Mets overcome Bonds' tater to win in 11

Mets overcome Bonds' tater to win in 11

SAN FRANCISCO -- Even after they had showered, the Mets still were in a deep sweat. They hadn't only played a monumentally stressful game against the Giants on Wednesday afternoon, they had won it too.

And winning, 9-7, in 11 innings didn't necessarily eliminate the stress. Chris Woodward had slipped into his slacks and buttoned his shirt when he paused 40 minutes into the afterglow.

"I feel like we're still out there, clawing," he said. "A lot happened."

Simple review of this one could overload the circuitry, cause a brain camp; so much had happened. There was good, bad and indifferent; momentous, remarkable and historic.

Barry Bonds had hit the 711th home run of his career, a two-run, pinch-hit home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth against Billy Wagner, one of the premier closers in the game, to tie the score. And while it wasn't lost in the shuffle, it hardly stood alone as the game's storyline.

Julio Franco not only had delivered another go-ahead pinch-hit, but he had become the oldest player in nearly 100 years to steal a base. His latest achievement for the ages was obscured by so many other developments -- the Mets sweating through the 10th, scoring in the 11th and Bonds putting a charge into the game's final play -- albeit an out.

"It felt like at least 12 innings," Tom Glavine said, minimizing the afternoon's developments. "Really, it felt like we put an awful lot into one afternoon at the park."

For the Mets, it had been a wonderful game to win, mostly because losing it would have been so hurtful. Indeed, Willie Randolph said and others agreed losing would have hurt more than winning helped.

"Yeah," Cliff Floyd said. "Once we got the lead, we had to win this one or else it's a long flight [to Atlanta] and a horrible off-day."

So the Mets spared themselves as much as they asserted themselves. They won a series for the first time in this thrice-named park that opened in 2000, they made their record for their first California visit this season 4-3, which is vastly different from 3-4, and they smiled as they took their first steps toward Turner Field, something most Mets teams don't do.

They were quite pleased with themselves, not because they had overcome Bonds' drama, but because they had overcome their own conspicuous foibles.

"Our closer got hit, and somebody [David Wright] made an error," Woodward said. "And we were able to pick them up. We picked each other up. That's huge.

"They had -- what -- 30,000 people here today, and they came to see one thing -- Barry. They got to see it. He got us. And we could have folded right there. I'm really proud that we didn't. I'm proud I played a role in this one."

Woodward's role had been that of quiet hero, which is consistent with how teammates identity him.

"Me and Ramon [Castro], we're the 'Secret Weapons' here," he said. "No one knows we're here."

The stealth boys gained a little profile in the 11th. Castro, making his fifth start at catcher, led off the inning with his third hit, a single to center field against losing pitcher Scott Munter. Endy Chavez, playing too regularly now with Carlos Beltran unavailable to qualify for stealth status, advanced the plodding catcher to second with a sacrifice bunt.

Woodward doubled and Castro scored all the way from second. A single by Jose Reyes drove in Woodward and drove out some of the demons that had taunted the Mets two innings earlier.

"Those guys picked us up big league," Wagner said. "It's not a whole lot of fun going through something like this. But when you get picked up like that, it makes it a whole lot better." Wagner had been summoned to start the ninth inning after Duaner Sanchez had pitched a silent eighth. His lead left room for error, but not for an error and Bonds. Omar Vizquel singled, leading off the ninth. After Wagner struck out Jose Vizcaino and Randy Winn, a throwing error by Wright on a ground ball by Moises Alou allowed Vizquel to score -- and Bonds to pinch-hit.

Wagner was not in Bonds Book of Victims; 417 others were. Now there are 418. A too high, 2-1 fastball reached beyond the left-center-field wall. Wagner has converted four of six save opportunities, the ones he didn't cover have names on them -- Ryan Zimmerman and Bonds.

"He's not the old Bonds, but he still can hit," Wagner said. "I had great stuff today. But my strength is his strength. Today, his was stronger. I made the pitch, and he hit it."

"He's still the best in the game to me, but I liked our matchup because Billy's one of the best closers in the game," Randolph said.

The manager found more good than bad in the game.

"I'm happy to see us win, of course," he said. "But I'm happy to see us struggle and come out of it. We built some character, coming back to win like we did after Barry hurt us. Every team has to learn how to be resilient. Today was a lesson. I'll take it. Sometimes you can just ignore some of the things that go wrong if you win."

The only negative development that couldn't be ignored happened in the sixth inning, when rookie right-hander Brian Bannister was removed after he strained his right hamstring running the bases. Bannister was helped off the field after he had scored the Mets' fourth run, the go-ahead run at the time on a double by Kaz Matsui. He was on second base following his second double of the game and pulled up lame as he rounded third and hobbled home.

"I tried to make it look as dramatic as possible," he said, trying to cover his concern.

The extent of the injury will be determined Thursday or Friday.

"It doesn't look good," Randolph said.

Bannister can't compare the injury to anything he has experienced.

"It might just be a real bad cramp," he said.

Bannister had been shaky through his five innings, allowing seven hits and two walks. Alou, who drove in five runs Monday, hit an RBI double in the first, and Vizquel drove in a run in the second with a sacrifice fly.

Carlos Delgado produced the Mets' first run and tied a club record in the third when he hit his ninth home run, into McCovey Cove, against Giants starter Matt Morris. Dave Kingman hit nine home runs in April 1976. Delgado produced the 13th "splash" by a visiting player. Floyd was responsible for the 12th on Tuesday night.

The Giants scored again in the third with Steve Finley driving in Winn with a sacrifice fly. But the Mets tied the score in the fourth. Castro began the rally with a one-out single to right. He moved to third when Chavez doubled to left-center. Bannister followed with his first double to tie the score. The runs batted in were the first of his brief Major League career.

"We had a little of everything -- good and bad and Julio," Randolph said.

Franco delivered two runs in the eighth with his fourth pinch-hit in 10 at-bats. And before he scored the third run of the inning, he stole second base while Giants reliever Tim Worrell wasn't watching. He became the oldest player, 47, to steal a base since 1909, when Arlie Latham of the New York Giants stole one at age 49.

"They gave it to me," said Franco, who stole four bases in each of the last two seasons. "And I took it. I can't let Barry have all the fun."

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.