1999 Project: Games 20-22

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

April 27, 1999: Padres 6, Mets 2

With the Mets back at Shea after a six-game road trip, Masato Yoshii turned in yet another poor outing, giving up four runs and five walks in only 4 2/3 innings. Bobby Valentine said Yoshii’s rotation spot was not in jeopardy, and blamed himself for the pitcher’s woes. The skipper suggested Yoshii move from the third base side of the rubber to the first base side, and thought this suggestion was responsible for the pitcher’s troubles.

Yoshii wasn’t the only goat of the day. Recently activated Mike Piazza left seven men on base all by himself against Andy Ashby, San Diego’s less-than-intimidating starter.

April 28, 1999: Mets 4, Padres 3

This was Al Leiter’s best outing to date, as the lefty went seven innings, struck out six, and gave up only one run. The Mets took a 2-1 lead into the eighth and handed the ball to Armando Benitez, who had been nigh-perfect up to that point in the season. The righty proceeded to cough up the lead on a walk and back-to-back doubles by Tony Gwynn and Phil Nevin.

At that point, things looked pretty grim. The Mets had left a small army of men on base–as they’d been doing all season–and it seemed this would failure haunt them once more. Especially since the Padres had won the last 181 games they’d led in the eighth inning or later, thanks mostly to the work of future all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman.

99_piazza_padres.pngBut Hoffman failed to retire a batter this evening. After John Olerud led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single, Piazza crushed the first pitch he saw into the right field bullpen, thus earning the Mets their first walk-off win of the year.

After the game, Benitez tipped his cap to Gwynn. That’s either a gracious bit of sportsmanship, or a way of deflecting blame for crappy pitch locaiton, depending on one’s point of view.

April 29, 1999: Mets 8, Padres 5

On a cold, blustery day, Bobby Jones couldn’t get a feel for his curveball. That translated into a rough outing, and a 5-2 deficit after five innings. But the Mets’ bullpen held the Padres at bay over the last four frames; Dennis Cook, Turk Wendell, Benitez, and John Franco limited San Diego to two hits and one walk, allowing New York to rally for an 8-5 victory.

They were assisted, in large part, by the Padres’ wildness. San Diego pitching allowed nine free passes, and five of those men scored. After the game, Valentine said, “It’s a long season. You have to be able to win a lot of ways.”