Posted: Wednesday October 06, 1999 02:44 AM
PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Edgardo Alfonzo's first homer showed the New York Mets that Randy Johnson could be beaten. His second homer finished the job.
Alfonzo opened the scoring with a first-inning homer and closed it with a monstrous grand slam in the ninth as the New York Mets ambushed Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks, 8-4, in Game One of their National League Division Series.
After winning a one-game playoff in Cincinnati on Monday to earn the wild card berth, New York had to travel all night to face a rested Arizona squad and Johnson, who had been the NL's most dominant pitcher this year with 364 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA.
But the fireballing lefthander continued his playoff flameout. Despite 11 strikeouts, he allowed seven runs, eight hits and three walks in 8 1/3 innings. A combination of bad pitching and bad luck has seen Johnson lose his last six postseason starts, setting a major league record.
Johnson allowed Alfonzo's first homer and a two-run shot by John Olerud, who became the first lefthanded batter to homer off Johnson in the postseason. The former Cy Young Award winner left the bases loaded for Bobby Chouinard and watched from the dugout as the reliever surrendered Alfonzo's blast deep into the upper deck down the left-field line.
The winner was reliever Turk Wendell, who worked a hitless eighth. Armando Benitez pitched a perfect ninth as the record crowd at the first postseason game at Bank One Ballpark filed out quietly and unhappy.
Game Two of the best-of-five series is Wednesday. Since the inception of the extra playoff round in 1995, no NL series has gone the maximum five games.
Johnson closed the eighth with a pair of strikeouts but ran into trouble in the ninth. Robin Ventura and Rey Ordonez singled around a popout and Johnson walked Melvin Mora on four pitches. Chouinard came on and got Rickey Henderson to ground into a force play at the plate. But he went to 3-1 on Alfonzo, who blasted his third homer in two days.
Luis Gonzalez and rookie Erubiel Durazo homered off starter Masato Yoshii for Arizona, which won seven of nine from the Mets during the season en route to the NL West title in just their second year.
Yoshii allowed two earned runs or less in his last eight starts but could not hold a 4-1 lead. The Japanese righthander gave up a rocket homer by Durazo to left-center field in the bottom of the fourth and a 452-foot two-run blast into the right-field bleachers by Gonzalez in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Johnson settled down. After allowing two homers and four runs through the first three-plus innings, he retired 11 straight batters until walking Henderson with two out in the seventh.
In the bottom half of the frame, Johnson surprisingly slapped a double to right field. Perhaps unfamiliar with being on base, he was doubled off second on Tony Womack's shallow fly to left.
For the second straight game, Alfonzo jump-started the Mets with a first-inning homer. His blast to center field quieted the crowd of 49,584 and removed Johnson's invincibility.
On Monday, Alfonzo hit a two-run homer to trigger a 5-0 win at Cincinnati that vaulted the Mets into the postseason for the first time in 11 years.
Olerud, who had three hits, launched a two-run homer in the third that made it 3-0. The Diamondbacks countered with a run in the bottom half as Womack tripled over Henderson's head in left and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jay Bell.
The Mets made it 4-1 in the fourth. Ventura doubled, moved to third on Shawon Dunston's bunt single and scored as Ordonez chopped a bunt on a squeeze play.