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A Schilling Drilling

Got an e-mail yesterday from a fellow fan, about 20 minutes after the Mets-Nationals game ended asking "Can't they ever do anything the easy way???" in reference to the Flushing 9.

Must I remind you that it wouldn't be as much fun if they did.

I harken back to a Mets-Phillies game on May 23, 1999, one that this e-mailer and I declined to attend because the presumption of a rainout would make my three-hour commute into New York not worthwhile. There was a delay, in fact, one that lasted nearly two hours prior to first pitch, and it looked like we made a wise decision, as the Phillies scored twice in the third, once in the fourth, and tacked on an insurance run in the seventh for a 4-0 edge.

The pitcher that day for the Phillies has had his name in the news the last couple of days. Turns out that Curt Schilling wants to be the Red Sox closer, at least for the next few weeks, much to the chagrin of a couple of his teammates. Schilling entered this particular game with a 7-1 mark and had pitched complete games in each of his last three starts. He was well on his way to his fourth, having scattered seven hits through the first eight innings.

I watched the bottom of the ninth inning from my basement bedroom, in Yardley, Pa. I wish I had been at Shea Stadium for it, but hey, we all make bad decisions in our lifetime of fandom. To refresh my memory, I went back and watched the highlights a few minutes ago on the 1999 video "Amazin Again"

Every good comeback starts with one little hit, and Mike Piazza provided it, with a leadoff single. Robin Ventura followed by cracking one over the fence for a two-run home run. Under normal circumstances, the Phillies manager, a guy named Terry Francona, probably pulls Schilling here. But it turns out that the closer, Jeff Brantley is hurt and done for the year, after pitching the day before. So the options dwindle, down to the likes of a fatigued Schilling or Wayne Gomes and Jim Poole. Francona stuck with Schilling, as we imagine he'd do today.

"Human Rally-killer" Brian McRae (as he was dubbed the next day by the New York Post) made the first out of the inning, but Matt Franco singled and Luis Lopez was hit by a pitch (the first batter he'd hit all season). Lo and behold, we had a Jermaine Allensworth sighting next. The pride of Anderson, Indiana was just a week away from playing in his final major-league game, and maybe he realized that it was time to make a name for himself. Allensworth singled to left, scoring Franco, making it a 4-3 game. Roger Cedeno followed, hitting a line drive that Schilling knocked down and turned into a force play at second base . It was nearly a double play, but Lopez scrambled back to third base just ahead of the throw from second.

The Mets had runners on first and third with two outs. Cedeno stole second without a throw and that must have unnerved Schilling a little bit. Schilling came a fraction of an inch too far inside and ended up hitting Alfonzo on a 1-2 pitch to load the bases.

John Olerud was up next and he already had two hits against Schilling that afternoon (and 7 in 17 at bats against him for his career). Schilling's 138th pitch was the last of the game, as Olerud laced it to left field. That brought home Lopez and turned the game into a three-foot race. Ron Gant's throw from left field was slightly up the first base line. Mike Lieberthal caught the ball on one hop, as Cedeno began his slide, but left home plate open just enough. Cedeno's legs beat Lieberthal's glove and made the Mets 5-4 victors with a five-run ninth inning rally.

I was looking to end this story with a flourish. Maybe there's a quote somewhere from Bobby Valentine saying "Easy? We never make it easy." But if there was, I couldn't find it. Instead, we'll leave you with two thoughts. One, is that it will be interesting to see how Curt Schilling fares trying to get the 27th out under similar such pressure to this game. The other does come from Valentine, who in summing this one up, said simply: "It was a crazy day."

True Metsamillions know...John Olerud had two walk-off hits with the Mets. Both came in situations in which the Mets trailed by a run with him at the plate.

Comments

Kermit said…
I remember that game well. Wasn't at the game but saw it at my friend's house. I'm surprised I actually ended up watching the ninth inning of that game but back in those days, I never counted the team out.
Anonymous said…
I remember that game as well...because I was there, and then I left!!
The story goes:
my buddy's birthday is in late may and his parents got him tickets on top of the phillies dugout for the game. He decided to take me with the extra ticket that he had. So there we are on a rainy sunday at shea and schilling is dominating our mets. not such a great birthday present hu?
Top of the 9th:
Refusing to sit through the rain till the bitter end, his parents decide its time for us to go (in fact his mom ended up with an pnemonia).
The rest is history....
I HAVE NEVER LEFT A MET GAME EARLY SINCE THAT DAY AND I NEVER WILL!!
Even worse?
My friend was at the Grand Single-Gm 5 in 99' against the Braves...thank gd I wasnt there with him...he left that one too!!
Anonymous said…
One of the most memorable walk offs was during a night game in July 1984. The Mets played the Cards and Keith Hernandez hit a game-winning single off of Neil Allen. He fouled off a dozen pitches before finally plunking a single up the middle. On the way down the ramps, the fans were screaming "We're number one." It had been a decade since those cheers were heard. The 80s team was on its way...

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