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DiFelice NaviMet

It's been quite some time since Mike DiFelice had that big of an impact on a Mets game. It's been just over 10 years to be exact.

DiFelice was a Cardinal back on August 5, 1997, a semi-regular on a mediocre 73-89 team, which seems to be befitting a player who entered Sunday with a .235 average and four hits in 42 Mets at-bats. He started that day, batting seventh, and catching Matt Morris (whom I'll get to see in action on my trip to Pittsburgh this week), who was opposed on this rainy night by Mets starter Pete Harnisch, making his first start in four months after being activated from the 60-day DL while battling depression.

This was a game in which the Mets built a 3-0 lead through four innings and appeared to be in command until Juan Acevedo made like the Guillermo Mota and Aaron Heilman we saw on Friday and Saturday night. The lead, built up by RBI from Msrs. Lopez, Olerud, and Huskey, still was 3-2 with two outs and nobody on base in the seventh when Acevedo yielded a single to Royce Clayton. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, in a move no one would approve of 10 years later, allowed his starting pitcher, Matt Morris to bat, and Morris cracked an RBI double, knotting the score, 3-3.

By the ninth inning, the score was still tied and Greg McMichael was pitching in relief for the Mets. Gary Gaetti led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice by John Mabry. DiFelice was up next and played the role of temporary hero (a more permanent form was found on Sunday) by fouling off two two-strike pitches before lining a go-ahead single to right.

The Cardinals had that 4-3 lead and had Dennis Eckersley pitching, with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. Bobby Valentine sent Matt Franco up to pinch-hit for McMichael and Franco came through with a clutch single, tying the game. The Mets had a chance to win with the bases loaded and two outs, but Jason Hardtke forced the game into extra innings, and a subsequent 95-minute rain delay by flying out.

The Cardinals threatened in the 10th but didn't score, after Cory Lidle relieved John Franco (!) and struck Gary Gaetti out with two on and two outs.

So the Mets went to work to try to win the game in the home 10th and got an unexpected boost from DiFelice. Lance Johnson led off the inning with a single and Bernard Gilkey then tried to sacrifice him to second base. DiFelice handled the bunt and took a gamble throwing to second base. His throw was errant, leaving both runners safe (his accuracy throwing to third, as we discovered Sunday, is better). John Olerud then tried to bunt, a rather bizarre, but effective move, as that too was mishandled (Gaetti slipped trying to field it) and the Mets were given the gift of a bases-loaded no-outs situation.

Alex Ochoa couldn't get the run in, hitting into a force play, but Edgardo Alfonzo finished the game off in the proper fashion, with a sacrifice fly deep enough to plate Gilkey with the winning run. The Mets had themselves a needed victory, and as they were on Sunday, were quite appreciative of DiFelice's efforts when they were needed most.

True Metfelice know...With a hit in Sunday's win, Mike DiFelice is now 5-for-45 as a New York Met. The resulting .111 batting average is the second-worst of any Mets position player with at least that many at-bats. The worst belongs to Don Zimmer, who had an .077 batting average (4-for-55) with the Mets, all in 1962.


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