Among the legion of Mets fans not anxiously awaiting Kazuo Matsui’s return to the lineup, one thought persisted about how this evening could work out right for the man widely known as the infield’s answer to Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Confused and overeager as he is in most of his at-bats, Kaz is lights-out in his first plate appearance of every season. He homered on the first Big League pitch he ever saw. He homered in his first at-bat of 2005, too. So… the estimable Greg Prince at the equally estimable Faith and Fear In Flushing, any jaundiced, faintly defeated-sounding predictions?
Kaz is back. Maybe he’ll hit a home run in San Diego on the very first pitch he sees.
Well, not on the first pitch. And not in the least-ungainly inside-the-park home run ever hit (but not the most ungainly, thanks to Marlon Anderson’s falling-down-the-stairs inside-the-park affair last year). But damned if Kaz didn’t do it again, legging out an inside-the-park home run on a slapsticky second-inning drive that bounced off Brian Giles’ glove, Petco’s wall, and about 100 feet of San Diego sod. Typically torpid in his other at-bats, Kaz extended his MLB record, becoming the only player ever to homer in his first at-bat in three straight seasons. No one else has ever even done it twice.
As I write, the Mets are up 7-2 after batting around in the eighth inning. The rally was spurred by a clutch pinch-hit Julio Franco home run (above) that must’ve travelled at least 310 feet into San Diego’s rightfield “jury box.” Julio’s record? Oldest player ever to hit a Big League home run. Unless Ruben Sierra hits a homer in 2016, this record also seems pretty safe.