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THERE'S NOMO STRUGGLING FOR METS' PITCHER

After running into a vintage pitching performance Wednesday, the Giants' four-game winning streak suddenly is no more.

Or, more precisely, Nomo.

In a performance reminiscent of his Dodgers glory days, Hideo Nomo pitched a three-hitter as the New York Mets beat the Giants, 4-1, at 3Com Park.

It started with Nomo retiring the first 12 Giants. It ended when Nomo got Jeff Kent to line into a double play in the ninth. There wasn't a whole lot in between.

"He had us eating out of his hands," said Giants manager Dusty Baker, whose team fell back into third place in the wild-card race, two games behind the Mets and one behind the Chicago Cubs.

"I've had better velocity and better stuff," Nomo said through an interpreter. "But I got ahead of the hitters and I was able to make them swing at my pitch."

His sixth victory (against 11 losses) was his first since July 28. He lasted beyond the seventh for the first time since April.

Before the game, the Mets announced Todd Hundley's outfield experiment is over. With his defensive play turning into a liability and his average down to .164, the Mets can't afford to play him in the midst of the NL wild card race.

Hundley, a two-time NL All-Star catcher, tried left field for the last 6 1/2 weeks after returning from reconstructive right elbow surgery that made it impossible for him to play catcher. Now he'll be restricted to pinch-hitting.

"It was a decision from everybody. We all agreed on it," Hundley said Wednesday.

Hershiser shows his class

When Barry Bonds hit his 400th homer Sunday, Bonds got the ball and the Hall of Fame got his spikes. And a Florida family got a financial boost, thanks to the generosity of Orel Hershiser.

Hershiser gave a $5,000 check to the family in exchange for the ball that San Francisco Giants teammate Bonds hit to become the first big-league player with 400 homers and 400 stolen bases.

The ball was caught in the right-field seats by Joe Sica of Hialeah, Fla., who offered to give Bonds the ball in exchange for an autograph.

"The game was going on and the family was brought to the clubhouse. They didn't want any money, they just wanted to meet Barry and get an autograph. They were going to give him the ball," Hershiser said Wednesday.

"They had been offered $5,000 (by collectors) for it and I could see that it was a sensitive issue, because the wife had tears in her eyes," Hershiser said. "They were good people who were short of money. So I didn't hesitate in telling them I would get them their money."

Hershiser told Giants traveling secretary Reggie Younger Jr. to write the Sicas a check for $5,000 and then deduct it from his paycheck. When Bonds came out of the game, Hershiser gave him the ball. Hershiser said Bonds offered to repay him, but he refused.

Around the horn

John Smoltz won his eighth straight decision and Javy Lopez hit a two-run homer as the Braves snapped the Astros' five-game winning streak, 6-2. Braves third baseman Chipper Jones pulled muscles in his right rib cage in batting practice, then aggravated the injury when he flied out in the first inning. He left the game and is expected to miss a few days. . . . Bill Pulsipher pitched six shutout innings, Jeff Cirillo hit a solo home run and Phil Garner earned his 500th victory as a major league manager as the Brewers beat the Rockies, 6-5. . . . Joey Hamilton pitched seven strong innings and Steve Finley homered for the Padres in a 2-0 victory over the Phillies. . . . Eric Young's home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Dodgers a 4-3 win over the Expos. . . . Kevin Polcovich drove in three runs and the Pirates won their ninth straight game, 4-3 over the Diamondbacks.

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