Relief Pitchers and Clock Watchers

October 22—The city that never sleeps slumbered soundly last night. It had to. It was exhausted.

A World Series-record-breaking four-hour 51-minute, 12-inning marathon between its two baseball teams will do that to a town—even New York. We asked the oldest player on the field, 40-year-old Met reliever John Franco (whose scoreless eighth-inning hold ultimately went for naught) if he thought Game 1 was indicative of how the rest of this Fall Classic might go. "Yeah, fight 'n' scratch from the first pitch. There’s no die in either team," said Franco, who happens to be the only actual native New Yorker playing in the Subway Series. "I think the team that makes the least mistakes is gonna win this thing. When you’ve come this far, you can’t afford to make too many mistakes, because one or the other is gonna take advantage of it. We know we had this game, and we kind of gave it away. Hopefully, that won't happen again."

Maybe not, but the Mets had better hope manager Bobby Valentine’s comment that "we came in with a little World Series experience and got a lot of it tonight" produces instant results—especially for the muy macho Armando Benitez, who blew his umpteenth career postseason save in Game 1. By nature, a short reliever has to have the temperament to "turn the page," but it helps to read it first. After the game, Benitez seemed unsure of what he’d thrown to Paul O’Neill when the Yankee right fielder fought his way through that dramatic bottom-of-the-ninth rally-starting 10-pitch walk. "He beat me...I didn’t do my job," was all Benitez kept saying, regardless of the questions posed. "I’ll try again tomorrow." True enough, but in a short series, those tomorrows disappear awfully quick—especially if you don’t learn anything from yesterday.

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