1999 Project: Games 17-19

Click here for an intro/manifesto on The 1999 Project.

Thumbnail image for wrigley.jpgApril 23, 1999: Mets 6, Cubs 5

The Mets endured a rough plane ride into Chicago, then some predictably unpredictable sun and wind conditions at Wrigley Field.

Robin Ventura, who played nine years with the White Sox, called the 44-degree temperature and 36-mph wind gusts “mild.” Cubs starter Steve Trachsel’s cap blew off his head in the top of the second.

Former Cub Brian McRae said, “This is a nice day.”

Jermaine Allensworth “almost got three teeth knocked out” when he lost a ball in the sun, which allowed two runs to score. Bobby Bonilla lost his own fly ball that led to another unearned run. Reliever Josias Manzanillo collided with John Olerud while trying to field a pop-up in the seventh and had to leave the game. Roger Cedeno was overcome with mysterious “dizziness” after singling in the ninth inning, and left soon thereafter.

But somehow, the Mets came out on top, thanks to a two-RBI single from Todd Pratt that tied the game in the eighth and a pinch-hit sac fly from Rey Ordonez to drive in the go-ahead run in the ninth. Ordonez was far from a happy camper, however; he had sat out two games in a row and feared Bobby Valentine had something against him.

“Maybe he doesn’t like me because I’m the only one he does it to,”
Ordonez said. “He’s the boss. He’s the one who gives the orders. I’m the only one he does it to. Maybe it’s because I don’t talk to him or say hi.”

At the time, Ordonez was hitting .170. Asked if Ordonez would start in game two of the series, Valentine just said, “Stay tuned.”

John Franco pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save in as many chances.

April 24, 1999: Cubs 2, Mets 0

The Mets left twelve men on base in their first blanking of the year. Bobby Bonilla grounded into two double plays. Starting pitcher Allen Watson–who had the reputation of a ‘hitting’ pitcher–stranded six men all by himself. He also had to leave the game after only 71 pitches with back spasms. The Cubs collected only five hits, but scratched out two runs for all the offense they needed.

The team almost looked like its head was in the following day’s game, when Mike Piazza would make his long-awaited return to the lineup. They didn’t lack for offense in the receiver position in his absence; Todd Pratt started every game and hit .319, with three homers and 11 RBIs.

April 25, 1999: Cubs 8, Mets 4

Mike Piazza’s debut was overshadowed by Sammy the Bear Beanie Baby Night (seriously) and Sammy’s namesake, who hit a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning that put the Cubs ahead for good.

The Mets carried a 3-0 lead into the fifth, thanks to solo homers from Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, and Rickey Henderson. But wildness from starter Orel Hershiser (including a highly questionable hit batsman), a poorly fielded bunt by Robin Ventura, and another missed play by Olerud set the stage for Sosa’s heroics.

Piazza blooped an RBI single in the ninth, but it was too little, too late. The Mets fell to 3-3 in games featuring their star slugger.

Meanwhile, Bonilla returned to New York to get his swollen knee checked out, and Ordonez reportedly rejected a two-year, $5.6 million contract extension. Allen Watson pronounced himself okay despite his back spasms from the previous day, but Rick Reed (torn calf) felt no better after an eight-minute bullpen session. Valentine said there was no timetable for his return just yet.