Matt Franco, who blamed himself for a loss the previous day, came through with an RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning last night that lifted the New York Mets over the visiting Houston Astros, 3-2.

New York remained a half-game behind Atlanta in the NL East. The Astros held their half-game lead over Cincinnati in the NL Central.

A day earlier, Franco grounded into a bases-loaded double play and also misplayed a fly ball into a three-run double during the Mets' 7-5 loss to St. Louis in the second game of a doubleheader.

Franco quickly atoned with his team-leading 13th pinch-hit in 46 tries.

Manager Bobby Valentine "talked to me before the game and said don't worry about it, this is a new day," Franco said. "Boy, was it."

EXPOS 11, CARDINALS 7: Vladimir Guerrero had three hits, including his 30th homer, to extend his hitting streak to 28 games and the St. Louis bullpen blew highly touted Rick Ankiel's major league debut in the Cardinals' loss in Montreal.

Ankiel, the top pitching prospect in the majors, allowed three runs and five hits in five-plus innings. He walked three and struck out six.

BRAVES 6, REDS 2: Chipper Jones homered and drove in three runs, Kevin Millwood pitched three-hit ball over seven innings and Atlanta beat visiting Cincinnati.

The Braves stole seven bases -- one short of the franchise record -- and scored on a wild pitch that rolled no more than four feet from the plate. The NL's best home team, Atlanta improved its mark at Turner Field to 43-21. The Reds still have the top road mark (38-18) in the majors.

Atlanta scored two runs in the first, third and seventh -- and Jones was at the center of all three innings. He hit a two-run homer in the first, had an RBI double and scored in the third, and walked, stole two bases and scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.

PADRES 7, PHILLIES 6: Woody Williams struck out a career-high 12 in six innings, and Manager Bruce Bochy's call to the bullpen nearly backfired as San Diego held on in Philadelphia. Leading 6-1, Williams was lifted after a dominant sixth despite having thrown only 104 pitches in the game. "Without question, that got a little bit too exciting," Bochy said.

The Phillies' Scott Rolen tied the major league record for a nine-inning game by striking out five times.

DODGERS 8, BREWERS 4: Devon White hit a three-run double to cap a five-run fifth inning and Darren Dreifort pitched eight solid innings to lead Los Angeles in Milwaukee. Dreifort (11-12) allowed three runs and seven hits, striking out four and walking one. Los Angeles scored five unearned runs in the fifth inning on one hit, four walks and an error by shortstop Jose Valentin.

DIAMONDBACKS 2, PIRATES 1: Rob Ryan homered for his first major league hit and Arizona beat Pittsburgh for its 12th victory in 15 games. Steve Finley doubled in a run off Francisco Cordova (8-6).

GIANTS-CUBS, PPD.: San Francisco's game in Chicago was postponed by rain. The teams will play a doubleheader today, starting at 1:05 p.m.