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Monster Mike

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Mike Piazza has made it a regular habit during his Mets career to go on these torrid hot streaks during which he delivers big hits in bunches and is impossible to get out. These runs take on several different forms but the best part about them is the oomph they provide for the rest of the team. The Mets have wasted some of Piazza's big hits, but they rarely waste one of Piazza's mega runs.

There's the half-long version, which looks something like this
.351 BA
18 HR
63 RBI
.656 SLG Pct
.430 OBP

There's the month-long version, which looks something like this

.375 BA
9 HR
20 RBI
.750 SLG Pct
.462 OBP

And there's the week-long version, which resmembles something akin to this

.500 BA
4 HR
1.292 SLG Pct
.571 OBP

The first set of numbers are his after the All-Star Break in 1998. The second set comes from May, 2000. The last group is the one to which we refer today, as it comes from May 10-16, 2003.

There's always one at-bat that seems to trigger a Piazza push, where, the monster, as John Stearns liked to call him, comes out of the cage. In this case, that swing was a walk-off home run.

The Mets had some unsettled issues as they entered their game with the Padres on May 10, dealing with both on the field quandries (when to move Piazza to first base) and off-the-field stupidity (an ill-timed, in-game haircut) involving their players. The main problem was that the team just wasn't very good. The record showed them at 14-21 and an ugly seven-games under at that.

They were a team that needed a jolt in the worst way. Piazza tried to provide that.

This game was tied 2-2 as the Padres scored once in the fourth and fifth, and the Mets immediately matched the output in their turn at bat. Al Leiter was sharp for seven innings, allowing only two runs and four hits, and the bullpen kept the game even through regulation and into the first frame of bonus baseball.

There has been talk in the sportspages recently about the Yankees usage of pricey starter Jaret Wright. On this occasion, Wright happened to be the wrong man to be on the mound for the Padres.

Jay Bell led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, bringing up Piazza, who hadn't been impressive the last couple of days, and who had gone 11 games without hitting a home run. This time, he crushed a 1-0 pitch, hitting it over the fence in left-center field for a game-winning home run. The win had a carryover effect the next day, as the Mets topped the Padres by a run to get some momentum going into a West Coast swing.

The Flushing 9 won their opener in Colorado as Piazza had three hits and two runs scored. The next day Piazza homered twice, but Tom Glavine and the bullpen frittered away a 7-0 lead and the Mets suffered a crushing defeat. In the series finale, Piazza homered again, but the Mets suffered another late-inning loss. The loss sent the Mets spinning into San Francisco, where they lost again.

The only thing worse than three straight losses that could happen for the Mets was that their best hitter could sustain a devastating injury. On May 16, Piazza, in his second at-bat against Jason Schmidt, jerked away from an inside pitch and tore a groin muscle. He would miss three months, effectively ending his days as a dominant player. Yes, Piazza had a home run and five RBIs in his first game back, and yes, he's had brief flashes of greatness the last two seasons, but he hasn't been the same player since. His presence is missing that extra oomph. Those runs of dominance, those that have led to the standing ovations he receives in what are likely his final days, are a thing of the past. But they are worth remembering.

True Metmikes know...The three most noteworthy catchers in Mets history- Mike Piazza, Jerry Grote and Gary Carter- each were the decisive batter in five Mets walk-off wins.


Anonymous said…
Three most noteworthy Mets catchers? Somewhere Todd Hundley is fuming. Or drunk.
Anonymous said…
I'm sure he'll get over it. Dude was beasted by Piazza.

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