New York Mets manager Willie Randolph issued an apology to team ownership, the club's TV network and his players "for the unnecessary distraction" he created by suggesting he was portrayed in a different manner than white managers.

Randolph, the Mets' first black manager, created a stir with comments he made that appeared Monday in The Record, of Hackensack, N.J.

Randolph brought up race when he questioned the way he has been presented by SNY, the team's TV network.

"Is it racial?" Randolph was quoted in the story. "Huh? It smells a little bit . . . I don't know how to put my finger on it, but I think there's something there."

Before the Mets played the Braves last night, Randolph began by saying, "I just wrote down some notes I want to share with you guys."

"First of all, I want to apologize to the Mets ownership, SNY and my team for the unnecessary distraction that I created, that I caused the last couple days," he said. "I shouldn't have said what I said. It was a mistake. As simple as that. It was a mistake.

"And there is no excuse for that. No excuses. I own up to it. The fact of life is that we haven't been playing very well as a team. We've been very inconsistent. We've talked about that before. When it happens, you're going to get criticized for that. I understand that."

Randolph said he wasn't asked by Mets management to issue the apology.

"It's been a tough couple months for my team, for myself," he said. "I understand that goes along with that. I've known that for a long time."

Mets infielder Damion Easley said Randolph's comments had not caused a stir in the clubhouse.

"I didn't feel like it was a distraction," Easley said. "I only know bits and pieces. It doesn't change the fact that we've got to play better baseball and the sooner the better. So as far as creating a distraction, I didn't feel like that was a distraction."

Pressure on Randolph, which began with a late-season collapse to miss the playoffs last year, has increased. The Mets (22-21) entered Wednesday night's game only one game over .500 with losses in four of their last six games.

In another Mets matter, righthander Pedro Martinez returned to the Dominican Republic to be with his sick father, delaying plans to test his ailing hamstring.

Martinez had planned to rejoin the New York Mets for a bullpen session yesterday. But his father, Jaime, 78, is suffering from a form of brain cancer and experienced a setback.

In games yesterday:

* At Miami, Florida scored its first run on a suicide squeeze, and Ricky Nolasco (3-3) allowed three hits over seven innings to beat Brandon Webb (9-1) and Arizona, 3-1.

* At Houston, Shawn Chacon (1-0) pitched seven solid innings for his first win this season, breaking his major league record streak of nine straight no-decisions to start a season in the Astros' 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

* At Atlanta, Jeff Francoeur, back in the lineup after a rare night off, homered and drove in four runs to help the Braves beat the New York Mets, 11-4, for their third straight win in the series.

* At Denver, Omar Vizquel doubled to start a game-tying rally in the ninth and then drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 10th, leading San Francisco to a 3-2 win over Colorado.

* At Pittsburgh, Ben Sheets (5-1) limited the Pirates to one run despite allowing 11 hits in his second complete game of the season, and Rickie Weeks homered and scored twice, leading Milwaukee to a 4-1 victory. *