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Grand Theft Baseball

Sometimes the home team leaves the ballpark feeling like it basically stole a victory, maybe a once or twice a year occurrence, such as what happened to the Flushing 9 on August 30, 2005. I like to call that Grand Theft Baseball (not meant to be a tribute to the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto).

I suppose if I wanted to be literal, and wanted to write about the Mets "stealing" a ball game, I could write about this one. Or if I wanted to pen something on Ugueth Urbina giving up a big home run, I could write about this one. We like to keep things fresh here, so I'll tell the tale of another game today, even though I like the fit of this one, which you'll note was pretty recently published.

Greg from "Faith and Fear in Flushing" steered me in the right direction by suggesting that I stick with the Philadelphia theme, so I shall do so.

The 1990 Mets were at the midpoint of an 11-game win streak and at the crossroads of their season on June 24 when they faced the Phillies to conclude a three-game series. Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola polished off Philadelphia the previous two days and with Bob Ojeda on the mound, the Flushing 9 had to feel pretty good about their chances.

Ojeda didn't have his best stuff and when Carmelo Martinez cracked a three-run home run in the top of the third, the Phillies had a 4-1 lead. Gregg Jefferies sliced the advantage to one, smashing a two-run home run in the bottom of the frame, but that was the last big hit the Mets would get for awhile. The Phillies pushed another run home in the fifth on a Martinez double (he subsequently left with a back injury, which was doubly painful since his recovery was followed by a 6-for-41 skid), leading to Ojeda's removal. The Mets bullpen would be the unlikely helpers in this win, as Wally Whitehurst (who reminds me slightly of Aaron Heilman), Jeff Musselman, and Jeff Innis followed with 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

The Mets had their share of chances but left two runners aboard in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, then went meekly in the eighth. The saving grace for those in attendance to cling to was that the top of the order was due up in the last of the ninth.

The 1990 Mets Highlight Video (aptly titled "1990 New York Mets") leads into clips from the hot run by noting that the Mets won "repeatedly as well as dramatically." This turned out to be a good night for the latter. Howard Johnson led off against Don Carman with a single to left, then turned to umpire Joe West and told him the Mets were going to win (so the newspaper stories say). That was a good bit of prognostication. Dave Magadan singled to center against the lefthanded pitcher, putting the tying runs on base. That led to Carman's departure in favor of Roger McDowell. Jefferies, who got in a brawl with McDowell in the 1989 home finale, got a measure of revenge by singling home Johnson, sending Magadan to second. That made it a one-run game at 5-4.

McDowell, who during his Mets tenure was famous for wiggling out of jams such as this one, got Darryl Strawberry on a flyout, but then walked Kevin McReynolds to fill the bases. Mark Carreon had a bunch of big hits in his Flushing stint, but on this occasion he whiffed, chasing a bad pitch for strike three. That left the bases loaded with two outs, meaning the game pretty much hung on the next hitter's fate.

Mets skipper Bud Harrelson had used all of his pinch-hitters (even backup catcher Orlando Mercado) except one, so with Innis up, he didn't really have a choice. Tim Teufel joked afterwards that he was slightly worried Harrelson would send up hot-hitting pitcher David Cone, but that gamble was not one worth taking. Teufel hadn't been used in a week, as apparently he wasn't one of Harrelson's preferred choices, but on this occasion he was ready.

With the count 1-1, McDowell tried to throw a sinker on the outside part of the plate, but Teufel jumped on it, lining a single to right-center field for the game-winning it.

"The Mets are hot," yelped golden-throated Phillies announcer Harry Kalas (apparently the broadcast calls from the Mets perspective weren't usable for the highlight video), perhaps sensing that the team would win their next five during a run in which they went 24-4 and pushed themselves into contention.

When you're hot, you win games like this. When you're not, these are the types of ugly defeats that can ruin seasons. Such is the way that Grand Theft Baseball works.

True Metfels know...St. Lucie Mets manager Tim Teufel had the game-winning RBI in five different Mets wins. In three of those scenarios he brought home the winner in a bases-loaded scenario, including a pinch-hit grand slam against the Phillies on June 10, 1986.


Anonymous said…
Carreon my wayward son!

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