WASHINGTON (AP)—Frank Robinson doffed his cap and tapped his hand to his heart, basking in a standing ovation after the final out of his next-to-last game as the Washington Nationals’ manager.
So what if the Nationals lost 13-0 to the New York Mets on Saturday night? The home fans are going to give their Hall of Famer a generous send-off, just as he wanted.
“You do try to take some of it in, store it and enjoy,” said Robinson, who’ll also manage the season finale Sunday even though his departure is certain. “It is an enjoyable moment overall. The reaction of the fans. People’s reaction, period. It’s nice to know that you’re appreciated.”
The Nationals’ most-lopsided defeat this season began a few hours after Robinson told his players and coaching staff that he’s done as their manager.
Then there was the news conference for the official announcement that Robinson won’t be back in 2007. And shortly after that, the New York Mets said Pedro Martinez will miss the start of next season after shoulder surgery. And then the clubs went out at night and played a game of far less significance than those two news items.
That game does still count in the books, though, and Julio Franco made the most of it, tying a career high with five RBIs to help Tom Glavine earn his 290th career win in the NL East champion Mets’ victory over the last-place Nationals.
Robinson’s wife and daughter sat behind the Nationals’ dugout during the game. When he was shown on the center-field video board during the seventh inning, fans cheered and some chanted “Frank! Frank! Frank!” He gave a thumbs-up and a wave. There was a similar exchange in the bottom of the ninth, when dozens of fans stood and yelled his name.
“Being in the game so long, and doing what he’s done—getting out of it is hard,” Nationals rookie Ryan Zimmerman said.
But while some Nationals players spoke about hoping to send Robinson out on a winning note, the Mets—with no apparent motivation, given that home-field advantage in the playoffs is sealed—dominated.
The 48-year-old Franco fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle: He hit a three-run homer in the first inning, a two-run double in the third and a single in the fourth. It was the seventh time he’s driven in five runs in a game, but first since Aug. 6, 1994.
The cycle was on his mind in his last two at-bats.
“Of course you think about it. You think that happens every day? If I hit a ball in the gap, I was going to run until they tagged me or I made it to third,” Franco said.
He wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup—he played first base after Carlos Delgado was a late scratch with what the team called general soreness.
Glavine (15-7) looked quite good in his six shutout innings. He allowed only three hits, all singles, and didn’t walk a batter. His three strikeouts raised his total to 2,481, passing Jack Morris for 30th on the career list.
“Everything was good. I felt good. I felt comfortable,” Glavine said.
Beltran Perez (2-1) took the loss, allowing six runs on six hits and three walks over three innings.
Manager Willie Randolph pulled Glavine after 71 pitches with the postseason approaching. The lefty will start Game 2 in the first round, following Orlando Hernandez in Game 1.
The rest of the rotation is unsettled, in part because Martinez is sidelined. He already was ruled out of the postseason with a leg injury, and on Saturday came word that he won’t throw from a mound until June after an operation on his right rotator cuff.
“You don’t want to see the guy have any more issues than he already has,” Glavine said. “Hopefully it’s the kind of thing he can take care of and pitch next year and continue on with his career.”
For Robinson, a 51-year baseball career probably is over.
“He’s a legend. I look at Frank Robinson as a living legend, really. I don’t look at the fact that he was the first black manager; he was an unbelievable player, an outstanding player,” Randolph said. “It’s important people know what kind of legacy he’s been a part of.”
Mets RHP Steve Trachsel was scratched from Sunday’s start; LHP Oliver Perez replaces him. … The Nationals will honor Robinson on Sunday with tributes beginning before the first pitch and continuing throughout the afternoon.