Until Saturday, the Korean-born left-handed reliever was little more than an afterthought on the Mets' 25-man roster. Then, inexplicably, he doubled -- against Johnson, no less -- in his second big league at-bat, and while Shea still was on its ear, he scored from second base on a bunt.
"Now, there's something you don't see everyday," Mike Piazza said 90 minutes later, still in the grip of "disbelief and bewilderment."
"For me to do something that outrageous," utilityman Chris Woodward said, "I'd have to pitch a perfect game -- and catch it, too."
Koo's one-man show obscured all other aspects of the Mets' 12th victory in 19 games and made this intracity, interborough, Interleague madness secondary for at least a day.
Kris Benson pitched terrifically for six-plus innings, allowing merely three hits; Jose Reyes had three hits, including another triple, and four runs batted in. Miguel Cairo hurt Johnson again -- this time with a home run. And David Wright had two run-scoring doubles as the Mets treated The Unit as if he were some elongated piñata.
But Koo was the focal point in the most amazing Interleague moments since Dave Mlicki's shutout in 1997. "You can't top that," Wright said. "Mr. Koo made baseball history today."
Yes, now he is Mister Koo, deserving of the appellation he prefers and the long "Kooooooooooo" Shea Stadium sang to him. "I didn't think he had that in him," Mike Cameron said.
Koo's hit stood out among the 12 the Mets accumulated in Johnson's 6 2/3 innings, not only because it was his first or because it came against a pitcher with Johnson's Cooperstown resume. What he did in his second big league at-bat was remarkable mostly because of what he didn't do in his first -- swing or give any indication he had the slightest notion what to do with a bat.
That happened Monday night against Todd Coffey of the Reds. Koo stood near the left-handed-batter's box -- he was closer to Baltimore -- and took four pitches en route to a strikeout. "We told him you can't do what he did the last time," Benson said Saturday.
This time, leading of the seventh inning Saturday, Koo was close enough to the plate to form a strikezone. He took two pitches and then put a 90-percent Randy Johnson fastball over the head of Bernie Williams, the Yankees center fielder for the day. Koo estimated his most recent hit had come in high school.
"He's our secret weapon from he left side," assistant GM Jim Duquette said.
The "Koooooo" that came from the 55,800 was loud, long and expressed through smiles, but nothing like the one that followed a few moments later when he scored and gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. Reyes bunted in front of the plate, and Jorge Posada handled the play, throwing to first base but leaving the plate unattended. Koo saw the hole in the Yankees' defense as he almost came to a stop at third base, and he resumed his daring 180-foot run as Posada retreated and waited for a throw from Robinson Cano. Koo slid, hands first, and caught a corner of his target.
Reyes drives 'em home
Yankees at Mets, May 21
|Jose Reyes went 3-for-4 in the win over the Yankees and his four RBIs are his highest single-game total since June 18, 2003, when he drove in four runs to help the Mets win in Florida, 10-5. A look at his plate appearances:|
|1st||0-2, 0 Out||Single|
|2nd||2-2, 1 Out||RBI Single|
|4th||0-1, 1 Out||Groundout|
|7th||1-0, 0 Out||RBI Sac bunt|
|8th||2-0, 0 Out||2-RBI Triple|
|Reyes increased his season RBI total to 16, through May 21. His career high for a single game is five, a total he racked up on June 15, 2003, when the Mets shut down the Angels, 8-0, in Anaheim.|
Posada seemingly tagged him out, but plate umpire Chuck Meriwether thought otherwise. "Great instincts. He got the pinky in there," Willie Randolph said.
Koo estimated he hadn't slid since high school or scored since junior high.
His teammates treasured the moment. Doug Mientkiewicz cooled Koo with a towel when he returned to the bench. Others brushed the clay from the pitcher's uniform. "They said a lot of things," Koo said through his interpreter. "I just couldn't understand what. I think they were saying 'Good job.'"
Cairo hit his home run, his ninth hit in 23 career at-bats against Johnson (a .391 average), and what came next was a high-and-tight 95 mph message from Johnson to Cliff Floyd. Inserted in the lineup after Carlos Beltran departed because of a muscle strain, Floyd nearly was Unit-ed, and he wasn't pleased. "I didn't take him deep," Floyd said.
The Yankees scored three runs against Buddy Groom in the eighth, and the Yankees avoided a shutout, scoring against Braden Looper, the Mets third reliever, in the ninth. But this one wasn't about arithmetic. "It was fun," Cameron said. "A good, fun day at the ballpark." They laughed with Koo, they laughed at Koo. He laughed at himself.
The pennant races are serious business. This was fun.
" A lot of the Asian pitchers can hit," Cameron said. "[Kaz] Ishii can hit. Chan Ho Park could hit. [Hideo] Nomo too."
So -- what? -- what Koo did wasn't a surprise?
"Well, I'm not so sure about Mr. Koo ... even now," was Cameron's response. "I'd like to see him do it again."