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Mets squander lead, chance to gain in East

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NEW YORK — With the New York Mets just one strike from a three-game sweep that would have raised their once improbable playoff hopes, Armando Benitez let it all come apart.

Brian Jordan hit a two-run homer to start a three-run ninth inning, then hit a go-ahead home run in the 11th as the Atlanta Braves escaped with a 5-4 victory Sunday that kept them in the NL East lead.

B.J. Surhoff chased Benitez with a tying single, ending a streak of 17 consecutive save conversions for the reliever.

It was a stunning turn for the Mets, who had been riding high on emotion following the World Trade Center terrorist attacks and had been of the verge of their first sweep of Atlanta in 11 years.

They were about to close within 2 1/2 games of the Braves and two of the second-place Phillies, but just minutes after Benitez wasted his lead, Travis Lee hit a two-out homer in the ninth that tied Philadelphia's game against Florida, and the Phillies won 5-4 in 10 innings.

The Mets, who have captured New York's hearts by giving time, money and soothing words to the victims of the terrorist attacks, had gone 22-5 since Aug. 17, cutting 10 games from their deficit.

But Jordan stopped them with his second multihomer game this season, the 11th of his career. The second drive came off Jerrod Riggan (3-3).

ASTROS 7, CUBS 6: At Houston, Sammy Sosa became the first player to hit three home runs in a game three times in a season, but Moises Alou's two-run shot rallied the Houston Astros over the Chicago Cubs.

Sosa boosted his season total to 58 home runs. With a chance to tie the major league record for homers in a game, he hit a routine fly ball on a 3-0 pitch in the eighth inning.

The Astros' comeback gave them a 4 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central. The Cubs remained 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals for the wild card playoff spot.

PHILLIES 5, MARLINS 4 (10): At Philadelphia, Travis Lee homered with two outs in the ninth inning and Johnny Estrada connected leading off the 10th, rallying the Philadelphia Phillies over the Florida Marlins.

Lee homered twice in going 4-for-4. His solo shot on a 3-1 pitch from Marlins closer Antonio Alfonseca tied it in the ninth. Lee's 18th homer gave Alfonseca his sixth blown save in 33 chances.

PIRATES 2, CARDINALS 1: At Pittsburgh, Rob Mackowiak hit a tiebreaking homer and the Pittsburgh Pirates ended the St. Louis Cardinals' nine-game winning streak.

The loss — St. Louis' first since baseball resumed play Monday following a six-long break — prevented the Cardinals from becoming the majors' first team since the 1954 Milwaukee Braves with three winning streaks of 10 or more games in a season.

D-BACKS 6, DODGERS 1: At Los Angeles, Curt Schilling allowed five hits in eight innings for his major league-leading 21st victory, and Danny Bautista drove in the go-ahead run to trigger a five-run seventh as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The victory gave the NL West-leading Diamondbacks a split of the four-game series, leaving them four games ahead of the Dodgers, who lost for the seventh time in nine games. Both teams have 12 games left.

Arizona lead San Francisco by two games.

ROCKIES 5, EXPOS 3: At Montreal, Jose Ortiz and Larry Walker hit back-to-back homers in the ninth inning as the Colorado Rockies rallied past the Montreal Expos.

Trailing 3-2, Ortiz hit a two-run homer off Scott Stewart (1-1) with no outs in the ninth. Walker followed with his 34th homer on Stewart's next pitch.

Justin Speier (2-2) pitched a perfect eighth for the win. Jose Jimenez pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 21 opportunities.

BREWERS 6, REDS 3: At Milwaukee, Jamey Wright won for the first time in a month and the Milwaukee Brewers snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Wright (10-12), who was 1-7 wince the All-Star break, won for the first time since Aug. 23 and improved to 3-0 against Cincinnati this season. He allowed three runs and five hits in six innings.

Braves 5

Mets 4