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Rookie shortstop homers on first pitch

4/7/2004

ATLANTA (AP) -- Kaz Matsui's big-league debut was perfect -- right
from the start.

Matsui homered on the first major league pitch he saw and Tom Glavine beat his former team for the first time, leading the New York Mets over the Atlanta Braves 7-2 in their season opener Tuesday night.

Mike Piazza hit a long home run off losing pitcher Russ Ortiz
for the Mets, coming off consecutive last-place finishes.

But Matsui has already made a big difference from the leadoff
spot.

The rookie shortstop from Japan had a huge game, going 3-for-3
with two doubles, two walks and three RBI.

"It was more than I ever imagined," Matsui said through a
translator.

Despite batting only .192 in spring training with one home run,
Matsui said he felt more comfortable at the plate the last three or
four exhibition games.

"I did a lot of batting practice and it helped a lot," he
said. "Today, if a strike came on the first pitch, I was swinging.
I didn't imagine it would be a home run."

Glavine, who was 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA against Atlanta last
season after signing a $35 million, three-year contract with the
Mets the previous winter, had another rough start.

This time, however, he recovered after giving up a leadoff
single to Rafael Furcal and a home run to Marcus Giles in the first
inning.

"It's impossible. It couldn't be more of the same," said
Glavine, who strolled off the mound and gave himself a thorough
talking to.

"It's not anything that can be printed in a newspaper," he
said. "I just gave myself a timeout and told myself to get back to
being aggressive. Do what you've been doing that has been
successful over my career."

Glavine allowed only a harmless single to Giles in the third and
a two-out single to Chipper Jones in the sixth. The left-hander
went six innings and allowed four hits, two walks and struck out
two.

"It certainly ranked up there with some of the big wins I've
had. I don't want to overplay it, but it was gratifying to pitch
well after the way I pitched against them last year," Glavine
said.

David Weathers and Braden Looper combined for three innings of
scoreless relief to finish it.

"It's a tough way to start the season, but who cares? It's only
one game," Giles said.

Matsui, a seven-time All-Star in Japan, drew about 50 members of
the Japanese media to Turner Field. And he immediately showed why
the Mets signed him in December to a three-year contract.

The switch-hitter, batting left-handed, hit the first pitch of
the game from Ortiz 429 feet over the center-field fence for a 1-0
lead.

"His start is almost like a fairy tale. Wow, was that
outstanding," Mets manager Art Howe said.

Matsui gave the Mets the lead for good in the second inning with
an RBI double to right for a 3-2 lead, scoring Glavine, who had a
run-scoring single.

"It had to be pretty exciting for him. He looked very
comfortable, very confident. You can't teach that," Giles said of
Matsui.

The Mets broke it open in the third, scoring three more for a
6-2 lead. Piazza hit a 421-foot homer to left-center.

Mike Cameron followed with a single and stole second, and Jason Phillips walked before Atlanta shortstop Furcal made an error, loading the bases. Ortiz then walked in a run on a 3-2 pitch to Ty Wigginton. Glavine lined out against reliever Juan Cruz before Matsui drew a bases-loaded walk for another run.

The Mets added another run in the fourth on an RBI double by
Phillips.

Game notes
Matsui was the third Mets player to hit a home run in his
first at-bat. The others were Mike Fitzgerald vs. Philadelphia on
Sept. 13, 1983, and Benny Ayala on Aug. 27, 1974, vs. Houston. ...
Ortiz's outing was his shortest since July 26, 2002, with San
Francisco. He went two innings and gave up eight runs to the Los
Angeles Dodgers. ... The Braves honored several of their former
greats by painting murals on the outfield wall running from the
left-field corner to the right-field scoreboard. They include Hank
Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro and Warren Spahn.
... Ortiz, the NL's only 20-game winner a year ago, was making his
first Opening Day start.