Work in Sports
Mets advance to NLCS behind Jones' one-hit shutout
NEW YORK (AP) -- Bobby J. Jones made a name for himself and carved out a place in postseason lore.
Known as much for being one of two Bobby Joneses on the Mets as for his own pitching, Jones threw the sixth complete game one-hitter in postseason history as the Mets eliminated the Giants with a 4-0 win in Game 4 of their NL Division Series Sunday.
Left off last year's playoff roster and sent to the minors in June, Jones pitched the first one-hit shutout in the postseason since Boston's Jim Lonborg in the 1967 World Series against St. Louis.
"At that time, I was not helping the ballclub," Jones said of his two-week trip to Triple-A Norfolk. "After experiencing the playoffs last year and not being a part of it, I wanted to come back in the best shape and have a great year. The way I pitched was obviously not the way I was capable of throwing."
Jones limited the Giants to a clean, fifth-inning double by Jeff Kent as the wild-card Mets won the final three games of the series to avoid a cross-country trip and a decisive Game 5 in San Francisco.
New York earned themselves two days off before opening the NLCS in St. Louis on Wednesday. The Mets were 6-3 against the Cardinals this season.
"It's not going to be easy," Jones said. "They're a great team and play great baseball. We just have to go out and play the best we can."
The Giants (97-65), who finished with the best record in the majors, had their magical season end with a whimper, in part because Barry Bonds was a postseason bust again.
Bonds dropped to 0-5 in playoff series -- three with Pittsburgh, two with the Giants -- with a .196 batting average overall. Fittingly, the three-time MVP made the final out of the series, hitting a fly ball to center field that left him 3-for-17 against the Mets.
Fireworks shot out from behind the center-field fence and the Mets shot out of their dugout to mob Jones on the infield. The Baha Men's "Who Let The Dogs Out" -- the song that blared throughout Pacific Bell Park when San Francisco clinched the NL West -- played as the Bonds and the Giants glumly walked to the clubhouse.
"I'll keep trying," Bonds said.
After a few minutes, a leaping Lenny Harris led the Mets to a celebration in the clubhouse. Jones' teammates chanted his name as they doused each other with champagne.
"I'm so happy for Bobby Jones," Al Leiter said. "I'm so proud of him. To go out and pitch the best game of his life and dismiss all the critics who thought this was a bad decision ... He went out and nailed it."
Mets' right-hander Bobby Jones called it "probably" the best game he's ever pitched.
It would be hard to imagine the 30-year-old coming up with a better performance than his stunning complete-game, one-hit gem on Sunday.
Jones faced only three batters over the minimum, and stifled the powerful Giants' lineup, striking out five and walking just two.
"Tonight, I just felt I could throw the ball wherever I wanted to. I had confidence in all of my pitches," said Jones.
Shea Stadium was still filled with electricity from Saturday night's 3-2 Mets win in 13 innings. Fans chanted Benny Agbayani's name as he stretched before the game, about 18 hours after his homer had brought the Mets one win away from the NLCS.
That was New York's fifth consecutive postseason win in the last at-bat, a streak that includes a 5-4, 10-inning victory in Game 2 at San Francisco.
Mets fans didn't need to wait nearly as long this game. Jones struck out Bonds on a high fastball to end the first, drawing an ovation from a crowd ready for another celebration.
Robin Ventura gave them much more to cheer about in the bottom half. After Mark Gardner walked Mike Piazza with two outs, Ventura turned on a first-pitch fastball and hit it off the scoreboard in right field for just his second hit in the series.
"He's an aggressive pitcher and tries to jump ahead," Ventura said. "I was a little lucky."
That would be all Jones needed, pitching his first shutout since 1997. After struggling to a 1-3 record with a 10.19 ERA after eight starts, the right-hander was banished to the minors and bashed in the newspapers. He returned two weeks later and won 10 of his final 13 decisions.
Jones wasn't even certain to start in this series. Manager Bobby Valentine toyed with the idea of starting Mike Hampton on three days' rest or using left-hander Glendon Rusch in Game 4, but stuck with Jones.
"If he needed vindication, I'm glad he got it," Valentine said. "People like to look at the speed gun and say he's not an upper-echelon pitcher. But it's what he does with that 84 mph fastball that torments people."
Jones made the decision pay off. He baffled the Giants with big breaking curveballs that didn't even reach 70 mph. He struck out Bonds twice -- both to big ovations -- and retired the first 12 batters before Kent's double over Ventura's head down the left-field line.
"I figured we would pop one," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "It wasn't a one-hitter where he was completely dominating. We hit some balls hard. He pitched a great game and pitched to his defense."
One of the biggest decisions in the game came in the fifth inning. San Francisco loaded the bases with two outs and Gardner coming up. With a weary bullpen, Baker chose to let his pitcher hit, and Gardner popped out to second base.
"I figured we'd get some runs," Baker said. "I don't regret it. If you don't have a full bullpen, you don't have a full bullpen."
Making the move even worse, the Mets knocked Gardner out with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Jones swung and missed at strike three in the dirt, but reached first on a wild pitch.
Late-season callup Timo Perez followed with a double to the right-field corner, his fifth hit of the series. Edgardo Alfonzo hit a two-run double to center to make it 4-0.
Jones then retired the final 13 batters, making him perfect in every inning but the fifth.
"Just textbook pitching. He really knew how to work the hitters," Piazza said. "As the game wore on he just got tougher and tougher."
Notes: Atlanta's Kevin Millwood pitched the last postseason one-hitter in Game 2 of the Braves' division series against Houston last year. ... San Francisco hadn't lost three straight games since dropping three to the Mets at Shea Stadium Aug. 8-11. ... Gardner allowed four runs, four hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings.