Series: Game 1 of 3

NY Mets leads 1-0 (as of 4/4)

Game 1: Friday, April 4
NY Mets4
Game 2: Saturday, April 5
NY Mets3
Game 3: Sunday, April 6
NY Mets5

Expos 0

(3-1, 3-1 away)

Mets 4

(2-2, 2-2 home)

    7:10 PM ET, April 4, 2003

    Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York 

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    MON 000000000 0 5 0
    NYM 00021001 - 4 13 0

    W: D. Cone (1-0)

    L: T. Ohka (0-1)

    Cone pitches five solid innings for victory

    NEW YORK (AP) -- After all that time, David Cone still felt right at home.

    David Cone

    David Cone limited the Expos to two hits, while striking out five and walking three.

    Cone turned back the clock and the surprising Expos, pitching five impressive innings in his first game since 2001 and leading the New York Mets over Montreal 4-0 on a cold, miserable Friday night.

    "This is so unexpected to be in this position," the 40-year-old Cone said. "It's kind of hard to describe."

    Making his first outing for the Mets at Shea Stadium since 1992, Cone was everything he and his old team could've hoped for in this comeback start.

    Throwing every sort of breaking ball from all different angles, he held the Expos to two singles -- both by pitcher Tomo Ohka _ while striking out five and walking three.

    "Obviously, I can't throw as hard as I used to," Cone said. "It is more of a thinking man's style."

    The Expos came into Shea Stadium after outscoring Atlanta 17-2 in a season-opening three-game sweep. But Cone made Montreal look feeble, the same way he did on July 18, 1999, when he pitched a perfect game against the Expos while with the New York Yankees.

    Cone was comfortable from the start. The mound, the crowd and the uniform were familiar, and he showed he remembered his other skills, too. Cone singled in his first at-bat and later slid into second base on a force play.

    "It was my first slide in about 12 years," he kidded. "That wasn't very pretty. It was more of a collapse."

    A sparse but spirited crowd far short of the announced 18,040 sat through tough conditions. It was 37 degrees at gametime, with 14 mph winds blowing a heavy mist across the diamond.

    "You don't see this kind of thing happen every day," Mets manager Art Howe said. "I guess he doesn't want to retire, let's face it."

    Cone (1-0) was always a favorite at Shea, and his rooters saw him earn his 194th career victory and first since Oct. 6, 2001, for the Boston Red Sox in Cal Ripken's final game before retirement.

    Prominent among the fans were his Coneheads, the kooky group that used to wear flesh-colored cones on their heads -- inspired by the "Saturday Night Live" skit -- when he pitched. About 50 of the old members were in the upper deck behind the plate, along with same "Cone Co'ner" sign they sported in 1988.

    "We're not kids anymore," 33-year-old Cliff Seltzer said. "This is 20 pounds and a kid later, but it's the same group, so it's a lot of fun."

    Their original cones melted long ago, so they found some new ones at a Queens costume shop. The group also displayed a picture of Scott Saber, a founding member who was killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

    "This just brings back good memories. Those were good times, and he'd be right here with us," said another of the founders, Andrew Levy, who runs a sports marketing firm that promotes Cone and other athletes.

    Mo Vaughn hit his first homer of the season and an RBI single. Vance Wilson, again subbing for the suspended Mike Piazza, hit a two-run double in the fourth off Ohka (0-1) that ended the Expos' streak of 22 scoreless innings.

    A five-time All-Star, Cone owns five World Series rings, the most among active major leaguers. He was at his crafty best when he faced slugger Vladimir Guerrero with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning.

    Guerrero fouled off two pitches, both times grimacing after just missing on big swings. With the count 2-2, he swung over a tantalizing, 71 mph curve. Guerrero was among the few remaining Expos who played in Cone's perfect game at Yankee Stadium.

    "It's just what you saw. He tricked us all night," Montreal manager Frank Robinson said. "We're a very aggressive hitting ballclub, and he used that to his advantage."

    Cone said he hoped for a fast first inning. He had extra reason to want it because of the elements, blowing on his hands to keep warm while taking deep, frosty breaths.

    The Expos didn't look too comfortable either, as center fielder Endy Chavez wore a ski mask over his cap and a headband across his nose.

    After pawing at the mound for a few seconds, Cone needed only nine pitches to get Chavez and Jose Vidro on routine grounders and strike out Guerrero. The Mets met Cone with hearty congratulations and high-fives when he returned to the bench, and the crowd let out a big cheer.

    "I wanted to get that first strike. It was calming," he said. "The ovation after the first inning kind of brought me back,"

    Along with being happy just to see his fine, 84-pitch outing, the Mets needed it -- No. 3 starter Pedro Astacio is out with shoulder tendinitis and the team had stumbled to a 1-2 start.

    Cone, who rose to stardom with the Mets from 1987-92, sat out the entire 2002 season while considering his future, often working as a Yankees' announcer. The Expos tried to sign him, but he said no.

    Earlier this year, Cone thought about retiring before the Mets intrigued the former Cy Young winner with an invitation to spring training.

    Game notes
    Ohka, batting .137 lifetime, got the first multihit game of his career. ... Rey Sanchez got his first hit for the Mets, ending an 0-for-13 slump to start the season. ... Cone' last hit came in 2000 for the Yankees. ... Mets pitchers struck out 13.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press