Welcome to The Happiest Recap, a solid gold slate of New York Mets games culled from every schedule the Mets have ever played en route to this, their fiftieth year in baseball. We’ve created a dream season consisting of the “best” 31st game in any Mets season, the “best” 32nd game in any Mets season, the “best” 33rd game in any Mets season…and we keep going from there until we have a completed schedule worthy of Bob Murphy coming back with the Happy Recap after this word from our sponsor on the WFAN Mets Radio Network.
GAME 031: May 16, 1983 — Mets 11 PIRATES 4
(Mets All-Time Game 031 Record: 27-24; Mets 1983 Record: 11-20)
There weren’t many people at Three Rivers Stadium this 44-degree Monday night. Maybe most Pittsburghers were home watching the Motown 25 special on NBC. It drew 47 million viewers, most of them, presumably, attracted by the appearance of the biggest star in the land in the spring of 1983, Michael Jackson. Jackson didn’t disappoint, revealing his moonwalk to a nationwide audience that had yet to think of the former Jackson 5 star as Tito’s, Jermaine’s, Jackie’s and Marlon’s brother from another planet.
Thus, it was left to a mere 1,970 to attend the Mets-Pirates game — an unscheduled makeup of a rainout the day before — and watch the first big move made by another performer emerging as a superstar in May 1983. It wasn’t going to do the broadly ignored home team much good, but for the visitors and anyone watching back on Channel 9 in New York, his development was going to be a thriller.
Darryl Strawberry had been up with the big club a week-and-a-half. His elevation was rushed by the reckoning of some, with his previously deemed necessary Triple-A seasoning curtailed to 71 plate appearances, yet it didn’t come a minute too soon considering the Mets were 6-15 when the SOS was flashed south to Tidewater. In the five-game losing streak that preceded Strawberry’s promotion, the Mets scored eleven runs; for their last three games, in which they were swept at home by Houston, they drew 15,719 paying customers.
No, it didn’t seem too soon whatsoever for 21-year-old Darryl Strawberry. Mets fans had been waiting for him since June 3, 1980, the day of the amateur draft when the Mets, by virtue of their abysmal 1979, held the first pick in the nation. Strawberry’s name — and who could forget a name like Strawberry? — first floated into the greater consciousness in Spring Training, when Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview issue (the one with Cardinal batting champ Keith Hernandez on the cover) intimated the long, lanky, lefthanded slugger was another Ted Williams waiting to happen. The 15,719 diehards who filed into a desolate Shea across three spiritless midweek nights, along with the millions of would-be attendees who were staying away from the stadium in droves, were all waiting after six lean years for anything to happen.
The next Ted Williams would do nicely in the imaginations of a superstar-starved fan base. The Mets attracted 15,916 for his debut, which may not sound like many, but it outgated the entire Astro series.
The first pitcher the underripe Strawberry saw was tough Reds righty Mario Soto, who struck him out. No shame in that. Soto struck out twelve Mets on May 6 and held them to one hit — a pinch-homer by Danny Heep, the player whose spot in right Darryl was usurping — until the ninth, when reigning Met power threat Dave Kingman took him deep with one on and two out to send Darryl’s first game into extra innings. Come the eleventh, the young/black/next Ted Williams (he was described as all three) nearly carved his signature in Shea’s concrete when he launched a fly ball that appeared en route to breaking a 4-4 tie and the Mets’ losing streak: both the five-game skid and the six-year horror show. Oohs and aahs followed its flight, perhaps into instant history.
“When I hit it,” the rookie said afterwards, “I thought it had a chance to be fair, but then I saw it hooking.”
It curved foul and Darryl Strawberry had to settle for his first major league walk. In the bottom of the thirteenth, he’d walk again, steal for the first time and be on second when George Foster ended the evening on a three-run home run off Frank Pastore. Darryl Strawberry scored the winning run, capping a pretty decent debut.
Only thing the kid forgot to do on his first night in the majors was hit. He went 0-for-4 that Friday night and struck out three times. Same thing the next day, a Met loss. Now the unreal comparisons were shifting from Ted Williams to Willie Mays, though not just because of talent. Willie, it was recalled, came up to the New York Giants 32 years earlier (also in May) and didn’t get a hit in his first dozen at-bats. In that regard, Darryl beat Mays to a taste of success by one AB. After an 0-for-11 start to his major league career, Strawberry singled off Cincinnati righthander Rich Gale.
His batting average soared to .083.
Now the question turned to when would Darryl Strawberry hit his first big league home run. Mays’s first hit was, in fact, a circuit clout — off the Boston Braves’ Warren Spahn — in his thirteenth at-bat and his fourth game. Ted Williams’s inaugural blast came in his fourth game, too, his fourteenth at-bat overall. Darryl Strawberry, who’d whetted every Mets fan’s appetite by belting 34 homers and swiping 45 bases at Double-A Jackson in 1982, had some catching up to do if he was going to be an immediate legend.
Manager George Bamberger, a rather uncelebrated rookie pitcher for the very same 1951 Giants Mays joined, recognized too much hype when he saw it, even as he was penciling his overmatched phenom into the third spot in the Mets’ batting order. Bambi advised Darryl “not to try to be Willie Mays. Just try to be Darryl Strawberry.”
By May 13, with an entire week of experience behind him, Darryl was surely neither Teddy Ballgame nor the Say Hey Kid. He wasn’t even Danny Heep. He’d played six games, totaled 24 at-bats and accumulated all of three base hits: two singles and a double. The Mets’ offensive savior was batting .125 (and the Mets were still buried in last place). Bamberger sat Darryl against challenging lefties like the Pirates’ John Candelaria and Larry McWilliams. Strawberry was lost enough against righthanded pitching.
Far from the expectations of New York, with Three Rivers’ smallest-ever crowd skipping Motown 25 and the Pirates throwing struggling veteran (and ex-Met farmhand) Jim Bibby, Bamberger started Strawberry in right. His first two at-bats produced a fly ball to center and a groundout to short. Darryl Strawberry, in almost total privacy, had lowered his batting average to .115.
But then, in the top of the fifth, a star was born.
Hubie Brooks was on second, reliever Lee Tunnell was on the mound and Darryl took the swing for which he and so many had waited. The result was also the desired one. The ball Strawberry hit traveled over the 375-foot mark on the left-center field wall to give the Mets a comfortable 7-1 lead.
Talk about a comfort zone. At last, in his 27th major league at-bat, Darryl Strawberry had arrived there, carrying with him his first major league home run, contributing to an 11-4 rout of the Buccos and shedding the proverbial monkey of initial pressure from his broad back.
“What you guys saw him do,” Bamberger told reporters, “he’s going to do a lot of.” Strawberry didn’t disagree: “I’ve been facing good pitching and it’s been tough on me. But I’m starting to get more aware of things. I wasn’t doing that before and if I keep it up, I know I’m going to have success.”
The manager and his right fielder were prophetic. Straw’s shot off Tunnell was the first of 26 he’d smack in 1983, establishing a Met freshman mark that has yet to be broken and earning him National League Rookie of the Year honors. He’d have a hundred home runs by 1986, the Met career home run record by 1988 and, before he left the team as a free agent following the 1990 season, 252 home runs as a Met. More than two decades later, no Met has come within 30 homers of Darryl Strawberry’s standard.
Maybe he doesn’t hold as many records as Michael Jackson was selling in May of 1983, but in the pantheon of Met sluggers, you can’t beat it.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On May 12, 1963, the Mets showed they could come out on top in a slugfest — and do whatever it took in the process. One Met in particular knew no limits when it came to effort. Casey Stengel had let it be known that if any Met found himself at bat with the bases loaded, fifty American dollars could be his if he “accidentally” allowed himself to be hit by a pitch. Fifty bucks was not insubstantial to the 1963 ballplayer, yet only one Met cashed in on the offer. With three on and one out, Hot Rod Kanehl stepped up and stepped into a delivery from the Reds’ John Tsitouris. That was using his head and his body, for Rod’s welt extended the Mets’ third-inning lead over Cincinnati at the Polo Grounds to 5-0. Kanehl HBP RBI was truly money because the Mets would eventually require every last run they could scrounge up in the second game of that Sunday doubleheader. Unaccustomed to pitching with a lead, Jay Hook gave it all away, and by the middle of the fifth, the Mets and Reds were tied at six. The Mets, however, came roaring back with five in their half of the fifth, capped by a three-run homer from Duke Snider. Suddenly it was 11-6 Mets. Then, just as suddenly, it wasn’t. Relievers Ken MacKenzie and Larry Bearnarth — “aided” by a Tim Harkness error — allowed the Reds right back into the game, then into the lead by allowing six sixth-inning runs. The Mets trailed 12-11 and stayed behind until the eighth when a pair of walks and a Harkness single set up Jim Hickman’s tying sacrifice fly and Choo Choo Coleman’s go-ahead single. The Mets led 13-12 heading to the ninth and, shockingly, won 13-12, as starter Tracy Stallard came in to stop the madness with a scoreless inning of relief, striking out rookie second baseman Pete Rose (who had been on base four times) to end the game. If this nightcap didn’t contain enough mythic elements already, consider that in their history, the Mets have given up exactly a dozen runs in 59 different games. This is the only one of those they’ve ever won.
GAME 032: May 13, 1970 — Mets 4 CUBS 0
(Mets All-Time Game 032 Record: 22-29; Mets 1970 Record: 16-16)
How close can you come? How close can a one-hitter get to being a no-hitter? Besides one hit, that is?
Gary Gentry found out for himself relatively early along the trail of tears better known as Mets Pitcher Near-Miss Gulch. You could pitch brilliantly, you could vanquish your opponent and, of course, you could earn a Happy Recap for your efforts, but you still missed the brassiest of rings.
In 1970, it hadn’t even been a decade that the Mets had gone without pitching a no-hitter. It didn’t yet stand out like a scorer’s thumb. Things were happening for the Mets. They’d won a World Series a mere seven months earlier, and nobody saw that coming. The no-hitter…it was bound to happen eventually.
As for Gentry, he was as good a possibility to throw it as any Met. He’d put up plenty of zeroes on plenty of scoreboards, judging by what he accomplished in just over a year in the big leagues. He won 13 games as a rookie in 1969, tossing the four-hitter that clinched the National League East title. Though he wasn’t around at its end, he started the game that gave the Mets their first N.L. pennant. And he won the first World Series game ever played at Shea Stadium — with lots of help from Nolan Ryan in relief and Tommie Agee in the field, but it was Gentry’s W.
First, Tom Seaver came up in 1967. Then, Jerry Koosman in 1968. Gentry was the next arm in that logical progression. In a way, it was no wonder Gary Gentry and Tom Seaver were able to fool out-of-town writers covering the 1969 World Series by trading uniform tops during a Memorial Stadium workout and dispensing disparaging quotes about “each other” for laughs. Nos. 41 and 39 were different pitchers, yet it seemed the Mets were cutting a string of hard-throwing righthanders from the same talented cloth. And now, in May of 1970, Gentry was attempting to one-up Seaver, who had thrown an intensely memorable one-hitter ten months earlier.
Like Tom the previous July, Gary was taking aim at a dangerous Chicago Cubs lineup, this time at Wrigley Field. It was the first meeting of the year between the two rivals whose fortunes passed in the midsummer night in ’69. Once again, the Cubs and Mets were one-two in the N.L. East, Chicago up by 2½ games in the early going. They had a hard-throwing righthander of their own, Bill Hands, going for them this Wednesday afternoon, and Hands would give his manager, Leo Durocher, nine innings and twelve strikeouts.
But Art Shamsky homered with no one on in the fourth and Gentry nicked Hands for his first hit of the year in the fifth, singling home Wayne Garrett. With a 2-0 lead, Gary became the story of the day, for he was pitching a perfect game at Wrigley Field.
Perfection lasted only until Ron Santo walked to lead off the home fifth, but Gentry erased that flaw from his ledger immediately, when he got right fielder Johnny Callison to ground into a double play. When Ernie Banks grounded to Garrett at third, the no-hitter was still intact. And when the Cubs could generate no more than two grounders and a strikeout in the sixth, Gentry was nine outs away from untrod Met territory.
Gentry received an enhanced cushion in the seventh when Garrett tripled home rookie Mike Jorgensen and Jerry Grote singled in Garrett to up the Met lead to 4-0. Perhaps Wayne’s presence in the middle of these Met rallies was an indicator that destiny was unfolding. The redhead wasn’t even in the starting lineup. He had come on to replace Joe Foy after Foy was hit by a Hands pitch (on, of course, the hand). Maybe that was the sort of sign Mets fans could take as gospel that Gary Gentry was really going to outdo what Tom Terrific accomplished on July 9, 1969 when he one-hit Chicago at Shea.
When he got through the bottom of the seventh by retiring Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert and Billy Williams, Gary was only six outs away from making the Mets the fourth expansion team in the modern era to claim a no-hitter. Bill Stoneman of the Montreal Expos recorded one in 1969, his team’s first year. Bo Belinsky of the then-Los Angeles Angels chalked up a no-no in 1962, that franchise’s second season. And the Houston Colt .45s/Astros had been a veritable no-hit machine since entering the National League alongside the Mets in ’62, with Don Nottebart, Ken Johnson and Don Wilson twice turning the trick.
As the bottom of the eighth commenced, Gary Gentry and the Mets stood poised to join their ranks.
First up, perennial All-Star Santo. He flied to Agee in center for the first out.
Next, Callison, the former Phillie who won the 1964 All-Star Game at Shea with a three-run homer. He flied to Shamsky’s defensive replacement Ron Swoboda in right for the second out.
Four outs to go. The next batter would be Ernie Banks, another Cub with All-Star credentials (impeccable ones) and an 6-for-12 track record vs. Gentry in 1969. The two faced off in five games the year before and the pitcher never completely shut down the slugger in any of them.
Gentry worked Banks to a 2-2 count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, he threw a chest-high fastball that the pitcher wanted to come in with. “But,” as Gary would recount later, “I didn’t get it in enough.”
The goal was to get to Banks to hit the ball in the air. The wind was blowing in off Lake Michigan and Gentry figured he had a good chance to pop up Mr. Cub. But Mr. Cub had other ideas. He lined a looping fly ball to left. The left fielder, Dave Marshall, came running in and stuck out his glove in hopes of making a shoestring catch. The ball tipped off Marshall’s glove and fell in fair.
All eyes on official scorer Jim Enright…
Base hit all the way.
Marshall had no beef with the decision: “There’s no question but that it was a hit. I slid a little just when I got to the ball. At first I didn’t think I had a chance for it but the ball seemed to stay up and I went for it.”
Gentry couldn’t quibble either: “I’m glad it wasn’t a cheap hit.” But don’t think Gary wasn’t aware of what was going on. “I started thinking about a no-hitter in the fourth inning,” he admitted after finishing off what became a 4-0 one-hitter, “and kept thinking about it until Banks broke it up in the eighth.”
A 4-0 one-hitter over the Cubs…just like Seaver had done, though nobody was going to mistake Ernie Banks for 1969’s spoiler Jimmy Qualls. But as with Seaver’s gargantuan effort, a shutout victory was a shutout victory and a win that pulled the second-place Mets that much closer to the Cubs was what — in the standings, anyway — counted the most.
Gentry’s masterpiece went down as the fifth one-hitter in Mets history, filed alongside one apiece by Al Jackson, Jack Hamilton, Seaver and, earlier in 1970, Ryan. Five one-hitters in less than nine seasons, but no no-hitters…and with so many talented arms of late. Definitely a curiosity of sorts, though not a franchise trademark yet for a team still so relatively young. The Mets had achieved a miracle in their eighth year. Everything next to that world championship had to be considered a small wonder. Certainly they were capable of effecting small wonders after 1969.
Gentry would have to sate himself with the one-hitter and a whitewashing of one of the National League’s fiercest lineups. It was the fourth shutout of his career. Gary Gentry was 23 years old and the owner of a World Series ring. Who would have figured that at that moment in time, the middle of May 1970, he would have all the World Series rings and half the complete game shutouts he would ever collect?
Or that Mets pitchers collectively would still be one hit shy of their brass ring more than four decades later?
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On May 10, 1994, respectability enveloped the Mets one season after they performed as the most disreputable unit in baseball. With Bret Saberhagen having given up only two runs in eight innings but the Mets trailing 2-1 at Montreal, Dallas Green’s troops made one last stand against Expo closer John Wetteland. With two on and one out in the top of the ninth, center fielder John Cangelosi delivered his fourth hit of the day, scoring pinch-runner Ryan Thompson from third base to even matters at two. One inning later, with two out and nobody on, Joe Orsulak sent another Wetteland pitch over the right field fence at Olympic Stadium to give the Mets a 3-2 lead and Orsulak his fourth hit of the day. Reliever Doug Linton returned to the mound for his second inning of work and, when he struck out Montreal first baseman Cliff Floyd, the Mets had their fourth consecutive win and found themselves four games above .500 at 18-14, in second place in the newly realigned five-team N.L. East, 2½ in back of the recently transferred Atlanta Braves. If a modest winning streak engineered by the journeyman likes of Cangelosi, Orsulak and Linton doesn’t sound particularly momentous, understand that at the same juncture one year earlier, the 1993 Mets had already fallen irrevocably underneath an avalanche of failure and languished in seventh place in the seven-team Eastern Division, eight games under .500, twelve games out of first place with 130 to go. The manager was about to be fired, the general manager would soon follow and a 59-103 nightmare was unfolding in full. Therefore, just by playing competitively and conducting themselves professionally, the 1994 Mets were staking their claim as Comeback Team of the Year.
GAME 033: May 11, 2010 — METS 8 Nationals 6
(Mets All-Time Game 033 Record: 21-30; Mets 2010 Record: 18-15)
Teaching old dogs new tricks may present interspecies challenges, but new first basemen can apparently pick up on incredible acrobatic feats very fast. Ike Davis mastered his trademark trick before his major league career was one month old.
Ike was tearing up Triple-A pitching in the first half of April, just as he had done a number on Grapefruit League hurlers in March. Yet the Mets opted to send him to Buffalo for a bit more experience and to delay the start of his service-time clock, something worth considering in the long term if Davis delivered on his prospect promise. Were the Mets really that worried about losing him to free agentry in 2016? The man who drafted Ike in the first place, GM Omar Minaya, did not appear destined to be around by then — and had never really shown any interest in long-term ramifications of any player personnel moves — but he sanctioned the farming out of Davis and the reinstitution of former Met Mike Jacobs as the club’s starting first baseman to begin the year.
Twelve games into the 2010 season, the decision was clearly not working in anybody’s favor. Jacobs had little life left in his bat and the Mets were off to a 4-8 start. Davis, meanwhile, was hitting .364 and fast becoming a cause célèbre among results-starved Mets fans (WFAN’s Mike Francesa went so far as to hire a stringer from Buffalo to come on his afternoon show and report Ike’s daily progress). The Mets gave in to inevitability on April 19, ditching Jacobs and calling up Davis. Ike did not disappoint, going 2-for-4 versus the Cubs at Citi Field in his maiden game.
Mets fans figured they were getting a solid bat. What they might not have given much thought to was the rookie’s glove. It would in a matter of weeks, become Ike Davis’s calling card.
The first time Davis’s defense caught anybody’s eye was in his third game, an otherwise dreary 9-3 loss to Chicago at Citi. In the top of the first, with one out, Cubs second baseman Jeff Baker popped an Oliver Perez pitch foul to the right side. It appeared to be drifting out of play, but Davis tracked it, stayed with it and, even as it began to fall into the Mets dugout, didn’t give up on it. The rookie leaned in, grabbed it and held on, even as he tumbled head over heels.
“I landed on my feet,” Ike mused after the game, “so that’s good.”
The highlight reel had only begun. A couple of weeks later, the Mets were battling the Giants, again at Citi Field. The two teams were knotted at four in the top of the ninth (Davis had homered twice) when, with two out, Pablo Sandoval lifted a foul pop toward the Mets’ dugout. Once again, it was Ike taking nothing for granted…and taking away an at-bat from an opposing player. He lunged for the ball and held on as he replicated his head-over-heels tumble from the Cubs series. Again, he landed on his feet, with teammate Alex Cora standing by to steady him. The catch sent the Mets to the bottom of the ninth, where Ike would take off his glove, pick up his bat, work out a walk and score the winning run when catcher Rod Barajas launched the first walkoff home run in Citi Field’s brief existence.
Was this a thing now? Could and would Ike Davis make these sorts of plays at will? Once could be a fluke. Twice could also be a fluke. Think about the fan in the stands who catches two foul balls in a row. It doesn’t mean you give the fan a Gold Glove. Ike was just a young man on a hot highlight streak, maybe.
What is known is the Mets were lacking definites four nights after the Barajas walkoff. They were playing Washington in Flushing and were getting nowhere for the longest time, with Jon Niese struggling on a misty Tuesday night and the Mets trailing 6-2 by the middle of the eighth. With no warning or even a sense that warning would be required, the Mets turned their night around: a Jason Bay single, a David Wright double and a Davis ground ball that was thrown away by Nat shortstop Ian Desmond opened the figurative floodgates. Bay scored to make it 6-3 on the error. After the Nationals brought in the much-loathed ex-Yankee Tyler Clippard, Jeff Francoeur struck out swinging, but Barajas doubled in Wright and Davis to cut the National lead to a manageable 6-5.
Cora beat out a bunt to move the leaden Barajas to third. Rod then scored on Angel Pagan’s single to right. Now it was a tie game. Clippard remained in as Jerry Manuel deployed pinch-hitter Chris Carter, just brought up from Buffalo. In Carter’s first Met at-bat, the former Bison — nicknamed the Animal — lashed a double to right field. In loped Cora with the go-ahead run as Pagan sped to third. National manager Jim Riggleman changed pitchers, inserting Miguel Batista, and ordered an intentional pass to Jose Reyes to load the bases and set up a potential double play. But Batista couldn’t shake the wildness with which Riggleman afflicted him. Batista walked Bay, and the Mets were up 8-6.
The Mets had batted around and were still going. Wright struck out but Davis came up for a second time and bid to cap the inning with a dramatic grand slam down the right field line. Was it foul? Was it fair? The umpires initially ruled the former, but it was close enough (and Citi Field’s foul poles short enough) to trigger a video replay review. The Mets had done well in those situations in 2009 — about the only thing they had any luck at that year. Davis was certainly sure he’d hit one fair. For a rookie, even a rookie whose dad was a big leaguer, Ike had no hesitation when it came to expressing his views orally or by body language, and everyone could see Ike beseeching home plate ump John Hirschbeck that he though he’d hit a four-run four-bagger.
But it was not to be. The men in blue checked the video, concurred it was foul and Ike flied out to center to end the inning. Oh well, Mets fans were left to think — a grand slam would have been nice, but we’ve got a two-run lead and we’ll just have to take our chances with K-Rod.
Francisco Rodriguez was no sure thing coming out of the bullpen, despite a contract that paid him to as flawless as humanly possible. Nonetheless, he started the top of the ninth in uncharacteristically efficient fashion, popping up Josh Willingham to second on the second pitch he threw and grounding Pudge Rodriguez to short on his very next pitch.
But this was K-Rod. No sense counting chickens and appraising their hatching capabilities.
Ian Desmond was the Nationals’ final hope, the same Ian Desmond who had thrown away Davis’s grounder in the eighth and made it possible for the Mets to hatch their six-run comeback. He worked Rodriguez to 2-0 before lifting the next pitch foul. It looked like it would go into the seats behind the Mets dugout.
Or maybe…whoa, wait a minute. It can’t be.
But it is. It’s Ike Davis yet again. With the body language yet again. He’s drifting, just like the baseball. The baseball isn’t going into the seats. It’s instead descending through the airspace over the Mets’ dugout. And the Mets’ first baseman is determined to meet it.
The crowd braces spiritually as Ike prepares for impact. Once again, he’s grabbing the ball. Once again, he’s tumbling over the railing, right leg, then left leg. And this time, he has a veritable welcoming committee, as every Met who’s on the bench rushes over to fashion for him the softest of feet-first landings. The kid missed a grand slam by inches a few minutes before. No teammate wants him to make up for it by slamming helplessly into the cement below.
“It’s not that far of a drop,” Davis would say later, exhibiting the lack of fear that had marked the beginning of his Met journey. “I’d rather end the game than worry about getting a bruise.”
Davis holds onto the ball for the final out of a rousing 8-6 victory. The Mets, in turn, hold onto Davis. Fernando Tatis grasps him awkwardly between the legs, but it’s all in the name of safety, of preserving the long-term viability of the 23-year-old who has so quickly solidified his place in the Met future and crafted, via three breathtaking catches in a span of three weeks, a defensive legend.
That’s Ike Davis. You know…the guy who makes those catches.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On May 31, 1995, the Mets required rescue from their all-time saves leader. After overcoming a 3-1 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the eighth at Shea and putting Bobby Jones in position to gain a win for his solid eight-inning effort against the San Diego Padres, good old John Franco came in and did what most Mets fans swore he did all the time. Considering that by 1995, Franco had long passed Jesse Orosco for most saves by any Met reliever, it was a statistical fallacy to claim John Franco “always” blew leads. But perception feeds on certain realities, and on this Wednesday afternoon, there was no denying that Franco entered a game in the ninth inning with the Mets up 4-3 and promptly gave up the tying home run to leadoff batter Eddie Williams (the same Williams the Mets selected with their first pick in the 1983 amateur draft). Franco would eventually get out of the ninth and still be pitching in the tenth when he blew the 4-4 tie, though to be fair, this was more the kind of inning Franco usually experienced: an infield error allowing Bip Roberts to reach; Roberts racing to third on Tony Gwynn’s single to center; and Roberts scoring on Ken Caminiti’s grounder to second. Down 5-4, however, the Mets forgot about Franco and recovered. Jeff Kent and Joe Orsulak each singled and pinch-hitter Chris Jones belted a deep fly ball down the left field line for a three-run, game-winning pinch-hit home run. The Mets prevailed 7-5, with the W going to the pitcher of record when they came to bat in the tenth…good old John Franco.