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Super Mario's (Oh) Brother

We can expect another one of these in a couple of weeks. Or maybe in this next series, since the Giants bring this kind of game out of us as well.

The last time the Mets won a 10-9 game in Philadelphia was July 25, 1990, and if you've read your Metstradamus or Faith And Fear, you were probably reminded of how Mario Diaz (much like Bobby Richardson circa Game 7, 1962 World Series) was in the right place at the right time, snuffing out a potentially miraculous six-run Phillies rally in the 9th inning, with the catch of a line drive at shortstop. It brought an utterance of "damn" from Bob Murphy, probably the closest that the Hall of Fame announcer ever came to swearing on air.

Slightly less than a month later, on August 19, the Mets and Giants played virtually a twin affair to that contest, on a Sunday at Candlestick Park. Much like Pedro Martinez, alleged Mets ace Dwight Gooden was struggling, coming off a two-start stretch in which he allowed eight runs in 11 innings.

It took the Mets a little longer than it did on Monday, but they beat Giants starter Mike Lacoss up pretty decently. Kevin McReynolds homered in the fourth and fifth innings, and by the bottom of the sixth, the Mets had a comfort zone of a 10-2 lead. With vintage Gooden, that was a no-doubter kind of win. By 1990, Gooden was 12-6 entering the day, but with a slow start and a new skipper installed midseason (Bud Harrelson playing the Jerry Manuel role), there wasn't quite the same level of comfort.

Gooden walked five that day (perhaps he was dealing with Monday's unpredictable strike zone) and was gone after Ernest Riles dinged him for a pinch-hit grand slam with one out, slicing the Mets lead to 10-6. It was (thank you, newspaper accounts for the reminder) the first grand slam Gooden allowed in his career.

The sixth and seventh innings featured both agita (as in discomfort) and Ojeda (as in Bob), and the Giants tagged the Mets southpaw, and subsequent reliever Alejandro Pena for two runs in the seventh on hits by collision-course middle infielders Robby Thompson and Jose Uribe (see famous dropped popup, circa 1986). That made it 10-8.

The Mets offense, almighty and powerful for the first six innings, was meek and helpless for the next three, managing nary a hit. Meanwhile, John Franco, brought in to close in an era where relievers could go two innings from time-to-time, cruised 1-2-3 through the eighth, which should have been a warning for the danger ahead.

The ninth inning of this 1990 contest was about as much fun as Monday's. First came a home run from former Met Kevin Mitchell, making it a 10-9 game. Then came a one-out walk to Gary Carter, a subsequent steal by pinch-runner Rick Parker, who advanced to third on a wild pitch, and a walk to Robby Thompson.

Mario Diaz wasn't around for this one, but current Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson was. He was in the right spot for Jose Uribe's ground ball to shortstop, turning it into a 6-4-3 game-ending double play (score it Johnson to Jefferies to Torve), and the Mets had another one of those damn, 10-9 victories for which they're now apparently quite famous.

True Metrios know...In the two-year period spanning 1989-1990, only one position player, with at least 100 plate appearances, had an on-base percentage of less than .200. That would be Mario Diaz, whose .192 OBP in that period, was 15 points better than that of future Mets hitting coach Mickey Brantley.

Diaz batted .136 as a Met in 1990, a significant improvement over his .135 batting average with the Mariners the previous season.


Anonymous said…
There are too many of us around these days to feel the least bit clever about sensing a Mario Diaz type of ending as soon as it got to 10-5.

File this one under slinkoff wins.
Jonny said…
Joe and Evan from WFAN just played the radio clip of Mario Diaz's game ending catch. Way to be on top of things before the news outlets. Love the site...

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