Click here for an intro/manifesto on The 1999 Project.
The Mets traveled to Cincinnati to play a team other than the Expos or Marlins for the first time in 1999. The thoroughly boo-able Bobby Bonilla broke a 1-1 tie in the 7th with the first homer of his second tour of duty with the team, and Robin Ventura drove in another run in the eighth with an RBI single.
The Mets carried a 3-1 lead into the ninth, when John Franco decided to make things far too interesting by giving up singles to the first two batters. After a sac bunt, Pokey Reese singled in a run; a great play by Edgard Alfonzo kept the ball in the infield and prevented the tying run from scoring. Franco then walked pinch hitter Jeff Hammonds to load the bases with only one out, but struck out future Met Mike Cameron and induced a pop-up from Barry Larkin to end the game.
“I got away with one tonight,” Franco told reporters.
Birthday boy Masato Yoshii continued to struggle. The Mets handed him a 4-0 lead he could not hold; the Reds torched him for six runs in the fourth, knocked him out of the game, and cruised to a 7-4 victory. Yoshii’s ERA ballooned to 7.47, further endangering his future in the rotation.
During the game, Bobby Valentine got in a screaming match with home plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck, Roger Cedeno took a called strike three that was, in Valentine’s estimation, just as low as pitches by Yoshii that had been called balls. “Yoshii threw 15 pitches that good! I’ guarantee you that.” Amazingly, Valentine was not bounced for his insolence.
Al Leiter finally earned his first win of the season in this game, going six-plus innings and striking out eight. Valentine said Leiter pitched “like a man possessed.”
Another first came from the outfield, which featured all three of its projected starters for the first time that season (Bonilla, Brian McRae, and Rickey Henderson). That lasted exactly one inning before Bonilla removed himself from the game with knee trouble.
Todd Pratt (continuing to catch in Mike Piazza’s absence) hit his second homer in two games. Armando Benitez allowed a few baserunners in the eighth but escaped unscathed. Franco recorded a rare 1-2-3 ninth inning for his sixth save of the year.