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Pedro, Beltran lead Mets to first victory of season

ATLANTA (AP) -- At last, Willie Randolph can light up that
victory cigar. And fittingly, he has Pedro Martinez and Carlos
Beltran to thank for it.

Martinez pitched a two-hitter, Beltran hit a go-ahead homer and
the New York Mets finally won their first game of the season
Sunday, overcoming John Smoltz's 15 strikeouts in a 6-1 win over
the Atlanta Braves.

Before the season, star catcher Mike Piazza gave Randolph a
cigar to smoke in celebration of his first victory. But the rookie
manager had to wait seven long days as the Mets struggled to an 0-5
start -- their worst since 1963.

"I've got it in my bag and I'm definitely going to smoke it
when we get home," Randolph said, smiling.

Boosted by the victory, the Mets now head to New York for their
home opener Monday against Houston.

The Mets trailed 1-0 before Beltran's two-run homer chased
Smoltz in the eighth. Cliff Floyd and David Wright connected later
in the inning, and Martinez retired his final 16 batters in his
fourth career two-hitter.

"That was the best pitching I've ever seen in my career," New
York first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said.

Martinez (1-0) struck out nine and walked only one. After the
bullpen cost him a win on opening day in Cincinnati, the Mets' new
ace finished this one himself for his 43rd career complete game.

"Pedro said, 'I'm not coming out," Randolph said. "That's
just the kind of warrior he is."

Martinez was signed to a $53 million, four-year deal in the
offseason to give the team a stopper -- and that's exactly what he
did.

"Everybody was like, 'We've got to get going,' and I joined
them, too," he said.

After the last out, Randolph received hugs and handshakes in the
dugout.

"It's your first one, so it's always special when you get that
one out of the way," he said.

Smoltz (0-2) tied his Atlanta record for strikeouts and led 1-0
through seven innings. But Jose Reyes led off the eighth with a
single and moved up on Miguel Cairo's sacrifice before Beltran
drove a 2-1 pitch over the right-field fence.

Smoltz kicked the chalk on the first base line as he walked off
the field and tipped his cap in response to a standing ovation from
the Turner Field crowd of 36,601.

Even after the home run, he wanted to stay in the game.

"I felt like I was as strong as I needed to be and I didn't
have one second thought in the eighth inning," he said.

Smoltz pitched 7 1-3 innings, giving up eight hits and two runs
with no walks. He set the Atlanta record with 15 strikeouts against
Montreal on May 24, 1992.

"It's not a good sign going into a game 0-5 and facing that
dude," said Floyd, who struck out in each of his three at-bats
against Smoltz before hitting a home run off reliever Tom Martin.
"It wasn't fun."

Smoltz said Beltran "hit a pretty good pitch."

"It wasn't the best curveball that I've thrown, but it wasn't
the worst," Smoltz said.

Beltran's shot seemed to relax the Mets. Held to a combined four
runs while never leading in the first two games of the series, they
added three more in the eighth and one in the ninth to break the
game open.

After Floyd's homer, Mientkiewicz followed with a double off the
wall to chase Martin. Wright hit a two-run shot off Roman Colon for
a 5-1 lead.

Beltran added a run-scoring single in the ninth off Jorge Sosa.

Martinez didn't match Smoltz's strikeouts, but he was just as
sharp. His walk led to the Braves' only run in the fourth inning on
Johnny Estrada's RBI double.

Andruw Jones led off the second with a triple to left past a
diving Floyd for Atlanta's other hit, but third baseman Wright made
a running catch in shallow left field on a weak pop fly hit by
Estrada. Martinez struck out Adam LaRoche and ended the threat by
getting Brian Jordan on a fly ball.

Randolph made two lineup changes, starting Cairo at second base
and Ramon Castro as Martinez's catcher. Each had two hits.

The manager also let Martinez bat with a runner on in the
seventh even though he was trailing, a move that paid off.

Smoltz struck out the side in the second and sixth innings and
got at least two strikeouts in each of the first six innings. He
posted his 36th career game with 10 or more strikeouts and his
first since Oct. 1, 1999, when he fanned 11 Florida batters.

Game notes
With his third strikeout, Martinez tied David Cone for 19th
on the career list with 2,668. ... The only previous time Martinez
and Smoltz started against one another was July 24, 1994, when
Martinez and Montreal beat the Braves 6-4 at Atlanta-Fulton County
Stadium. Martinez earned the win but Smoltz was not involved in the
decision. ... The two last pitched in the same game on June 14,
2002, when Martinez took the 2-1 loss for Boston and Smoltz earned
the save.