Franco, 47, becomes oldest player to homer

Updated: April 21, 2006, 3:42 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO - The New York Mets must have known what they were doing when they signed Julio Franco to a two-year contract.

Franco, 47, became the oldest player in major league history to hit a home run when he connected for a two-run, pinch-hit shot in the eighth inning Thursday night to help the New York Mets rally for a 7-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

And he wants more.

"That won't be the last home run I hit, and I hope I hit one when I'm 50," said Franco, who has four career pinch-hit homers.

He wasn't joking.

"Why not? They signed me here for two years," said Franco, who turns 48 on Aug. 23. "God gave me the great gift to play the game of baseball, and I want to play until I'm 50. If He gives me two more years, don't you think He's going to give me another one?"

If Franco lasts that long, he'll turn 50 during the 2008 season.

Franco drove a 1-0 pitch from reliever Scott Linebrink (1-2) into the home-run porch down the right-field line at Petco Park. That gave the Mets a 3-2 lead and Franco the spot in the record book that had been belonged to Athletics pitcher Jack Quinn, who was 46 years, 357 days old when he homered on June 27, 1930.

Franco already was the oldest player to hit a grand slam, a pinch-hit homer and have a multihomer game.

The fan who ended up with the ball gave it to Franco in exchange for a bat. Anticipating a call from the Hall of Fame, Franco said he'd send either the ball or the bat, but not both.

Also Thursday night, Frank Robinson got his 1,000th win as a manager, with Nick Johnson hitting a pair of homers in the Washington Nationals' 10-4 victory at Philadelphia.

In other NL games, it was: Cincinnati 12, Milwaukee 8 and San Francisco 9, Arizona 7.

The Mets had as many hits in their six-run eighth as they did in their previous two games, when they were the victims of consecutive three-hitters by the Atlanta Braves.

Franco, in his 29th season in pro ball, signed with the Mets as a free agent on Dec. 9. The oldest player in the majors, his one-out homer came with former Padres player Xavier Nady aboard on a leadoff double.

After Franco's homer, the Mets piled it on with Carlos Delgado's two-run homer, his sixth, and RBIs singles by Endy Chavez and Cliff Floyd.

Kazuo Matsui hit another notable homer for the Mets. His inside-the-park homer leading off the third made this the third straight year he's homered in his first at-bat of the season. The last player to do that was Ken Griffey Jr. from 1997-99, while with Seattle.

"I'm having difficulty trying to get a grasp of it," Matsui said through an interpreter. "Today was an inside-the-parker. I can't believe it myself."

Matsui was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game. He opened the season on the DL with a sprained ligament in his right knee.

Matsui hit a fly ball off Jake Peavy that glanced off the glove of retreating right fielder Brian Giles, bounced off a sign on the fence and rolled along the fence toward the right-center gap.

Matsui raced around the bases and arrived at the plate at the same time as the relay throw, but catcher Mike Piazza couldn't hold onto the ball.

It was Matsui's first career inside-the-park homer, and the first by a Mets player since Marlon Anderson did it against the Los Angeles Angels last June 11.

As a rookie in 2004, Matsui became the second player in big league history to hit his first home run in his first at-bat while leading off a game to start a season.

San Diego came back in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 2-1 on Dave Roberts' single off Steve Trachsel.

San Diego chased Trachsel in the process of loading the bases with none out in the seventh, but failed to score. Pinch-hitter Eric Young hit into an inning-ending double play off Duaner Sanchez (1-0), the third Mets reliever of the inning.

Peavy was hit on the right shin by a comebacker by Trachsel in the third but stayed in the game. Peavy struck out five in seven innings, allowing four hits and one run. Trachsel allowed two runs and six hits in six innings, struck out three and walked two.

Peavy had X-rays after the game, which didn't show a break. The training staff put a compress on the shin during the game.

The 70-year-old Robinson improved to 1,000-1,095 in 16 seasons with Cleveland, San Francisco, Baltimore and the Montreal-Washington franchise. He became the 53rd manager to reach the milestone.

Pat Burrell and Chase Utley had two-run doubles for the Phillies, just 2-7 at home.

Billy Traber (1-0) allowed four runs - three earned - and two hits in his first outing in three years. The left-hander, who lasted 5 2-3 innings, hadn't pitched in the majors since Sept. 16, 2003, for Cleveland, due to elbow surgery.

Ryan Madson (1-1) recorded just three outs.

At Milwaukee, Brandon Phillips hit his first grand slam and added another shot for his first two-homer game to help Cincinnati.

Trailing 6-2, the Reds scored 10 straight runs to make it 12-6, including five in the sixth when Phillips hit his two-out grand slam off reliever Mike Adams.

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer in the fifth off Brewers reliever Justin Lehr (1-1).

Chad Moeller homered off Matt Belisle (1-0) for the Brewers.

At Phoenix, Mark Sweeney drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the go-ahead run and Pedro Feliz added a two-run double to for the Giants. It was the second time in four days that the Giants blew a big lead and then won in the ninth inning.

San Francisco led 6-0 in the fourth inning, but Arizona tied it at 6 when catcher Johnny Estrada hit a three-run homer in the eighth off Tim Worrell (2-0).

Barry Bonds, who didn't start for the second straight day, was intentionally walked as a pinch-hitter in the ninth to load the bases before Brandon Medders (0-1) got Ray Durham to pop out to third. Sweeney then walked to score Steve Finley. Feliz followed with a double off reliever Luis Vizcaino to make 9-6.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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