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Not 'Dead' Yet

July 31 isn't just the trade deadline.

It's the anniversary of one of the greatest pitching duels in "recent" Mets history.

Go figure that a matchup of Paul Wilson and Denny Neagle would produce such a contest, but it did.

This was 1996 and the Mets were quasi-buyers instead of the sellers they'd been the previous year, when they dealt Bret Saberhagen and Bobby Bonilla at the trade deadline.

Many say that Wilson's best game as a Met was the one in which he lost on a Sammy Sosa walk-off home run. "But he was never the same after that," John Franco noted on WFAN the other day.

He did have one or two nice moments though.

Wilson allowed only one hit, a sixth-inning double by Al Martin, over eight innings, striking out seven and walking three.

Wilson left a bit chagrined, trailing 1-0 into the bottom of the 9th. Neagle had struck out 12 through the first eight innings, but Bernard Gilkey (who whiffed three times) negated that work with a game-tying home run.

This was a big deal at the time, as it marked the Mets 16th straight game with a home run, a club record.

That took Wilson off the hook, though the Mets looked like they'd still lose anyway, when Jason Kendall's two-out hit in the 10th plated the go-ahead run for the Pirates.

The Mets had pulled off a pair of dramatic wins the day before, and they'd match that effort here. With one on and one out, Chris Jones hit a mammoth home run to centerfield off Dan Plesac, good for a walk-off win.

It figures that Jones, a man with a penchant for walk-offs, would have been a good bench acquisition for a team in pennant contention. But these Mets believed they were legit.

As Marty Noble recounted in his game story, Alvaro Espinoza was heard yelling in the clubhouse "Just like last year!" referencing how his former team, the 1995 Indians, was the master of the dramatic win.

As it turned out, given the Mets 71-91 record by the end of the season, it was more like "Wait Till Next Year!"

The Mets fan on deadline knows...The Mets have 3 walk-off wins on July 31. All have come against the Pirates.


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