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Hitting in a Pinch

Perhaps you saw the highlights of last week's Marlins victory over the Orioles and were astounded when Miguel Cabrera got the game-winning hit on Todd Williams' attempted intentional walk gone awry.

I was more intrigued by the manner in which the Marlins tied that game, on back-to-back pinch-hit home runs in the 9th inning.

The Mets have done that, as recently as May 4, 1991 against the Giants. In fact, they were the last squad to even a contest at that juncture in such a manner.

The story of that game is one of the Giants squandering two two-run leads and the Mets bullpen combo of Wally Whitehurst, Alejandro Pena, John Franco and Pete Schoureck, working a little magic for a couple hours to bail out Ron Darling.

The Giants took a 2-0 lead but the Mets evened it in the 4th inning on an RBI single by Howard Johnson and a sacrifice fly by Kevin Elster. The Giants snatched the lead right back in the 5th on Will Clark's two-run home run and Darling's night was done after 5 innings on the short end of a 4-2 score. The Mets wasted a two-on, no-out scenario in their half of the frame and did little else to try to even the score until the ninth inning.

Jeff Brantley, who had pitched a clean 8th for the Giants, was on to try to get a 2-inning save. If there was one thing that Brantley was known for to that point, it was avoiding the long ball. The previous season, he'd yielded only 3 in 86 2/3 innings, though he had surrendered one in his most recent appearance.

Mackey Sasser, not noted for his power, was Davey Johnson's choice to lead off the 9th inning and he hit a long home run on a 1-2 pitch, one described as a "lunar launch" in the next days newspapers, to make it a 4-3 game. The next batter was the Mets pinch-hitting specialist of the time, Mark Carreon, who had previously hit 7 pinch-hit home runs in his tenure with the team, including 2 among his 4 hits in 6 turns this year. He didn't disappoint, crushing a game-tying shot, marking the first time since 1975 that two NL players had hit back-to-back pinch-hit home runs (Lee Lacy and Willie Davis for the Dodgers).

"I guess I'm like a tiger in a cage, raring to go when I get out. They open the cage and I've got the eye of a tiger," Carreon told the media after the game.

This one made for a lengthy day, as it took 4 hours and 13 minutes to conclude. The Giants had chances to win in the 10th and 12th innings, but on both occasions, a Mets southpaw (Franco and then Schoureck) was able to coax an out from power threat Matt Williams. By this time, the game stories note, the Mets bullpen had not allowed an earned run in its previous 20 1/3 innings.

Howard Johnson ended matters in this one, with a little help from Rick Cerone. With one on and one out, Cerone was safe at first on a potential double-play ball. Johnson followed with a game-ending home run against reliever Mike Lacoss, and the Mets improved their stellar start to 14-9.

True Metspinch know...4 Mets have hit 2 walk-off home runs in the 12th inning or later. They are Howard Johnson, Kevin McReynolds, Dave Kingman, and Tim Harkness.

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