1999: Day by Day

When I first began working on Yells For Ourselves years ago, I originally conceived of it as an ebook-type thing that would have lots of interactivity—including a day-by-day log of the 1999 & 2000 Mets regular seasons that a reader could refer to at any point in the text. That interactive version never came to pass, but I still went ahead wrote the content for that day-by-day chronicle. I present it here for curious obsessives such as myself.

To skip from month to month, click on the tabs at the bottom of your screen. To scrub through each month, click and drag on the timeline underneath the game recaps (or use your fingers if you’re reading on a phone or fancy-person tablet).

Day-by-day look at the 2000 season available here.

April

  • Monday, April 5, 1999

    Florida Marlins 6, New York Mets 2 at Pro Player Stadium

    The Mets’ season starts off on a sour note in Miami as all facets of their game misfire. The offense can do nothing against Florida starter Alex Fernandez, who hadn’t thrown a pitch in anger since October of 1997 while recovering from rotator cuff surgery. The Mets load the bases against Fernandez in the opening inning but fail to score, setting the theme for a frustrating day at the dish. By day’s end, Mets batters strand 14 runners and go 0 for 9 with men in scoring position. The bottom of the first sees Robin Ventura (making his Mets debut) play a grounder tentatively, turning it into an infield hit, then bobble a potential inning-ending double play ball. These miscues and a passed ball by Mike Piazza lead to three first inning runs, a deficit the hapless hitters never surmount. Even without his defense failing him, Al Leiter struggles all afternoon, throwing 124 pitches to struggle through five innings of five-run ball.
  • Tuesday, April 6, 1999

    New York Mets 12, Florida Marlins 3 at Pro Player Stadium

    Recovering quickly from their embarrassing opening day loss, the Mets pummel Marlins pitching all day, putting a hurt on starter Livan Hernandez and every pitcher who dares take his place. After failing in literally every plate appearance with runners in scoring position the day before, the Mets collect hits in seven of their first eight opportunities in game number two. Each member of the starting lineup contributes at least one hit save pitcher Rick Reed, but he atones by both throwing both six solid innings and adding an RBI sac fly for good measure. Mike Piazza belts his first longball of the year, a second-deck two-run shot that knocks Hernandez out of the game in the top of the fifth. Rickey Henderson, who’d looked awful during spring training, raises eyebrows in the top of the second inning when he doubles in two runners, steals third, and races home on an errant throw from catcher Jorge Fabregas, thus creating three runs all by himself.
  • Wednesday, April 7, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Florida Marlins 0 at Pro Player Stadium

    Rickey Henderson steals the show for the second game in a row, going 4 for 4 with two homers and two doubles, the most extra-base hits the future Hall of Famer has ever collected in one game. On the day, Henderson racks up 12 total bases, one short of the all-time Mets record shared by Darryl Strawberry, Claudell Washington, and Jim Hickman. Bobby Jones throws seven shutout innings in his first start of the season while Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura hit doubles of their own to continue hitting streaks that began on opening day.
  • Thursday, April 8, 1999

    Montréal Expos 5, New York Mets 1 at Olympic Stadium

    Orel Hershiser, a late acquisition for the Mets in spring training, looked sharp during limited Grapefruit League action when he pitched 12 scoreless innings for New York. He looks decidedly less so in the series opener in Montréal, allowing five runs to a weak Expos lineup in only four innings of work. His cause is not helped by costly errors from the unlikely sources of Robin Ventura and Rey Ordoñez, and from the more likely source of Bobby Bonilla. Hershiser also hurts himself on the basepaths in the top of the third; after he and Rickey Henderson walk to start the inning, Hershiser gets picked off during a botched bunt attempt by Edgardo Alfonzo. Immediately after Hershiser’s gaffe, Henderson is caught stealing second. Alfonzo homers following Henderson’s dismissal, a solo shot that would have been a three-run homer if not for the baserunning blunders. Amid rumors the team might be sold, a surprisingly strong crowd of almost 44,000 cheers Miguel Batista to 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball for Les Expos' home opener.
  • Friday, April 9, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Montréal Expos 3 at Olympic Stadium

    Mike Piazza delivers the keynote when he turns on a hanging slider from Expo starter Mike Thurman in the top of the first, crushing it for a titanic 442-foot three-run homer over a bank of television cameras in dead center. Robin Ventura delivers a solo shot shortly thereafter to plate all the runs the Mets will need. Masato Yoshii, who had wretched spring training, is good enough in his first start of the year. He allows a two-run homer to Michael Barrett and a solo shot to Vladimir Guerrero to cut the Mets’ lead to 4-3, but the Mets tack on three runs in the top of the fifth with a two-run Piazza double and an RBI groundout from Ventura. From there, the Mets cruise to the finish. Unfortunately, in the top of the seventh, Piazza is picked off of second base and injures his knee in the process, an ailiment that will soon land him on the DL.
  • Saturday, April 10, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Montréal Expos 3 (11 innings) at Olympic Stadium

    Al Leiter rebounds from his ugly opening day start to hurl seven strong innings, while his teammates overcome deficits of 2-0 and 3-2, tying the game in the eighth inning on an Edgardo Alfonzo RBI single. Armando Benítez keeps the Expos at bay with two scoreless innings and four strikeouts. The Mets grab the lead for the first time in the top of the eleventh inning when Matt Franco scores all the way from first on a single by Todd Pratt, filling in for the ailing Mike Piazza. John Franco caps things off with his first save of the year.
  • Sunday, April 11, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Montréal Expos 3 at Olympic Stadium

    Rick Reed allows two early runs to the Expos before settling into a groove, and even ties up the game at 2 with an RBI single in the top of the fourth. Unfortunately, he tears a calf muscle while running the basepaths, an injury that will send him to the disabled list. Queens native Allen Watson gets the call in long relief and allows the Expos to retake the lead when he fails to cover first base on a grounder, but otherwise holds down the fort long enough for his teammates to rally. A two-run single from Luis López in the top of the fifth gives the Mets a lead they won’t relinquish, while Watson is followed by scoreless relief work from Turk Wendell, Dennis Cook, Armando Benítez, and John Franco, who earns his 399th career save.
  • Monday, April 12, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Florida Marlins 1 at Shea Stadium

    In front of a lively crowd of 52,052, the Mets take their home opener in convincing fashion. For the second time in a week, their bats knock Liván Hernández out of the game with a big fifth inning. This time, the scoring is sparked by starting pitcher Bobby Jones, who breaks a 1-1 tie by belting a solo homer just over Shea’s left field fence. Robin Ventura busts the game open with a two-run double later in the inning, then flashes the leather with a pair of fine plays on bunt attempts by Marlin speedster Luis Castillo. With Mike Piazza on the disabled list, Bobby Bonilla hits cleanup and is roundly booed until three hits and an RBI turn the jeers into hearty cheers of “Bob-by! Bob-by!” Jones makes sure his longball stands up with seven dominating innings.
  • Wednesday, April 14, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Florida Marlins 1 at Shea Stadium

    In his first home start as a Met, Orel Hershiser takes advantage of the Marlins’ anxious young lineup, expending only 10 pitches to negotiate the first two innings. He exits the game in the sixth to an appreciative standing ovation from a small but forgiving Shea crowd braving the elements on a chilly night. His teammates build a lead on RBI doubles from Todd Pratt and Edgardo Alfonzo, a Robin Ventura homer, and a bases-loaded walk. John Franco records his 400th career save in style by striking out the side.
  • Thursday, April 15, 1999

    Florida Marlins 11, New York Mets 4 at Shea Stadium

    The Marlins series ends on a sour note as starter Masato Yoshii allows four runs in five innings, while the bullpen is torched for seven more in the persons of Josias Manzanillo and Rigo Beltrán. The fans who dared cheer Bobby Bonilla on opening day have already turned on him, exhaling loud boos when he fails to make a sliding catch in right field in the top of the seventh, an error that leads to one run and is immediately followed by a two-run homer off the bat of Bruce Aven. “That was a light day from what I’m usually used to,” Bonilla says.
  • Friday, April 16, 1999

    Montréal Expos 6, New York Mets 4 at Shea Stadium

    After a rain delay of an hour, Al Leiter is undone by a series of bad hops and bad breaks in top of the fourth inning. After Leiter allows a solo homer to Rondell White that stayed just on the wrong side of the left field foul pole and walks Vladimir Guerrero, a Michael Barrett “single” hugs the third base line as Robin Ventura stares at it, incredulous the ball refuses to roll foul. Montréal takes advantage of their good fortune with an RBI single from Chris Widger and a two-run triple from Wilton Guerrero, while Leiter’s teammates are stifled by Expo starter Dustin Hermanson. A two-run homer by Todd Pratt brings the Mets close in the bottom of the ninth, but Montréal’s closer Ugueth Urbina enters to game to strike out two batters and shut the door on any thoughts of a rally. Adding to the dour feeling of the evening, Rickey Henderson leaves the game after singling in a pinch-hit appearance, felled by a hamstring problem that’s plagued him since spring training.
  • Saturday, April 17, 1999

    New York Mets 3, Montréal Expos 2 at Shea Stadium

    Pitching on the 35th anniversary of the first game ever played at Shea Stadium, Bobby Jones throws seven strong innings to collect his third victory of the young season. Jones allows two runs in the top of the second but shuts down Montréal from there, while Matt Franco—drawing a rare start at third base—ties the game with a two-run double off of Expo starter Carl Pavano in the bottom of the third. The Mets play small ball to take the lead in the fifth when Roger Cedeño doubles, moves to third on a grounder, and scores on a Bobby Bonilla fielder’s choice. Hitless relief by Armando Benítez and John Franco makes the margin stand up. The win can’t fight off the injury bug, however, as centerfielder Brian McRae collides with Pavano in a play at first base and will miss a few days of action as a result.
  • Sunday, April 18, 1999

    Montréal Expos 4, New York Mets 2 at Shea Stadium

    Allen Watson, one-time star pitcher for Christ the King High School in Middle Village, gets the nod in the conclusion of the Mets’ first homestand, subbing for the injured Rick Reed. He proves efficient: his first pitch is turned into a single by Orlando Cabrera, his second is crushed for a 418-foot home run to dead center by José Vidro, and his eighth is clubbed by Rondell White for a solo shot. Watson settles in thereafter, throwing seven decent innings, but three runs form too large a deficit for the injury depleted Met lineup to overcome. Expo starter Javier Vázquez limits New York’s offensive output to two bases-empty homers by John Olerud.
  • Tuesday, April 20, 1999

    New York Mets 3, Cincinnati Reds 2 at Cinergy Field

    Orel Hershiser and Pete Harnisch lock up in a pitcher’s duel until Bobby Bonilla breaks a 1-1 tie with a solo homer in the top of the seventh. The Mets then expand their lead on a two-out Robin Ventura RBI single in the eighth. John Franco is asked to preserve the lead in the ninth and makes things difficult on himself by allowing back-to-back singles to Dmitri Young and Aaron Boone. After a sac bunt moves the two runners into scoring position, Pokey Reese laces a ball up the middle that could spell doom for the Mets, but Edgardo Alfonzo reaches the ball in time and keeps it on the infield, ensuring that the tying run stays on third. Franco induces more palpitations by walking the bases loaded, but manages to strike out Mike Cameron and induce a pop out from Barry Larkin to end the game. “I got away with one tonight,” the closer sighs after the game.
  • Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    Cincinnati Reds 7, New York Mets 4 at Cinergy Field

    The Mets jump out to a 4-0 lead on homers by Bobby Bonilla and Todd Pratt and an RBI groundout from Robin Ventura. Unfortunately, Masato Yoshii gives this advantage back and then some in the bottom of the fourth. Unnerved by a Greg Vaughn two-run shot, Yoshii walks the next three batters, opening the door for a brutal six-run inning. A potential Met rally in the top of the seventh dies on the vine when Roger Cedeño takes a called strike three, the pitch coming at a location Bobby Valentine is convinced his own pitcher didn’t get. “Where’s the pitch to Cedeño?'' Valentine gripes after the game. “Yoshii threw 15 pitches that good. I’ll guarantee you that.”
  • Thursday, April 22, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Cincinnati Reds 1 at Cinergy Field

    Pitching, in the words of Bobby Valentine, “like a man possessed,” Al Leiter earns his first win of the year by scattering five hits over 6 1/3 innings. He receives support in the form of RBIs from Robin Ventura and Bobby Bonilla, while Todd Pratt belts his second homer in as many games. The game also marks the first appearance of the full complement of the Mets’ projected opening day outfield, as Rickey Henderson comes off the disabled list to join Bonilla and Brian McRae (also recently healed from an injury). The reunion lasts all of one inning as Bonilla is forced to leave the game after top of the second, still ailing from a knee injury he suffered during spring training.
  • Friday, April 23, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Chicago Cubs 5 at Wrigley Field

    On a typical April afternoon at Wrigley Field—game time temperature a balmy 44 degrees, accompanied by wind gusts measuring 36 mph—the Mets steal a victory in a game where the wind, sun, and turf conspire to wreak havoc. The Cubs break a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning when Jermaine Allensworth (playing right field in place of the ailing Bobby Bonilla) loses a ball off the bat of Benito Santiago in the sun. Allensworth raises his glove defensively, but the ball misses his leather entirely and almost hits him in the jaw. The next inning, Allensworth slips while trying to field a Lance Johnson hit, resulting in a triple and a 5-2 Chicago lead. The Mets tie the game on a Robin Ventura RBI double and a two-run single from Todd Pratt in the eighth inning, neither of which need help from Mother Nature. In the top of the ninth, the Mets take the lead on a pinch hit sac fly from Rey Ordoñez. The shortstop also contributes in the bottom of the inning with a great play on a Manny Alexander grounder, turning the potential tying run into just another groundout.
  • Saturday, April 24, 1999

    Chicago Cubs 2, New York Mets 0 at Wrigley Field

    The Mets are shutout for the first time this season as the timely hitting of the first game in Chicago abandons them. The visitors place runners in scoring position in every inning but one yet fail to cash in any of them, stranding 12 runners by day’s end. Starter Allen Watson—considered a good hitter for a pitcher—leaves six ducks on the pond all by himself. He also exits the game after only 71 pitches due to back spasms. With two men on in the eighth, Rey Ordoñez has a chance to play hero again when his long fly ball is initially lost in the troublesome Chicago sun by Sammy Sosa. However, Slammin’ Sammy recovers his sight and eventually tracks the ball down for an out, ending the Mets’ final flirtation with a rally.
  • Sunday, April 25, 1999

    Chicago Cubs 8, New York Mets 4 at Wrigley Field

    Mike Piazza returns from the disabled list for the Chicago series finale, though that is the extent of the good news for the visitors. The Mets accumulate an early 3-0 lead on solo homers from Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, and Rickey Henderson, but the game unravels for Orel Hershiser in the bottom of the fifth. First, a bloop single, a walk, and a bunt up the third base line by opposing pitcher Rodney Myers that stubbornly stays fair despite Ventura casting a powerful glare in its direction. Then, ex-Met Lance Johnson hits a ball that John Olerud attempts to backhand, only to see it roll under his glove and into the Cubs’ bullpen for a two-run double. Immediately after that, Mickey Morandini is hit by a pitch, or so he says. “It nicked my helmet,” he tells the press later, to a chorus of knowing winks. Replays show Hershiser’s pitch didn’t hit his helmet, or anything else, but Morandini’s thespian skills sell the act to the home plate umpire. Turk Wendell is called on to face Sammy Sosa with the bases loaded, and he promptly unloads them with a three-run double into the left field corner that puts the game out of reach for the Amazins.
  • Tuesday, April 27, 1999

    San Diego Padres 6, New York Mets 2 at Shea Stadium

    Masato Yoshii turns in yet another poor start, ceding four runs and five free passes in just 4 2/3 innings of work. He is doomed by a sloppy fifth inning in which he walks Tony Gwynn and Wally Joyner, loads the bases on a single by ex-Met Dave Magadan, and allows a long two-run double to backup catcher Greg Myers, giving the Padres a lead they will never relinquish. Yoshii is booed off the mound when removed in the fifth inning, but most of the postgame criticism is directed at Mike Piazza, who symbolizes the Mets’ recent offensive futility by stranding seven men on base all by himself.
  • Wednesday, April 28, 1999

    New York Mets 4, San Diego Padres 3 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter throws seven brilliant innings, while a John Olerud solo shot and Edgardo Alfonzo RBI double give the Mets a 2-1 lead they cling to as they head into the eighth inning. This is when Armando Benítez chooses a poor time to allow his first runs as a Met. After walking leadoff man Quilvio Veras, Benítez allows back-to-back run-scoring doubles to Tony Gwynn and Phil Nevin that hand the Padres a 3-2 lead. San Diego has not given up a lead they held after the eighth inning in almost three years (181 games’ worth), but all streaks must end some time. In the bottom of the ninth, John Olerud reaches base when Padre shortstop Damien Jackson misplays his grounder (ruled a hit, though Jackson’s backhand attempt to catch it is misguided at best). Mike Piazza takes advantage, turning on Trevor Hoffman’s first pitch, a fat, 86 mph fastball, and sending it over the right field fence for a walkoff home run, capping the most dramatic win of the Mets’ young season.
  • Thursday, April 29, 1999

    New York Mets 8, San Diego Padres 5 at Shea Stadium

    On a chilly, blustery afternoon, Bobby Jones struggles with his curveball and shows little of the form he’s displayed thus far this season. He is bailed out when his teammates rally from early deficits of 4-0 and 5-2, mostly by taking advantage of the wildness of the San Diego pitchers. Met batters collect nine walks on the day, and five of those free passes come around to score. An RBI bloop single from Rey Ordoñez and a Robin Ventura sacrifice fly give the Mets their first lead in the sixth, and they hold on the rest of the way. Dennis Cook contributes a scoreless inning and earns his fourth relief win of the season.
  • Friday, April 30, 1999

    New York Mets 7, San Francisco Giants 2 at Shea Stadium

    Giant starter Shawn Estes loses his cool when home plate umpire Bob Davidson—a notorious aficionado of phantom balk moves—calls a balk on the pitcher to bring Rickey Henderson home with the game’s first run in the bottom of the first. The pitcher exchanges words with Davidson and has to be restrained by his catcher, narrowly missing an ejection. Estes never recovers from the disruption, allowing an RBI double to Robin Ventura, a run-scoring groundout, and a wild pitch to plate another run. In stark contrast to his shaky first start in Queens, Allen Watson contributes five decent innings against one of his former teams while the bullpen holds down the fort thereafter.

May

  • Saturday, May 1, 1999

    New York Mets 9, San Francisco Giants 4 at Shea Stadium

    All afternoon, Orel Hershiser threatens to give the game away to the Giants, issuing four walks, firing a pickoff throw past John Olerud at first base, and loading the bases twice. But the Giants fail to take full advantage, collecting just one hit in 10 at bats with men in scoring position. Given this reprieve, Hershiser retires eight of the last nine batters he faces, and the New York bullpen once again shuts the door on any thoughts of a comeback. The big blow for the Mets comes on a seventh inning grand slam from Brian McRae.
  • Sunday, May 2, 1999

    New York Mets 2, San Francisco Giants 0 at Shea Stadium

    This game features an unlikely pitchers’ duel between Kirk Reuter, a back of the rotation starter for San Francisco, and Masato Yoshii, who has pitched terribly to this point in the season. Yoshii shockingly tosses six scoreless innings while Reuter throws a shocking seven of his own. The contest remains scoreless until two out in the bottom of the eighth. A pinch-hit Matt Franco single brings up Rickey Henderson, who hits a towering pop up on the infield. The ball is hit so high that Giant shortstop Ramon Martinez can’t keep track of it, and it glances off his glove while an alert Franco scores all the way from first. An RBI single from John Olerud puts the Mets up 2-0, a lead John Franco immediately places in jeopardy by loading the bases with one out in the top of the ninth. Franco recovers, however, inducing a groundball double play from Charlie Hayes to end the threat and conclude a three-game sweep of San Francisco.
  • Monday, May 3, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Houston Astros 3 at Shea Stadium

    In the opener of a three-game set against the Astros, Roger Cedeño subs for the ailing Rickey Henderson and turns in a Henderson-esque performance, swiping two bases, scoring two runs, and turning a single into a double when the Houston outfield is caught napping on his prodigious speed. The Mets strike for four runs in the first and never look back, while Rick Reed, fresh off the disabled list from the calf injury he suffered in Montréal during the first week of the season, tosses six solid innings. Reed finds himself unable to throw any of his pitches effectively except for his fastball yet still manages to keep the Astros off balance until a Richard Hidalgo two-run homer in the top of the sixth draws the visitors a bit too close. Turk Wendell contributes two key scoreless innings, while John Franco limits the drama by setting down the Astros in order for the save.
  • Tuesday, May 4, 1999

    Houston Astros 6, New York Mets 1 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter throws six excellent innings in this game. Unfortunately for the Mets, he continues to pitch after that. With the score tied at 1 in the top of the seventh, Leiter records two quick outs before facing the opposing pitcher, Mike Hampton, who hammers a 1-0 pitch over Brian McRae’s head in center field and legs out a triple. Flustered, Leiter then gives up an RBI double to Craig Biggio, followed immediately by a two-run homer from Derek Bell. And yet, the stubborn Leiter insists on finishing that inning and starting the next to his further detriment, allowing three straight hits to begin the top of the eighth before finally allowing himself to be lifted. Two of those runners eventually score, while Hampton and Houston reliever Scott Elarton hold the Mets at bay the rest of the way.
  • Wednesday, May 5, 1999

    Houston Astros 5, New York Mets 4 at Shea Stadium

    Bobby Jones does an admirable job of limiting the damage done by the Astros’ bats, and a Roger Cedeño RBI single gives the Mets a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Fortunes reverse when Armando Benítez enters the game in the top of the eighth and walks the leadoff hitter, the thoroughly benign Chris Spiers, to bring up the decidedly more dangerous heart of the Houston lineup. It appears he may survive this error when he retires Craig Biggio and Derek Bell, but another Killer B—Jeff Bagwell—crushes a two-run homer into the visiting bullpen, giving the Astros a lead. The Mets threaten to tie things up on a two-out a walk and hit batter in the bottom of the eighth, but this uprising is suppressed as soon as Houston closer Billy Wagner is called on for a four-out save. Mets batters are completely overmatched as Wagner dismisses all four batters he faces via strikeout.
  • Friday, May 7, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 14, New York Mets 7 at Bank One Ballpark

    Orel Hershiser turns in a miserable outing, putting the Mets in a 5-1 hole in the early going. Though the Mets mount a furious rally to take a 6-5 lead, Bobby Valentine makes the curious decision to allow Hershiser to bat for himself during that rally, a decision that proves costly. After returning to the mound, Hershiser loads the bases with one out, than unloads them by giving up a bases-clearing double to Travis Lee. He allows one additional run before the plug is pulled, and the bullpen is torched for five more after that to put the game completely out of reach.
  • Saturday, May 8, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Arizona Diamondbacks 2 at Bank One Ballpark

    The Mets ride a second strong outing in a row from Masato Yoshii (six scoreless innings, though his outing is cut short by a cracked fingernail) and homers from Matt Franco and John Olerud to carry a 4-0 lead into the ninth. Bobby Valentine opts to bring in John Franco, despite the lack of a save situation, as the lefty hasn’t pitched in five days and is in some need of work. Franco treats the inning like he treats most save situations, ceding a leadoff single to Tony Womack and a bomb of a home run to Jay Bell. Luis Gonzalez then singles, and after a fielder’s choice, a walk to Steve Finley puts the tying runs on base. Valentine finally concedes defeat and removes Franco in favor of Armando Benítez, who manages to get two loud fly ball outs that finally end the game, thus notching his first save as a Met.
  • Sunday, May 9, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 11, New York Mets 6 at Bank One Ballpark

    Rick Reed attempts to set a record for negative efficiency, allowing eight runs while expending only 38 pitches in 1 1/3 innings of work. Late home runs by Mike Piazza and Mike Kinkade make the final score seem far more respectable than it should be, as Reed’s poor start denies the Mets any chance of reasserting themselves into the game.
  • Monday, May 10, 1999

    Colorado Rockies 10, New York Mets 3 at Coors Field

    Despite a brief snowstorm prior to first pitch and temperatures that stand at a balmy 44 degrees, the Mets’ first game in Denver starts on time, much to the visitors’ chagrin. Al Leiter scatters four runs over his first six innings, which passes for an excellent start at mile high altitudes. But as in his last start against the Astros, the southpaw remains in the game long enough to undo all his good work, serving up a three-run shot to rookie catcher Henry Blanco that seals the Mets’ fate. Mike Piazza, owner of a lifetime .449 batting average at Coors Field when play begins, can only muster one lone hit against the Rockies’ starter Pedro Astacio, a former battery mate from his Dodger days. Adding to the Mets’ woes, Astacio plunks Bobby Bonilla on the same left knee that’s bothered him since spring training. After the game, the hobbled outfielder is finally forced to hit the disabled list.
  • Tuesday, May 11, 1999

    Colorado Rockies 8, New York Mets 5 at Coors Field

    This game mar the first time in 100 years that two pitchers with identical first and last names face each other: Bobby J. Jones of the Mets vs. Bobby M. Jones of the Rockies. After the game, New York’s Bobby Jones admits of Coors Field, “I just don’t like pitching here.” This sentiment is abundantly clear to anyone who watches the game. Young Colorado slugger Todd Helton clubs two homers as the Rockies tattoo Jones for eight runs in less than six innings. His namesake limits the Mets to two runs over his own five innings of work. Met batters can do little else against Colorado’s bullpen, save for the first major league home run for Benny Agbayani, called up from triple-A in the wake of Bobby Bonilla’s trip to the disabled list.
  • Wednesday, May 12, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Colorado Rockies 5 at Coors Field

    With Orel Hershiser away from the team getting an eye exam—one that the veteran hopes will improve his focus on the strike zone—Bobby Valentine asks Rick Reed to pitch on only two days’ rest following his brief, terrible outing in Phoenix. This time, he squeaks through five innings while giving up four runs, a decent line considering the thin air and even thinner time off since his last start. Reed is bolstered by an offense that scores early and often, gifting him a 6-0 lead after two innings and a 10-1 lead after five. All the Mets’ big bats pile on, with multiple RBIs from Mike Piazza, John Olerud, Robin Ventura, and Edgardo Alfonzo, while Roger Cedeño contributes four hits and three runs. The Mets hold their collective breath when Reed is nailed in the posterior by a line drive off the bat of Angel Echevarria in the bottom of the fifth, but the pitcher remains in the game. He does not blame that blow for giving up a homer to Dante Bichette shortly thereafter, telling reporters, “My ass didn’t throw that pitch; my arm did.”
  • Friday, May 14, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Philadelphia Phillies 3 at Veterans Stadium

    With many Mets fans filling the seats at Veterans Stadium, the Mets get the series in Philadelphia off to a flying start by hanging four runs on the ledger of Phillie starter Chad Ogea in the first inning, all on homers. John Olerud starts it off with a two-run moonshot, one of the very few home runs to be hit into the dizzying upper deck of the Phillies’ ballpark. Following a walk to Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura hits a two-run homer of his own. Edgardo Alfonzo adds a homer in the third, while Masato Yoshii limits the damage to three harmless solo shots. Roger Cedeño, filling in for the injured Rickey Henderson, puts on a show on the basepaths by swiping four bases and scoring three times.
  • Saturday, May 15, 1999

    New York Mets 9, Philadelphia Phillies 7 at Veterans Stadium

    Al Leiter schedules his meltdown earlier than usual, as the Mets find themselves down 6-0 after three innings. New York finds an unexpected savior in Pat Mahomes, lefty reliever just called up from triple-A who’d spent all of the previous season toiling for Japan’s Orix Blue Wave. Mahomes contributes 2 2/3 scoreless innings and even laces a double in his first major league at bat. His valiant effort gives the Mets enough daylight to mount a comeback. They notch five runs in the fourth inning (four of them scoring with two outs), tie the game with a solo homer from Brian McRae in the fifth, and grab the lead on an RBI single from Edgardo Alfonzo in the sixth. An attempt to tack on dies when Mike Piazza lines into a rally-killing triple play, but with the bullpen continuing to hold the Phillies at bay, the Mets make their lead John Franco-proof with two runs in the top of the ninth.
  • Sunday, May 16, 1999

    Philadelphia Phillies 5, New York Mets 2 at Veterans Stadium

    Orel Hershiser missed his last start when he sought out a new contact lens prescription, hoping improved vision would lead to improved performances on the mound. The new lenses seem to do the trick at first as he limits the Phillies to one run through the first five innings. Unfortunately, the home team touches him up for four runs in the sixth and hold on to hand him a loss. To be fair to Hershiser (and his readjusted prescription), three of the sixth-inning runs are the direct result of a ball misjudged by Matt Franco. Called on to play left field for only the third time in his career, Franco misjudges a potential fly out by Rob Ducey, allowing two runs to cross the plate and another to come home when Ducey scores on a groundout.
  • Monday, May 17, 1999

    Milwaukee Brewers 7, New York Mets 6 at Shea Stadium

    Bobby Jones struggles yet again, allowing seven runs in 5 2/3 innings despite pitching with an extra day of rest. The Mets attempt to inject some life into their offense late by inserting Roger Cedeño as a pinch runner, and the speedy outfielder swipes three bags in the final two innings. A two-run double by John Olerud brings the Mets within a run in the bottom of the eighth, but closer Bob Wickman fans Robin Ventura with the tying run on second base. Wickman also strikes out Jermaine Allensworth in the bottom of the ninth with the tying run on third, the called third strike coming on a borderline pitch that sends Bobby Valentine into a postgame rant against the “inconsistent” strike zone of home plate umpire Bob Hohn.
  • Tuesday, May 18, 1999

    Milwaukee Brewers 4, New York Mets 2 at Shea Stadium

    Rick Reed tosses his best game of the year, and one of the best starting performances of any New York pitcher this season, by limiting the Brewers to one run over seven innings. The Mets carry a slim 2-1 lead on the strength of a Mike Piazza solo homer and a John Olerud RBI single, but Reed’s efforts are wasted in the blink of an eye in the top of the eighth. First, Dennis Cook allows a bunt single to Brian Banks and a single up the middle to former Met Jeromy Burnitz. Bobby Valentine turns to Armando Benítez to shut the door, and he nearly does so by striking out Jeff Cirillo and Dave Nelson on six pitches. But then he falls behind Marquis Grissom before giving up a crushing three-run homer, handing the Brewers a lead they do not relinquish.
  • Thursday, May 20, 1999 (Game 1)

    New York Mets 11, Milwaukee Brewers 10 at Shea Stadium

    In the first game of a brutal doubleheader, Al Leiter turns in yet another puzzling performance. Robin Ventura gives the Mets an early lead with a first inning grand slam, but Leiter coughs up three runs in the top of the third, then literally hands the Brewers the tying run when he throws away a bunt from Jim Abbott, the opposing pitcher. Abbott makes the exact same mistake in the bottom half, mishandling a bunt from Leiter that gives the Mets a brief 5-4 lead, but Leiter returns the gift, allowing a two-run double to erstwhile Met prospect Alex Ochoa in the top of the fifth. The Mets rebound and then some, taking an 11-6 lead on a pair of homers from Benny Agbayani and another one from Mike Piazza. But reliever Allen Watson allows a three-run homer of his own to Jeff Cirillo in the top of the eighth. Brought on for the save in the top of the ninth, John Franco churns stomachs by ceding a leadoff double to Marquis Grissom and walking Ochoa with one out to put the tying runs on base. After a flyout, Sean Berry hits a popup into shallow right-center that just eludes Edgardo Alfonzo’s glove. Grissom scores, and Ochoa could also cross the plate with a modicum of effort, but the runner loses a shoe on the basepaths Alfonzo’s throw home beats the runner to the plate by a sizeable margin, and the shoeless Ochoa walks right into Piazza’s awaiting mitt for the game’s final, awkward out.
  • Thursday, May 20, 1999 (Game 2)

    New York Mets 10, Milwaukee Brewers 1 at Shea Stadium

    In the nightcap of a doubleheader, the home team jumps all over Milwaukee starter Steve Woodard and the Brewers’ bullpen. The Mets are already ahead 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth when Robin Ventura belts his second bases-loaded roundtripper of the day, making him the first player in major league history to hit a grand slam in both halves of a doubleheader. Unlike the first game of the day, no Milwaukee counterpunch is forthcoming this time as Masato Yoshii turns in another fine outing, allowing just one run in seven innings.
  • Friday, May 21, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Philadelphia Phillies 5 at Shea Stadium

    John Olerud knocks in three runs, finishing a triple short of the cycle, and Mike Piazza belts a home run for the fourth straight game. Orel Hershiser turns in his best outing as a Met to date, pitching 6 2/3 innings and limiting the Phillies to two runs. Things get a bit dicey in the top of the eighth when Turk Wendell allows a three-run homer to the unusual power source of Ron Gant, then sees Bobby Abreu lace a triple to bring the tying run to the plate with nobody out. Armando Benítez enters to make his first appearance since giving up a game-changing homer to Marquis Grissom during the Milwaukee series and ends further trouble with two impressive strikeouts and a groundout, hitting 99 mph on the radar gun as he does so. John Franco contributes a sweat-free ninth inning for his 13th save.
  • Saturday, May 22, 1999

    Philadelphia Phillies 9, New York Mets 3 at Shea Stadium

    The New York offense is completely stymied by former Met reliever Paul Byrd for 7 2/3 innings. Mike Piazza is particularly befuddled, as Byrd retires him three times with runners in scoring position. Bobby Jones is knocked out of the game in the third inning and later admits to pitching through shoulder pain and “dead arm.” The damaging third inning also sees Benny Agbayani suffer a knee injury after running into a retaining wall. He is carted off the field and listed as day-to-day.
  • Sunday, May 23, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Philadelphia Phillies 4 at Shea Stadium

    After waiting out a two-hour rain delay, the Mets’ bats are dampened further by the Phillies' ace, Curt Schilling, who keeps the offense quiet with eight fantastic innings. Schilling carries a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth with an eye toward finishing what he started. Technically, he does. Mike Piazza leads off the inning with a single, followed by a two-run homer from Robin Ventura. One out later, Matt Franco singles and Luis López is hit by a pitch. After Jermaine Allensworth singles home Franco, Roger Cedeño just beats out a relay throw to prevent a game-ending double play, then steals second, putting the winning run in scoring position. Schilling nearly strikes out Edgardo Alfonzo before hitting the batter on the arm to load the bases. The very next pitch Schilling throws is hit for a single by John Olerud. López scores and Cedeño beats a throw to the plate by a hair, giving the Mets a thrilling come-from-behind win against one of the best pitchers in the game.
  • Monday, May 24, 1999

    Pittsburgh Pirates 7, New York Mets 5 at Three Rivers Stadium

    Making his first major league start in 20 months, star-crossed righty Jason Isringhausen watches his first pitch belted for a double by Al Martin. Shortly thereafter, Jason Kendall reaches him for a three-run homer. Isringhausen also allows a solo shot to Warren Morris and leaves the game after five middling innings and five runs allowed. His teammates attempt a comeback and trim the Pirates’ lead to 5-4 on an RBI double from Brian McRae in the top of the eighth. In the bottom half, however, Turk Wendell gives up a two-run homer to Ed Sprague that puts the game out of reach.
  • Tuesday, May 25, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Pittsburgh Pirates 3 at Three Rivers Stadium

    Masato Yoshii allows a leadoff home run to Al Martin but little else over 6 2/3 innings. The Mets are quieted by rookie Pittsburgh starter Kris Benson until the fourth inning, when Mike Piazza clubs one of his pitches 443 feet into the third deck of Three Rivers Stadium. Unnerved, Benson allows a single to Robin Ventura, a walk to Edgardo Alfonzo, and long three-run homer to Brian McRae to give the Mets a lead they maintain the rest of the way.
  • Wednesday, May 26, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 2 at Three Rivers Stadium

    Orel Hershiser keeps the Mets in the Pittsburgh finale with six solid innings, and also contributes an RBI double to his cause. Benny Agbayani starts the Mets’ scoring with a solo homer, already his fourth since being called up, while Robin Ventura snaps a 2-2 tie with an RBI double in the top of the sixth, and John Olerud expands the Mets’ lead with a two-run single in the ninth. John Franco earns the save, his 14th of the year.
  • Friday, May 28, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 2, New York Mets 1 at Shea Stadium

    Rick Reed pitches well for seven innings, allowing just four hits. Unfortunately, one of those hits is a long fly ball off the bat of Andy Fox that Benny Agbayani misplays into a two-run triple that plates all the runs Arizona needs. Agbayani partially atones by blasting a solo homer in the seventh—his fifth longball in only 43 major league at bats—to cut the Diamondbacks’ lead in half. Agbayani is in the middle of things again in the bottom of the ninth, as the Mets attempt a comeback. With two on and one out, Benny hits a hard grounder to third that looks like it will result in a double play until second baseman Jay Bell fires a throw that sails past first base. The wild throw should allow Mike Piazza to score the tying run, except that the ball bounces off of a photographer’s box and right back to first baseman Travis Lee, forcing Piazza to retreat to third. After Matt Franco walks to load the bases, Luis López gets ahead in the count, 3-1. The next pitch comes in below the knees but is deemed a strike by the home plate umpire. López can’t recover from the call and watches another pitch for strike three, ending the threat and the game.
  • Saturday, May 29, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 8, New York Mets 7 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets own a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning a when a Greg Colbrunn liner banks off of starting pitcher Allen Watson’s foot. Little else goes their way for the rest of the afternoon. A three-run rally against Pat Mahomes and Turk Wendell gives Arizona a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth. The Mets tie things up on a two-run shot by John Olerud in the bottom half, but in the top of the sixth, reliever Rigo Beltrán allows a three-run shot to Jay Bell. A Benny Agbayani homer to lead off the sixth brings the Mets closer, as does a Rickey Henderson RBI double in the eighth. To protect their one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth against the heart of the order, Arizona calls on Byung-Hyun Kim, a 20-year-old rookie making his major league debut. Kim’s submarining delivery baffles the Mets’ best hitters, as Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, and Mike Piazza are retired in order to end the game.
  • Sunday, May 30, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 10, New York Mets 1 at Shea Stadium

    Masato Yoshii had been the Mets’ best starting pitcher in the weeks leading up to this game, but he is victimized by Arizona batters in this contest and is gone before the end of the third inning. Even Arizona fireballer Randy Johnson, a lifetime .114 hitter at the moment, reaches Yoshii for two singles. The Big Unit completely smothers Mets batters over eight innings while striking out 10, the only blemish on his record a harmless solo homer by Roger Cedeño, as Arizona completes an embarrassing sweep of the Mets.
  • Monday, May 31, 1999

    Cincinnati Reds 5, New York Mets 3 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets take an early 3-1 lead on a trio of solo homers (Edgardo Alfonzo in the first, Bobby Bonilla and Brian McRae back-to-back in the second) that hand an early exit to Cincinnati starter Brett Tomko. But the Reds’ bullpen holds Mets batters at bay for the rest of the game, allowing one walk and nothing else. Al Leiter, making his first start in seven days, fails to make the lead stand up, first allowing a game-tying two-run single to Sean Casey in the top of the third, then permitting a 442-foot bomb to Greg Vaughn in the fifth and another solo shot to Pokey Reese in the seventh.

June

  • Tuesday, June 1, 1999

    Cincinnati Reds 4, New York Mets 0 at Shea Stadium

    With Bobby Bonilla, Rickey Henderson, and Rey Ordoñez starting following recent injuries, this game marks the first time since mid-April that the Mets’ projected Opening Day lineup takes the field. It does the home team little good. Orel Hershiser struggles through five innings, allowing four runs and eight hits. This proves more than enough backup for Reds’ starter Pete Harnisch, who completely shuts down the Met offense for seven innings. The game is particularly ugly for Bonilla, who is treated rudely by the Shea Stadium crowd after he watches a pair of triples fly over his head in right field.
  • Wednesday, June 2, 1999

    Cincinnati Reds 8, New York Mets 7 at Shea Stadium

    Once again, the Mets play another back-and-forth affair that does not break their way. They score twice against Red starter Sean Avery in the bottom of the first, but Cincinnati immediately responds against Jason Isringhausen in the top of the second with a two-run triple from Mike Cameron and an Aaron Boone RBI single. The Mets tie the game on a Bobby Bonilla solo shot in the bottom of the fourth, only to fall behind again in the top of the sixth when Dennis Cook hits a batter with the bases loaded to force in a run. A two-run homer by Greg Vaughn in the top of the seventh extends the Reds’ lead to 6-3, but the Mets rally for four runs in bottom half with RBIs from Brian McRae, Matt Franco, and John Olerud. Tasked with holding a 7-6 lead, John Franco records the first two outs easily in the top of the ninth, only to walk to Vaughn and allow an infield single to Barry Larkin. The runners then execute a double steal to place the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. Franco nearly escapes this trap by backing the next batter, Mike Cameron, into an 0-2 count, bringing the Mets within one strike of a much needed victory. Then Cameron watches two pitches out of the zone before bouncing a single up the middle to drive in two runs and put the Reds back on top. Stunned, the Met bats go quietly in the bottom half for their sixth straight loss. The loss completes a miserable 0-6 homestand, marking the first time the Mets have been swept in consecutive three-game series at home since the historically hapless team of 1962.
  • Friday, June 4, 1999

    New York Yankees 4, New York Mets 3 at Yankee Stadium

    The first of six Subway Series tilts in 1999 features four lead changes, a charged atmosphere in the Yankee Stadium stands, and—typical for the National League club of late—a series of breaks that all fail to go the Mets’ way. The visitors from Queens draw first blood on a solo shot by Brian McRae off of David Cone in the top of the second. The Yankees respond in the bottom half when Jorge Posada hits his own bases-empty homer off of Rick Reed. The Mets retake the lead as Rickey Henderson manufactures a run by singling, stealing second, taking third when Posada’s attempt to throw him out sails into the outfield, and scoring on a sac fly. The Yanks jump out on top in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run bomb that Derek Jeter deposits into the home bullpen beyond the left field fence. Cone falters in the top of the sixth, walking Robin Ventura and giving up a single to McRae. Rey Ordoñez follows by poking a hit just over the outstretched of Tino Martinez at first. Ventura scores to tie the game, but the Mets are denied the go-ahead run because of a fan who leans over the railing and interferes with the ball as it rolls down the right field line. Thanks to the interference, Ordoñez is “awarded” a ground-rule double, which means McRae must stop at third. The Mets fail to score any more runs against Cone and reliever Jason Grimsley in the sixth, and the Yankees take full advantage of the reprieve, thanks to some surprisingly shoddy play from the Met infield. In the bottom of the seventh, Tony Tarasco hits a ball to the right side that Edgardo Alfonzo is in prime position to field. For some reason, John Olerud lunges for the ball, and as it bounces off the first baseman’s glove, Tarasco finds himself the recipient of an infield “hit.” The next batter, Scott Brosius, belts a hit off the left field fence that Henderson misplays, allowing Tarasco to score all the way from first. That run proves the margin of victory, as Mariano Rivera enters the game in the eighth to record a four-out save. Rivera encounters a slight scare in the top of the ninth when he hits Henderson with a pitch, then permits a long fly ball to right field off the bat of Alfonzo. But Fonzie’s fly, like everything else the Mets do in this game, falls short.
  • Saturday, June 5, 1999

    New York Yankees 6, New York Mets 3 at Yankee Stadium

    For the second game in a row, the Mets build an early lead against the defending world champs, only to squander it through a series of bizarre incidents. The Mets score twice in the top of the second on an RBI groundout by Brian McRae and a run-scoring single from Roger Cedeño, then once more in the third on a Bobby Bonilla sac fly. But even while leading, the Mets don’t appear to be in control of this game, as evidenced by a strange play in the second. During this frame, Rey Ordoñez hits a ball that looks ticketed for the outfield until Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernández spears it with his glove. The ball is hit so hard that it gets trapped in the webbing, so Hernández hurls the entire glove toward first base, where Tino Martinez catches it for the out. Masato Yoshii permits three runs in the bottom of the third, then two more in the fourth on a Tino Martinez leadoff homer and an RBI double by Scott Brosius. The Yanks extend their lead to three runs on a Chili Davis single in the bottom of the fifth. The closest the Mets come to a late-inning threat comes when Hernández allows the first two batters in the top of the seventh to reach base, but relievers Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza strike out the next three batters with relative ease. From there, it’s all over but the shouting, as Mariano Rivera once again earns the save in the ninth. The Mets’ losing streak has now stretched to a disastrous eight in a row.
  • Sunday, June 6, 1999

    New York Mets 7, New York Yankees 2 at Yankee Stadium

    Mired in a horrendous eight-game losing streak that led to the firing of three coaches, the Mets find themselves tasked with attempting to end the slide against Roger Clemens, winner of an American League-record 20 consecutive decisions. The Rocket cruises through the first inning before allowing a double to Mike Piazza and a single to Robin Ventura to start the second. Then he issues a walk to the next batter, Brian McRae, as he stares long and hard at home plate umpire Joe Schulock when he fails to get a few close strike calls. Another ball call, issued on a 2-2 count to Bobby Bonilla, draws even harder glares from Clemens and inspires him to stalk around the mound, smirking to himself. Bonilla smokes his next pitch down the right field line for a two-run double. For the second time in the series, a fan leans over the railing and interferes with the hit, preventing three runs from scoring. This time, the Mets shrug off the bad luck when Benny Agbayani hits his own two-run double. Clemens escapes the inning without incurring further damage, but begins the top of the third by allowing a single to John Olerud and a titanic homer to straightaway center by Piazza. A few moments later, Agbayani adds his third RBI of the evening, and Clemens’s outing is finished. There is no counterpunch from the Yankees this time, as Al Leiter pitches his best and most important game of the year, allowing just one run and four harmless hits over seven innings of work.
  • Monday, June 7, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Toronto Blue Jays 2 at Shea Stadium

    Benny Agbayani is the offensive star in the opener of a three-game set against the Blue Jays, as he belts two homers while the Shea Stadium stands ring with cheers of “Ben-ny! Ben-ny!” Mike Piazza also goes deep, and the Mets score six runs and lash 11 hits total against rookie Toronto starter Roy Halladay. Orel Hershiser holds down the fort by limiting Toronto to two runs in his six innings of work.
  • Tuesday, June 8, 1999

    New York Mets 11, Toronto Blue Jays 3 at Shea Stadium

    When Jason Isringhausen takes the mound to start this game, he is still looking for his first major league win since September of 1997. That last victory came against the Toronto Blue Jays, when he was opposed by Pat Hentgen. In an odd bit symmetry, he faces the same team and the same opposing pitcher this evening, and the results are identical to those of two years ago. Isringhausen does his part by holding Toronto to two runs over 5 2/3 innings. Cognizant of Izzy’s injury history, Bobby Valentine removes the hurler once he's thrown exactly 100 pitches. The score is 4-1 in favor of the Mets when he exits the game, and though Dennis Cook gives him palpitations by allowing a two-run homer to the first batter he faces, the offense comes through to guarantee Isringhausen a win, plating three runs in the seventh inning and three more in the eighth. Edgardo Alfonzo hits a two-run shot, Roger Cedeño belts a three-run homer, and even Rey Ordoñez gets into the act with a career-high four hits.
  • Wednesday, June 9, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Toronto Blue Jays 3 (14 innings) at Shea Stadium

    This occasion marks David Wells’s first appearance in New York since being traded from the Yankees for Roger Clemens. Boomer smothers the Met bats for eight innings, while his teammates give him a 3-0 lead on solo shots from Darrin Fletcher and José Cruz and a Carlos Delgado RBI double. Wells attempts to go the distance, but the Mets defy him in the bottom of the ninth when Edgardo Alfonzo hits a one-out single, Mike Piazza lashes a two-out hit, and Robin Ventura drives in both. The Blue Jays turn to closer Billy Koch to record the final out, only to watch Brian McRae belt a game-tying double. From there, the game plods on into extra innings, with each team taking turns mounting and wasting scoring chances. Bobby Valentine argues a catcher’s interference call in the top of the twelfth inning and finds himself ejected. He later attempts to sneak back into the dugout wearing a transparently bad disguise, a prank that lands him a second ejection and will eventually lead to a suspension and fine from the league. The Mets earn themselves a walkoff win in the bottom of the fourteenth when Luis López and McRae open the inning with walks. One sac bunt later, Rey Ordoñez parachutes a single into no man’s land to score López, mercifully ending the game and completing a three-game sweep of Toronto.
  • Friday, June 11, 1999

    Boston Red Sox 3, New York Mets 2 (12 innings) at Shea Stadium

    In the opener of an interleague series hosting Boston, the Met batters find themselves helpless against opposing starter Brian Rose as he limits them to three harmless hits for seven innings. The Red Sox scratch out runs in the second and third against Masato Yoshii and hand a 2-0 lead to Tom Gordon in the ninth. Boston’s closer had only recently ended his record streak of 54 consecutive save opportunities converted, but he fails to begin a new streak at Shea as John Olerud leads off the ninth with a single and Mike Piazza follows with a 429-foot game-tying bomb into the left field bleachers. Unfortunately for the Mets, the heroics end there. Things unravel for the home team in the top of the twelfth inning when John Franco allows a one-out single to Damon Buford, who then steals second and advances to third after Piazza’s attempt to gun him down skips into the outfield. Buford is erased when he gets caught in a rundown on a José Offerman grounder, but the Mets take so long to tag out the lead runner that Offerman is able to race to second on the play. With first base open, Bobby Valentine could opt to walk righty batter John Valentin and ask the southpaw Franco to face lefty Brian Daubach instead, but the Met manger decides to bank on Franco’s traditional success against righties and the fact that Valentin is playing through a groin injury. This plan backfires, as Franco allows a run-scoring single. Valentin’s hit might have resulted in a play at the plate, but Benny Agbayani overruns the ball, adding another unsightly mark to an ugly, game-deciding inning. The Mets work two walks in their half of the twelfth but otherwise go quietly into the night.
  • Saturday, June 12, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Boston Red Sox 2 at Shea Stadium

    For his second start in a row, Al Leiter steps in to be the Mets’ stopper after an ugly loss, blanking Boston for six innings. Making his first start since sustaining a freak batting practice injury to his eye, Benny Agbayani initiates the Mets’ scoring by leading off the bottom of the third with a home run, his third in a week and ninth since his callup from triple-A. In the top of the seventh, Leiter allows a trio of two-out hits to plate two runs, but John Olerud expands the Mets’ advantage with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth.
  • Sunday, June 13, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Boston Red Sox 4 at Shea Stadium

    Knowing that both John Franco and Armando Benítez are unavailable, Orel Hershiser does his best to give the bullpen a rest. He limits the Red Sox to two runs over six innings, while his teammates jump out to a 5-2 lead on yet another home run from Benny Agbayani, a longball from Brian McRae, and RBI singles from Rickey Henderson and Edgardo Alfonzo. Hershiser attempts to pitch the seventh inning but gives up a walk and allows a single to start the frame. Dennis Cook allows both runners to score but limits the damage there, while B-squad reliever Greg McMichael contributes a scoreless eighth. Closer-for-a-day Turk Wendell does his best John Franco imitation in the top of the ninth by giving up a leadoff double to Nomar Garciaparra, but strands him on second to preserve the win.
  • Monday, June 14, 1999

    Cincinnati Reds 8, New York Mets 4 at Cinergy Field

    With his team having won six of their previous seven games, Bobby Valentine gives a day of rest to Mike Piazza and John Olerud and a start to the unhappy Bobby Bonilla. The compromised offense only manages one hit against Red starter Ron Villone, plating all three of their runs against him on a bases-loaded walk, a sac fly, and an RBI groundout. On the day, Met batters strand 10 runners on base. Jason Isringhausen allows three runs over his five innings, but things don’t truly unravel until the bullpen takes over in the sixth. After Greg McMichael walks two batters, Turk Wendell enters the game to face Aaron Boone and allows the light-hitting third baseman take him deep for a three-run homer that salts the game for Cincinnati.
  • Tuesday, June 15, 1999

    New York Mets 11, Cincinnati Reds 3 at Cinergy Field

    The Mets tie a franchise record by belting six home runs in a nine-inning game. Rickey Henderson gets things started with a leadoff shot, the 74th time he’s done so in his illustrious career. John Olerud and Mike Piazza also go deep in the first to generate a 4-0 lead before an out is recorded. This would prove to be more than enough scoring for New York, but Henderson adds another homer in the seventh, while Edgardo Alfonzo and Matt Franco go deep in the fifth and sixth, respectively. Rick Reed contributes eight innings of two-run ball, despite suffering from a kidney stone that is described in excruciating detail in the New York newspapers.
  • Wednesday, June 16, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Cincinnati Reds 2 at Cinergy Field

    With Bobby Valentine serving the first game of his two-game suspension for sneaking back into the dugout at Shea Stadium a week earlier, bench coach Bruce Benedict captains the Mets to an uneventful victory in the Cincinnati series finale. Masato Yoshii throws six innings of two-run ball while his teammates take advantage of the Cinergy Field Astroturf to smack six doubles. Mike Piazza goes 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. John Franco pitches a perfect ninth inning for his 16th save of the year.
  • Thursday, June 17, 1999

    New York Mets 4, St. Louis Cardinals 3 at Busch Stadium

    In the Mets’ first game in St. Louis, Al Leiter turns in another great outing, fanning nine batters and allowing a single run over seven innings. After Armando Benítez dominates in the eighth, however, John Franco nearly allows a 4-1 lead to evaporate. The inning begins with Franco allowing a single to Joe McEwing and a double to Edgar Rentería. He then induces a comebacker from the dreaded Mark McGwire but inexplicably throws to third in an attempt to get the lead runner. McEwing beats the throw, and the next batter, Fernando Tatís, knocks in two runs, cutting the Mets’ lead to one. With the tying and winning runs on base, Dennis Cook relieves Franco and saves the day by retiring the next three batters in order. The win makes bench coach Bruce Benedict 2-0 for his short stint managing in Bobby Valentine’s absence.
  • Friday, June 18, 1999

    New York Mets 6, St. Louis Cardinals 2 at Busch Stadium

    With Bobby Valentine permitted back in the dugout, the Mets pull off another nailbiter. The Mets stake themselves to a 5-0 lead on the strength of an RBI double from Edgardo Alfonzo and run-scoring singles from Rickey Henderson and Rey Ordoñez. Orel Hershiser pitches five scoreless innings but is forced to leave with back spasms. Workhorse reliever Turk Wendell keeps the Cards off the board in the sixth and seventh innings but falters in the eighth, allowing a two-out, two-run homer to Thomas Howard. After Wendell allows a single to the following batter, Valentine turns to Armando Benítez, who issues a four-pitch walk. That brings up Mark McGwire in a potential game-tying situation for the second game in a row. Benítez and McGwire faced each other eight times when the pitcher played for Baltimore and the slugger toiled for Oakland, and each of those confrontations ended with either a walk or a strikeout. The former outcome looks more likely when Benítez’s first three pitches land outside the strike zone, but the Met righty recover to toss a pair of called strikes, then catches McGwire looking on a 96 mph fastball at the knees to end the inning. St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa, who barked at home plate umpire Greg Gibson over strike calls all night, believes the pitch was lower, runs out of the dugout to argue as much, and gets tossed from the game. Mike Piazza leads off the top of the ninth with a solo homer for some much needed insurance, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 21 games in the process. Wary of using Franco after the previous night’s near disaster, Valentine sticks with Benítez in the bottom half and is rewarded with a breeze of a save.
  • Saturday, June 19, 1999

    St. Louis Cardinals 7, New York Mets 6 at Busch Stadium

    After being stifled in the first two games of the series, Mark McGwire reaches Jason Isringhausen for a three-run homer in the first inning. Izzy departs after 2 2/3 innings with six runs on his ledger. Trailing 7-2 in the top of the fifth, the Mets crawl within striking distance against St. Louis starter Darren Oliver on a Mike Piazza two-run homer and a two-run single from Rickey Henderson. But with Henderson on first and Bobby Bonilla at third, the Cardinals get a break when reliever Manny Aybar pulls the rarely successful fake-to-third-throw-to-first move and actually catches Henderson leaning. As Henderson finds himself in a rundown, Bonilla breaks for the plate, and St. Louis second baseman Joe McEwing throws home. Though the throw beats Bonilla to the plate, the runner appears to slide under a tag from catcher Alberto Castillo. Home plate umpire Charlie Williams calls him out anyway. Williams makes no friends this evening; both benches grouse about his miniscule strike zone making unnecessary work for every pitcher who takes the mound. Oliver is particularly aggrieved, requiring 121 pitches to negotiate his way through a mere four innings. After their fifth inning scare, the Cardinals hold back New York the rest of the way. It proves to be the longest nine-inning game in Met history, requiring three hours and 56 minutes to complete.
  • Sunday, June 20, 1999

    New York Mets 9, St. Louis Cardinals 6 at Busch Stadium

    Rick Reed does not fare well in the St. Louis series finale, giving up two homers (including yet another Mark McGwire blast, his 21st of the year) and five runs. But his offense picks him up, paced by Rey Ordoñez, of all people. The lumber-allergic shortstop goes 3 for 4 and shows some hustle by scoring from second base on an infield single—twice. In the top of the third, Ordoñez watches Roger Cedeño ground out to first and notices, as he reaches third, that first baseman McGwire has his back to the plate and is paying him no mind. The shortstop breaks for the plate, and by the time McGwire realizes what’s transpiring behind him, there is no play to make. In the top of the sixth, Ordoñez hits a two-run single to knot the score at 6. Shortly thereafter, St. Louis reliever Rick Croushore runs to cover first on another Cedeño grounder in the hole, but the speedy outfielder beats him to the bag and the pitcher falls down in foul territory at the conclusion of the footrace. When Ordoñez notices Croushore is still in a sitting position in foul territory, he continues right on past third, dashing for home as soon as the pitcher’s attention is diverted. (Croushore later swears he heard an umpire call time.) In this odd fashion do the Mets take the lead, and proceed to hold onto it. In the middle of it all, Mike Piazza extends his hitting streak to 23 games, one shy of the team record set by Hubie Brooks in 1984.
  • Tuesday, June 22, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Florida Marlins 2 at Shea Stadium

    In the opener of a brief three-game homestand hosting the Marlins, Masato Yoshii pitches well, giving up just two runs in 6 1/3 innings. His teammates are baffled by the knuckleball of Florida starter Dennis Springer through the first six innings, save for a Robin Ventura solo home run, but break out against him and the Florida bullpen in the late going. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Mets tie the score when a Roger Cedeño hit skips past outfielder Preston Wilson, allowing Ventura to score all the way from first. RBI singles follow from Rey Ordoñez and Edgardo Alfonzo to give the Mets the lead, and they pile on with a four-run eighth inning. Even Armando Benítez gets into the act, capitalizing on a rare at bat with an RBI groundout to round out the victory.
  • Wednesday, June 23, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Florida Marlins 3 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter recovers from a rough, two-run first inning to throw seven strong frames and even contributes with his bat. His chopper up the middle in the bottom of the third allows the speedy Roger Cedeño to beat a throw to the plate and score the first Met run. Cedeño swipes two more bases in the game to bring his league-leading total up to 41. Edgardo Alfonzo homers in the fourth inning to tie the game at 2, then puts the Mets ahead to stay with an RBI single in the fifth. Unfortunately, Mike Piazza’s franchise-record hitting streak ends at 24 games when he fails to get a hit in four at bats while also suffering a mild concussion when he’s hit by a batter’s backswing while catching in the top of the seventh inning.
  • Thursday, June 24, 1999

    New York Mets 3, Florida Marlins 2 at Shea Stadium

    In the conclusion of their brief homestand, the Mets complete a sweep of the Marlins and defeat Liván Hernández for the third time in less than half a season. Orel Hershiser pitches six solid innings of one-run ball, but Hernández matches him, then helps his own cause by hitting a leadoff double in the top of the seventh and coming around to score on a sac fly. With the score knotted at 2 in the bottom of the eighth, John Olerud lines a one-out double into the left field corner. Robin Ventura follows with a bloop single beyond the first baseman’s reach that drives in pinch runner Luis López from second with the go-ahead run. John Franco retires the Marlins in order in the ninth for his 19th save.
  • Friday, June 25, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Atlanta Braves 2 at Turner Field

    Despite Mike Piazza sitting out while he deals with the aftereffects of a concussion, and despite a 45-minute delay due to faulty lighting at Turner Field, the Mets come out swinging against Braves starter Odalis Pérez. A Benny Agbayani solo homer gives New York its first run, followed by RBI singles from Todd Pratt, Roger Cedeño, and Rick Reed in the sixth. The Mets pile on in the late innings against Atlanta’s bullpen, scoring once in the seventh, twice in the eighth, and three times in the ninth. Reed pitches into the seventh inning and allows just one run in the rout, the Mets’ first victory at Turner Field in almost two years.
  • Saturday, June 26, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 7, New York Mets 2 at Turner Field

    Called on to make his major league debut at Turner Field, a visibly nervous Octavio Dotel puts the Mets in an immediate hole by allowing a first inning three-run homer to Ryan Klesko. Dotel fails to make it out of the fifth inning, giving up three more runs in that frame on a Chipper Jones two-run double and a sac fly from Brian Jordan. Atlanta ace Tom Glavine has struggled through a down year to this point in the season, but he still shuts down the Mets’ offense, allowing just one run over seven innings.
  • Sunday, June 27, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 1, New York Mets 0 at Turner Field

    Masato Yoshii pitches a great ballgame in the Atlanta series finale. Unfortunately for the Mets, Greg Maddux pitches even better, allowing a mere two hits over eight innings of classically efficient Maddux-esque work. The only run of the game scores in the bottom of the third when Yoshii gives up a single to Brave backstop Eddie Pérez, Maddux bunts him to second, and veteran shortstop Ozzie Guillén belts a double deep enough to drive in the slow-footed catcher. The Mets mount a threat in the ninth when Edgardo Alfonzo hits a one-out single against Atlanta closer John Rocker, but after pinch runner Melvin Mora moves to second on a groundout, Rocker dispatches Robin Ventura with a strikeout to end the game and the series.
  • Monday, June 28, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Florida Marlins 4 at Pro Player Stadium

    In the opener of a four-game set in Miami, Robin Ventura rebounds nicely from a rough series in Atlanta (where he struck out an astounding seven times in 12 at-bats) by hitting a pair of three-run homers, the first of which helps the Mets overcome an early 2-0 deficit and brings his RBI total on the season to a team-best 59. On a typically muggy Miami night, Al Leiter struggles through a 42-pitch, two-run third inning. During this slog, rookie Álex González fouls off five pitches before hitting a run-scoring single, which nearly sends the excitable Leiter off the deep end. The lefty leaps this hurdle, however, pitching through seven innings while giving up only three runs on the day.
  • Tuesday, June 29, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Florida Marlins 1 at Pro Player Stadium

    Orel Hershiser throws his best game thus far as a Met: 8 1/3 innings, five hits, and just one run. The old pro uses a mere 68 pitches to navigate the first seven innings and keeps the ball on the ground for most of the night, which leads to an astounding 11 assists for shortstop Rey Ordoñez (only three shy of the all-time single-game record). Hershiser leaves the mound to a standing ovation, a reaction he attributes to large numbers of “the 40-and-over crowd” in Florida. (“I saw a few canes out there.”) “Crowd” may be an exaggeration, as just a hair over 11,000 fans (the third smallest attendance in Florida’s brief history) pay to watch the contest.
  • Wednesday, June 30, 1999

    Florida Marlins 4, New York Mets 3 (10 innings) at Pro Player Stadium

    Rick Reed allows a two-run homer to Kevin Millar in the bottom of the second, but the Mets tie the score in the top of the sixth on a run-scoring groundout from Robin Ventura and an RBI single from Brian McRae. Millar puts the Marlins ahead again in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single, only to see Edgardo Alfonzo tie the score once more with a run-scoring single of his own in the top of the seventh. The game proceeds into extras until Armando Benítez, in his second inning of work, allows a walkoff home run to Mark Kotsay in the bottom of the tenth. It is the first longball Benítez has allowed to anyone since May 18, and the first hit any Marlins batter has notched against him in 22 at bats.

July

  • Thursday, July 1, 1999

    New York Mets 12, Florida Marlins 8 at Pro Player Stadium

    Bobby Valentine chooses to rest many of his regulars on a drizzly Miami evening. (The fans decide to rest, too; the “crowd” that shows up supplants that of two nights previous as the third smallest gathering in Marlins’ history.) Despite the absence of big bats like Mike Piazza in the starting lineup and the lack of observers, the Met offense explodes. Six runs in the third inning—all scoring with two outs—chase Marlins starter Ryan Dempster from the game, and the Mets proceed to score a pair of runs each in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. However, Octavio Dotel lets nerves get the better of him in only his second major league start. Staked to an 8-0 lead, he cedes two runs to Florida in the bottom of the fourth, then allows three more in the fifth. There are numerous mitigating factors, such as the threat of rain that could rob him of his first big league victory, causing him to speed up his approach. It doesn’t help Dotel’s nerves when Florida reliever Brian Edmonson throws up and in to him, a pitch he later admits he never saw. Dotel is grazed in the back of his batting helmet and takes his base, but the brush with danger seems to unsettle him even more. He also does not react well to a lack of close strike calls in his favor, looking visibly perturbed on the mound and prompting a chastising visit from pitching coach Dave Wallace. Somehow, Dotel manages to work his way through five innings, qualifying him for the win.
  • Friday, July 2, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 16, New York Mets 0 at Shea Stadium

    In the first tilt of an important three-game series against Atlanta, Chipper Jones starts the scoring by hitting a two-run homer off of Masato Yoshii in the top of the first. From there, the Braves never take their foot off the gas. Yoshii goes on to allow eight runs in only three innings of work, and Atlanta is only halfway done at this point, scoring twice more in the fourth and once each in the fifth and sixth innings. To make matters worse for the Mets, John Franco—on the mound in the ninth merely to get some work in—strains a flexor tendon in his pitching hand and is forced to leave the game with an injury that will land him on the disabled list for the next two months. With his bench and bullpen spent, Bobby Valentine is forced to shuffle his defense and throw pinch hitter Matt Franco on the mound. The Mets’ other Franco allows a three-run homer to Gerald Williams before finally recording the last out of the inning. The drubbing sets the new ignominious mark of most lopsided shutout in Met history.
  • Saturday, July 3, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 3, New York Mets 0 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter does his best to keep the Braves at bay on a sweltering afternoon, but Brian Jordan drives in the first runs of the game with a two-run shot in the top of the fifth. Atlanta plates another run in the sixth, which proves more than enough for rookie starter Kevin Millwood, who stifles Met bats for eight innings. He starts the ninth in an attempt to go the distance, but issues a leadoff walk to Brian McRae, then gives way to John Rocker. The closer’s outing gets off to rough start when he unleashes a wild pitch and allows a single to Todd Pratt to put runners on the corners with nobody out. The Mets cannot capitalize, however, as Rocker induces two shallow fly outs from Edgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud, then strikes out Mike Piazza to end the game.
  • Sunday, July 4, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Atlanta Braves 6 at Shea Stadium

    On another steamy game at Shea, the Braves start off hot yet again, scoring twice against Orel Hershiser in the top of the first inning on back-to-back solo shots from Bret Boone and Chipper Jones. The Mets counter with three runs of their own in the bottom half on a two-run Mike Piazza single and an RBI groundout from Benny Agbayani. Edgardo Alfonzo tacks on with a run-scoring double in the second, but the Mets’ lead is short lived. In the top of the third, the Braves cross the plate four times on another Boone homer, an RBI sac fly from Ryan Klesko, and a two-run shot from Randall Simon. Atlanta starter John Smoltz keeps things quiet until the bottom of the seventh, when Rey Ordoñez singles and Brian McRae walks to start the inning. One out later, Alfonzo blasts a three-run shot to put the Mets back on top to stay. Armando Benítez earns his first save since becoming the “official” Mets closer, thanks to John Franco's injury, and does it in style by striking out Boone, Chipper, and Brian Jordan in order.
  • Monday, July 5, 1999

    New York Mets 2, Montréal Expos 1 at Shea Stadium

    In the midst of a brutal heat wave (thermometers reach 101 during the day), Rick Reed stifles Montréal as much as the mercury does, allowing one lone run on five hits through seven innings. His teammates are similarly suppressed by Expo starter Dustin Hermanson, who limits the Met bats to one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings. With offense at a premium, the margin of victory scores when the Mets plate a run on a bases-loaded double-play grounder in the bottom of the eighth. The home team gets some help from Montréal manager Felipe Alou, who makes the curious decision to not position his infield for a play at the plate. Armando Benítez retires the Expos with little trouble in the ninth, his second save in as many tries since taking over the closer’s role for the injured John Franco.
  • Tuesday, July 6, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Montréal Expos 0 at Shea Stadium

    In order to reshuffle the pitching rotation and give Masato Yoshii some extra rest while he deals with a sore quadricep, Bobby Valentine asks Orel Hershiser to pitch on only one day’s rest, something no Met starter has done since 1982. Despite another brutal night with temperatures just shy of 100 degrees at game time, the 40-year-old Hershiser cruises through five innings and limits the Expos to three hits. He contemplates going further, but it seems an unnecessary risk, as his teammates have already reached Montréal starter Carl Pavano for five runs by that point, thanks in large part to a two-run homer from Brian McRae and an RBI from Edgardo Alfonzo. Fonzie lodges another RBI in a three-run sixth inning, and the Mets log two additional runs in the eighth. In his first relief appearance, Jason Isringhausen earns a save the old fashioned way by pitching the last three innings.
  • Wednesday, July 7, 1999

    Montréal Expos 3, New York Mets 1 at Shea Stadium

    Octavio Dotel turns in his best start yet, limiting the Expos to one run and five hits over seven innings. His teammates are also held to one run over that span, however, and an errant throw in the top of the eighth by Luis López (manning third base after Robin Ventura is hit by a pitch in the foot) allows Montréal to take a lead. The Mets threaten by loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but the Expos call on closer Ugueth Urbina to face Mike Piazza, and after he fans the catcher, the Mets draw no closer. López shoulders all the blame after the game, with the use of Rickey Henderson-esque grammar. “Blame it on me,” he says. “Everyone played their asses off. Dotel pitched great. This time, Luis López failed.”
  • Thursday, July 8, 1999

    Montréal Expos 4, New York Mets 3 at Shea Stadium

    Masato Yoshii settles in after allowing a run in the first inning, retiring 13 Expos in a row at one point. The Mets carry a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning, aided by a Mike Piazza blast, but Montréal draws closer with a solo shot from Vladimir Guerrero in the sixth, the kind of homer only Guerrero can blast, going deep on “an eye-high fastball” in the words of the Daily News. (“Hats off to him,” Yoshii shrugs.) The Expos tie things up on an Orlando Cabrera homer off of Turk Wendell in the seventh, then take the lead in the eighth when Wilton Guerrero (Vlad’s brother) hits a one-out triple against Dennis Cook, tags up to score on a sac fly, and does so easily thanks to a poor Brian McRae throw. This proves the margin of victory in a defeat that spells a disappointing split with Montréal.
  • Friday, July 9, 1999

    New York Mets 5, New York Yankees 2 at Shea Stadium

    The first meeting of the Mets and Yankees at Shea Stadium in 1999 features the same starting pitchers as the last Subway Series matchup in the Bronx: Roger Clemens vs. Al Leiter. The Mets draw first blood with a Rey Ordoñez RBI single in the bottom of the second. The Yanks tie things up in the top of the third with a hit-and-run play on a Chuck Knoblauch single that scores Chad Curtis from second. The Mets regain the lead in the bottom half when John Olerud hits a long solo shot off the scoreboard in right field. A Paul O’Neill RBI double ties the score at 2 in the top of the sixth, but the Mets catch a break when O’Neill is thrown out trying to steal third on a very close play. They then storm right back, beginning with a bloop single by Edgardo Alfonzo to start off the bottom of the sixth. A wary Clemens walks Olerud, setting the stage for Mike Piazza to play hero. The catcher gets ahead in the count, then whips a Clemens slider into the left field bleachers for a laserbeam three-run homer. Leiter cruises the rest of the way, and though Armando Benítez brings the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth, he strikes out pinch hitter Chili Davis to cap a thrilling victory.
  • Saturday, July 10, 1999

    New York Mets 9, New York Yankees 8 at Shea Stadium

    Rick Reed faces off against Andy Pettitte in one of the craziest games ever played in the Subway Series, if not the history of Shea Stadium itself. The Yankees get off to a fast start when Paul O’Neill cracks a two-run homer in the top of the first. The Mets immediately cut the lead in half with a Mike Piazza RBI double in the bottom of the first, then tie the score on a Rey Ordoñez sac fly in the second. In the fourth, the Mets score twice on a Robin Ventura RBI double and another Ordoñez sac fly that allows Ventura to tag up and beat a throw to the plate by an eyelash, giving the Mets a 4-2 lead. Reed can’t hold onto the advantage, however, as he allows back-to-back homers to Ricky Ledée and Jorge Posada to start the top of the fourth. Greg McMichael takes Reed’s place in the sixth and immediately allows O’Neill’s second longball of the day, putting the Yankees back on top. True to their name, the Bronx Bombers extend their lead with a Chuck Knoblauch homer off of Rigo Beltrán in the top of the seventh. The Mets respond in the bottom half, with Rickey Henderson starting a rally by check-swinging a ball into right field and hustling the hit into a double. Like Roger Clemens the night before, Yankee reliever Ramiro Mendoza pitches carefully to John Olerud and walks him. Like Clemens, he pays for it when Piazza destroys one of his pitches, crushing it over the picnic area beyond the right field fence for a three-run bomb, giving the Mets a 7-6 lead. No lead is safe in this game, however, and Dennis Cook gives up a two-run shot to Posada in the top of the eighth that hands the Yanks an 8-7 advantage. Mariano Rivera takes the mound in the bottom of the ninth, looking for his third save against the Mets this year. He issues a one-out walk to Henderson, then sees Edgardo Alfonzo hit a long fly ball to center that Bernie Williams misjudges into a double, putting the tying and winning runs in scoring position. The next batter, Olerud, hits a hard grounder to first that prevents the runners from advancing. With first base open, the Yankees issue an intentional walk to the dangerous Piazza, leaving the Mets’ last chance in the hands of pinch hitter Matt Franco. After taking a very close 0-2 pitch that is judged a ball by the home plate umpire, Franco belts a single into right field. Henderson scores the tying run, Alfonzo races home just ahead of a throw from O’Neill to plate the winning run, and the Mets have themselves one of the most insane, improbable wins in franchise history.
  • Sunday, July 11, 1999

    New York Yankees 6, New York Mets 3 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets have hopes of recording the first sweep in Subway Series history, but are turned aside by the oft-maligned Japanese pitcher, Hideki Irabu. He labors through the first few innings and allows the Mets to mount a two-out rally in the bottom of the third, as an Edgardo Alfonzo single and John Olerud walk are followed by RBI hits from Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura that give the Mets a 2-0 lead. But Orel Hershiser mirrors Irabu’s struggles by allowing doubles to Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius to start the top of the fourth, then gives up a three-run homer to Ricky Ledée to put the Yankees on top. The Mets tie the score in the bottom half when Roger Cedeño singles, steals second, and scores on a Rey Ordoñez double. Hershiser then reaches on a sac bunt attempt, sending runners to the corners with no outs and putting the Mets in a great position to retake the lead. Irabu knuckles down from that point forward, however. Rickey Henderson works a full count but strikes out on a fastball that “tricked” him. Edgardo Alfonzo “just missed” on a pitch he lofts into right, too shallow for Ordoñez to tag up from third. Olerud sends a long fly to left that Ledée runs down with a one-handed catch to end the inning. Given a reprieve, the Yankees score three times in the top of the fifth on run-scoring hits from Scott Brosius and Chad Curtis, then hold on for the rest of the way. Mariano Rivera recovers from the previous day’s blown save to set down the Mets in order in the ninth, recording his 23rd save of the year and this third against the Mets this season.
  • Thursday, July 15, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7 (10 innings) at Tropicana Field

    In their first game after the All Star Break, the Mets rally against an early 3-0 deficit, thanks to a preponderance of walks and errors on Tampa Bay’s part and the quick wheels of Roger Cedeño, who belts a double and swipes two bags. Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Mets hold a healthy 7-3 lead, but for once the bullpen is not up to the task. Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook conspire to allow a run in the bottom of the eight, and in the ninth Armando Benítez struggles for the first time since taking over the closer’s role from the injured John Franco. He allows a two-out, two-run single to Fred McGriff and a bloop hit to Bubba Trammel that Cedeño loses in the lights and catwalks of domed Tropicana Field, which leads to the tying run crossing the plate. The visitors rebound in the tenth, as Benny Agbayani doubles and Cedeño singles to drive in the go-ahead run. Benítez pleads with Bobby Valentine for a chance to atone for his sins in the bottom half (begging him “Don’t take me out” as his teammates rally ). When the manager assents, Benítez rewards his faith by setting down the side in order on two K’s to preserve the win.
  • Friday, July 16, 1999

    New York Mets 9, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7 at Tropicana Field

    Thanks to the designated hitter afforded by an American League ballpark, Bobby Valentine is able to bat Roger Cedeño ninth, and he once again wreaks havoc on the basepaths, swiping two bags and scoring two runs. Rickey Henderson makes sure he is not outshone by doing the young outfielder one better in both categories. (“I was his idol so I think he knows I can still do it,” Henderson says with typical Hendersonian flourish.) Despite the gazelle-like speed on the bases, however, this is less a graceful contest ballet than a slugfest. The Mets and Devil Rays trade longballs and leads until New York, for the second day in a row, accumulates a seemingly comfortable lead. It looks especially comfortable when Jason Isringhausen shuts down the Devil Rays in the seventh and eighth innings to preserve a four-run advantage, but the ninth begins roughly. Izzy cedes a leadoff double, then uncorks a wild pitch, followed by a walk to Wade Boggs, the fourth ball coming on another wild pitch that brings in a run. Following a strike out, Isringhausen allows a single to McGriff, and a passed ball causes another run to score. Having seen enough, Valentine brings in Dennis Cook to restore order, and the lefty strikes out John Flaherty to end a very ugly game.
  • Saturday, July 17, 1999

    Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3, New York Mets 2 at Tropicana Field

    On a Turn Back The Clock day, the Mets don 1969-style flannel uniforms while the Devil Rays wear the togs of the Tarpons, an erstwhile Reds affiliate from Tampa Bay. Orel Hershiser does not look comfortable in the old school duds to begin the game, walking three batters and allowing three runs in the first inning. (He doesn’t fault the uniforms, blaming Tropicana Field’s flat bullpen “mounds” instead.) He settles in after that, retiring 11 of 12 batters at one point, but Tampa Bay has already scored all the runs they need. His teammates do virtually nothing against Devil Ray starter Wilson Álvarez and squander the few opportunities they get, as when Benny Agbayani is picked off of second base in the top of the seventh to squash a potential rally. Norm Charlton strikes out Mike Piazza with two men on the in the eighth, and in the ninth Robin Ventura misses a game tying home run by a matter of feet. The near miss causes him to lock eyes with the Devil Rays’ closer, Roberto Hernández, a former teammate on the White Sox. The two of them share a wan laugh as the series ends.
  • Sunday, July 18, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Baltimore Orioles 6 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

    In the opener of the Mets’ last interleague series of the season, Rickey Henderson puts on yet another show by hitting a leadoff home run, the 75th of his illustrious career, and scoring three runs. He also ignites a three-run rally in the fifth by beating out an infield hit before coming around to score on a Mike Piazza single. At day’s end, Henderson has 2,060 runs scored (two behind Willie Mays for fifth all time) and one RBI shy of 1,000. “So now I have a chance to get them both in one day tomorrow,” he notes. The Met offense piles on with three more runs in sixth. Masato Yoshii pitches well to that point in the game but falters in the bottom of the seventh, allowing four runs on a flurry of singles. Dennis Cook enters the game in the eighth and allows a solo homer to Jeff Conine that shaves the Mets’ lead down to two runs. Armando Benítez is called on to stop the bleeding in the bottom of the ninth, emerging from the bullpen to hearty boos from fans who remember his struggles in an Oriole uniform. He issues a leadoff walk but otherwise sets his former team down easily to preserve the victory. “Maybe they booed me because they don’t have me anymore,” Benítez surmises afterwards.
  • Monday, July 19, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Baltimore Orioles 1 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

    Prior to the All Star Game, Octavio Dotel was given a temporary minor league assignment to prevent him from gathering too much dust over the break. Unfortunately, his schedule was thrown by inclement weather in Norfolk, and so he starts the Mets’ second game on only three days’ rest. He looks no worse for the wear, however, as he retires the first 10 Orioles who step up to the plate. On the evening, Dotel limits Baltimore to three hits over seven innings, the only run coming on a leadoff home run by Will Clark in the bottom of the fifth. Rickey Henderson leads the Met offense yet again as he singles and scores in the Mets’ two-run rally in the fourth inning. Solo homers from Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura add insurance runs that Dotel’s pitching renders unnecessary. Armando Benítez draws more boos when he emerges for the save, but it doesn’t prevent him from setting the Orioles down in order in the ninth.
  • Tuesday, July 20, 1999

    Baltimore Orioles 4, New York Mets 1 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

    In the Baltimore farewell, Al Leiter has a surprisingly ineffective outing, failing to pitch six innings for the first time in two months. The lefty loads the bases in a rough first inning and plunks Will Clark with a pitch to force in the first Orioles run. The Mets tie the score on an Edgardo Alfonzo RBI single in the top of the third, but that is all the scoring they can manage against Baltimore’s starter, the large, hard-throwing Aruban righty Sidney Ponson, who scatters six hits and goes the distance for a complete game victory. The Orioles score three times in the fourth, the big blow an Albert Belle two-run shot. The Mets’ sole run on the day is scored by Rickey Henderson, a score that ties him for fifth on the all-time runs scored list with Willie Mays.
  • Wednesday, July 21, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Montréal Expos 3 at Olympic Stadium

    The Mets score early and often in the first game of a brief two-day set in Montréal, as Mike Piazza belts a two-run blast in the top of the first, followed immediately by a Robin Ventura solo shot. An Edgardo Alfonzo double in the seventh drives in Rickey Henderson and sends him past Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time runs scored list. Rick Reed allows 10 hits to the Expos but limits the scoring to three runs.
  • Thursday, July 22, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Montréal Expos 4 at Olympic Stadium

    The Mets’ eight-game road trip concludes with Orel Hershiser throwing seven innings of two-run ball, good enough for his 200th career win. Hershiser even contributes with his bat and his legs, hitting two singles and stealing third on the front end of a double steal in the top of the seventh. The Mets break the game open early, scoring six runs and hitting six doubles in the top of the second, one shy of the major league record for two-baggers hit in one inning. Jason Isringhausen and Dennis Cook throw an inning apiece to close out the victory. The team’s hot play has coincided with a rare losing streak by the Braves—five games, Atlanta’s longest slide in three seasons. And so the Mets will return to Queens just two games out of first place.
  • Friday, July 23, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Chicago Cubs 4 at Shea Stadium

    Prior to the Mets’ first home game after the All Star break, the home team honors Sammy Sosa with a pregame ceremony, a curious celebration to throw for a player who is not about to retire. Sosa celebrates by taking Masato Yoshii deep in the first inning with a long three-run homer. The Mets are trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth when they rally for three runs, the big blow a two-run triple by Benny Agbayani. A Mike Piazza RBI single plates the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh, and the Mets hold on the rest of the way, with Armando Benítez pitching an impressive ninth inning for the save.
  • Saturday, July 24, 1999

    New York Mets 2, Chicago Cubs 1 at Shea Stadium

    Octavio Dotel pitches brilliantly for 7 1/3 innings, striking out nine batters, the only mark against him a solo shot from Sammy Sosa in the top of the third. The Mets respond with homers of their own from Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura in the fifth and sixth respectively, which prove the difference. Dotel looks as if he may falter in the eighth inning when he allows a leadoff double to Mickey Morandini, but he fans Sosa immediately thereafter. Dennis Cook and Armando Benítez shut the door on the Cubs the rest of the way.
  • Sunday, July 25, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Chicago Cubs 1 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter throws eight strong innings, limiting the Cubs to one run, while his teammates take advantage of sloppy defense and even sloppier pitching, scoring three times in the first inning thanks to an error and two bases loaded walks. Rickey Henderson collects two RBIs with a solo homer and a run-scoring single, giving him 1,001 for his career. With Leiter having thrown 129 pitches at the end of the eighth inning, Jason Isringhausen is asked to hold down the fort in the ninth. He allows a double but nothing else, completing New York’s sweep of Chicago.
  • Monday, July 26, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Pittsburgh Pirates 5 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets jump all over one of Pittsburgh’s young firethrowers, Francisco Córdova, hanging six runs on his ledger. A two-run Benny Agbayani double in the fourth inspires chants of BEN-NY! BEN-NY! from the Shea crowd. The team’s pitching does not keep pace with its offense, however. With the recent acquisition of Kenny Rogers, Rick Reed’s presence in the starting rotation is clearly in jeopardy, but he does not pitch like a man afraid of losing his job, ceding four runs in less than six innings to an offensively challenged Pirates lineup. Armando Benítez comes on for the save in the ninth and inexplicably issues four straight walks to a benign series of batters such as Dale Sveum, a veteran who spent most of 1998 as the Yankees’ bullpen catcher. Turk Wendell is forced to take up closing duties and records the last two outs to cap an otherwise unsightly win.
  • Tuesday, July 27, 1999

    Pittsburgh Pirates 5, New York Mets 1 at Shea Stadium

    On the evening of the infamous Turn Ahead the Clock Night, the “Mercury” Mets’ bats are silenced by rookie Kris Benson, as he goes the distance for a complete game victory. New York’s scoring is limited to a Robin Ventura solo homer in the seventh. Orel Hershiser allows only four hits in 6 1/3 innings, but two of those hits are long homers by Al Martin. Jason Isringhausen takes Hershiser’s spot in the top of the seventh and permits an inherited runner to score, while also ceding a solo homer to Brant Brown, more than enough offense for Pittsburgh with Benson on the mound.
  • Wednesday, July 28, 1999

    New York Mets 9, Pittsburgh Pirates 2 at Shea Stadium

    Newly acquired starter Kenny Rogers makes his Mets debut in the Pittsburgh series finale and limits the Pirates to one hit over the first six innings. Unfortunately, Rogers feels his balky hamstring tighten up at that point and is forced to leave the game, adding another question mark to an already questionable pitching staff. The Mets score two runs in the first on solo homers from Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura and nurse a 2-1 lead into the top of the eighth when Dennis Cook allows a game-tying pinch-hit homer from John Wehner, a man so sure he’d be out of baseball this summer he’d planned a family vacation to Aruba at the same time as the Pirates' series at Shea. Cook is bailed out in the bottom half when Pirate second baseman Warren Morris boots a potential double play grounder, then Benny Agbayani hits an RBI double to give the Mets back the lead. From there, the Pirates’ bullpen completely unravels. When the dust settles, the Mets score seven runs and a tight ballgame becomes a rout. The victory, combined with a Braves loss, pulls the Mets a half-game behind the Braves for first place in the National League East.
  • Friday, July 30, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Chicago Cubs 9 at Wrigley Field

    With Chicago in the midst of a punishing heat wave, Masato Yoshii takes the mound at Wrigley Field and turns in the shortest performance of his stateside career. He serves up a 465-foot bomb of a homer to Sammy Sosa in the first, then is knocked out of the game by a brutal second inning in which he allows six consecutive hits (including a single by opposing starter Steve Trachsel and back-to-back triples by Mickey Morandini and Sosa). Longman Pat Mahomes stops the bleeding by holding the Cubs to two hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings, giving the Mets the chance to come back. He also helps spark that comeback with an RBI double that sends Trachsel to the showers in the fourth. The Mets slowly chip away and take the lead with two-run rallies in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. A solo shot from José Hernández in the bottom of the fifth ties the score at 8, but Rickey Henderson responds with a homer of his own in the top of the sixth, and John Olerud hits another leading off the ninth to expand the Mets’ lead. Brought in for the save in the bottom of the ninth, Armando Benítez records two quick outs, only to give up a double to Morandini and an RBI single to Sosa, cutting the Mets’ lead to one run. After Mark Grace follows with a single that moves the tying run to third, pinch hitter Tyler Houston hits a shot off of Benítez’s right leg. At first, the pitcher is unable to locate the ball, but after a few helpful screams from Mike Piazza (who catches the entire game through the insane heat, though he does change his uniform three times), Benítez locates the ball at the foot of the mound and throws Houston out at first, just barely, to bring the game to a dramatic end. “I play goal now,” the closer quips. The hard-fought win, combined with another Atlanta loss, launches the Mets into unfamiliar territory: First place, at the latest point in a Mets season since 1990.
  • Saturday, July 31, 1999

    Chicago Cubs 17, New York Mets 10 at Wrigley Field

    The Cubs, who were shut down by Octavio Dotel at Shea a week ago, treat the rookie like a punching bag on their own turf. With Chicago temperatures still well over 100 degrees, Dotel is subjected to a seven-run first inning bloodbath, capped by a grand slam off the bat of veteran Gary Gaetti. Dotel cedes two more runs in the second on a Sammy Sosa homer and departs at the close of that inning. The Mets attempt another valiant comeback, almost singlehandedly engineered by Robin Ventura, who homers twice and drives in six runs all by himself. His second longball in the top of the fifth brings the Mets within a run, and a Rey Ordoñez RBI single in the same frame ties the game at 9. Unfortunately, the bullpen is not up to the task of suppressing the Cubs two days in a row, as Chicago roughs up Mets relievers for eight more runs. Jason Isringhausen suffers the worst of it, allowing five runs in three-plus innings of work in what will prove to be his last appearance in a Met uniform before a trade to Oakland. In the bottom of the eighth, as Dennis Cook gives up two more runs and the game gets completely out of hand, Bobby Valentine asks utility man Matt Franco to warm up in the bullpen to spare his pitchers’ arms any more abuse, but Cook secures the last out of the inning on his own, thus preventing another embarrassing trip to the mound for Mr. Franco. The Braves’ win against the Phillies drops the Mets back to a half-game back in the National League East standings.

August

  • Sunday, August 1, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Chicago Cubs 4 (13 innings) at Wrigley Field

    Al Leiter attempts to provide some relief to a battered bullpen by giving one of his best performances of the year, pitching seven innings and striking out 15 Cubs, the most Ks by a Mets starter since David Cone fanned 19 in the last game of the 1991 season. In the top of the sixth, a two-run double by John Olerud and an RBI single from Darryl Hamilton (acquired the day before in a trade with Colorado) combine to give the Mets a 3-2 lead, but Armando Benítez’s first pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning is clubbed for a game-tying homer by Henry Rodríguez. Thus begins another parade of relievers on another blazing hot Chicago afternoon. The Mets retake the lead in the top of the tenth when Rickey Henderson walks, steals second, advances to third on a throwing error, and scores on an Edgardo Alfonzo sac fly. But Benítez walks the first two batters he faces in the bottom half and is yanked in favor of ex-A’s closer Billy Taylor (snagged at the trade deadline from Oakland for Jason Isringhausen), who can only induce a groundout that moves the lead runners up a base. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Dennis Cook induces a grounder to first that has the potential to be a game-ending double play or a play at the plate. Instead, the ball clanks off of Olerud’s usually unimpeachable glove, allowing a run to score. The next batter hits into that elusive double play, and the game drags on into more extra innings. A few futile frames follow until Roger Cedeño leads off the top of the thirteenth with a double. After Todd Pratt and Rey Ordoñez fail to advance him, the Cubs elect to walk Benny Agbayani intentionally, figuring the Mets’ depleted bench and bullpen will force pitcher Pat Mahomes—who came on to pitch in the bottom of the twelfth and is the last line of defense for an exhausted bullpen—to bat for himself. Mahomes confounds the Cubs’ strategy by blooping a single into center field that barely eludes the glove of Chicago’s shortstop, bringing home Cedeño with the go-ahead run. Mahomes records the first two outs in the bottom of the thirteenth with little trouble before the Cubs try the Mets’ trick of allowing a relief pitcher, Scott Sanders, to bat for himself. (Also like the Mets, the Cubs are completely out of position players and have no other choice.) Sanders responds with a long double off the ivy in left field, igniting the Wrigley Field crowd and terrifying everyone on the field into thinking that this game may never end. The Mets try to appeal Sanders’ trot to second, saying he missed first base, but the umpires overrule them. Fortunately for New York, Mahomes recovers to strike out catcher Jeff Reed and bring the exhausting game (all four hours and 25 minutes of it), and series, to a conclusion with the Mets on top.
  • Monday, August 2, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Milwaukee Brewers 2 at County Stadium

    Relieved and relaxed after not being traded at the deadline as he feared, Rick Reed pitches seven innings and limits the Brewers to two runs. His opposition, Hideo Nomo, has pitched well for Milwaukee after being let go by the Mets and Cubs earlier this season, but whatever magic he found in Wisconsin eludes him on this occasion. Nomo allows six runs in five innings, ceding longballs to Robin Ventura, Darryl Hamilton, and Mike Piazza, who caught plenty of Nomo pitches as both a Met and a Dodger. With the Braves idle, the victory helps the Mets pull into a tie for first place. Rickey Henderson leaves the game with a hip flexor issue, but the newly acquired Shawon Dunston takes his place and knocks in a run in his first at bat as a Met.
  • Tuesday, August 3, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Milwaukee Brewers 3 at County Stadium

    Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura both homer for the second straight day, while Milwaukee hurler and former Generation K member Bill Pulsipher allows six runs in five innings before he is chased from the game. Two of those are unearned thanks to a terrible throw by Milwaukee catcher Brian Banks that turns a double steal into a pair of runs for the Mets. Shawon Dunston starts for the ailing Rickey Henderson and goes 3 for 4. Masato Yoshii, recently demoted to the due to the acquisition of Kenny Rogers, makes his relief debut in the ninth inning and requires only four pitches to retire the side. Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ Kris Benson shuts down the Braves as easily as he did the Mercury Mets a week earlier. That means New York once again has sole possession of first place, a whole game in front of Atlanta.
  • Wednesday, August 4, 1999

    New York Mets 9, Milwaukee Brewers 5 at County Stadium

    Kenny Rogers makes his scheduled start in the final game, despite suffering from hamstring woes. He does not look all that sharp, allowing three homers to Brewers hitters after giving up a mere eight in his previous 125 innings pitched. But he also contributes an RBI single in the top of the second, his first regular season hit. (He did manage one in the 1996 World Series when the Yankees played in Atlanta, though he did little else right during that postseason.) The rest of the offense bails Rogers out by scoring seven runs in the first four innings. Robin Ventura homers for the third straight day, and Edgardo Alfonzo goes deep as well as the Mets hold on for a win that ensures they will head back to New York in first place.
  • Friday, August 6, 1999

    New York Mets 2, Los Angeles Dodgers 1 at Shea Stadium

    Octavio Dotel recovers from his rough outing in Chicago, pitching seven excellent innings and striking out 10 Dodgers. Playing his first game at Shea Stadium since his trade to Los Angeles, Todd Hundley receives a standing ovation from the New York crowd before going down on strikes three times, baffled by Dotel’s assortment of pitches despite the fact that he caught the rookie during a rehab stint at triple-A in 1998. “He kept climbing the ladder on me and I kept going with him like an idiot,” he says later. Dotel limits the Dodger damage to a lone run, which only scores in the top of the third after he cedes a two-out single to opposing pitcher Chan Ho Park, loads the bases on a walk and hit batter, and balks Park home. Roger Cedeño, who could never break into the starting lineup in four seasons with the Dodgers, exacts revenge in the bottom half of that inning by hitting a one-out single, stealing second and third base, and scoring on an Edgardo Alfonzo sac fly, barely beating a strong throw to the plate from Raúl Mondesí. The Mets take the lead on another sac fly in the bottom of the fourth, this one from Benny Agbayani, then hang on for dear life. The bullpen provides some agita, particularly when Armando Benítez allows a one-out single to Eric Karros and walks Hundley to put the go-ahead runs on base in the top of the ninth. The closer escapes danger by striking out Mondesí and Adrián Beltré to preserve the win.
  • Saturday, August 7, 1999

    Los Angeles Dodgers 7, New York Mets 6 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets take a 4-0 lead after two innings on RBI hits from Edgardo Alfonzo, Matt Franco, and Mike Piazza. The Dodgers score three of their own off of Al Leiter as he struggles his way through the fourth and fifth innings, but the lefty weathers the storm to pitch into the eighth, while the Mets receive a gift run on a wild pitch that brings Roger Cedeño scampering home in the bottom of the sixth. After Los Angeles pulls closer on a Paul Lo Duca solo shot in the top of the eighth, Leiter and Dennis Cook cap the scoring there, and the Mets still command a 5-4 lead going into the ninth inning. Armando Benítez threw 26 pitches the night before in preserving the Mets’ win, so Bobby Valentine decides to give him some rest and use Billy Taylor—who was acquired at the deadline for the express purpose of reducing Benítez’s workload—in his stead. Taylor falls behind the first batter he faces, Garry Sheffield, then throws a meatball right over the plate that the slugger clubs for a game-tying home run. One out later, Taylor walks Raúl Mondesí and allows him to steal second. After an intentional walk, Valentine removes Taylor for another deadline acquisition, southpaw Chuck McElroy, who gives up a two-run double to Craig Counsell, current owner of a .198 batting average. The Mets get a golden opportunity to tie the game in the bottom half, as Cedeño hits a leadoff single, steals second, moves to third when Alfonzo reaches on an error, and scores on a John Olerud hit. But with runners at the corners and nobody out, Mike Piazza grounds into a double play. Though Alfonzo could have darted home to score the winning run on that twin killing, he stays anchored to the bag. He remains there when the next batter, Agbayani, grounds out harmlessly to conclude a deflating defeat.
  • Sunday, August 8, 1999

    Los Angeles Dodgers 14, New York Mets 3 at Shea Stadium

    Rick Reed only throws 26 pitches before straining his middle finger, an injury that will send him to the disabled list. The Dodgers proceed to abuse every Mets pitcher who dares take his place on the mound. Called on for long relief, Masato Yoshii watches his first pitch sail 408 feet to straightaway center. The fearsome slugger who clubs this moonshot is Dan Dreifort, the opposing pitcher. Los Angeles scores five runs off of Yoshii, three off of Pat Mahomes, and two more off of Chuck McElroy. For the second time this season, Bobby Valentine is forced to use utility man Matt Franco as a reliever in the ninth inning to preserve what’s left of his relief corps. (McElroy takes Franco’s post in left field and manages a fine running catch at his new position.) Franco allows one hit, three walks and one run while striking out a batter, thus earning him the best line of any Mets pitcher on the day.
  • Monday, August 9, 1999

    Los Angeles Dodgers 9, New York Mets 2 at Shea Stadium

    In the Dodger series finale, LA’s ace Kevin Brown proves nearly unhittable, his formidable sinker inducing one harmless groundball after another. Brown cedes a mere pair of singles and one walk in seven innings, and only departs at that point due to a blister on his pitching hand. Orel Hershiser does not pitch to the same standard, to put it mildly, as four of the first five batters he faces reach base in a two-run first inning, causing boos to rain down from the fickle Shea crowd. The bullpen is tattooed for the second straight game, as Billy Taylor, Turk Wendell, and recent callup Dan Murray (making his first and last Mets appearance) combine to allow six runs.
  • Tuesday, August 10, 1999

    New York Mets 4, San Diego Padres 3 at Shea Stadium

    Tony Gwynn, who recently collected his 3000th career hit, draws a standing ovation from the Shea Stadium crowd. Kenny Rogers is treated more rudely, drawing a loud chorus of boos when he allows three runs in the top of the fourth to a weak Padres lineup, an onslaught that includes an RBI double by opposing pitcher Andy Ashby. Rogers redeems himself by hitting his way on in the fifth, running first to third when outfielder Reggie Sanders slips on the grass, and scoring on John Olerud’s game-tying two-run single. The Mets take the lead in the seventh when Rickey Henderson (who’d sat out all three of the losses to the Dodgers, nursing a sore hip flexor) singles and scores on John Olerud’s second RBI hit of the evening. Henderson’s acolyte, Roger Cedeño, swipes his 58th base of the year in the eighth inning, tying the club record for stolen bases in a season held by Mookie Wilson.
  • Wednesday, August 11, 1999

    New York Mets 12, San Diego Padres 5 at Shea Stadium

    After a rain delay of over an hour, Octavio Dotel struggles through a 40-pitch first inning, walking four batters and ceding two runs. He eventually allows five runs in less than five innings of work, but longman Pat Mahomes throws 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief and also singles to begin a four-run rally against San Diego starter Sterling Hitchcock in the bottom of the fifth. Edgardo Alfonzo is the offensive star of the day, as he belts a two-run homer and drives in five runs on the evening. The Mets blow things open with a wild six-run seventh inning to turn a squeaker into a laugher.
  • Thursday, August 12, 1999

    New York Mets 9, San Diego Padres 3 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets score three runs each in the first and third innings to give Al Leiter a healthy 6-0 lead. Leiter does not appear willing to accept this gift, as he struggles with his command, walking four batters and giving up three runs in the top of the fifth, but the Mets plate another trio in the bottom half. Amazingly, all three are driven in by Leiter. Renowned as an infamously bad hitter, even by a pitcher’s standards, Leiter shocks everyone (including himself) by hitting a bases-loaded double against San Diego starter Woody Williams. After regifting himself a six-run advantage, Leiter pitches through the seventh inning with little further trouble to complete a sweep of San Diego. The win ensures the Mets will head out on a west coast trip with a share of first place in the National League East.
  • Friday, August 13, 1999

    San Francisco Giants 3, New York Mets 2 at 3Com Park

    Forced back into the rotation by Rick Reed’s finger injury, Masato Yoshii pitches well, but a costly error by Luis López (subbing at second base for Edgardo Alfonzo, who is back in Venezuela for a family funeral) and solo homers by Rich Aurilia and Marvin Benard doom the Mets’ hopes. New York batters do little against Russ Ortiz, a young lefty putting up ace-like numbers in 1999. Matt Franco and Rickey Henderson provide a brief glimmer of hope when they rap out two-out singles in the top of the ninth against San Francisco’s fearsome closer Robb Nen, but he induces a groundout from Benny Agbayani for the final out.
  • Saturday, August 14, 1999

    New York Mets 6, San Francisco Giants 1 at 3Com Park

    On a typically gusty afternoon at Candlestick, the crafty Orel Hershiser takes advantage of the cold and wind to transform his sinkerball into a breaking ball. Hershiser pitches six solid innings, the only mark against him an RBI single by opposing pitcher Kirk Reuter. The Mets put up a five-spot in the fourth inning, the biggest blow a two-run homer by Mike Piazza, who goes 3-for-5 on the day (and who is still booed lustily in San Francisco by Giants fans who remember his days in Dodger blue). Benny Agbayani also knocks in a pair, doing so in front of a crowd that includes many relatives who flew in from Hawaii to see him play in the bigs for the first time.
  • Sunday, August 15, 1999

    New York Mets 12, San Francisco Giants 5 at 3Com Park

    Kenny Rogers puts the Mets in an early 3-0 hole by giving up homers to Ramon Martinez and Barry Bonds, but his teammates bounce back with a five-run top of the fifth against old friend Liván Hernández, who came to San Francisco in a deadline deal with the Marlins, and who the Mets have already defeated four times this season. The five-run rally includes a Robin Ventura homer with the bases juiced, his thirteenth career grand slam and third of this season. The Mets continue to victimize the Giants’ staff for the rest of the game, while Rogers recovers from his early struggles to go the distance. His complete game is the first by a Mets pitcher in 139 contests stretching back to 1998.
  • Monday, August 16, 1999

    New York Mets 4, San Diego Padres 3 (10 innings) at Qualcomm Stadium

    Octavio Dotel no-hits the Padres for six innings and receives a 2-0 lead courtesy of solo homers from Rickey Henderson and Mike Piazza. Piazza’s shot, his fourth in as many games, travels 448 feet into the second deck of spacious Qualcomm Stadium. But after Dotel issues back-to-back walks to start the bottom of the seventh, Phil Nevin belts one of his offerings into the left field stands, taking the no-hitter and the lead along with it. Dotel finishes the inning, striking out two in the process (giving him a total of nine), but he immediately stalks off the mound and into the visiting dugout tunnel. Edgardo Alfonzo single-handedly bails out Dotel, first by singling and scoring the tying run in the top of the eighth. After Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook hold serve in the eighth and ninth innings, Fonzie hits a go-ahead home run in the top of the tenth. Armando Benítez earns the save in the bottom half while striking out two.
  • Tuesday, August 17, 1999

    San Diego Padres 3, New York Mets 2 at Qualcomm Stadium

    Al Leiter has an uncharacteristically wild outing, walking eight batters, including four straight to start the second inning and force in a run. The fourth walk is issued to Leiter’s old Toronto teammate Woody Williams, who also belts an RBI double off of the Met lefty, a small bit of revenge for the three-run double Leiter hit against Williams at Shea a week earlier. Williams pitches into the eighth inning and limits the Mets to four hits.
  • Wednesday, August 18, 1999

    New York Mets 9, San Diego Padres 1 at Qualcomm Stadium

    The Mets win the rubber game in San Diego with their second complete game in a week (after requiring 119 games of this season to notch their first), this one from the surprising source of Masato Yoshii. Gifted a 3-0 lead on a Robin Ventura homer in the first, Yoshii dominates the Padres for the bulk of the game, retiring 16 batters in a row at one point. Mike Piazza hits a solo shot to tie Ventura for the team lead in home runs (28) and drives in three runs in total. By taking two of three from the Padres, the Mets win their eighth consecutive road series.
  • Saturday, August 21, 1999

    New York Mets 7, St. Louis Cardinals 4 at Shea Stadium

    With a Friday night game rained out, the start of Mark McGwire’s only trip to Shea in 1999 has to wait until this Saturday matinee. Though Kenny Rogers wakes up with back spams, The Gambler bets he can pitch through the pain, but his wager puts the Mets behind immediately as he loads the bases in the top of the first and allows a two-run single to Fernando Tatís. The damage would be even worse, but for a stellar inning-ending double play turned by Rey Ordoñez and Edgardo Alfonzo that causes Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa to shake his head in disbelief. “Some players have more errors than their whole infield has,” he says. Rogers exits after three innings with his team trailing, but Pat Mahomes comes to the rescue once again with 3 1/3 scoreless, hitless frames. The Mets tie things up on a Shawon Dunston RBI groundout in the bottom of the third, take the lead on a Rickey Henderson run-scoring single in the sixth, and knock in two more in the seventh. Turk Wendell, who has inexplicably acted as kryptonite against McGwire throughout his career, notches a big strikeout of the slugger in the seventh and contributes a scoreless eighth to boot. Armando Benítez finishes things off with style by striking out the side in the ninth to put a bow on the Met win.
  • Sunday, August 22, 1999 (Game 1)

    New York Mets 8, St. Louis Cardinals 7 at Shea Stadium

    In the first game of a doubleheader prompted by Friday’s rainout, St. Louis lefty Darren Oliver stifles Met hitters for seven innings, allowing just one run over that stretch, while Mark McGwire abuses Met pitchers, belting two long homers. The first, served up by Octavio Dotel, is hit so high and so hard it takes out lightbulbs in the visiting team’s lineup display on Shea Stadium’s huge scoreboard. The home team fights back to tie the game with a five-run outburst in the eighth inning, four of those runs coming on a John Olerud grand slam. It looks like this dramatic comeback might go for nought when Armando Benítez allows St. Louis to regain the lead in the top of the ninth, but the Mets rebound with yet another rally in the bottom half. Cardinal reliever Ricky Bottalico issues one-out walks to Rey Ordoñez and pinch hitter Matt Franco, which enable Rickey Henderson to smash a game-tying double. Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa asks his infield to play in for the next batter, hoping for a play at the plate. Edgardo Alfonzo confounds the plan with a hard grounder that both the shortstop and third baseman dive for but neither catches. Franco trots home with the winning run to cap the come-from-behind victory.
  • Sunday, August 22, 1999 (Game 2)

    St. Louis Cardinals 7, New York Mets 5 at Shea Stadium

    In the nightcap of a rain-necessitated doubleheader, Garrett Stephenson limits the Mets to two runs over seven innings, while Orel Hershiser gives up three to the Cardinals over the same span. With Octavio Dotel having exited early in the first game of the double header, Bobby Valentine is all but forced to rest his more reliable bullpen arms. He pays for it when Billy Taylor and Chuck McElroy combine to allow four runs, the last three scoring on a bases-loaded line drive off the bat of Adam Kennedy that Matt Franco misjudges into a costly double. The home team attempts their second comeback of the afternoon in the bottom of the ninth, beginning when Benny Agbayani is hit by a pitch and comes around to score on a Rey Ordoñez single. After sitting out most of the second game, Mike Piazza contributes a pinch hit, two-out, two-run single (making this his tenth straight game with at least one RBI) that trims the Cardinals’ lead to two runs. Piazza’s blow brings Edgardo Alfonzo to the plate as the tying run, giving him a chance to play hero for the second time on the day, but he grounds out to end the ballgame.
  • Monday, August 23, 1999

    New York Mets 3, Houston Astros 2 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter caps the Astros’ offense at a pair of solo homers, though the second is a game-tying 400-foot bomb from ex-Met Carl Everett in the top of the seventh. Houston starter Scott Elarton allows his own homer to Edgardo Alfonzo in the first and an RBI sac fly to Roger Cedeño in the fourth, but otherwise keeps the Mets quiet for eight innings. However, Astros manager Larry Dierker is forced to pinch hit for Elarton in the top of the ninth in a vain attempt to push home the go-ahead run. His sub, Daryle Ward, singles against Turk Wendell, as does the following batter, Craig Biggio, but Armando Benítez enters the game to strike out the dangerous Jeff Bagwell and keep the score tied. In the bottom half, Darryl Hamilton hits a one out double and moves to third on a deep flyball off the bat of Cedeño. The Astros give Rey Ordoñez a free pass in order to force Bobby Valentine to bat for Benítez, who is due up next up. Valentine takes the bait and sends up Matt Franco, self-proclaimed goat of the second half of the Cardinals doubleheader on Sunday. Franco redeems himself with a parachute single down the left field line, just out of the reach of all three fielders who frantically run after it, earning the Mets a walkoff win.
  • Tuesday, August 24, 1999

    Houston Astros 5, New York Mets 1 (10 innings) at Shea Stadium

    Much as he had earlier this season against Greg Maddux, Masato Yoshii again finds himself on the unlikely end of a fierce pitcher’s duel when he faces off against Mike Hampton, Houston lefty in the midst of a Cy Young-caliber season. Yoshii gives up a monstrous home run to Carl Everett (459 feet off the scoreboard in right-center) to start the second inning, but is otherwise untouchable for 7 1/3 innings. It looks like that one run might be enough for the Astros as Hampton makes mincemeat of the Met lineup, setting down the first nine batters in order, inducing some timely double plays to erase the few baserunners he does allow, and even contributing a few hits to his own cause. Then, Mike Piazza leads off the seventh with his own moon shot (445 feet to the picnic area in left field) to tie the game at 1. Both bullpens hold down the fort until the top of the tenth, when Dennis Cook enters the game for the Mets. Though worked often this season, Cook has not made an appearance in eight days and he looks more than a bit rusty in this outing. He allows a leadoff bloop hit to Tony Eusebio that the batter legs out for a double. (“The bloops got even tonight,” Valentine notes after the game, referring to Franco’s game-winning hit the night before.) After Eusebio tags up and moves to third on an outfield fly, Cook intentionally walks Craig Biggio, hoping for a double play, but gives up a go-ahead RBI single to Ricky Gutierrez instead. The Astros cushion their lead when Jeff Bagwell blasts a three-run homer just over the leaping glove of Roger Cedeño in right field. The Mets go quietly in the bottom half to end a disappointing loss.
  • Wednesday, August 25, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Houston Astros 0 at Shea Stadium

    Kenny Rogers left his last start against the Cardinals with back spams and had sought out a chiropractor afterwards to deal with his injury. It thus comes as a shock when The Gambler pitches into the ninth inning of the Astros series finale and keeps Houston off the board the whole way. Rogers uses his sinker to great advantage, recording 18 of his 25 outs on the ground. Mets batters are similarly stifled by Houston starter Shane Reynolds until the bottom of the sixth, when Rickey Henderson singles, Mike Piazza doubles, and Robin Ventura drives them both in with a two-out hit. Shortly thereafter, Ventura shows some uncharacteristic speed by scoring from second on a Darryl Hamilton single, sliding just around the catcher’s tag for the third run of the inning and inspiring chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” from the Shea crowd. Rogers doesn’t quite make the finish line, but Dennis Cook recovers from his rough outing the night before to record the last two outs of the game.
  • Friday, August 27, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 3 at Bank One Ballpark

    Octavio Dotel continues his on-again off-again pattern by following up a poor performance against the Cardinals with a dominating one against the Diamondbacks. The rookie stifles the potent Arizona lineup for eight innings, striking out six and allowing just one walk and one run. His teammates stake him to a 6-1 lead against starter Omar Daal, with three of those runs driven in by the surprising source of Rey Ordoñez. Arizona’s ace Randy Johnson, not prone to heaping praise on his colleagues (or to say much of anything at all if he can help it), admits he’s impressed by Dotel. “It was the first time I had seen him pitch,” Johnson tells reporters, “and from what I gathered from his performance, he has a bright future….It kept saying 93 [mph] on the scoreboard, but it looked a lot harder than that.” Dotel lobbies for the chance at a complete game, but with 110 pitches under his belt and many innings logged this season between the minors and the majors, Bobby Valentine thinks it wiser to preserve the rookie’s arm. Billy Taylor starts the bottom of the ninth by giving up consecutive singles to Jay Bell, Luis Gonzalez, and Matt Williams. The last hit drives in a run and puts runners at the corners with no outs. Reluctantly, Valentine is forced to yank Taylor and bring in Armando Benítez. The closer retires the next two batters and, following an RBI single from ex-Met Kelly Stinnett, induces a harmless popup to seal the win.
  • Saturday, August 28, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 5, New York Mets 3 at Bank One Ballpark

    Orel Hershiser and Arizona’s starter, ex-Met Armando Reynoso, engage in a battle of baseball HORSE. Each time the latter gives the Mets a lead, the former allows the Diamondbacks to tie things up. A Roger Cedeño RBI single in the top of the fourth is countered by a Jay Bell RBI single in the bottom half. When Reynoso permits two runs to score in the top of the sixth on a Robin Ventura double and another Cedeño single, Hershiser and Dennis Cook mirror him by allowing run-scoring hits to Erubiel Durazo and Steve Finley. (Finley’s hit comes on what should have been a comebacker, but Cook finds himself distracted by the hitter’s broken bat helicoptering through the infield.) Arizona wins the battle of attrition with two outs in the seventh, when Cook allows a well-struck ball toward left field off the bat of Bell. Rickey Henderson makes a feint stab at the hit with his glove, only to watch the ball fly past him. Speedster Tony Womack scores all the way from first to give the Diamondbacks their first lead of the day, which they then pad with a solo homer by Matt Williams off of Pat Mahomes in the eighth. The Mets are retired in order in the ninth by Arizona’s new closer, Matt Mantei, a deadline acquisition from the payroll-hemorrhaging Marlins.
  • Sunday, August 29, 1999

    Arizona Diamondbacks 8, New York Mets 4 at Bank One Ballpark

    Al Leiter struggles through a difficult first inning, with his wildness and defensive miscues behind him leading to four runs. After walking the first two batters he faces and ceding an RBI double, Leiter allows a looping ball to left-center. Rickey Henderson and Darryl Hamilton each converge on the ball, nearly colliding before both back off. Neither fielder catches the ball, and two more runs score on the play. Leiter then contributes to the mess by throwing away a Gregg Colbrunn comebacker, allowing a runner to advance to third and later score on a sac fly. The Mets put together a three-run rally in the top of the second on RBI singles from Rey Ordoñez, Henderson, and Edgardo Alfonzo, while a Roger Cedeño hit plates another run in the third. But Luis Gonzalez reaches Leiter for an RBI double in the bottom of the second and a long solo shot in the seventh, while his teammates score twice more in the eighth against the ineffective duo of Chuck McElroy and Billy Taylor to put the game out of reach.
  • Monday, August 30, 1999

    New York Mets 17, Houston Astros 1 at the Astrodome

    Mets hitters abuse Houston pitchers early and often this night in Houston, but Edgardo Alfonzo hurts them worst of all. The second baseman goes 6 for 6 with three homers, five RBIs, and 16 total bases, shattering a club mark and falling only two short of the all-time record for total bases in a single game. Houston starter Shane Reynolds—a stingy control artist with an excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio and the second most K’s in the National League at the moment—is roasted for seven runs in just three innings of work, and the Mets continue to pile on from there. Roger Cedeño swipes his 59th base of the year, breaking the club mark set by Mookie Wilson. Masato Yoshii turns in another fine outing, pitching six strong innings while striking out eight. A day after resting his sore shoulder, Mike Piazza clubs a two-run homer to extend his history of hot hitting at the Astrodome (.421 lifetime batting average in the one-time Eighth Wonder of the World). Darryl Hamilton goes 4 for 5, and every starter save Yoshii collects at least one hit. Even as Bobby Valentine removes regulars from the lineup, Houston pitching continues to get pummeled. Shawon Dunston pinch hits in the top of the seventh and stays in to play centerfield, and still manages to get collect two hits and three RBIs.
  • Tuesday, August 31, 1999

    Houston Astros 6, New York Mets 2 at the Astrodome

    José Lima, colorful Houston starter enjoying surprisingly strong season, keeps the visitors off the board for seven innings. The Mets assist him by making some costly outs at third base. Particularly ugly is the indecision of Rickey Henderson in the top of the sixth, as he hesitates before trying to advance from second on a pitch bobbled by the catcher and is thrown out by a mile. The Mets finally reach Lima in the top of the eighth after Ken Caminiti commits a two-out error that permits Edgardo Alfonzo to reach safely, a miscue followed immediately by John Olerud launching the first pitch he sees for a game-tying homer. Bobby Valentine then turns to Turk Wendell, who he hasn’t used in six days in deference to his accumulated workload this season, to keep the game tied in the eighth. Wendell issues a one-out walk to Craig Biggio and gives up a booming double off of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field to Matt Mieske. Only a heads-up play of the carom by Roger Cedeño keeps a run from scoring, but the reprieve is temporary. Wendell walks Jeff Bagwell intentionally to set up a force at any base, but Caminiti atones for his costly error by blasting Wendell’s 1-1 pitch for an opposite field grand slam. Houston closer Billy Wagner sets the Mets down easily in the top of the ninth, handing them a deflating defeat. Meanwhile, a Brave win expands Atlanta’s lead in the National League East to 3.5 games.

Sept/Oct

  • Wednesday, September 1, 1999

    New York Mets 9, Houston Astros 5 at the Astrodome

    On the field, the Mets pick up where they left off in the series opener, touching up Houston pitching for 18 hits. Robin Ventura leads the way with four RBIs (bringing his total to a career-high 108) and a homer (his 200th career longball). Mike Piazza and John Olerud each hit two doubles, and Roger Cedeño tallies three hits and drives in two runs. Continuing his on-again off-again trend, Octavio Dotel pitches five so-so innings and leaves a bases loaded jam for Pat Mahomes to clean up in the sixth, but the longman allows just one inherited runner to score as he, Dennis Cook, and Armando Benítez combine to limit the Astros to one run the rest of the way.
  • Friday, September 3, 1999

    Colorado Rockies 5, New York Mets 2 (10 innings) at Shea Stadium

    In the wake of the Rey Ordoñez-Luis López dustup, the Met lineup finds itself unable to scrape together more than two runs against Colorado starter Jamey Wright. Orel Hershiser limits the Rockies to two runs over his own six innings, and Pat Mahomes, Dennis Cook, and Armando Benítez combine for three scoreless frames, but the game gets away from the bullpen in the tenth. Turk Wendell starts the trouble with a one-out walk of Todd Walker, followed by a single from Dante Bichette to put runners on the corners. With lefty slugger Vinny Castilla due up, Bobby Valentine calls on southpaw Chuck McElroy, against whom Castilla is 0-for-7 in his career. Despite this record, McElroy walks the slugger to bring up journeyman switch-hitter Jeff Barry, who made his first brief major league appearance with the Mets back in 1995 and has mostly languished in the minors ever since. Barry is supposedly better hitting right-handed than left, and he shows it by batting righty against McElroy and clubbing his first pitch for a booming drive beyond Roger Cedeño’s reach in right field. All three runners come around to score on the double. Valentine later scribbles the mild euphemism “darn” in his desk calendar to denote a loss that, combined with a Braves win, pushes the Mets 4.5 games out of first, their largest deficit since July. A Cincinnati loss maintains New York’s four-game lead in the wild card standings.
  • Saturday, September 4, 1999

    New York Mets 4, Colorado Rockies 2 at Shea Stadium

    Al Leiter guts out his performance in this game, as he allows 11 Colorado hits but only two runs, dancing out of danger when he needs to and staying on the mound into the ninth inning. The lefty is aided by his teammates’ bats as well as their defense, particularly on one play that proves equal parts hilarious and horrifying to watch. Opposing pitcher and ex-Met Brian Bohanon knocks a double off of Leiter to lead off the third, then gets ambitious after Kurt Abbott hits a two-out single to center. Bohanon—who, according to the Daily News, “weighs considerably more than the 240 pounds at which he is listed” —lumbers toward third on Abbott’s single, then around it, as Shawon Dunston fields the ball and fires it to the plate so hard he flops to the ground as he throws. Piazza catches the ball on one hop and blocks, steeling himself for a brutal collision with the bulky pitcher. Bohanon avoids this by running home standing, allowing himself to be tagged out without protest. The Mets trail 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Rickey Henderson works a one-out walk, allowing Edgardo Alfonzo to blast a two-run homer into the left field bleachers. Robin Ventura adds an insurance run on a solo shot in the eighth, his 30th of the year. Leiter attempts to go the distance but gets into some two-out trouble in the ninth and requires the services of Armando Benitez, who strikes out Terry Shumpert for the final out. A rare Brave loss pulls the Mets back to 3.5 games out of first place in the National League East.
  • Sunday, September 5, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Colorado Rockies 2 at Shea Stadium

    On a drizzly afternoon at Shea, the Mets score all their runs of the day—and all they will need—in a tidy six-run outburst. Amazingly, it comes against Darryl Kile, a pitcher who’s given the Mets fits his entire career; he no-hit them as an Astro back in 1993 and hasn’t lost a game in Queens since 1992. In the bottom of the fifth, Kile loads the bases on a single and two walks, then cedes RBI singles to Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura. That allows Darryl Hamilton to top things off nicely with a grand slam over the fence in right field. Masato Yoshii sees his 16 1/3 scoreless innings streak come to an end on a two-run homer by Vinny Castilla in the sixth, but otherwise turns in another valiant effort over seven innings. John Franco gets back into the action for the first time since July, taking the mound to a surprisingly appreciative reception, and turns in a decidedly Franco-esque scoreless eighth inning. He retires the first two batters, then gives up a walk and double before John Olerud snares a sizzling line drive off the bat of Henry Blanco to bail him out. A few moments after Hamilton’s grand slam touches down in the seats, the Shea out-of-town scoreboard flashes the welcome news that Arizona has scored three unearned runs in the ninth inning to beat Atlanta, a result that puts the Mets only 2.5 games out of first place. The Met win also allows them to maintain a four-game lead in the wild card race.
  • Monday, September 6, 1999

    New York Mets 3, San Francisco Giants 0 at Shea Stadium

    Kenny Rogers pitches his second complete game against San Francisco since becoming a Met, and the first complete game shutout by any Met since June of 1998. He works both sides of the plate deftly and completely baffles the Giants hitters, especially Barry Bonds, who goes down on strikes three times. Rogers’s counterpart, Liván Hernández, leaves the game with a rib injury after two scoreless innings, thus preventing him from being defeated by the Mets for a sixth time this season. Met hitters scratch out three runs against the Giants’ bullpen, which proves sufficient. The win helps New York keep pace with Atlanta, as they remain 2.5 games out of first place.
  • Tuesday, September 7, 1999

    San Francisco Giants 7, New York Mets 4 at Shea Stadium

    Making his first start after a lengthy, frustrating stint on the disabled list, Rick Reed says his arm and middle finger feel fine, though the results do not reflect it. He begins the top of the third by giving up a leadoff double to rookie pitcher Joe Nathan, then proceeds to load the bases and surrender a three-run double to Jeff Kent, and requires 44 pitches to negotiate his way through the inning. He departs after four frames with another middling performance on his ledger in a season full of them. Reed’s teammates rally with a Todd Pratt RBI double in the fifth and run-scoring hits by John Olerud, Darryl Hamilton, and Rey Ordoñez in the sixth to take a lead. The Met bullpen holds the fort until the top of the eighth, when Turk Wendell, John Franco, and a rare Ordoñez miscue conspire to give the lead back to San Francisco. Franco, Jeff Tam, and Chuck McElroy help the Giants pad that lead with two more runs in the ninth. The Mets use eight pitchers in total, a new franchise record for a nine-inning game, in a frustrating defeat that pushes them back to 3.5 behind the Braves in the National League East.
  • Wednesday, September 8, 1999

    New York Mets 7, San Francisco Giants 5 at Shea Stadium

    After a rough loss the night before, the Mets bounce back in the Giant series finale, and so does Octavio Dotel. Continuing his pattern, Dotel follows a middling outing with a fantastic one, limiting the Giants to four hits and one run over seven innings while striking out nine. The Mets score three runs in the third inning and four more in the sixth, a rally capped by a three-run opposite field bomb from Mike Piazza. That gifts Dotel a 7-1 lead. Mindful of the rookie’s workload, Bobby Valentine removes him after seven innings, much as he had done a few weeks earlier in Arizona. On that occasion, Dotel had to sweat out the rest of the game as the bullpen nearly gave it away, and much the same thing happens again. This time, the culprit is Pat Mahomes (“I guess it was my turn to have a bad day,” he says), as he starts off the eighth inning by giving up two walks, a single, and a run while retiring no one. Dennis Cook—who, like Turk Wendell, has performed miserably since being given extended, unwanted rest—surrenders a three-run homer to Ellis Burks, trimming the Mets’ lead to two runs. Armando Benítez gets the last out of the eighth, then allows a leadoff single to Bill Mueller in the top of the ninth to bring up the powerful meat of the Giants batting order. Benítez somehow induces a fly out from Barry Bonds, then fans Jeff Kent and J.T. Snow to preserve the victory, which keeps the Mets 3.5 games up on the Reds for the wild card and 3.5 games back of the Braves in the National League East.
  • Thursday, September 9, 1999

    New York Mets 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 1 at Dodger Stadium

    When the Mets make their only trip of the season to Chavez Ravine, they add insult to injury for their hapless hosts by using ex-Dodgers to inflict most of their damage. Orel Hershiser, hero of L.A.’s improbable 1988 championship, stifles his former team for eight innings, a solo shot by Gary Sheffield in the bottom of the first the only hit recorded against him. It looks as if Sheffield’s blast might stand up, as Dodger ace Kevin Brown keeps the Mets off the board with little trouble through the fifth inning, but in the top of the sixth, shortstop Mark Grudzielanek commits a head-scratchingly awful error, running right past an easily catchable John Olerud grounder. This sets the stage for another ex-Dodger, Mike Piazza, to blast a screamer into the left field stands that leaves the park in an instant. Sheffield makes a bid to tie the score in the seventh when he hits a ball to deep right field, but yet another former Dodger continues the pain as Roger Cedeño leaps to snag the ball just before it clears the fence. September callup Jay Payton contributes a pinch hit RBI single to pad the Mets’ lead in the top of the ninth, and Armando Benítez converts his 19th save, despite walking two batters. The victory helps the Mets gain a half-game on the idle Braves while maintaining a 3.5-game lead in the wild card standings.
  • Friday, September 10, 1999

    Los Angeles Dodgers 3, New York Mets 1 at Dodger Stadium

    Dodger starter Darren Dreifort nearly goes the distance and holds the meat of the Met batting order—Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza, John Olerud, and Robin Ventura—to 0-for-15 with just a single walk to their credit. Al Leiter pitches well for the Mets, with just a pair of RBI sac flies in six innings of work on his ledger. This is all L.A. needs, however, though the Dodgers scratch out an insurance run in the seventh when Billy Taylor takes the mound for yet another ineffective outing. Bobby Valentine chooses to praise Dreifort rather than damn his hitters after the game. “That guy has as good stuff as anyone, maybe the best in the league,” he says. “I don’t know what he does that gets him in trouble, but he sure doesn’t do it against us.” The loss, combined with a Cincinnati win, shaves the Mets’ wild card lead down to 2.5 games.
  • Saturday, September 11, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 2 at Dodger Stadium

    On the same day that the local L.A. papers print spurious rumors the Dodgers attempted to reacquire Mike Piazza twice in the last year, the catcher exacts his revenge at the plate, where he goes 4 for 4 and belts his second homer of the series. That longball puts the Mets up 2-0, and though the Dodgers tie things up on a homer of their own by old pal Todd Hundley in the bottom of the fourth, Piazza’s leadoff single in the top of the sixth sparks a four-run rally. Masato Yoshii holds down the fort from there, pitching seven fine innings and continuing a streak of great starting outings that have all followed Bobby Valentine’s implementation of a much-mocked six-man rotation. The win helps the Mets gain a game in the National League East on the Braves, who lost this evening, and maintain a wild-card lead over with the Reds, who won. A sour note is sounded when Darryl Hamilton leaves the game after the first inning as a result of slamming his knee into the outfield wall.
  • Sunday, September 12, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Los Angeles Dodgers 3 at Dodger Stadium

    The Mets’ Los Angeles farewell proceeds normally before devolving into what the Times terms “a comic opera.” (“If only the Three Stooges had an opportunity to work with this material.”) The Mets jump out to a 2-0 lead on a first inning homer from Edgardo Alfonzo, giving him 25 homers and 100 RBIs on the season, and making this the first season in which the Mets have sported three triple-digit run producers at once (Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura being the other two). Kenny Rogers, dealing with what he terms a “hamstring twinge” sustained while shagging fly balls in pregame warm ups, allows the Dodgers to take a lead with two runs in the third and another in the fifth, with the opposing pitcher—rookie Eric Gagne, making his second major league start—in the middle of each rally. The Mets rebound with three runs in the sixth off of Gagne, the last two scoring on a Shawon Dunston double that chases Robin Ventura home and into an awkward, diving confrontation with Dodger catcher Paul Lo Duca. The Mets then break the game open with four more runs in the seventh, despite an embarrassing play where Edgardo Alfonzo and Roger Cedeño both find themselves on third base at the same time. The win, though far from pretty, is the Mets’ 88th of the year, equal to their total of the previous two seasons. Another Atlanta loss means they will begin their next series just two games out of first place.
  • Monday, September 13, 1999

    New York Mets 6, Colorado Rockies 5 at Coors Field

    Rick Reed allows a respectable-for-Coors-Field four runs in six innings in the series opener at Coors Field. The Mets take the lead in the top of the seventh inning on a two-run homer by Rickey Henderson, but watch the Rockies tie things up again in the bottom half when Pat Mahomes cedes a leadoff solo shot to Terry Shumpert. Todd Walker follows this with a double, prompting Bobby Valentine to turn to Turk Wendell for the first time since the righty injured his knuckle in frustration after a bad outing a week earlier. Wendell wriggles out of the jam to keep the score tied, impressing Valentine enough to let him bat for himself in the top of the eighth. (Wendell walks against Colorado reliever Jerry DiPoto and even runs the bases without benefit of a jacket in the chilly Denver climate.) Turk repays Valentine’s confidence by working a scoreless bottom half, striking out two. His teammates scratch out the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth when Mike Piazza scores on a wild pitch by Rockie reliever Dave Veres. On for the save in the bottom of the ninth, Armando Benítez gives up a leadoff single to Walker but induces a groundball double play from Dante Bichette and a flyout from Todd Helton to preserve the win. It marks the Mets’ 89th victory of the year, their highest win total since 1990. Even better, a 3-0 Padres win over the Braves places the Mets only one game out of first place.
  • Tuesday, September 14, 1999

    Colorado Rockies 7, New York Mets 2 at Coors Field

    Octavio Dotel sounds almost cocky before his first start at Coors Field, calling the stadium known for destroying pitchers “pretty” but “far from intimidating.” He refuses to believe the thin Denver air will have much effect on his pitching, but is punished for his hubris when the Rockies hang six runs on him in only three innings of work. He finds himself in trouble from the very start as he gives up a leadoff triple to Neifi Pérez and a two-run double to Dante Bichette shortly thereafter. The Rockies add a run in the bottom of the second, then homer Dotel out of the game in the bottom of the third when Vinnie Castilla clubs a 428-foot, two-run bomb to straight-away center, followed by a solo homer by Edgard Clemente (Hall of Famer Roberto’s nephew). Bobby Jones—fresh off the disabled list and making his first appearance since May—takes Dotel’s place, giving up one run in three innings of work in his first ever relief appearance. Colorado starter Jamey Wright stymies the Mets for the second time this season, limiting them to five hits and one run. The loss, combined with a Brave win, drop the Mets back to two games out of first place, but the Reds also lose, thus maintaining the Mets’ 2.5 game lead in the wild card race.
  • Wednesday, September 15, 1999

    New York Mets 10, Colorado Rockies 5 at Coors Field

    Orel Hershiser nearly xeroxes Rick Reed’s stats from the Colorado series opener, allowing four runs in six innings. With the thin atmosphere preventing the pitcher from throwing his sinker for strikes, he considers himself lucky to get away with this line. The last two runs against Hershiser score on a Larry Walker single up the middle in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Rockies a 4-3 lead. All is quiet for the Met offense until Robin Ventura leads off the top of the sixth with a double and moves to third on a sac bunt. Benny Agbayani then ends his long homerless streak by hitting a ball into the left field stands. In the bottom of the seventh, Rockie shortstop Kurt Abbott hits a double down the line that Valentine swears is foul, and he is not shy about sharing his opinion with third base umpire Tony Randazzo, one of MLB’s recent hires to replace the 22 umpires who’d handed in their resignations in a badly botched job action. (Viewing a replay later, Valentine admits “Tony made the right call.” ) Dennis Cook retires the next two batters, but permits Vinny Castilla to knock in Abbott with a game-tying RBI. The Mets regain the lead when Ventura leads off the top of the eighth with a walk, then ex-Rockie Darryl Hamilton hits a line drive to right that squirts under Larry Walker’s glove, scoring Ventura all the way from first. Hamilton legs out a triple and later scores on an Agbayani sac fly. The Mets pile on with three more runs in the ninth, a rally that begins when Colorado manager Jim Leyland makes the curious decision to walk John Olerud and face Mike Piazza, a lifetime .436 hitter at Coors Field, instead. Meanwhile in San Diego, Padre rookie Matt Clement shuts down the Braves, meaning the Mets will return to New York once again a mere game out of first place.
  • Friday, September 17, 1999

    Philadelphia Phillies 8, New York Mets 5 at Shea Stadium

    Despite entering this series on a miserable 11-game losing streak, the Phils touch up Al Leiter for three first-inning runs, tack on two more in the fourth, and cruise the rest of the way. Philly does some inadvertent damage to the Mets’ most dangerous weapon when Mike Piazza takes a blow off his throwing hand from a Ron Gant foul tip and is forced to leave the game. Todd Pratt takes his place and hits a two-run single in the ninth to make the contest look closer than it deserves. Rookie lefty Randy Wolf baffles the Mets, striking out 11 batters in six innings of work. “The Randy on the hill mowing down batters last night at Shea Stadium was named Wolf, not Johnson,” Frank Isola writes in the Daily News. “The Mets were never quite able to make that distinction.” Also among the wounded is Shawon Dunston, who makes a great diving catch in the fifth, but comes down hard and exits the game. Down in Atlanta, Chipper Jones hits a walkoff homer in the bottom of the tenth to give the Braves a win over the Expos and expand their lead in the National League East to two games. The Reds lose in Pittsburgh to stay three behind the Mets in the wild card race.
  • Saturday, September 18, 1999

    New York Mets 11, Philadelphia Phillies 1 at Shea Stadium

    Masato Yoshii throws seven great innings, prompting chants of “Yoshii! Yoshii!” from the Shea crowd. Mike Piazza is forced to the bench thanks to the injury sustained to his throwing hand in the previous game, but in his absence the bats lulled to sleep the night before wake up against opposing starter Mike Grace and the Phillies’ bullpen. The game even features Rey Ordoñez’s annual longball—a grand slam, no less. Darryl Hamilton hits a solo homer, scores three runs, and makes a great diving catch to keep the Phils off the board. In Atlanta, three Braves errors lead to four unearned runs for the Expos, making a hard luck loser out of Greg Maddux. Thus, the Mets find themselves once again within a game of first place. The Reds win to keep pace in the wild card hunt.
  • Sunday, September 19, 1999

    New York Mets 8, Philadelphia Phillies 6 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets stake themselves to a 4-0 lead in the third, thanks to a three-run homer by John Olerud (Edgardo Alfonzo touches home on Olerud’s homer to score his 117th run of the year, tying a club record set by Lance Johnson in 1996), followed immediately by a solo shot from Mike Piazza, back in action following his hand injury in the first game of this series. Kenny Rogers keeps the Phillies out of the hit column for the first four innings, but the wheels come off after he tweaks his troublesome hamstring in the fifth inning. He gives up a two-run homer to ex-Met Rico Brogna in that frame, follows it up with a bases-loaded walk to force in a run, and caps the inning by allowing a two-out single by Bobby Abreu that scores two more. Rogers gets the hook in favor of Octavio Dotel, temporarily demoted to the bullpen ahead of the upcoming series in Atlanta, who immediately balks to bring a runner home from third. Dotel recovers, hwoever, logging the final out of the inning and pitching a scoreless sixth. The Mets begin to claw back when Roger Cedeño leads off the bottom of fifth with an infield single, steals second, and scores on a one-out Olerud double. After a walk to Piazza, Robin Ventura hits his own infield single while Olerud scores the tying run all the way from second. Then, with two out, Benny Agbayani reaches on an error, which also allows Piazza to score the go-ahead run. Cedeño adds a solo home run in the sixth to pad the Mets’ lead, and the bullpen works around a few scares to maintain it. As for the Braves, despite missing slugger Brian Jordan (battling wrist injuries and rumored to be in danger of missing the postseason altogether), the Braves beat the Expos with little fuss. Thus, the Mets will begin their next series in Atlanta one game back in the National League East standings.
  • Tuesday, September 21, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 2, New York Mets 1 at Turner Field

    The Mets arrive in Atlanta one game out of first place and their sights set on dethroning the Braves, but their first game at Turner Field brings with it a harsh dose of reality. Rick Reed pitches spectacularly for seven innings, the only mark against him a solo homer by Chipper Jones in the bottom of the first, but his teammates can manage no more than an Edgardo Alfonzo RBI single in the top of the third against John Smoltz, who has retooled his delivery to throw sidearm since the Mets last faced him. A potential rally is snuffed in the top of the seventh when pinch hitter Bobby Bonilla belts a two-out double that might allow the speedy Roger Cedeño to score, if not for a fortuitous bounce of the ball into the waiting arms of right fielder Gerald Williams. Cedeño is forced to hold at third and is stranded there when Rickey Henderson strikes out to end the inning. With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the eighth, Bobby Valentine calls on lefty Dennis Cook to face Chipper Jones, forcing him to bat from his historically weaker right side. Chipper defies his lifetime stats, as he has all season, by taking Cook deep. John Rocker strikes out Robin Ventura, Shawon Dunston, and Benny Agbayani in the top of the ninth on just 11 pitches to confirm this deflating defeat.
  • Wednesday, September 22, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 5, New York Braves 2 at Turner Field

    For the second night in a row, Chipper Jones gives the Braves an early lead with a first inning homer, this time a two-run shot. The Mets draw even when Mike Piazza hits his own two-run blast against Tom Glavine in the top of the fourth. Orel Hershiser settles in after a rough start, retiring 11 Atlanta batters in a row at one point, but falters in the bottom of the seventh and allows a Keith Lockhart RBI sac fly that puts the Braves back on top. When Piazza and Robin Ventura single to start the top of the eighth, it ends Glavine’s night and sets off a flurry of pinch hitters, pinch runners, and relief pitchers, with Bobby Valentine and Brave manager Bobby Cox trying to neutralize each move the other makes. The inning takes 40 minutes and 10 substitutions to complete and ends with the score remaining exactly the same at its conclusion. In the bottom half, Octavio Dotel appears in relief and walks the first two batters he faces. Both runners come around to score when John Franco allows a single to Brian Jordan, padding Atlanta’s lead further. Rickey Henderson manages a leadoff walk against John Rocker in the top of the ninth, but Atlanta’s closer otherwise dispatches the Mets easily in the ninth, getting Edgardo Alfonzo to ground out and Olerud to bounce into a game-ending double play, thus capping yet another disappointing Mets loss at Turner Field.
  • Thursday, September 23, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 6, New York Mets 3 at Turner Field

    After playing crisp (if losing) baseball in their first two games at Turner Field, the Mets stumble badly in the Atlanta finale, committing a ton of awful errors that speed their demise. They manage to score first in this game after Rickey Henderson hits a leadoff double against Greg Maddux and eventually scores on a John Olerud groundout in the top of the first. But in the bottom half, Al Leiter allows his own leadoff double to Gerald Williams, who moves to third on a sac bunt. Wary of pitching to Chipper Jones, Leiter walks him, only to see Andruw Jones knock in Williams with a single. In the top of the second, the Mets load the bases with no outs and score a run on a Rey Ordoñez single, but that lone run is all they can manage as Maddux wriggles off the hook with a strikeout, a force out at home, and a pop up. In the fifth, the Mets waste another opportunity when Henderson inexplicably tries to score from first on a double to left field that he mistakenly believed was bobbled. After Henderson is thrown out by a mile at home, the Mets throw themselves out of the game in the bottom half. It begins when Leiter fires a pickoff throw to first and catches Gerald Williams in a steal attempt, but John Olerud can’t get the ball out of his glove. The runner reaches second safely and moves to third on a bloop single by Bret Boone. Chipper steps up next, and the Mets choose to not walk him to load the bases. They pay for it when he crushes a three-run homer to right, his fourth longball against the Mets in three days. A visibly upset Leiter allows singles to the next two batters, and when Andruw Jones tries to tag up from second on a foul out behind first, Olerud fires a wild throw to third. With no one backing up the play, Jones trots home with the fourth run of the inning. The Mets get one run back in the top of the sixth on a Mike Piazza home run, only to give it back in the bottom of the seventh when Turk Wendell fields a comebacker and, hoping to start a double play at second, flings it into the outfield instead. A thoroughly unnecessary insurance run scores on the play. Though John Rocker issues two walks and a wild pitch in the top of the ninth, he still earns the save, completing an ugly sweep that obliterates any dreams of the Mets had winning the National League East.
  • Friday, September 24, 1999

    Philadelphia Phillies 3, New York Mets 2 at Veterans Stadium

    Hoping to salvage a few wins against a battered Phillies team, the Mets instead find themselves stymied by a crew of has-beens and never-wases. Phillie starter Joe Grahe is a veteran making his penultimate major league start, yet the Mets—despite collecting nine hits against him over eight innings—manage no more than two runs, scored on a Robin Ventura solo shot in the top of the second and a John Olerud RBI single in the fifth. Masato Yoshii pitches well enough to make this stand, allowing just four hits and one run over seven innings, but once he is removed from the game, trouble begins to brew. In the bottom of the eighth, the go-ahead run comes to the plate in the form of Bobby Abreu, the Phils’ young outfielder and one of the few offensive threats left in their decimated lineup. But rather than call on southpaw John Franco to face the lefty batter, Bobby Valentine instead brings in Armando Benítez with an eye toward a four-out save. Abreu works the count full before drilling a double to right to drive in the tying run. The next batter, Mike Lieberthal, smacks Benítez’s first pitch for a single, scoring Abreu. In the top of the ninth, the Mets are unable to do anything against reliever Scott Eldred, who has never saved a single game in his 10-year major league career. The loss, the Mets’ fourth in a row, places them five games out of first in the National League East and shrinks their lead in the wild card race to one lone game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Saturday, September 25, 1999

    Philadelphia Phillies 4, New York Mets 2 at Veterans Stadium

    Kenny Rogers insists his troublesome hamstring is feeling just fine, but that’s little comfort to the Mets when his wild performance hands them an early deficit in this game. The lefty allows back-to-back solo shots to Mike Lieberthal and Rico Brogna to start the bottom of the second, then loses all control in the third. After Rogers issues four walks, two of them coming with the bases loaded, he is finally given the hook. The Met bullpen holds off the Phillies after this point, but the damage is already done, as New York’s bats are completely baffled by the anonymous arm of Robert Person. They show signs of life in the top of the eighth when John Olerud hits a two-run homer, followed by walks from Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura to put the tying runs on base with nobody out. This opportunity goes by the wayside when Darryl Hamilton bunts into a force out at third and Benny Agbayani lines into a double play. They mount no such threats in the ninth and go down in defeat for the fifth game in a row. The loss, combined with a Cincinnati win, means they are now tied with the Reds for the National League wild card slot.
  • Sunday, September 26, 1999

    Philadelphia Phillies 3, New York Mets 2 at Veterans Stadium

    Desperate to find any formula that works, Bobby Valentine shuffles his lineup, dropping the slumping Edgardo Alfonzo to sixth in the batting order and inserting Roger Cedeño in Alfonzo’s usual two-slot. The results are largely the same, as the Mets can do nothing against soft-tosser Paul Byrd. New York had roughed up Byrd in a game at Shea a week earlier, but on this afternoon they can only cobble together five hits off of the lefty in seven innings of work. Rick Reed pitches well enough over six innings, but a two-run homer by Rico Brogna in the bottom of the fourth and an RBI single by Doug Glanville in the fifth are enough to hang an L on his ledger. The Mets finally get to Byrd in the top of the seventh when Mike Piazza singles, Darryl Hamilton walks, and Rey Ordoñez drives them both in with a two-out double. A wild pitch moves Ordoñez 90 feet away from tying the game, but after pinch hitter Matt Franco walks, Rickey Henderson strikes out to end the threat. Other chances are eschewed in similar fashion. In the top of the eighth, Mike Piazza hits a two-out double, but Robin Ventura can’t cash him in. The ninth is even more excruciating, as reliever Wayne Gomes walks the bases loaded with one out, giving Henderson another chance to tie up the game. Instead, Henderson bounces into a double play, ending the game and drawing the curtain on an unsightly sweep at the hands of the lowly Phillies. The Mets’ sixth consecutive loss places them one game out of the National League wild card standings.
  • Tuesday, September 28, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 9, New York Mets 3 at Shea Stadium

    Orel Hershiser begins the game by hitting Gerald Williams with a pitch, and his evening continues downward from there. Bret Boone hits a lazy single to right field, Chipper Jones collects one of his own to score Williams, and Ryan Klesko pokes a hit between third and short to score Boone. When Hershiser finally records his first out, it’s a Brian Jordan sac fly that drives in another run. Two more singles load the bases and end Hershiser’s night. Octavio Dotel’s first pitch in relief is wild, scoring yet another run, while a Jordan homer to start the third inning puts the Braves up by five runs. The game is completely put out of reach when Pat Mahomes coughs up four runs in the top of the ninth, while the Mets’ beleaguered offense can manage no more than a trio of RBI groundouts against Tom Glavine and the Atlanta bullpen. The loss leaves them 1.5 games out of the wild card lead behind the Astros, who lose to Cincinnati the same night, relinquishing their own lead in the National League Central to the surging Reds.
  • Wednesday, September 29, 1999

    New York Mets 9, Atlanta Braves 2 at Shea Stadium

    The Mets score first in this contest when Edgardo Alfonzo reaches on an error in the bottom of the first and eventually scores on a single by Mike Piazza. Al Leiter does his best to make the slim 1-0 lead stand up, but trouble finds in the top of the third when Brian Jordan lines a single past Rey Ordoñez to drive in two runs. The Mets respond with a stunning rally against Greg Maddux in the bottom of the fourth, reaching him for eight consecutive hits, including an RBI single from Leiter, of all people, and a grand slam by John Olerud. Seven runs score in the frame, and Leiter ensures this effort is not made in vain by contributing seven strong innings, finally bringing an end to the Mets’ disastrous seven-game losing streak. A Red defeat at the hands of the Astros means the Mets remain 1.5 games out of the wild card standings.
  • Thursday, September 30, 1999

    Atlanta Braves 4, New York Mets 3 (11 innings) at Shea Stadium

    Masato Yoshii and Kevin Millwood battle to a stalemate for seven innings in the series finale. The Mets find themselves in a 2-0 hole thanks to an RBI single by Andruw Jones in the top of the fourth and a Gerald Williams solo homer in the fifth, but the home team strikes back with one run in the bottom of the fifth and ties the score on a Darryl Hamilton run-scoring single in the seventh. Atlanta retakes the lead in the top of the eighth on a Chipper Jones RBI single, but in the bottom half, Edgardo Alfonzo hits a two-out game-tying homer into the Braves’ bullpen that sends the Shea crowd into a frenzy. However, the dramatic longball only sets up a crushing disappointment in the top of the eleventh. Shawon Dunston misplays a Brian Jordan flyball into a leadoff triple in that frame, allowing Jordan to score on an Ozzie Guillén sac fly. The Mets go quietly in their half. With both the Astros and Reds idle, the Mets are now two full games out of the wild card spot with three games to play.
  • Friday, October 1, 1999

    New York Mets 3, Pittsburgh Pirates 2 (11 innings) at Shea Stadium

    With their backs to the wall, the Met offense continues to sputter, held in check by young Pirate hurler Jason Schmidt. They do reach Schmidt for a pair of solo shots—Robin Ventura in the fourth, Mike Piazza in the sixth—and for most of this game it appears this may be enough, as Kenny Rogers spins seven scoreless innings while striking out nine batters. He lands in trouble in the eighth, however, beginning with a walk of anemic pinch hitter John Wehner. One out later, a consecutive singles by Pat Meares and Aramis Ramirez score Wehner and cut the Mets’ lead in half. Turk Wendell enters and records a big strikeout of Kevin Young but also walks Chad Hermansen to load the bases and bring up lefty batter Warren Morris. The next arm out of the bullpen, John Franco, allows a painfully slow roller that Morris beats out while Meares scores the tying run. Franco then nearly walks the next batter, Adrian Young, before catching him looking on a questionable called third strike. Given this gift, the Mets relievers keep Pittsburgh in check until the eleventh, when their own batters finally break through. Pinch hitter Shawon Dunston collects a leadoff single and moves to second on a sac bunt. Edgardo Alfonzo is intentionally walked in the hope that John Olerud will bounce into a double play, but he hits a grounder to first that results in only one out as Dunston moves to third. Following another intentional walk issued to Piazza, Ventura dunks a single into shallow center, scoring Dunston and giving the Mets a walkoff victory. Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers execute their own walkoff win against the Reds, which means the Mets are back to within one game of the wild card lead.
  • Saturday, October 2, 1999

    New York Mets 7, Pittsburgh Pirates 0 at Shea Stadium

    By the time this game begins, the Mets already know that the Reds have lost to the Brewers again, which means a win will tie them with Cincinnati in the wild card standings. With that in mind, Rick Reed pitches the game of his life, a 12-strikeout three-hit complete game shutout. His outing is so dominant that only one out is recorded in the outfield, and that one a pop up in very shallow center. The Mets batters are far less successful for much of the game, finding themselves helpless against another young Pirate pitcher, Francisco Córdova. When they break through for two runs in the sixth, it is largely due to Pittsburgh blunders. A leadoff walk from John Olerud is followed by an error by rookie third baseman Aramis Ramirez, after which Robin Ventura doubles home Olerud for the game’s first run. Following an out and an intentional walk to load the bases, Piazza is able to score on an error by first baseman Adrian Brown. Those two runs prove to be enough for Reed, but just to be safe, he helps his own cause in the bottom of the eighth. Allowed to bat for himself, Reed slaps a single to left to drive in two runs. Reed eventually scores on an Olerud single, and Piazza ices the game with a two-run shot, his 40th of the season. The win assures that the Mets will play game 162 in control of their own fate.
  • Sunday, October 3, 1999

    New York Mets 2, Pittsburgh Pirates 1 at Shea Stadium

    Needing one more victory to assure they will play again in 1999, the Mets opt not to throw Al Leiter on short rest and send 40-year-old Orel Hershiser to the mound instead. The decision appears costly when Hershiser walks the leadoff batter, Al Martin, who eventually comes around to score on a two-out bloop single by Kevin Young. Though Hershiser keeps the Pirates in check through five, the Mets can do little against rookie pitcher Kris Benson, as they hit the ball hard all afternoon but continually hit it right into Pittsburgh gloves. It takes some unsightly Pirate defense to put the Mets on the board in the bottom of the fourth, when first baseman Young throws away a John Olerud grounder into the Met dugout, which eventually allows him to score on a two-out double. That is the extent of the damage the Mets can manage against Benson, however, as he stymies their every potential rally and limits them to just the one unearned run through seven innings. The Met bullpen keeps pace after taking over for Hershiser with one out in the top of the sixth, throwing scoreless ball through the ninth. In the bottom of that inning, a rally is started by Melvin Mora, a September callup who hits a one-out single, then advances to third when Edgardo Alfonzo singles. The Pirates choose to walk Olerud and face Piazza, hoping the catcher will bounce into a double play, and bring in sidearming reliever Brad Clontz to induce a grounder. Their plan is foiled when Clontz bounces his very first pitch in the screen. As it sails toward the backstop, Mora races home with the winning run, setting off a celebration at Shea. A Red victory later (much later, following an almost six hour rain delay in Milwaukee) sets up a play-in game in Cincinnati to determine who will capture the National League wild card.
  • Monday, October 4, 1999

    New York Mets 5, Cincinnati Reds 0 at Cinergy Field

    In this winner-take-all game for the National League wild card berth, a raucous sell-out crowd is on hand to scream the surprising Cincinnati Reds into the playoffs. The Mets silence them almost immediately when Rickey Henderson hits a leadoff single and Edgardo Alfonzo follows with a two-run shot to straightaway center to give the visitors an early lead. Al Leiter takes over from there. He issues a walk to the first man he faces, Pokey Reese, only to retire the next three in order, freezing feared slugger Greg Vaughn for the third out. A one-out single in the bottom of the second also proves harmless, and after a two-out walk in the bottom of the third, Leiter retires 13 Reds in a row while barely allowing a ball to leave the infield. His teammates tack on unnecessary insurance runs via a bases-loaded walk in the third, a Henderson solo shot in the fifth, and an RBI double by Alfonzo in the sixth. In the bottom of the ninth, Leiter looks like he may falter as he allows a leadoff double to Reese and a two-out walk of Vaughn to put two Reds on base for the first time all game. The next batter, Dmitri Young, hits a line drive up the middle that appears ticketed for the outfield, but the Mets’ ironclad infield comes through again, as Alfonzo spears it for the final out, giving the Mets a playoff berth after 11 years and two disastrous weeks in the wilderness.
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