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NL ROUNDUP

Win eludes Martinez but the Mets prevail

More than 55,000 fans filed into Shea Stadium to see Pedro Martinez pitch another sparkler. They went home happy thanks to Ramon Castro.

The backup catcher singled home the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning, and the New York Mets beat the Florida Marlins, 4-3, yesterday for their sixth straight victory.

"They never got away from us and we never quit," Martinez said. "I'm very glad I signed to pitch here and I'm able to give the fans what they expected."

Martinez struck out nine in a stellar home debut for New York -- but the Mets' new ace was outpitched by their old one, Al Leiter.

The lefthander allowed only three hits in seven innings and left with a 2-1 lead before New York rallied against reliever Todd Jones in the eighth.

Carlos Beltran tied it with a two-out single and Mike Piazza followed with a go-ahead double to give the Mets a 3-2 edge, overcoming Martinez's career-high three wild pitches.

Braden Looper (1-1) gave up three hits in the ninth, including Juan Encarnacion's tying double with two outs, for his second blown save in three chances this year.

But Victor Diaz doubled off Guillermo Mota (0-1) with two outs in the ninth and scored when Castro lined a 1-and-1 pitch to right.

Nationals 9, Diamondbacks 3 -- Vinny Castilla has yet to make an out at RFK Stadium, going 3 for 3 and driving in four runs for the second straight game to help Washington beat visiting Arizona. John Patterson (1-1) threw seven shutout innings, and Washington broke open a tight game by sending 11 men to the plate and scoring seven runs in the seventh.

The victory was the Nationals' fourth straight and kept them atop the East at 7-4. Last season, as the Montreal Expos, the club's first four-game winning streak was not until May 14-18 -- and it began with the team 10-25.

Phillies 2, Braves 1 -- Jon Lieber outdueled John Smoltz, and Chase Utley had a tiebreaking RBI single and game-saving catch, leading Philadelphia over visiting Atlanta. Lieber (3-0) allowed one run and seven hits in eight innings to win his third straight start since joining the Phillies. Billy Wagner pitched a shaky ninth for his second save.

Reds 3, Astros 2 -- Lefthander Eric Milton finally pitched like a pricey and prized acquisition, helping host Cincinnati end its 12-game losing streak against Houston. Milton (2-1) gave up three hits in seven innings, his first impressive showing in three starts for the team that made him the centerpiece of its offseason overhaul. Milton got a $4 million bonus as part of a three-year, $25.5 million deal last December.

Dodgers 8, Padres 3 -- In Los Angeles, Scott Erickson pitched six sharp innings for his first NL victory, and the Padres lost shortstop Khalil Greene when he broke his right ring finger. Ricky Ledee homered and Jason Phillips had a pair of RBI singles for Los Angeles.

Rockies 5, Giants 4 -- In Denver, Joe Kennedy (two runs, seven hits in 6 2/3 innings) outpitched Jason Schmidt and had two hits to help Colorado end an eight-game losing streak. Rookie Clint Barmes led Colorado's offense, driving in a run with a push bunt, stealing two bases, and getting hit by a pitch twice to tie a team record.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 3 -- Scott Rolen snapped out of his early-season slump (a 4-for-32 start) with a two-run homer and two singles, leading St. Louis in Milwaukee.

Cubs 4, Pirates 3 -- Neifi Perez doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh and Aramis Ramirez hit a three-run homer to carry Chicago past host Pittsburgh, just the slow-starting Cubs' second victory in five games.

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