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BASEBALL EXTRA

Defensive Replacement Is Finally a Hit for the Mets

June 20, 1997|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Jason Hardtke got his first hit of the season, a one-out single in the ninth inning Thursday night that drove in the winning run and gave the New York Mets a 7-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Dale Sveum hit a three-run homer off Met relief ace John Franco in the top of the ninth, tying it at 6-6. Earlier in the inning, Hardtke was wiped out at second base trying to turn a game-ending double play.

In the bottom of the ninth, Ricardo Rincon (2-4) walked Todd Hundley and Carl Everett with one out. Hardtke followed with a single into right-center, and there was no play at the plate.

"I was itching to play," said Hardtke, a defensive replacement for second baseman Carlos Baerga in the seventh inning. "When I came into the dugout in the ninth inning, I knew I was the fifth batter and that I might get a chance to do some damage.

"I got a pitch over the plate that I could handle and I just drove it. This would've been a real tough loss after having that big lead."

Hardtke, who played 19 games and batted .193 with the Mets last year, was surprised that he was called up on Monday.

"It caught me by surprise," he said. "Kevin Morgan [also an infielder] had been called up three days prior so I didn't think I would get the call at this time. I was happy I was able to contribute. It was a crucial at-bat, and all I was trying to do was keep the rally going."

Franco (1-1), trying to tie Rollie Fingers for fourth place on the career saves list with 341, blew the opportunity when he gave up his first homer in 27 innings this season.

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