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A masterpiece for the Mets

Bobby Jones one-hits the Giants 4-0 to send New York into the NLCS against St. Louis.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 9, 2000


photo
[AP photo]
Bobby Jones gets a hero's shower after limiting the Giants to a Jeff Kent double.
NEW YORK -- Bobby J. Jones came up with the game of his life Sunday. His Mets are having the time of their lives.

Pitching on the grandest stage of his eight-year career, Jones responded with a remarkable performance in his first post-season appearance, throwing a one-hit complete game to lead the Mets past the Giants 4-0 and into the National League Championship Series against St. Louis.

As soon as centerfielder Jay Payton clutched Barry Bonds' lazy fly for the final out, the Mets broke into a jubilant celebration that carried from the mound to the outfield and into a clubhouse that soon became soaked with champagne.

"I think everybody appreciates where we're at, and we're going to enjoy it," said Robin Ventura, who sparked the Mets with a two-run homer in the first. "There's no need for us to go about it quietly. We're just going to have fun, and hopefully it takes us to the World Series."

As much as the Mets were celebrating their elimination of the NL-best Giants, you couldn't help but think they toasted once or twice to the fact that they will be playing the Cardinals rather than the nemesis Braves, who seemed to foil them at every opportunity in recent years, creating what some players referred to as "the Braves thing."

"Now," reliever John Franco said, "we don't have to worry about that."

What worries they have about the Cardinals will be addressed starting this morning. Sunday, they were too busy recounting the heroics of Jones, a 30-year-old right-hander who was struggling so much in June he was sent to the minors for a couple weeks.

"Tonight, Bobby Jones did something special," said Edgardo Alfonzo, who drove in the other two runs with a fifth-inning double. "I think he threw the game of his life."

Jones did it by killing the Giants softly, mixing a mid-80s fastball with an assortment of even more off-speed pitches.

"Bobby Jones was the perfect guy to throw in this situation because he was going against a team that had to do something," said Giants second baseman Jeff Kent, who had the only hit, a fifth-inning double off Ventura's glove. "He was ho-humming everything, and I mean that in a good way, but we didn't ho-hum with him. You've got to control your aggressiveness, and that's hard."

Jones said his success was a combination of adrenaline and good command. "I just felt like I could throw the ball where I wanted to," he said. "I just had confidence in all my pitches."

It was the first complete-game one-hit shutout in post-season play since Boston's Jim Lonborg shut down St. Louis during the 1967 World Series. Atlanta's Kevin Millwood pitched a complete-game one-hitter in a 5-1 playoff win against Houston last year.

Giants manager Dusty Baker, however, didn't give Jones all that much credit. "It's not like we got one-hitted and completely dominated. He threw a great game, but he pitched to the defense," Baker said. "He was changing speeds and he got strike one, and then he had the at-'em ball working pretty good. We hit some balls extremely hard but couldn't find any holes."

More than Jones' performance, Baker will be dogged all winter by one of his decisions.

After Jones retired his first 12 batters, the Giants, down 2-0 at the time, showed signs of life in the fifth. Kent, who was just foul with a potential homer, lined a leadoff double to left. The Giants followed with a flyout, a walk, another flyout, and another walk, leaving the bases loaded with two outs and pitcher Mark Gardner due up.

Baker, concerned about going to a depleted bullpen that early, let Gardner hit, and he popped out. The Giants wouldn't get another baserunner.

"No, I don't regret it," Baker said. "If you don't have a full bullpen, you don't have a full bullpen. There's nothing to regret."

Jones wasn't complaining. He had been left off the Mets 1998 post-season roster because of injury and inconsistency, and said missing that experience drove him harder this year. He went 7-2 in his last 13 starts and was manager Bobby Valentine's clear choice for Game 4, despite public skepticism and suggestions Valentine was plotting a last-minute change.

"If he needed vindication, I'm glad he got it," Valentine said. "But Bobby has earned everything he has done. He's a pro. ... He knows what he has to do."

The person who first knew he was going to do it was his wife, Kristi. Valentine saw her after Saturday's game and she asked if her husband indeed was going to pitch Sunday. Valentine said he was.

"You won't be sorry that he is," Kristi said. "He's going to pitch the game of his life."

"She told me the same thing," Jones said later. "I hope she's always right like that."

Playoff one-hitters

Bobby Jones' one-hitter was the fourth in playoff history, and the second of the complete-game variety:

Oct. 9, 1974 (ALCS)

THE STORY: Baltimore's Mike Cuellar (42/3 innings) and Ross Grimsley (41/3) combine to stifle Oakland, but Cuellar walks nine. Athletics win 2-1, behind Catfish Hunter's five-hitter.

THE SPOILER: Reggie Jackson, with a one-out double in the seventh.

Oct. 12, 1990 (NLCS)

THE STORY: Cincinnati's Danny Jackson (6 innings), Norm Charlton (1) and Randy Myers (2) beat Pittsburgh 2-1.

THE SPOILER: Carmelo Martinez, with a one-out double in the fifth.

Oct. 6, 1999 (NLDS)

THE STORY: Kevin Millwood dominates Houston in 5-1 win at Turner Field, as Braves rebound from one-game deficit.

THE SPOILER: Ken Caminiti, with a one-out home run in the second.

Oct. 8, 2000 (NLDS)

THE STORY: Jones allows Mets to breath easier in 4-0 clincher, after getting winning run in their final at-bat in five consecutive post-season victories.

THE SPOILER: Jeff Kent, with a leadoff double in the fifth.

Up next

Cardinals vs. Mets

GAME 1: Wednesday, 8:18 p.m.

WHERE: St. Louis.

TV: Ch. 13.

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