Hart continues tear as road-weary Mets fall to rising Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Corey Hart no longer comes into the clubhouse anxiously looking at the lineup card to see if he's playing. On a team with sluggers such as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, Hart is currently the Brewers' best bopper.

Hart hit a grand slam and a two-run homer in his first two times up to lift the Milwaukee Brewers to an 8-6 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday night.

"Hopefully I can stay comfortable and keep producing," Hart said. "For us, we've been up and down and we've tried to solidify the consistency in the lineup. I think that just helps to take pressure of those guys if I can stay on good pace."

Hart's homers in the first and third gave him 12 for the season, tying his total from last year, and three in three consecutive plate appearances. He belted the first game-winning homer of his career Friday night to snap New York's five-game winning streak and 35-inning shutout streak.

Ike Davis hit a three-run shot for New York, but the Mets dropped to 6-16 away from Citi Field with a 3-12 mark in this month.

"I still see some fight in the team. I see us coming back in games, scoring in different frames and having opportunities. I still see a lot of positives happening on the road," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "We just can't seem to get over the hump. I think we will."

All 14 runs were scored in the first four innings, but Todd Coffey (2-1) came in for Milwaukee with the bases loaded in the fifth. He went on to retire seven straight batters after being forced to use a different glove from his light tan version for the first time in his six-year career.

Manuel said he told the umpires about his concerns with the glove.

"I'll get a clarification on the rules," said Coffey, who wore a backup black glove. "Let's be honest, all I do is catch it back from the catcher."

Carlos Villanueva pitched a perfect eighth and John Axford -- not all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman -- pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save. The three relievers combined to retire the last 13 batters.

"It's a tough situation to be in," Axford said. "I don't hold a flame to Trevor Hoffman. I'm not thinking about that, really. I'm just trying to get my job done."

Brewers manager Ken Macha said Axford's performances have made it hard not to keep him in the ninth-inning role.

"I'm not eliminating Trevor," Macha said. "I want to give him a few more innings, but it'll be nice if we have coverage like that."

George Kottaras also went deep for the Brewers, who have won four of their last five at home after a 4-14 start at Miller Park.

Hart temporarily lost his starting job to begin the season. He heard plenty of boos early, but that's long forgotten now after nine homers and 19 RBIs in his last 14 games.

"I've had some critics out there, but it's nice from not playing every day to being in there and producing," Hart said. "It was a rough start because I was trying to win them back."

Hart's 12 homers are just three less than the combined total of 15 by All-Stars Fielder (seven) and Braun (eight).

Mets starter Fernando Nieve (1-3) got two outs to start the first before loading the bases on Braun's double and two walks. Hart hit a breaking ball that didn't move much over the Brewers bullpen on nearly the same path of his Friday night homer for his first grand slam.

"I had some concerns but I felt that he deserved an opportunity to start," Manuel said of Nieve's first start this season while the Mets deal with injuries to their starting rotation.

Kottaras added his solo shot in the second and Hart came out for a curtain call after his two-run homer off Oliver Perez in the third made it 7-3. Davis answered the next inning against reliever Marco Estrada to make it 7-6, but Rickie Weeks tripled to start the fourth and scored on a double-play grounder by Braun.

A night after Johan Santana and Yovani Gallardo shut down hitters until the bottom of the ninth, the hitters got their revenge against spot starters.

Nieve lasted two innings in his first start of the season, giving up five runs and Perez allowed three. Brewers starter Manny Parra gave up three runs in three innings and Estrada was tagged for three more.

"I wasn't sharp enough," Nieve said. "I was behind too many people."

Game notes
Mets LHP Jonathon Niese (right hamstring) threw 35 pitches in a Saturday bullpen session and will start in Triple-A Buffalo on Monday. ... Both teams wore Negro League throwback uniforms representing the Milwaukee Bears (1923) and the New York Cubans (1935-36, 1939-50). ... The Brewers purchased the contract of LHP Chris Capuano and designated RHP Claudio Vargas for assignment.