- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

Washington Nationals rookie right-hander Beltran Perez was one year old when Julio Franco broke into the majors 24 years ago.

Last night, the 48-year-old Franco helped the New York Mets pound Perez and the Nationals for a 13-0 victory. New York hit five home runs — including a trio of three-run homers — at RFK Stadium.

Franco, the oldest player in major league history to hit a home run, greeted Perez with a first-inning, three-run blast to straightaway center field. By the third inning, Franco already had matched his career high with five RBI off Perez.

“[Perez] was trying to throw fastballs in and they just stayed up and over the plate,” Nationals catcher Brandon Harper said. “With Franco, you’ve got to get the ball in on him, or he’s going to beat you like he did tonight.”

Franco, who went 3-for-5, was all the National League East champion Mets really needed last night against the Nationals. Three-run homers by Shawn Green and All-Star third baseman David Wright helped pile it on. The 13 runs was the largest margin of defeat this season for the Nationals.

Mets left-hander Tom Glavine (15-7), a likely future Hall of Famer, shut out the Nationals (71-90) over six innings. Glavine scattered just three hits in a mere playoff tuneup.

A crowd of 30,449 — dominated by Mets fans — saw New York jump on Perez (2-1) early. The second batter of the game, former Nationals center fielder Endy Chavez, hit a first-inning solo shot. Walks to All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran and Green set the table for Franco, who cleared the bases with just his second home run of the season for a 4-0 Mets lead.

The last time Franco homered was April 20 at the San Diego Padres. Franco ripped a two-run double into the right-field alley off Perez in the third inning that gave the Mets a 6-0 lead. Perez allowed six runs on six hits in three innings that required 79 pitches.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson was not going to let Franco have a third at-bat against Perez. Robinson, who was managing his next-to-last game as skipper of the Nationals, yanked the struggling Perez after the third inning.

“You don’t like to go out and see your ballclub get banged around the way we did tonight in any ball game,” Robinson said. “At least it wasn’t sloppy. At least we didn’t get hurt getting in the way of the balls they were hitting out there.”

Perez was coming off two terrific starts in his first two major league assignments. In fact, Perez beat the Mets 7-3 last Monday at Shea Stadium. Perez wasn’t so successful the second time around against the division champs.

Green, who started last night in right field, continued the Mets rout in the fourth inning when he cracked a three-run homer off Nationals reliever Chris Schroder that made it 9-0. Catcher Ramon Castro homered in the seventh off Jason Bergmann to extend the Mets’ lead to 10-0.

Notes — Injured first baseman Nick Johnson rejoined his teammates for the first time since breaking his right leg last Saturday in New York. About 30 minutes before last night’s game, Johnson appeared in the clubhouse, and stayed for the whole game. Johnson underwent surgery last Saturday night to insert a titanium rod in his right leg. He was released yesterday from a White Plains, N.Y., hospital where he began a rehabilitation program. Johnson will rehab in Washington for an undetermined length of time and then continue his offseason rehab program in his hometown of Sacramento, Calif. …

Today’s projected Mets starter, Steve Trachsel, was forced to return to San Diego for personal reasons and will not pitch in the regular-season finale. Oliver Perez (3-13, 6.71) will get the start.

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