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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / NATIONAL LEAGUE

Agbayani Is Man of Hour as Mets Save Best for Last

Game 3: His solo home run in bottom of 13th inning gives New York 3-2 victory over Giants and 2-1 lead in division series.

October 08, 2000|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — One pitch into the game, New York Met fans applauded what they saw on the scoreboard. More than five hours later, Benny Agbayani sent them home cheering even louder.

Agbayani produced the latest piece of postseason magic for the Mets, hitting a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the 13th inning for a 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night at Shea Stadium.

Agbayani flipped his bat high in the air, Barry Bonds watched the ball sail over the left-field wall, and the Mets took a 2-1 lead in the division series by winning another playoff game in their final at-bat.

"It's a great feeling to be the man," Agbayani said. "We're one of those teams that never say die. We know anything can happen."

The Mets returned home after their emotional 5-4 victory in 10 innings at Pacific Bell Park on Thursday night, and the sellout crowd of 56,270 immediately got a good omen.

As the Giants' Marvin Benard batted to start the game, the scoreboard posted this final score: St. Louis 7, Atlanta 1. The Cardinals had swept the Mets' biggest nemesis, the Braves, out of the playoffs and the fans responded with a standing ovation and a mock tomahawk chop.

On a day--and night--when both teams blew several chances in extra innings, Agbayani's shot on a 1-0 pitch from Aaron Fultz ended it.

The game took five hours, 22 minutes and if it had a familiar ring for the Mets and their fans, there was good reason.

In the previous playoff game at Shea, the Mets beat Atlanta, 4-3, last Oct. 17 in the league championship series on Robin Ventura's grand slam-single in the 15th inning. That game took 5 hours 46 minutes.

"These are always nerve-racking," Met catcher Mike Piazza said. "A lot of guys really couldn't swallow out there."

Rick White, the Mets' sixth pitcher, earned the victory as Met relievers combined for seven scoreless innings. Giant relief ace Robb Nen gave up a run-scoring double to Edgardo Alfonzo in the eighth that tied the score, 2-2.

The Mets' last five postseason wins have come in their final at-bat.

"Brilliant finish. Gutted it out," Met Manager Bobby Valentine said. "Everyone did their little parts."

Agbayani had been hitless in five at-bats before his home run. In the 11th, with runners on first and second and no outs, he failed to put down a sacrifice bunt and eventually hit a fly ball that was caught.

Against Fultz, his fly ball won it.

"That was the redemption right there," Agbayani said.

Agbayani was not even guaranteed a roster spot coming out of spring training. His pinch-hit grand slam at Tokyo in the second game of the season may have saved him. Until Saturday, he was best-known this year for handing a live ball to a fan in left field.

"I guess I won't be remembered just for that anymore," he said.

Bonds was hitless in five at-bats, continuing his postseason struggles. He had his best chance in the 13th, but popped out with runners on first and second against White to end the inning.

"If you read his track record, he hasn't done very good in the postseason," White said. "So that's all I was thinking about, was just don't make a mistake here."

Said Bonds: "We just need to go to bed and let it go. Today is over with."

Held hitless for five innings by Russ Ortiz, the Mets tied it on Alfonzo's two-out hit in the eighth.

Nen had converted 28 consecutive save chances. His previous blown save came the last time he entered in the eighth, on July 2 against the Dodgers.

Ortiz began the game with a 4-0 career record and a 2.83 earned-run average against the Mets.

He was just as tough this time, becoming the first pitcher to take a no-hit bid into the sixth during the postseason since David Cone did it for the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series against San Diego.

Mike Bordick drew a four-pitch walk to start the sixth and pinch-hitter Darryl Hamilton followed with a single. Timo Perez also singled, cutting the Giants' lead to 2-1.

The Giants scored twice in the fourth against Rick Reed. Bobby Estalella and Benard had run-scoring singles.

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