Work in Sports
Agbayani crushed a 1-0 pitch from reliever Aaron Fultz for a homer with one out in the bottom of the 13th inning as the Mets won a 3-2 thriller from the San Francisco Giants and took a 2-1 edge in their National League Division Series.
Agbayani, who hit an extra-inning pinch grand slam to lead New York to its first victory of the season in March in Japan, joined the likes of Lenny Dykstra and current teammates Todd Pratt and Robin Ventura as Mets to end games with dramatic home runs.
"Some of my teammates, John Franco, Turk Wendell, Al Leiter, they just said go up there and be the man," Agbayani said. "I knew the wind was blowing out pretty hard out there, so I knew once the ball got up in the air, it had a good chance. ... It's just a great feeling to go out there and hit a home run in the big dance, in the playoffs."
"Benny has been one of our real key players all year long, and you know he had that first-and-second no-out situation and really felt like he let the team down," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
After Fultz (0-1) retired Ventura on a harmless grounder to second base, Agbayani lofted the ball over the wall in left field and touched off a raucous celebration at the plate. The homer ended a contest that took 5 hours, 22 minutes, second in terms of time only to the last postseason game played at Shea Stadium.
Game Five of the 1999 NL Championship Series against Atlanta lasted 5:46 and was ended by Ventura's bases-loaded home run that was ruled a single when he failed to touch all the bases.
"They have got some big hits," Giants manager Dusty Baker said.
"There were plenty of opportunities on both sides and that was a huge home run that Benny Agbayani hit. .... You hate to lose a game like that, but both bullpens did a great job and we had some opportunities to win the game, just like they did."
Agbayani, who failed to get a bunt down in the 11th with two aboard and none out, was the hero after Bonds assumed his usual role as postseason goat. After five relievers combined to hold San Francisco to two hits over six innings, Rick White (1-0) surrendered base hits to Ramon Martinez and Bill Mueller in the top of the 13th.
Bonds came to the plate with two out and popped White's first offering into shallow center field. After striking out to end Game Two on Thursday, Bonds was 0-for-5 tonight and is 3-for-13 in the series.
"I knew he was going to try to get on me early before I had a chance to throw different pitches," White said. "It was a two-seamer down and away and he swung too hard and popped it up."
The mercurial star, who refused to talk to the media following Thursday's loss, has a .204 postseason batting average with six RBI in 93 at-bats.
Game Four is slated for Sunday at 4 p.m. EDT. The Mets are scheduled to start Bobby Jones, while San Francisco is expected to counter with Mark Gardner.
New York trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, but former Met Doug Henry hit Mike Bordick with an 0-2 pitch to open the inning. Pinch-hitter Lenny Harris grounded into an apparent double play, but first base umpire Brian Gorman called him safe.
After Timoniel Perez popped out, Baker called on closer Robb Nen, who did not blow a save after the All-Star break.
On Nen's first pitch to Edgardo Alfonzo, Harris stole second.
The moved proved key as Alfonzo doubled to left field two pitches later. The Giants opted to pitch to slugger Mike Piazza, who like Bonds has struggled in October, and Nen was able to strike out the Mets catcher on six pitches.
John Franco, who struck out Bonds on Thursday to earn his first postseason save, fanned Bonds to end the top of the ninth. New York put two aboard in the bottom of the ninth, but Nen struck out Bordick.
Mets closer Armando Benitez, victimized for a game-tying homer by J.T. Snow in the ninth inning in Game Two, started the 10th and had runners at first and second when he retired Armando Rios and pinch-hitter Felipe Crespo on flyouts.
Benitez struck out the side in the 11th and the Mets appeared poised to win it in the bottom of the frame when Piazza and Ventura opened the inning with singles. But Agbayani could not get the bunt down and popped out. Jay Payton struck out and, after Todd Zeile walked, pinch-hitter Todd Pratt flied out.
"I didn't move the guys over when we had first and second, so I had to redeem myself," Agbayani said.
White got Doug Mirabelli with two on to end the 12th, and Fultz worked out of a jam in the bottom of the 12th.
Met reliever Dennis Cook got the first two outs in the seventh and Turk Wendell struck out three of the four batters he retired. Franco had the scoreless ninth and Benitez allowed one hit over two innings before White struck out four over the final two frames.
In all, New York's bullpen surrendered just four singles and five walks over seven innings. Mets relievers struck out 11 and combined with starter Rick Reed to fan 17 in the contest.
Reed allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings, walking two and striking out six.
"The entire bullpen was fabulous and Rick Reed did a real good job back there in the first game," Valentine said. "But Rick White getting Bonds at the end there, throwing those strikes low and away, getting his breaking ball over for strikes, you'd think he's been in a playoff situation for the last 10 years."
"You hate to see guys just taking strikes, but you've got to give White, especially late in the game, a lot of credit," Baker said. "He was starting off with a first-pitch breaking ball. I don't think the guys were picking up his breaking ball very well, and he was throwing two or three different breaking balls.
He did a great job for them tonight. And sometimes when hitters are not hitting, it is not necessarily the fault of the hitters, but sometimes to the credit of the pitcher."
San Francisco starter Russ Ortiz held New York hitless into the sixth and allowed just one run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Reed pitched out of a first-and-third jam in the second. Former Met Jeff Kent singled and took third one out later on a base hit by J.T. Snow. But Reed struck out Rich Aurilia and Bobby Estalella to end the threat.
San Francisco put two aboard with two out in the third inning, but Kent bounced to third. The Giants broke through in the fourth. Game One hero Ellis Burks singled on an 0-2 pitch and Snow dropped a base hit into center field.
After Aurilia fouled out, Estalella grounded a single into left field for a 1-0 lead. Ortiz bunted into a forceout at third base, but Marvin Benard lined a single to right for a two-run lead.
New York got the leadoff man on in the fourth, but Alfonzo was thrown out attempting to steal after Piazza took a called third strike.
The Mets got on the board in the sixth on an RBI single by Perez and had the bases loaded when Alan Embree got Ventura to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
The Giants had a chance to pad their lead in the seventh. Cook took over for Reed and walked Benard. Mueller sacrificed and Cook got Bonds to ground sharply to third. Wendell came on and struck out Kent on three pitches.
Henry relieved Embree in the seventh and retired the side in order.