It went just the way Mets manager Willie Randolph hoped it would.
The former Mets catcher went 1-for-4 in his first game in the Big Apple since he signed with the Padres in the offseason. He received loud cheers from the moment he exited the dugout for pregame stretching to his last at-bat in the eighth inning.
“That’s how you treat heroes and I think that’s what he’s been to a lot of fans here in the city of New York,” Randolph said. “I’m really pleased the way they showed their love for him and good thing we got the win and he got a nice little knock in there.
“I’m sure that the fans got a little bit of both tonight.”
Wright, one of the new leaders of the first place Mets, went 3-for-4 and had one of New York’s three stolen bases against Piazza, who has long had trouble throwing out runners. Carlos Beltran also doubled three times to tie a Mets record.
“I was seeing the ball well,” Beltran said. “… It’s always great when you contribute to help the team win and today was a very important game for us. Every time you win the first game out of a series it’s always good.”
The matchup of division leaders was almost an afterthought to the return of Piazza, who spent much of the night with a wide grin running across his face.
A pregame tribute on the video board in left-center showed some of Piazza’s most memorable moments from his eight seasons with the Mets, prompting more cheers. The 37-year-old slugger watched from the third-base line after warming up starter Woody Williams in the bullpen.
He mouthed “Thank you” and waved to fans as they stood and clapped. He received another standing ovation before his first at-bat leading off the second inning, this time waving his batting helmet twice as cameras flashed all over the stadium.
“It was just one of those amazing moments that I can’t explain in sports,” Piazza said. “You just don’t see that a lot. For them to give me that privilege and honor is something I can’t explain. The people were amazing.”
Wright grew up rooting for the Mets in Virginia, and was happy to be on the field for Piazza’s return.
“For him to come back and get the ovation he did, I even at one point looked at the umpire during the first at-bat and everybody was clapping and I told (third base umpire) Chuck Meriwether this was pretty cool,” Wright said.
Piazza struck out swinging, but the crowd cheered anyway as he made his way to the dugout.
San Diego took a 2-0 lead on Geoff Blum’s two-run homer in the second.
That was it for the NL West-leading Padres against Steve Trachsel (11-5), who allowed five hits in 5 2-3 innings to win his second straight start.
“He’s been pretty consistent, keeping us in the ballgame for the most part,” Randolph said. “He makes pitches when he has to.”
Wright came up again in the fifth with runners on first and second and singled in Beltran to give New York the lead.
“They’re a great team and like I said they’re playing great baseball,” Piazza said. “You can’t make any mistakes to them because they’re such a potent offense and their pitching did a good job tonight.”
Williams (4-4) pitched six innings, allowing three runs and eight hits. He struck out five.
Five relievers combined to hold down San Diego over the final 3 1-3 innings. Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 30 chances.
Mike Cameron, a former Met who also received a warm welcome from the crowd, walked and stole second with one out in the eighth. Piazza then flied out to center against Roberto Hernandez and Adrian Gonzalez grounded out against Pedro Feliciano.
Josh Bard entered for Piazza in the bottom of the eighth, as part of a double switch. The crowd booed when the move was announced.
“It’s fitting,” Cameron said of the reaction to Piazza. “He did a lot here. That was something else. It gave me goosebumps.”
Twenty times a Mets player has hit three doubles in a game. The previous time was Wright at San Francisco on Aug. 21, 2004. … Padres SS Khalil Greene was a late scratch from the starting lineup. He had missed three straight games due to a sprained middle finger on his left hand. … New York stole four bases in the game. … After the game, the Mets designated OF Eli Marrero for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for OF Ricky Ledee, who was placed on waivers Monday night by the Los Angeles Dodgers and quickly claimed by New York. Earlier, the Mets said they designated RHP Anderson Garcia for assignment to make room for Ledee on the 40-man roster. “An experienced bat, a guy that I know real well and a good teammate so hopefully he can help us,” Randolph said of Ledee. … Piazza batted .296 with 220 homers and 655 RBIs with New York. He ranks second on the Mets’ career homers and RBI lists.