Click here for an intro/manifesto on The 1999 Project.
On a frigid night in Colorado, Al Leiter was left in just a tad too long yet again. He scattered four runs over his first six innings, a small victory in the offense-happy confines of Coors Field. Then, after a leadoff triple to Dante Bichette in the seventh, Leiter began to unravel, eventually giving a three-run homer to rookie Henry Blanco. Mike Piazza came into the game hitting .449 at Coors Field, but was limited to one single by former battery mate Pedro Estacio.
In the colorful words of the Daily News, “the Mets’ starting rotation continued to possess the hue and smell of sewer water.”
Before this game, Mets starter Bobby J. Jones said simply, “I don’t like pitching here.” That became abundantly clear very quickly. He gave up two homers to Rockies slugger Todd Helton, and eight runs total in 5 1/3 innings. His counterpart, Colorado starter/future Met Bobby M. Jones, held the Mets to two runs in his five innings of work. In a bit of meaningless trivia, this marked the first time in 100 years that two pitchers with identical first and last names had faced each other.
At the end of the day, the Mets starters were 11-14 on the season with an unsightly ERA of 5.30. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca recalled his days coaching in triple-A Norfolk, when his staff allowed 108 runs in only 10 games. “It’s a contagious disease that no one can be immune to. We’re just waiting for one starter to stop it.”
After an early exit in his previous start, Rick Reed took the ball on two days rest, preventing the combustible Orel Hershiser from taking the mound at Coors Field. He went five innings and gave up four runs–not bad for short rest, particularly in the thin Denver air. Thanks to an offensive outburst, this was enough to snap the Mets’ three-game losing streak. Scoring early runs hadn’t been a problem for them; tacking on had been. But the Mets led 6-0 after two innings in this one and never looked back.
The Mets held their breath when Reed was nailed in the posterior by a line drive off the bat of Angel Echevarria. But Reed stayed in the game, and wouldn’t blame the blow for a homer he gave up to Dante Bichette in the fifth inning. “My ass didn’t throw that pitch; my arm did.”