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Mets 8, Braves 7

September 7, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Edgardo Alfonzo’s two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning Monday rallied New York to an 8-7 win over the Atlanta Braves that moved the Mets into a tie for the NL wild-card lead.

Alfonzo’s 16th homer came off John Rocker (1-2) allowed the Mets to pull even with the Chicago Cubs, who lost 3-2 at St. Louis as the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire hit his record-tying 61st homer.

Before Alfonzo’s homer, which gave the Mets their major league-leading 32nd one-run victory, the fans at Shea Stadium endured a 1-hour, 48-minute rain delay as a violent thunderstorm ripped through the ballpark in the fourth inning.

Greg McMichael (3-4), the Mets’ fourth reliever, pitched the eighth and John Franco worked the ninth for his 33rd save.

Luis Lopez matched a career-high with four RBIs and Tony Phillips homered for the Mets, who took three of four from the NL East leaders and begin a 10-game road trip Tuesday at Philadelphia.

Andruw Jones homered for the Braves, who overcame an early four-run deficit. Atlanta took a 7-6 lead by scoring five runs in the sixth with two outs.

New York, shut out on three hits by John Smoltz on Sunday, got a two-run homer from Lopez and a solo shot from Phillips off rookie emergency starter Bruce Chen to take a 3-0 lead in the second.

The Mets got another run in the third on Brian McRae’s RBI single, and with starter Masato Yoshii looking strong, New York appeared to be in control.

Then day turned to night.

The game was halted before the top of fourth by a tornado-producing storm. As the sky darkened, plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck waved both teams off the field and the stadium grounds crew scrambled to get the infield tarp down.

While the crew was securing the covering, a huge gust created an air bubble under it, causing it to flap uncontrollably in the wind. New York manager Bobby Valentine, his coaches and Mets ballboys came to the crew’s rescue and held down the tarp while additional weight was placed on top.

When play resumed, Yoshii was replaced by Willie Blair and the Braves quickly trimmed it to 4-2 on Eddie Perez’s RBI single and Ozzie Guillen’s sacrifice fly.

Lopez’s two-run double in the fifth off Dennis Martinez put New York back up by four, but the Braves answered with two outs in the sixth by scoring five runs on six hits and a walk.

Jones hit his 28th homer and two other runs scored when Gerald Williams’ routine fly to right-center fell for a triple.

Chen, a 21-year-old left-hander, made his major league debut when Denny Neagle was scratched with soreness in his shoulder. Neagle is expected to make his next start, however.

With lightning bolts providing an eerie backdrop during the rain delay, fans ducked under cover and watched WGN’s broadcast of the Cubs-Cardinals game from St. Louis on the stadium videoboard.

Notes: It was the Mets’ 37th come-from-behind win and their 19th victory in their last at-bat. ... New York first baseman John Olerud’s wife, Kelly, is overdue for the birth of the couple’s first child. Mets trainer Fred Hina is wearing Olerud’s beeper during games in case Kelly goes into labor. ... Before the game, the Mets introduced Jorge Luis Toca, a power-hitting Cuban first baseman/outfielder they’ve signed to a minor-league contract. Toca, who defected earlier this year, was on the Cuban national teammate with Livan and ``El Duque″ Hernandez. He played on a junior team with Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez. ... In seven rehab starts for Triple-A Norfolk, Todd Hundley is hitting .500 (10-for-20) with three homers and 11 RBIs. Hundley, on the 15-day disabled list, is expected to rejoin the Mets in Philadelphia on Tuesday.