Mets 5, Diamondbacks 3
PHOENIX (AP)—Julio Franco has 173 career homers and is the oldest player to go deep in major league history.
His first drive this season was a memorable one.
Franco and Paul Lo Duca homered against Randy Johnson to lead the New York Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. It was Franco’s first career homer against The Big Unit and Lo Duca’s second.
“It’s not easy to hit home runs against that guy,” said the 48-year-old Franco, a career .243 hitter against Johnson.
Johnson is headed for the Hall of Fame, but the Mets have been treating him like a September call-up. Last year, the Mets pounded Johnson for 14 earned runs in 11 innings in two interleague starts when he pitched for the rival New York Yankees.
They picked up Friday night where they left off, getting to Johnson (0-2) for five runs and nine hits in seven innings in his first start against them this year. He struck out seven and walked one in his third start since October back surgery.
“It’s getting better,” said Johnson, who has allowed five homers in 18 innings. “I know the results don’t reflect that.”
Johnson’s troubles began quickly. The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first when Reyes led off with a single, stole second and scored on Carlos Beltran’s single.
New York made it 3-0 in the second on Franco’s two-run homer. After Lo Duca led off with a single, Franco hit an 0-2 pitch 418 feet into the jacuzzi beyond the right-center field fence for his first homer.
Franco said he doesn’t believe Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, has slipped.
“You have to understand that any pitcher like him, to come off the DL like that, you’ve got to give him at least five starts to start saying things like ‘Well, he’s not the same guy,’ or ‘He doesn’t have the same velocity,”’ Franco said.
Arizona manager Bob Melvin said he has seen gradual improvement in Johnson.
“It’s going to take a little while, but I think it’s coming,” Melvin said.
While Johnson struggled, Maine (5-0) cruised through the weak-hitting Diamondbacks, who entered with a .243 team batting average, 14th in the NL. Maine, April’s NL pitcher of the month, allowed only three baserunners to reach scoring position.
Maine allowed one run and six hits with a walk. He struck out seven.
“I was just glad I got through that one,” Maine said. “I don’t want to look at it like it was good because I’ve got to work on things.”
Mets manager Willie Randolph said he was impressed with Maine’s ability to get by on a night he didn’t have his best stuff.
“He proved a lot to me tonight,” Randolph said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but good pitchers learn to adjust and improvise a little bit.”
Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his sixth save in six chances, walking leadoff man Stephen Drew before striking out Carlos Quentin and getting Scott Hairston to ground into a game-ending double play.
Orlando Hudson singled and homered for the Diamondbacks, who lost their fourth straight after winning six in a row.
Hudson made it 5-3 in the eighth with a two-run homer off Ambiorix Burgos. Third-base umpire Gary Darling signaled a home run, but replays appeared to show that left fielder Endy Chavez knocked the ball down before it reached the seats.
“It was obvious it wasn’t a home run, but it didn’t hurt us,” Randolph said.
The Mets have 11 road victories, most in the majors. … Hudson has reached base in 31 straight games. The club record is 40, set by Jay Bell in 1998. … Arizona is 4-0 against the Washington Nationals and 12-15 against the rest of the league. … On an 80-degree night, the Chase Field roof was closed in the top of the first inning because of 35 mph winds. … Reyes stole his major league-leading 18th base . … Franco’s homer extended his record of being the oldest to homer in the majors, at 48 years, 8 months and 12 days.