Bay
(cracked rib) planned to see the doctor Monday at Citi Field and
hopes to begin baseball activities soon.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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