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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / NATIONAL LEAGUE

Mets Fight Back After Giants Get Dramatic

Game 2: Payton's single in 10th inning sparks 5-4 victory and ties series after Snow rallies Sk Francisco with home run.

October 06, 2000|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCxISCO — Say what you will about the New York Mets, but they have a fairly well developed sense of timing.

After watching J.T. Snow crush a one-out, three-run, game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets came right back and pushed across a run in the top of the 10th Thursday night to pull out a 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Pacific Bell Park and tie the National League division series at 1-1.

Snow's pinch-hit home run off Armando Benitez spoiled an otherwise dominating performance by Met starter Al Leiter, who left in the ninth with a 4-1 lead. That lasted until Snow launched a high, arching drive that pierced the fog floating over the brick wall in right field.

If the Mets were supposed to be deflated by Snow's home run, Jay Payton said that's not at all how they felt.

"We knew we were going to get up there with another chance to swing the bats," he said.

And so they did. In the 10th, a two-out double by ex-Giant Darryl Hamilton and a single by Payton off Felix Rodriguez gave the Mets their winning run.

The Giants had one more chance left, too, but John Franco struck out Barry Bonds with a runner on first to end the game.

Afterward, Franco offered a brief summary of what had just transpired in 3 hours and 41 minutes.

"Jay got the big hit and I got the big out," he said.

The last two innings proved once again why there is such a premium on relief pitching. Giant closer Robb Nen never got into the game, but set-up man Rodriguez was torched for three runs and four hits in two innings.

Then there was Benitez, who had a team-record 41 saves this year, but gave up three hits and two runs in the ninth. It was left to Franco, the man Benitez replaced as the Met closer, to get the job done.

He accomplished just that by facing three batters in the 10th, striking out Bonds with a nasty changeup.

"I've made my living 17 years with that pitch," Franco said.

No one was happier with the victory than Leiter, who jumped with glee in the dugout, but he probably deserved a better fate with the way he pitched. So how smooth was Leiter? Leiter fluid. Leiter than air. Something like that, anyway.

But as the fog rolled in, the Mets rolled on.

Two outs from a Giant defeat, Snow lofted a soaring drive just inside the right-field foul pole, signaling the ball to stay in fair territory and following its flight as he ran toward first base.

Snow wasn't impressed by his dramatic home run.

"We lost," he said. "[The home run] doesn't really matter. We lost a game that would have been nice to win."

Leiter had allowed just five hits in eight innings, only two after the fourth inning, and looked like he was home safely when Benitez took over in the ninth.

Leiter had protected a 2-1 lead from the third until the ninth, when Edgardo Alfonzo's two-run homer off Rodriguez seemed to provide the Mets a degree of breathing room.

But Leiter gave up a leadoff double to Bonds and Benitez came on in relief. Jeff Kent beat out a single to shortstop, sliding into first just ahead of the throw. Ellis Burks flied out to right field to bring up Snow with one out.

On a two-and-one count, Snow swung and connected. Once the ball dropped into the stands and Snow touched home plate, the game was tied, 4-4.

Met Manager Bobby Valentine pointed out that the Mets have the next two games at home--Game 3 is Saturday at Shea Stadium--and they can close out the Giants by winning both.

Such a possibility did not seem to exist when Snow hit his home run, but Valentine remained confident.

"It all worked out fine," he said. "This team never does cease to amaze me."

The Mets scored twice in the third inning off Shawn Estes on a two-out, two-run single by Timo Perez, who wouldn't even have played if regular right fielder Derek Bell had not injured his ankle in Game 1.

Estes didn't know how to find the plate in the second inning and it cost him. He also didn't know how to slide in the third inning and it really cost him.

The Mets pushed across two runs in the second on just one hit, a circumstance helped along by Estes' wildness. He hit Robin Ventura with a pitch and walked Benny Agbayani on four pitches. Then, after a fielder's choice, Estes walked Mike Bordick on four pitches.

Leiter forced Ventura at the plate for the second out, but Perez smacked a single up the middle to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

A single and stolen base by Kent and a double into the left-field corner by Burks downsized the Mets' lead to 2-1 in the second.

The Giants were threatening again in the third after Estes drew a walk. With one out, Bill Mueller singled to deep shortstop, but as Estes reached second, he failed to slide and twisted his left ankle as he hit the bag just ahead of the throw.

He was safe, but not for long. Limping off the base, Estes was tagged out. Trainers worked on his ankle after he was helped off the field, but Estes could not continue and left the game, replaced by Kirk Rueter. As a precaution, X-rays were taken of Estes' ankle, but they were negative.

Giant Manager Dusty Baker said Estes is a good baserunner, even if it didn't appear that way this time.

"He should have slid," Baker said. "When in doubt, slide."

The Giants' long relievers kept the game close until the ninth when Rodriguez allowed a single by Perez, his third hit of the game, then was tagged for the two-out, two-run home run into left-center by Alfonzo on a two-ball count to put the Mets ahead, 4-1.

Baker said it seemed to him that there were a lot of two-out hits.

"And they got the last one," he said.

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