1999 Project: Games 42-44

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

May 21, 1999: Mets 7, Phillies 5

Orel Hershiser turned in his best outing yet, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing only two runs. John Olerud had three RBIs and finished a triple short of the cycle, and Mike Piazza homered for his fourth straight game.

The Mets took a 7-2 lead into the eighth, when reliever Turk Wendell gave up two singles to start the inning, followed by a three run homer by Ron Gant and a triple by Bobby Abreu. Armando Benitez came into a game for the first time since Marquis Grissom Incident #2, and stranded Abreu at third with two K’s and a groundout. John Franco struck out the side to end the threat of further drama.

May 22, 1999: Phillies 9, Mets 3

Bobby Jones was knocked out of the game in the third inning, and afterwards complained of a balky shoulder. He compared the feeling to “a dead-arm period” and hoped it was no
worse than tendinitis. Also felled in the third inning: Benny Agbayani, who already had some big hits in his brief call-up period. Benny slid into the concrete base of the outfield wall trying to catch a foul ball and had to be carted off the field. It turned out to be no worse than a bruise, and Agbayani was expected to miss only two games at most. Ex-Met Paul Byrd held his former team in check for 7 2/3 innings.

May 23, 1999: Mets 5, Phillies 4

In anticipation of his start at Shea, The New York Times featured a glowing profile of the Phillies’ ace, Curt Schilling:

The dean of the Philadelphia Phillies’ attractive young team, Schilling is the reincarnation of Robin Roberts, the team’s Hall of Fame pitching star of the first half of the 1950’s, a player who more often than not completed what he started.

In this game, Curt Schilling finished what he started. Presumably, not in the way he wanted.

The game was preceded by a two-hour rain delay. Once it finally started, the Mets looked like they wished it hadn’t. Schilling completely stymied them for eight innings, limiting the Mets to four hits, all singles. Rick Reed went seven decent innings, but his team was down 4-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. Despite throwing 103 pitches, Schilling remained in the game. Coming into the ninth, he had set down nine in a row

99_ventura_schilling.pngPiazza led off the ninth with a single. Robin Ventura would later say Schilling had lost nothing on his fastball all day. But that didn’t
prevent him from hitting a two-run homer to cut the Phillies’ lead in half. Still, there was no move to the bullpen. For one thing, the
Phillies’ closer, Jeff Brantley, was unavailable. Even if he had been, manager
Terry Francona told reporters afterwards, “Regardless of who was available, that was his game.”

After a groundout by Brian McRae, Matt Franco singled and Luis Lopez was hit by a pitch. Jermaine Allensworth, batting for the pitcher, knocked in Franco with a single, making it 4-3 and putting the tying run on second.

But Schilling remained on the mound, and looked like he might escape the mess when Roger Cedeno hit a ball right back to him. Schilling threw to second to force Allensworth and bring the Mets to their final out. After reaching on the fielder’s choice, Cedeno took
second without a throw. (Retrosheet says defensive indifference, although I don’t know if you can be indifferent to the man who represents the winning run.)

Schilling went right after the next batter, Edgardo Alfonzo. But he went after Alfonzo a bit too much, grazing him on the forearm on a 1-2 pitch to load the bases. That made two hit batsmen in the inning, for a pitcher who hadn’t hit anyone in his previous 81 1/3 innings of work.

“That’s the game,” Schilling told reporters later. ”The pitches I had made up to that point, I had a chance to get him out. And I didn’t want Olerud up in that spot.”

99_olerud_schilling.pngOlerud lined the first pitch he saw to left to send Lopez home with the tying run. Cedeno decided to try and score from second, and he just beat Gant’s throw home to plate the winning run and give the Mets an improbable 5-4 victory.

The win kept them in second place, and made the decision to play the game look like genius, according to Bobby Valentine.

It was a weird game. We sit around for an hour and some people started saying: ‘Should we even play this game? We should issue an executive edict and miss Schilling, and maybe he’ll be in the
American League the next time we play them.’ There was a lot of that going around. And if we didn’t win that game, there would have probably been a lot of second-guessing.