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Saturday, June 17, 2000

M A J O R _ L E A G U E _ B A S E B A L L

Benny bangs
another one

Agbayani is first Mets player
since Gary Carter to hit home
runs in three consecutive at-bats

Star-Bulletin wire services


MILWAUKEE -- The New York Mets do not want Benny Agbayani to be satisfied with his role -- and he is not. Agbayani is among the group of Mets who get just enough starts to taste regular playing time, but not enough to be satisfied.

He is caught between being an everyday player and a forgotten man on the bench, and he knows that when he starts, he must perform.

Agbayani hit home runs in his last two at-bats against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, and he homered last night to lead off the game in the Mets' 7-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. He became the first Met since Gary Carter in 1986 to hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats.

In the second inning, Agbayani added a two-run single to give the Mets a 3-0 lead and give Al Leiter more than enough run support. The Mets won for the 11th time in 12 starts by Leiter, who improved his record to 8-1 by working eight innings, allowing three hits and striking out seven.

After his game against the Cubs -- a command performance, with one home run landing on the center field backdrop and the other on Waveland Avenue beyond left field -- Agbayani was asked if he thought he would get more playing time.

"I'm not going to say so, because of what I've been through this whole year," he said. "Any way I can help the team, that's what I'm going to do. I really want to play, but I don't have control over that."

Agbayani started eight of nine games on a road trip at the end of May. But he batted .214 (6 for 28), with no extra-base hits, and when the Mets returned home, Agbayani sat, not starting the next nine games.

The Mets had an off day yesterday, but manager Bobby Valentine said he wanted to try to capitalize on Agbayani's Wednesday performance by starting him last night -- and batting him leadoff. "We'll keep him a little hot while we can," said Valentine, who planned to put Jason Tyner back in left field today.

After Agbayani smashed a curveball from Jimmy Haynes (7-5) over the left field fence in the first inning, the Mets loaded the bases with one out. But Todd Zeile, the Mets' hottest hitter lately, grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Mets (36-28) went right to work in the second, when Jay Payton singled and Melvin Mora reached on an error. Two batters later, Agbayani singled the runners home, and the Mets again loaded the bases but could not convert. Payton singled again in the third, and Mora doubled him in to give the Mets a 4-0 lead.

Truby Triples in Debut: Hawaii's Chris Truby made his major league debut with the Houston Astros and tripled in the ninth inning for his first hit and scored on a groundout in a 7-4 loss at San Francisco.

Truby was called up from Triple-A New Orleans to take Ken Caminiti's place on the roster. Caminiti was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a ruptured tendon sheath in his right wrist. He'll undergo surgery on Monday at Houston's Methodist Hospital. He's expected to miss 8-12 weeks.

Knoblauch Back in lineup: Chuck Knoblauch walked into Yankee Stadium yesterday with a new outlook.

The New York Yankees' second baseman joked with reporters, laughed with teammates during pregame stretching drills and playfully tackled Clay Bellinger as he rounded the bases during batting practice.

What a difference from a night earlier, when Knoblauch stood alone near second base following his career-high third error while his teammates gathered at the mound for a pitching change.

A few minutes later, he summoned manager Joe Torre into the dugout tunnel, said "I'm tired of hurting this team," and was sent home three innings early -- with a driver instead of in his own car.

"I wasn't going to go home and do something stupid," said Knoblauch, who had two hits and started at second base yesterday against the Chicago White Sox. "I'm the same guy every day. I woke up today, felt all right, looked outside and the sun was shining."

Hawaii pro baseball report

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