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Franco becomes oldest to hit home run, lifts Mets

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Julio Franco doesn't intend to slow down any
time soon.

Franco 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.

Franco, 47, 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.

"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.

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.

The Mets had as many hits in the 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.

"Losing those two games in a row, Peavy was throwing a great
game," Franco said, referring to Padres ace Jake Peavy, who left
with a 2-1 lead after seven. "We lost 2-1 yesterday, and it
wouldn't be good to lose 2-1 today. It makes it more of an
accomplishment."

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 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.

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

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. Roberts' second
straight hit scored Ben Johnson, who had a leadoff single and
advanced on Peavy's groundout.

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.

Trachsel "was coming to get me," Peavy said. "He hurt me
there."

Game notes
Mets CF Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup after missing
the last four games with a strained right hamstring, but felt
discomfort and left the game after the fourth inning. He said he'll
have an MRI on Friday. ... Floyd played for the first time since
leaving Monday's game against Atlanta with a strained rib cage. ...
Piazza faced the Mets for the first time since leaving New York as
a free agent in the offseason. He played with the Mets for 7½
seasons. ... Another former Mets player, Padres CF Mike Cameron,
began a rehab assignment on Thursday night with Class A Lake
Elsinore and could be activated during this four-game series.
Cameron started the season on the DL with a strained muscle in his
side. Traded from New York to San Diego for Nady in the offseason,
Cameron hasn't played since being injured in a face-to-face
collision with Beltran in the outfield at Petco Park on Aug. 11.