Francoeur, Barajas play powerball in win

Francoeur, Barajas play powerball in win

NEW YORK -- The burly catcher had completed his 360-foot victory lap after swatting a baseball well beyond the wall in left-center field for the second time in three innings. Rod Barajas returned to the Mets' dugout, alive with celebrating colleagues, and asked the question of the evening, "What is this, Cincinnati?"

Later, other Mets invoked the names of Citizens Bandbox Park in Philadelphia, Fenway, Camden Yard, Wrigley and other arenas far less miserly than their own Citi Field, all of their happy chatter prompted by a powerball display as foreign to their home park as no-hitters are to the franchise. The team that didn't hit home runs last season -- and, for that matter, had hit one in its first three games this year -- had hit four in eight turns at bat and beaten the Nationals via muscle.

So Barajas wanted to know whether he'd been sent to some alternate universe -- or Great American Ball Park -- where gravity isn't what it used to be.

In fact, the Mets' 8-2 victory Friday night had been achieved in the Windy Citi, not that any one of their four homers, two each by Barajas and Jeff Francoeur, had been wind-aided. But 30-mph gusts were almost constant during the game that made the Mets a .500 team and Mike Pelfrey a winning pitcher.

"Just a strange night overall," Pelfrey said. "We never had a game anything like this all last year."

Indeed, Citi hadn't surrendered so many Mets home runs in any one of the 84 preceding games it hosted. And the winds, reminiscent of what placekicker Jim Turner dealt with when the Jets were co-tenants at Shea Stadium, were stronger than anyone had experienced here in 2009.

Not that anyone was complaining, least of all Pelfrey who performed quite well in his first start. The Mets led, 3-2, on the strength of Barajas' second home run, in the sixth inning. Pelfrey departed at that point, having allowed four hits, four walks and two runs, but having asserted himself when circumstances demanded. The Mets would like to point out this was their third quality start in four games.

But this one had quality that statistics couldn't measure. Pelfrey's newly-minted cutter and his signature pitch, the power sinker, worked in consort after Ian Desmond tripled in two runs in the second inning. OK, it was merely the opposing starter Garrett Mock who he retired. But in the sixth when the score was tied with a runner on third with one out, Pelfrey's cutter elicited a ground ball from Ivan Rodriguez who had singled in his two swings. Then the two-seamer struck out Desmond.

"Everyone knows about his sinker," Barajas said. "But the cutter isn't just a good pitch, it's a great pitch. And he's not even that familiar with it yet."

The cool, windy conditions and the revised rules about pitchers licking their finger to combat the slickness of the ball demanded concentration from Pelfrey. The Nationals' eight baserunners did as well. And Pelfrey had all he needed.

"The wind changed some pitches," Pelfrey said. "Some pitches sank more. A few moved to where I didn't expect. One that [Fernando Nieve] threw moved about a foot and a half. You had to focus."

As much as Pelfrey had to do with this victory, the home runs constituted the greater force. They produced five runs; Francoeur's second, in the seventh against Tyler Walker, came with a runner on base.

The Mets hadn't hit four home runs in any game, regardless of site, since late in the 2008 season. David Wright had hit a home run in the first inning Opening Day, but the Mets hit no others through the subsequent 27 innings. Moreover, they had gone hitless in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position, since Opening Day. That streak ended with Fernando Tatis' second hit in two pinch-hit at-bats this year, in the seventh.

Barajas hit his second against former batterymate Miguel Batista.

"I was expecting a cutter and I know when and how his breaks," Barajas said. He has hit two home runs in a game eight times in his career.

Francoeur has done so seven times. The last time two Mets hit multiple home runs in one game was June 9, 2006, when the Carlos Brothers hit two each in Arizona.

"When you hit a couple, you start feeding off each other," Francoeur said. "It's more that we're driving pitches and getting doubles that keep rallies alive. You can't hit singles all night."

Each of the four was well-struck and hit enough on a line that the winds had no effect. None was hit as well as -- or as high as -- Wright's fly ball in the seventh.

"I hit it pretty good. But too high," Wright said. The wind changed a certain home run into a double.

"No wind and that's in the third deck," Pelfrey said.

"Easily the second deck," Francoeur said. "You should have seen David's expression. He knew he crushed it. You can't hit a ball better."

None of that was consolation for Wright. His colleagues let him know that they had hit four.

"Yeah," Wright said, "and Francoeur has to come up after me and hit one out in the same inning. Nice."

But Francoeur said he was innocent of wrong doing.

"David's just gonna have to get stronger," he said, "if he wants to play with the big boys."

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