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METS 3, ASTROS 1

Martinez masters Astros

Burke breaks up no-hit bid in 7th

NEW YORK -- On a night when he had everything working, Pedro Martinez threw one hanging curveball that cost him a chance at the first no-hitter in New York Mets history.

Martinez took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning last night against the Houston Astros before Chris Burke hit his first major league home run. The speed bump hardly disturbed Martinez, who allowed only one other hit and struck out 12 in a 3-1 victory over one of the worst-hitting teams in baseball.

''It was a curveball that backed up," catcher Mike Piazza said. ''It was the only curve that backed up. It stayed in the hitting zone and he banged it out."

Martinez said he didn't realize he had a no-hitter going until the crowd of 39,953 responded following the homer, which came on his 69th pitch of the night.

''I didn't really realize it until I heard the fans clapping," he said. ''I never look at the scoreboard. I look everywhere else. It's not the first time that's happened to me."

The two-hitter was his second this season and the fifth of his career.

In 1995, when he was pitching for Montreal, the three-time Cy Young Award winner took a perfect game into the 10th inning before allowing a hit. He has been down this road before.

Behind the plate, Piazza felt he was along for the ride.

''We started hard early and threw some off-speed stuff in the middle innings," he said.

''It was in and out. It's what he's feeling."

Martínez took advantage of the light-hitting Astros. Their .244 average coming in was tied for last in the majors with Cleveland, and their 439 hits and 201 runs were the lowest in the majors.

For Martínez, it was his 44th career complete game and second this season.

He capped his stellar performance in style, fanning his final four batters and saluting the crowd with arms raised high as he walked off the mound.

''It's a great feeling to be embraced by the fans so quickly. I could feel it from the very first time I stepped between the white lines in New York," Martínez said.

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