Back to the Future: Kids and Franco Help Mets Win

The future potential of the New York Mets was on full display Monday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, but the elder-most veteran of the team came through in the clutch too, thus producing an amalgamation that led to an 8-6 win.

Aaron Heilman, the Mets' first round pick in 2001, came into his sixth Major League start winless, with a record of 0-2. He went five innings and allow four earned runs but was saved by his young offense, led by three more rookies at the top of the lineup.

Jeff Duncan, the 24-year old centerfielder who was recently called up from Binghamton, had two infield hits and walked once from the leadoff spot. Jose Reyes, the 20-year old shortstop phenom went 1-5 but beat out two prospective double plays and later scored as a result of each. Reyes and Duncan each made sparkling plays on the defensive side of the astroturf diamond, with Reyes sliding to his right to throw out Placido Polanco and Jeff Duncan robbing Marlon Byrd with a diving catch on Byrd's flair with two men on.

The biggest performance came from the third rookie in the top of the order trio, Jason Phillips. Phillips was 3-5 with a two run homer, which was responsible for one of his three runs and two of his three RBI.

Cliff Floyd also had a homerun, a three run job in the first off of Philadelphia starter Brandon Duckworth, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up five earned runs.

Relievers Dan Wheeler and Dave Weathers followed Heilman, with Wheeler giving up one run in two innings and Weathers pitching a scoreless 8th inning. He ran into trouble in the ninth, allowing a Polanco double to lead off the inning.

In came John Franco, the 42-year old reliever who was at one point one of the best relievers in the game. He had saved 422 games in his career until he was replaced by the recently departed Armando Benitez. Franco underwent Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the 2002 season and it paid off, as Franco got another chance at closing.

Franco allowed an RBI double to Bobby Abreu but then, in a crucial spot, induced Jim Thome to ground out to Reyes, who was playing almost at second base with the heavy shift on. He then got Mike Lieberthal to fly out, but walked Pat Burrell to put the tying run on base and bring the winning run to the plate. However, Franco would halt the threat there, retiring Jason Michaels on a fielders' choice to third base.

As he has done so many times in his Met career, Franco made Mets fans sweat but came out of the ninth unscathed, this time with his 423rd career save, the ball tucked inside the left hand that had rocked and then pacified the Met boat since 1990.

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