Notes: Franco forever young

Notes: Franco forever young

WASHINGTON -- The veteran leadership Julio Franco provides is displayed in a number of ways; often blending into the background, but always present.

Franco's expertise had a big day of play on Saturday, as the 48-year-old infielder spent his early afternoon as a rookie's guidance counselor, then celebrated the evening by tying a career high with five RBIs.

In the Mets' 13-0 win at Washington, Franco -- 48 years and 38 days old, exactly -- became the oldest player since 1957 to collect five RBIs in a game.

Though Franco's fatherly advice to Lastings Milledge highlighted the pregame time span, and his three-run homer in the first inning helped boost the Mets to an early advantage, it was Franco's restraint later in the game that proved most striking.

Franco doubled in the third inning and singled in the fourth, leaving him a triple shy of the cycle -- not the absolute tallest order, considering Franco has had at least one in each of the last four seasons.

He said "of course" he was thinking about the cycle, given its rarity, but the three-base hit was still not a feat he was inclined to try to accomplish, given the Mets' 9-0 lead at the time of his fourth at-bat.

"You don't want to be swinging for the fences," Franco said. "You want to get it right. You respect the ballclub."

The only way Franco would have tried for three bases, he said, would have been on a ball in the gap. By not showing up the Nationals, Franco speculated, he might have saved himself or a teammate from taking the brunt of a retaliation pitch.

"I'm pretty sure I'd [have been] wearing one," Franco said.

New territory: Cliff Floyd was back in the Mets' lineup Sunday for the first time since Tuesday, making his return after having a cortisone shot in an attempt to help heal his sore left ankle in time for the playoffs.

He wasn't quite where you'd expect to find him, though. Floyd was inserted as the Mets' leadoff hitter, with Jose Reyes garnering a day off before the Mets enjoy a full-team off-day Monday leading into Tuesday's workout.

"We'll get him to move around a little bit," Randolph said, "and see how he feels."

Randolph has already said that he expects Floyd to make the Mets' postseason roster, but his playing time is still in question. Randolph wouldn't rule out the possibility that Floyd could sit in favor of Endy Chavez, particularly against left-handed pitching.

Coming back: Steve Trachsel was scheduled to fly from Phoenix -- not San Diego, as originally reported -- on Sunday, planning on rejoining the team in New York on Tuesday after attending to a personal matter.

With Trachsel leaving the club Saturday, the Mets quickly tabbed Oliver Perez as their starter for Sunday's season finale at Washington, though Randolph wasn't sure how far the lefty would go into the game.

Randolph outlined that he wanted to work most of the bullpen into Sunday's action, naming Billy Wagner, Guillermo Mota and Aaron Heilman as likely participants.

Speaking of flights: David Wright has unique plans for his off-day Monday. The All-Star third baseman will spend the morning at LaGuardia Airport, where Delta Airlines plans to celebrate a plane dedicated to Wright, nicknamed, "The Wright Flight."

Wright's name, No. 5 and signature will be affixed adjacent to the boarding door on the plane, enabling Delta passengers to view it. Delta said it went forward with the idea as a unique way to celebrate the Mets' successful season and Wright's accomplishments, and to show its commitment to one of its hubs, New York City.

Meanwhile, Wright joked that he hoped the Mets would one day use the plane for one of their flights, but he knows that might not go over well with some of his teammates.

"About half the guys on this team would book their own planes and change flights," Wright said.

This date in Mets history - Oct. 2: A two-run double by Rusty Staub with two out in the bottom of the ninth produced the decisive runs in the Mets' 5-4 victory against the Expos in their season finale on this date in 1983. The two RBIs put Staub's total as a pinch-hitter at 25, equaling the most in big-league history. After that game, the Mets dismissed Frank Howard as manager.

Buoyed by their 11-inning, 1-0 victory over the Cardinals the previous night -- Darryl Strawberry's monster home run off Ken Dayley won it -- the second-place Mets reduced the Cardinals lead to one-game on this date in 1985, winning 5-2 behind Dwight Gooden's complete game. The victory was Gooden's 24th and final in his Cy Young season.

On this date two years ago, Todd Zeile hit a home run in his final big-league at-bat and immediately dismissed all parallels drawn to Ted Williams.

Rounded off: The regular season has been kind to the Mets for the most part, aside from the injuries. It even allowed Jose Reyes a few points of grace. The Mets' leadoff man didn't play Sunday. So his batting average remained unchanged -- .2998454. But it will read ".300" on the scoreboard at Shea on Wednesday when Reyes leads off the Mets' first.

Oliver Twist: Oliver Perez started in place of Steve Trachsel on Sunday and was the beneficiary of the Mets' early support -- six runs in the second inning. He was the first of six Mets pitchers, working four innings, allowing one run, five hits and a walk. But he wasn't the winning pitcher because he didn't pitch five innings.

Guillermo Mota (3-0) was the winning pitcher. Trachsel, still the likely Game 3 starter in the NLDS, left the team Saturday to return to his home for personal reasons. The club still is unsure when he will rejoin the team. John Maine, the most likely replacement for Trachsel, said he has been told nothing about a Game 3 start.

Coming up: The Mets have an off-day Monday and a brief workout scheduled for Tuesday at Shea Stadium, but the spotlights go on Wednesday. That will mark Game 1 of the National League Division Series, and the Mets have Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez tabbed and ready to pitch against either the Dodgers or Padres.

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.