Work in Sports
Agbayani's blast boosts Mets past Giants in 13th
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 and a 2-1 lead in the NL division series.
Agbayani flipped his bat high in the air, Barry Bonds watched the ball sail over the left-field wall, and the Mets had won 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 Marvin Benard batted leading off the game, the scoreboard posted this final score: St. Louis 7, Atlanta 1. The Cardinals had swept the Mets' biggest thorn, the Braves, out of the playoffs and the fans at Shea Stadium 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.
"I don't know what inning it was. It was long," Giants manager Dusty Baker said.
The game took five hours, 22 minutes and if it had a familiar ring for the Mets and their fans, there was a good reason.
In the previous playoff game at Shea, the Mets beat Atlanta 4-3 last Oct. 17 in the NL championship series on Robin Ventura's grand slam-single in the 15th inning. That one took 5:46.
"These are always nerve-wracking," Mets catcher Mike Piazza said. "A lot of guys really couldn't swallow out there."
Rick White, New York's sixth pitcher, wound up with the win as Mets relievers combined for seven scoreless innings. Giants relief ace Robb Nen gave up an RBI double to Edgardo Alfonzo in the eighth that made it 2-all.
The Mets' last five postseason wins have all come in their final at-bat.
"Brilliant finish. Gutted it out," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "Everyone did their little parts."
Agbayani had been 0-for-5 in the game. In the 11th, with runners on first and second and no outs, he failed to get a sacrifice bunt down and eventually hit a harmless fly ball.
Against Fultz, his fly ball won it.
Not bad for a guy who was not even guaranteed a roster spot coming out of spring training. His pinch-hit grand slam in Tokyo in the second game of the season may have saved him -- still, 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 finished 0-for-5, continuing his postseason struggles. He had his best chance in the 13th, but popped up 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 nemesis Russ Ortiz, the Mets tied it on Alfonzo's two-out hit in the eighth.
Nen had converted 28 straight save chances. Coincidentally -- or perhaps not -- his previous blown save came the last time he'd entered in the eighth, on July 2 against Los Angeles.
Later, even a bit of intrigue. With New York batting in the 10th, plate umpire Jerry Crawford walked toward a small camera that rested on the padding against the backstop, about waist-high.
Valentine, suspected by some of using electronic equipment to steal opponents' signals, sauntered out of the dugout. And as if to prove nothing was sinister, he took a white towel and covered the camera.
An inning later, the camera was gone.
Ortiz, who earned his first major league victory at Shea in 1998, began the game with a 4-0 career record and a 2.83 ERA 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 for the 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. Late-season sensation Timo Perez also singled, cutting the Giants' lead to 2-1.
San Francisco scored twice in the fourth against Rick Reed. Bobby Estalella and Benard had RBI singles for their first hits in the series.
Notes: Giants LHP Shawn Estes remains on crutches with a sprained left ankle, and his status for the rest of the postseason is uncertain. ... Mets OF Derek Bell, out for the remainder of the postseason because of a sprained right ankle, hobbled to home plate on crutches for the pregame introductions. ... With the Giants and Oakland Athletics both in the playoffs and staying at the same Manhattan hotel this weekend, old friends got to visit. Aurilia caught up with a former high school rival, A's infielder Frank Menechino, on Friday night.