Trachsel stellar in return, pitches Mets to fifth straight win

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- When Steve Trachsel went down with a back
injury in spring training, the New York Mets didn't know whether he
would come back at all this season.

Trachsel returned all right, making a triumphant season debut
Friday night that showed he could play a key role as the Mets chase
a playoff berth down the stretch.

Trachsel allowed two hits in eight innings in his first major
league start in nearly 11 months, leading New York to its fifth
straight win, 1-0 over the San Francisco Giants.

"I'm not really surprised," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.
"I almost expected him to do what he did tonight. I know he wanted
the ball and he was ready for this. ... I have seen him quite a bit
in the past, and it was vintage Trachsel."

David Wright homered off Kevin Correia (2-5) for the only run
for the Mets, who remained 1½ games behind wild-card leader
Philadelphia. The streak has moved the Mets (68-60) eight games
over .500 for the first time since their pennant-winning season of

Trachsel got off to a quick start, recording five of his six
strikeouts in the first four innings. The Giants had only one
runner in the first five innings -- a walk by Correia -- and few
hard-hit balls other than Edgardo Alfonzo's one-hopper to shortstop
Jose Reyes.

Trachsel, who made six rehab starts in the minors, said he tried
to block out the fact that he had gone so long without facing major

"I tried not to think about that portion of it," he said. "I
just wanted to go out there and trust myself and make my pitches. I
knew if I did that the results would be good."

The Giants didn't manage a hit until Randy Winn's clean
ground-ball single through the middle with two outs in the sixth.
Winn stole second but was stranded when Omar Vizquel grounded out.

Alfonzo led off the eighth with an infield single deep in the
hole at shortstop for the only other hit off Trachsel. With runners
on first and third and two outs, Randolph stuck with Trachsel, who
got Winn to fly out to shallow center to end the inning.

"He made tons of big pitches," Giants manager Felipe Alou
said. "It is hard to believe that a guy making his first start
would be so sharp. You do not find a guy throwing eight innings on
his first start."

Braden Looper pitched around a leadoff double to Vizquel in the
ninth, getting three straight groundouts to finish for his 27th
save in 32 chances.

No team has been around as long as the Mets without throwing a
no-hitter, but they have come tantalizingly close many times since
their expansion year of 1962. The Mets have thrown 27 one-hitters,
including Bobby Jones' gem against the Giants in the 2000 playoffs,
but have never held a team hitless.

Pitchers such as Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David
Cone and Hideo Nomo all threw no-hitters after pitching for the
Mets. Trachsel admitted he was thinking about that.

"I probably was when I gave up the hit," he said. "I probably
shouldn't have been thinking about it."

Trachsel has two of those one-hitters, and also flirted with a
no-hitter in the most important game he ever pitched, a one-game
playoff win against the Giants in 1998 when he was with the Cubs.
Trachsel didn't allow a hit until Brett Mayne singled with one out
in the seventh and Chicago went on to win the game 5-3 to make the
playoffs as the wild-card team.

This did not figure to be the night the Mets broke that
44-season drought. Trachsel had been sidelined since surgery on
March 19 to repair a herniated disc in his back. Originally the
Mets planned to let him would work his way back as a reliever, but
earlier this week Randolph said Trachsel would move right into the

That gives the Mets six starters and Trachsel stated his case
for remaining one when Randolph goes back to a five-man rotation.

Trachsel got all the support he needed in the second inning. One
batter after Cliff Floyd hit a drive to the deepest part of the
park that was caught by Winn in front of the 421-foot sign in
right-center, Wright homered deep into the left-field bleachers to
make it 1-0.

"I hit that ball about as square as I can hit it," Wright
said. "It was a two-seamer over the plate and I got extended."

That's all Correia allowed in eight innings. He gave up seven
hits, no walks and struck out seven in the longest outing of his

"I gave up the home run to Wright which cost me but I've given
up a few home runs," Correia said. "I'm not going to try to pitch
around guys."

Game notes
San Diego (first season in 1969), Colorado (1993) and Tampa
Bay (1998) are the other teams never to have a no-hitter. ...
Alfonzo went 1-for-3 and has one extra-base hit in his last 97 ABs
and has gone 290 at-bats since last homering April 8 against
Colorado. ... The Mets won for the fourth time in 18 regular-season
games at SBC Park.