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Name in the News: A'Maz'In'

For the first 80 or so games of the 1987 season, the Mets were the kind of one-step-forward, one-step-back team that they've been throughout the 2005 season. A combination of injuries, Doc Gooden's drug rehab, and a few hideous losses were the cause, forcing the team to play catch-up into a September in which they came oh-so close to the division lead, but were unable to muster the necessary victories down the stretch (don't worry, I'm not writing about the Terry Pendleton home run).

June 7th of that season was Banner Day, which meant a doubleheader, this one with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who hadn't won a game at Shea Stadium since September of 1985. The Mets had taken the first two games of the series and entered with a chance for their first Shea Stadium series sweep of the season.

The opener pitted 21-year-old Mets rookie John Mitchell against 38-year-old crusty veteran Rick Reuschel and for six innings, the youngster got the better of things, holding a 1-0 edge into the seventh. The end came quickly though as Jim Morrison singled and R.J. Reynolds homered to erase the lead, and it required Randy Myers coming in to bail Mitchell out (escaping the jam by retiring a skinny kid named Barry Bonds), to keep the deficit at one run.

The Pirates added another tally in the eighth off Jesse Orosco, but the Mets rallied in the bottom of the frame, on RBIs by Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. The game was even into the 10th inning, with Roger McDowell, who got the save the day before, trying to keep it tied. McDowell's sinker didn't have the bite it needed and Andy Van Slyke parked one for a home run, giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead.

The good thing for the Mets was that the heart of the order was up against Don Robinson in the bottom of the 10th, and as they did so often against the Pirates in this stretch of wins at Shea, the Mets came back, again. Hernandez whiffed, but Carter singled and Strawberry walked, giving the Mets two baserunners for former Pirate Lee Mazzilli, who earned what was only his third start of the season because of the Mets early-season woes. The 1,000th hit of Mazzilli's career was a line drive double, one that brought in the tying and winning runs, giving the Mets a thrilling walk-off win.

Johnson, feeling good about that hit, penned Mazzilli's name into the lineup for Game 2 as well and the popular Brooklyn native (we'll get into his first stint with the Mets another time) delivered with a home run and five RBI. Unfortunately for Maz and the Mets, the bullpen, or more specifically McDowell, did not. Asking McDowell, who missed the start of the season due to a hernia, to work in three straight games was too much (sound familiar???) and he coughed up a 6-4 eighth-inning lead by allowing five runs, spoiling four good innings of relief from Myers. The Mets rallied in the bottom of the eighth, cutting the Pirates lead to 10-9 on Mazzilli's two-run single, but couldn't draw even. They left two men on base in the bottom of the ninth as Dave Magadan whiffed to end the game.

That ended a long, soggy Shea afternoon-turned evening, as the games and banner festivities lasted nearly eight hours (it was days like this that likely led to the end of Banner Day). The Mets had again taken one step forward only to take one step back in frustrating fashion. I imagine that's similar to the frustration Mazzilli is feeling today, a day after being fired from his first managerial job.

True Metilli know...Lee Mazzilli is one of many Mets who had three walk-off singles in his career with the team. Kevin McReynolds, Duffy Dyer, Ed Kranepool and Rusty Staub are tied for the all-time Mets lead with four walk-off singles.


Metstradamus said…
I was at that game...and had a banner. I never saw the Mazzilli hit as I was waiting behind the center field fence with my banner, but had the radio on and did "play by play" for the 50 or 60 people in earshot. Banner Day is a casualty of the greed of major league baseball and their insistance on not giving fans 2 games for the price of one.

I'm glad you chose that game to write about.

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