1999 Project: Games 38-41

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

May 17, 1999: Brewers 7, Mets 6

Bobby Jones had yet another poor outing and was charged with all seven Brewer runs. But Bobby Valentine saved his harshest words for home plate ump Bill Hohn, who (in his opinion) called an inconsistent strike zone: “This was a [strike] zone where balls off the plate were called strikes sometimes. [The Brewers] were getting ’em. What did we have, five called third strikes?”

The Mets bench barked at Hohn throughout the game, which might have cost them at its conclusion.They pulled within one run after scoring three in the eighth, then got the tying run on base in the ninth when Roger Cedeno walked. A steal and a groundout put Cedeno on third with two out, so Milwaukee opted to intentionally walk Mike Piazza and face Jermaine Allensworth, who took a questionable called third strike to end the game.

May 18, 1999: Brewers 4, Mets 2

With the Mets up 2-1 going into the eighth inning, thanks mostly to seven solid innings from starter Rick Reed, Valentine brought in Dennis Cook. The lefty gave up two singles, immediately putting the lead in jeopardy.

Valentine yanked Cook and called on Armando Benitez, who struck out the first two batters he faced, but then gave up a three-run homer to Marquis Grissom. Two years earlier, when Benitez was with the Orioles, he gave up a game-winning homer to then-Indian Grissom in game 2 of the ALCS. That shot propelled Cleveland to the World Series. This one just dealt the Mets their third straight loss.

Reed’s quality start looked suspicious to Brewers manager Phil Garner, who demanded the umps examine his glove in the fifth inning. Nothing funny was found, but the request rankled Reed:

If the guy’s thinking I’m cheating, then he’s getting the wrong stats because I had a 7-and-a-fucking-half ERA coming in. If he wants to come out early tomorrow, I’ll teach him how to throw it.

Valentine was no happier. In the bottom of the eighth, Allensworth was tagged out in a rundown between first and second. The manager thought the Brewers had committed obstruction, but the umps both refused to reverse the call or lodge Valentine’s protest with the league office. Still bristling from the glove-check earlier, Valentine went ballistic and was ejected. His team left much quieter, with three straight groundouts to finish out the ninth.

May 20, 1999: Mets 11, Brewers 10 (Game 1); Mets 10, Brewers 1 (Game 2)

99_ventura_gs_1.pngThis rain-necessitated twin-bill allowed Robin Ventura to achieve a curious baseball first. The third baseman became the first man in major league history to club a grand slam in both halves of a doubleheader. Other than this historic anomaly, neither game was pretty to watch.

In the first game, the Mets roughed up starter Jim Abbott for seven runs, including Ventura’s first grand slam of the day in the first inning. But Al Leiter barely fared better, struggling with his control and turning in an excruciating effort. He left after five innings trailing 6-5, but the Mets were able to get to Abbott and the Milwaukee bullpen to retake the lead and stretch it to 11-6.

Benny Agbayani, getting a chance to start in the Mets’ hobbled outfield, clubbed two
homers of the non-grand-slam-variety and drove in five runs. Allen Watson pitched two good innings of relief but also allowed a 3-run homer to Jeff Cirillo in the eighth, which left the Mets with a slim 11-9 margin going into the ninth.

John Franco came on to save the game and turned in a typically weird/nerve-wracking inning. Grissom doubled to lead off the inning, and after a strike out, ex-Met Alex Ochoa walked to put the tying runs on base. After a flyout, Sean Berry hit a pop fly that just eluded Edgardo Alfonzo’s glove.

99_ventura_gs_2.pngGrissom scored, and Ochoa would have also, if he’d been running hard. For some curious reason, he took his sweet time around the bases, and by the time he rounded third, Mike Piazza was waiting for him, ball in
glove. Not in the mood for any Pete Rose-esque heroics, Ochoa ran into Piazza’s mitt, and the game was finally over. Despite struggling mightily, Leiter got credit for the win, his first in almost a month.

The nightcap featured another offensive outburst by the Mets, with no counter-offensive by Milwaukee. Masato Yoshii held the Brewers to one run in seven innings of work. Ventura put the game away with his second grand slam of the day in the bottom of the fourth.