IT was never a question of if. But when.
Mets slugger Gary Sheffield answered that question on Friday night when he hit his 500th career home run down the left field line at Citi Field.
The historic blast - his first hit in a Met uniform - tied the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at 4-4 in a contest the Mets won 5-4 on Luis Castillo's walk-off single.
The historic milestone, which makes Sheffield just the 25th member of the 500 club, came in the 7th inning on a 3-2 86mph slider from Mitch Stetter that caught a little too much of the plate.
Sheffield had taken several good cuts before he dispatched Stetter's ninth offering over the left field wall right down the line.
Sheffield raised both hands above his head as he left the batters box and jogged to first base, savouring the moment before being greeted by every Met after he crossed home plate and pointed towards the sky.
First to hug him was Reyes, then Wright, then the rest of his team mates. Some individually, others in twos or threes.
It was the start of a happy evening, even if it did take the Mets another hour to finally take the lead for good.
The Mets had taken a 1st inning 3-0 lead, but they fell behind after leaving Livan Hernandez in a batter too long.
Hernandez gave up two runs on six hits last time out against the Marlins, but he could not retire a batter in the 6th inning on Friday as the Mets had to come from behind.
Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy and David Wright loaded the bases on 3 consecutive hits and Carlos Delgado hit a sac fly to left field to get the Mets on the board.
Beltran couldn't put the ball in play and Dave Bush walked Ryan Church intentionally to get to Ramon Castro, who has never hit a grand slam.
Castro fell behind in the count but Bush missed with a 2-2 breaking ball outside before missing with a fastball in to walk in a run.
Luis Castillo dribbled an infield single to score Wright to make it 3-0, but it could have been worsewhen JJ Hardy threw the ball away as he tried to make a play at third base which was never, ever on. Livan Hernandez struck out looking as the Mets batted around on four hits and a pair of walks.
Milwaukee nibbled away at the lead in the top of the 5th inning after Mike Cameron and Bill Hall hit back-to-back one-out singles to putmen on the corners.
Mike Rivera hit a sac fly to Beltran to make it 3-1 and starter Bush continued in his grove in the bottom of the frame to record his seventh and eighth consecutive batters before walking Wright on four pitches.
After throwing 34 pitches in the 1st inning, Bush only threw 35 combined between the 2nd and 4th innings.
By contrast, Hernandez cruised through the first four innings, began to tire in the 5th and got hit hard and knocked out of the game in the 6th.
Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart singled to lead off the inning and Ryan Braun hit a three-run home run down the line in left field to give the Brewers a 4-3 lead.
The Mets have blown a pair of three-run leads already this season, including Thursday, and they led the NL with 14 such blown leads in 2008.
However, following Sheffield's home run the Mets loaded the bases as the celebrations continued in the dugout and they also put the go-ahead run at third base in the 8th inning as Wright then left them loaded against Todd Coffey.
The Mets' bullpen did everything they were asked, with Feliciano, Green, Parnell and Putz combining for four innings of shutout ball and they gave the offense every chance they needed to win the game when they game to bat in the 9th,
Delgado led off the bottom of the 9th with a double to the centre field wall but Beltran struck out on a high fastball.
Ryan Church was intentionally walked and Omir Santos grounded out to first to move the runners over to second and third with two away, but Castillo's dribbler to the left side of the infield was hit just slow enough that Hardy couldn't get the throw across the diamond away in time.
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