Work in Sports
Rookie sparks Mets to extra-inning win at Pac Bell
After Payton's go-ahead single in the 10th inning, John Franco did what Armando Benitez couldn't: Franco closed it out as the New York Mets overcame a game-tying, three-run homer by Snow in the bottom of the ninth to beat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 Thursday night.
Edgardo Alfonzo had a two-run homer in the ninth for the Mets, who evened their best-of-five Division Series at 1-1 and won for the first time in six games at Pacific Bell Park.
Game 3 is Saturday at Shea Stadium.
Given a 4-1 lead in the ninth, Benitez wasted a standout performance from Al Leiter, who held the Giants to five hits in eight-plus innings.
"We won at this ballpark. I think that's really good for us," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "Al Leiter is fabulous. I'm proud of this group, that wasn't an easy win. This time of the year, they're not supposed to be easy. I'm proud of the guys."
When Leiter gave up a leadoff double to Barry Bonds in the ninth, the Mets went to the bullpen for Benitez, a closer with a sobering history of poor postseason performances.
Jeff Kent reached on an infield single and, one out later, Snow launched the first pinch-hit homer of his career.
The ball hit the facing of the walkway over right field at Pac Bell and landed maybe two feet to the left of the foul pole.
As the Giants' fans went wild, Benitez's shoulders sagged into an all-too-familiar pose. He allowed three game-deciding hits the 1997 AL Championship Series while he was with Baltimore, including a game-winning homer by Tony Fernandez that broke up a scoreless tie in the 11th inning of the series finale and a three-run, go-ahead homer by Marquis Grissom in the eighth inning of Game 3.
But the Mets came back in the 10th with a two-out double by Darryl Hamilton, who struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the Mets' 5-1 series-opening loss on Wednesday.
Hamilton, who missed about four months of the season because of an arthritic left toe, lined the ball the right-center and managed to get to second. Payton followed with a run-scoring single to center off Giants setup man Felix Rodriguez.
"We knew we were going to get another chance to go up there and swing the bats," Payton said. "Fortunately, it worked out for us."
Franco got the first postseason save of his 16-year career with a gutsy performance in the 10th. Armando Rios reached second on a pinch-hit single and a sacrifice, but Rios tried to take third on Bill Mueller's grounder and was thrown out by shortstop Mike Bordick.
Franco ended things dramatically by throwing a called third strike past Bonds, a curveball that hooked just over the inside corner.
"Tonight was my turn to pick Armando up. He's picked me up," Franco said. "Now we want to go to Shea with our fans. They've got pretty good fans here, but hopefully our place will be rocking."
Until the ninth-inning craziness, the game was dominated by Leiter. He appeared poised to get his first postseason win since 1993.
After allowing a run in the second inning, Leiter held the Giants hitless for 4 2/3 innings -- from the third until the eighth. He didn't allow another runner even to reach second base until the ninth.
"I kind of feel bad for Armando. He's been there for us all year," Leiter said. "I'm happy right now. Doesn't seem like we do it easy, but that will hopefully build momentum for Game 3."
The Giants lost starting pitcher Shawn Estes in the third inning when he jammed his left ankle into second base while trying to beat out a force play. Estes limped off the bag and was tagged out.
Estes, who wasn't sharp in the three innings he pitched, sustained a sprained ankle on the play and was replaced by Kirk Rueter, the Giants' No. 4 starter during the regular season.
Timo Perez had a two-run single to center in the second inning for New York. San Francisco got one run in the second on Ellis Burks' RBI double.
Alfonzo, who had three homers in last year's Division Series against Arizona, hit his fourth postseason homer in the ninth against Rodriguez. The drive to one of the deepest parts of Pac Bell scored Perez.
Mike Piazza's career .200 playoff average got a boost as the Mets' star catcher went 2-for-4 with a double, though neither of his hits led to runs.
Bonds, who had two key hits Wednesday after a career of poor playoff performances, was 1-for-5 and struck out to end the game.
Notes: Because of Baker's lineup adjustments, Kent made a rare appearance at first base and Ramon Martinez started at second. ... X-rays on Estes' ankle were negative. He's day to day. ... Russ Ortiz (13-12) pitches for the Giants in Game 3 against Rick Reed (11-5).