Mets mimic Reds#039; magic

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 7, 2003

CINCINNATI (AP) - No carrying on after this Mets comeback. They were too hot, too tired and too far out of contention for anything more than a handshake.

Tony Clark led off the ninth inning with a homer high off the batter's eye in center, completing a late rally that gave New York a 7-5 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Reds.

One week before the All-Star break, the Mets got their first series sweep of the season. Trailing 5-2, they pulled off only their second victory when trailing after seven innings.

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''We can't get caught up in looking at the standings and at our record,'' said Clark, sapped by the humidity on an 87-degree afternoon. ''You get frustrated with it. We've been fortunate the last six games to play some decent ball.''

The Mets entered the season with a $116.9 million payroll - second-highest in the majors - and great expectations. They've spent most of the season in last place in the NL East, causing general manager Steve Phillips to lose his job and the Mets to start unloading stars.

They've won five of their last six, and showed some spunk against a team struggling to stay in contention.

Ty Wigginton's two-out, two-run double off closer Scott Williamson tied it at 5 in the eighth, and Clark hit his 10th homer off Brian Reith (1-1) to set up the Mets' first three-game sweep in Cincinnati since 1991.

The Mets' other victory when trailing after the seventh came on May 21 in New York, when they overcame a 3-2 deficit against the Phillies. They streamed onto the field for a wild celebration after Clark's RBI single in the ninth.

Given the setting, things were much more subdued this time around.

''It was so hot,'' said Armando Benitez, who got the last three outs for his 21st save in 26 chances. ''It was not easy for me today.''

The Reds have lost 11 of their last 15, falling six games under .500 (40-46) for the first time since April 29.

''We're just playing bad baseball right now, plain and simple,'' said Aaron Boone, who ended the game with a flyout. ''As simple as it sounds, that's it. But there's no time to pout about it. It's time to do something. Obviously, that was a tough one today.''

Timo Perez opened the game with a homer, had an RBI single as part of the tying three-run rally in the eighth, and doubled home another run in the ninth. His three RBIs matched his career high.

Jaime Cerda (1-1) pitched the eighth to get the victory.

The Reds wasted a solid performance by Paul Wilson, who pitched seven strong innings against his former team. The Mets' top pick in the 1994 amateur draft gave up four hits, including solo homers by Perez and Jeromy Burnitz, before turning a 5-2 lead over to the bullpen.

Todd Van Poppel gave up an RBI single to Perez in the eighth and Wigginton tied it with his double off Williamson, who blew a save for the fourth time in 24 chances.

''It's the midpoint of the season,'' Williamson said. ''We've got to get going. We got some great pitching from Paul Wilson. You hate to see a loss after that.''

Adam Dunn and Sean Casey hit solo homers as the Reds roughed up rookie Aaron Heilman, scoring five times in his four innings. Heilman, a first-round pick in 2001, has yet to win in three starts since his big-league promotion.