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Willie saves the day

Harris robs Delgado to preserve Braves’ win

    NEW YORK — Bobby Cox heard the crack of the bat and figured Carlos Delgado had tied the game with a dramatic ninth-inning home run.
    ‘‘I didn’t even watch,’’ the Atlanta Braves manager said. ‘‘I thought it was out easy when he hit it.’’
    Not quite.
    Willie Harris ran down the drive and leaped at the left-field fence to rob Delgado of the homer and save the Braves’ 7-6 victory over the New York Mets on Thursday.
    Harris didn’t think it was going to be that tough a play.
    ‘‘I was deep,’’ he said. ‘‘We were playing no doubles defense. You don’t want anything hit over your head. When he hit it, I thought it was a regular fly ball.’’
    Andruw Jones knew better.
    Harris had gone to the wall in the first inning to rob Moises Alou of an extra-base hit. This time, he drifted back on Delgado’s ball. Then he heard his center fielder.
    ‘‘I was running back and Andruw was yelling, ‘Get back! Get back!’ I don’t know why he was yelling,’’ Harris said. ‘‘I saw the ball. It just kept going and going like the Energizer Bunny. I felt I had a beat on it the whole time, but it kept going and going.’’
    At the wall, Harris jumped and caught the ball in the web of his glove.
    ‘‘Once I jumped, I knew I had it,’’ he said.
    He fell to the ground, and Jones was right there to help him up.
    Down 7-3, the Mets had rallied in the ninth against Tyler Yates. Pinch-hitter Ruben Gotay singled, Jose Reyes doubled and Luis Castillo had an RBI grounder. Wright followed with his 20th homer, narrowing Atlanta’s lead to one run. Oscar Villarreal relieved, and Delgado met him with the opposite-field drive. Delgado grimaced as he watched Harris run it down.
    ‘‘I thought it was out,’’ Mets manager Willie Randolph said. ‘‘He got up there at the right time. It was a big play.’’
    Atlanta took two of three in the series and moved within 3 1/2 games of the NL East-leading Mets. The Braves have won all four series between the teams this year, going 8-4 overall.
    ‘‘They have wiped us all over the field,’’ Wright said. ‘‘It’s tough to argue with the numbers. These guys have worn us out. We have to do a better job of beating the better teams in out division.’’
    The Mets led early but Chipper Jones put Atlanta ahead in the fifth with a three-run homer off the scoreboard in right-center. The shot was estimated at 470 feet — it hit about one-third of the way up, right next to his name in lights — and was his 19th career homer in 83 games at Shea Stadium.
    Cox knew that one was out.
    ‘‘That’s one of the longest homers I’ve seen in a Braves uniform,’’ he said. ‘‘I haven’t seen him hit one that far in a while.’’
    Jones has a .310 average with 53 RBIs in the ballpark, and likes hitting there so much that he named one of his children Shea.
    The Braves trailed 2-1 when Jones connected off John Maine (12-7) for his 19th home run of the season.
    Mark Teixeira followed with a shot into the Mets bullpen, his fourth homer in eight games since Atlanta got him from Texas before the July 31 trade deadline.
    The big inning gave Tim Hudson (13-5) the lead. He won his seventh straight decision and helped himself with a squeeze bunt that delivered a run for the Braves.
    ‘‘It was a grind out there,’’ Hudson said. ‘‘I didn’t have my best stuff.’’
    After the Braves took a 5-2 lead in the fifth, Reyes opened the bottom half with a single, moved up on an infield out and scored on a single by Delgado.  Alou singled and Shawn Green was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Hudson retired Ramon Castro on a pop fly.
    Atlanta got that run right back and finished Maine in the sixth. Yunel Escobar singled with one out, stole second, went to third when Castro’s throw went into center field and scored on a squeeze bunt by Hudson.
    Notes: Villarreal got two outs for his first major league save in his 209th relief appearance. ... Mets CF Carlos Beltran, eligible to come off the DL Thursday, remained sidelined with strained left oblique muscle. ... With an early start following a night game, neither team took batting practice. ... Mets CF Marlon Anderson left in the fourth inning with a sprained left wrist. X-rays were negative. He will go on the bereavement list Friday — his grandmother died in Alabama.

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