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NEW YORK (AP) – Scott Hairston, subbing for ailing All-Star Carlos Beltran, hit a long homer and drove in a career-best five runs as the New York Mets hammered Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels yet again in an 11-2 victory Saturday.
Daniel Murphy also went deep and Jonathon Niese pitched seven strong innings to help the depleted Mets snap a three-game skid. Fielding a makeshift lineup minus its four biggest bats, New York rapped out 15 hits and improved to 4-7 this season against the NL East leaders, who own baseball’s best record.
Beltran sat out with the flu and a high fever, so manager Terry Collins inserted a not-so-secret weapon against Hamels (11-5).
Hairston batted third in large part because he entered with a .353 career average (6 for 17) and three homers against the left-hander, one of Philadelphia’s three All-Star starters.
Those numbers quickly ballooned even more.
Hairston doubled his first two times up, driving in two runs and scoring one as New York built a 4-0 lead by the fourth. He hit a three-run shot off Danys Baez in the seventh to make it 11-2, a drive to left that sailed into the rarely reached second deck at spacious Citi Field.
The offensive outburst was a surprise, especially because the Mets are also missing injured shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman David Wright and first baseman Ike Davis.
Hamels was the fifth All-Star starter the Mets faced in a span of six games. They went 2-3 in those contests.
Niese (9-7) allowed one earned run and six hits while striking out six and walking one. The left-hander, who leads the team in wins and is 9-4 in his last 15 starts, hardly ran into any trouble besides a bases-loaded jam in the seventh that he soon escaped.
Murphy opened the fifth with his sixth home run to make it 5-0, and the Mets didn’t stop there.
Jason Bay singled and, one out later, lumbering Nick Evans hit a long drive to right for his second major league triple. Ruben Tejada grounded reliever David Herndon’s first pitch through a drawn-in infield for a 7-0 cushion.
Hamels yielded seven earned runs, matching a career high, and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings – his latest rough outing against the Mets. The left-hander with the hide-and-seek changeup fell to 3-10 in 16 career games against New York.
He lasted only 2 2-3 innings in a 7-1 loss to New York on April 5 and had dropped five consecutive starts against the Mets before striking out 10 in a 5-2 victory May 28 at Citi Field.
His demise Saturday came much to the delight of fans who remember that Hamels called the Mets “choke artists” in December 2008 after their second consecutive September collapse.
One of baseball’s best pitchers in the first half, Hamels was selected to his second All-Star team but was ineligible to participate in Tuesday’s game because he started Sunday.
Miscommunication on the Philadelphia infield made for an unlucky start to the day for Hamels, who entered with a 2.32 ERA – second-best in the NL to Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens.
Hairston doubled with two outs in the first and hustled home when Murphy’s harmless-looking popup dropped between first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley, who both backed away as the ball descended.
Howard got a derisive cheer when he gloved Evans’ foulout the next inning.
New York went down 1-2-3 in the second, but Hamels never found a groove. He issued a leadoff walk to Niese in the third and that proved costly when Hairston lined a two-run double under the glove of third baseman Wilson Valdez, filling in for injured All-Star Placido Polanco.
Evans drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and scored on Angel Pagan’s sacrifice fly, making it 4-0. Niese contributed with a well-executed bunt, a problem for Mets pitchers all season.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)