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Braver Than You Think

The Mets won three out of four games against the Braves from September 4-7, 1998. My dad and I went to the one they lost.

But what a pitching performance it was by John Smoltz, an effortless 12-strikeout, 103-pitch, 3-hit shutout, the best game I've ever seen anyone pitch against the Mets in person.

I think I would have preferred one of the three other games.

In the series opener, Mike Piazza's two-run home run in the fourth inning stood up as the difference in a 2-1 win. Al Leiter went the distance, besting Tom "He's Ducking Us Now" Glavine, surviving a ninth inning in which he had to face both Jones' and Javy Lopez.

The other two games fit our definition of "walk-up" wins- games in which the Mets scored the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The first was the Saturday affair, a game in which the Mets trailed 4-2 in the seventh inning, scored once then to make the game a little closer, then got a dramatic home run in the next frame from an unlikely source.

The Mets had two out and nobody on in the eighth against Rudy Seanez, but Matt Franco, whose plate patience would have fit in well with this current team, walked. Up came Tony Phillips who had a rough game to that point- 0-for-3 with a botched fly ball ("the sun got in the way") that cost two runs. Phillips homered to right center, atoning for his past failures that day, and the Mets had a 5-4 lead. John Franco put the obligatory runner on base in the ninth, but still managed the save, in a game in which the newspaper theme the next day was how the old guys got it done.

It was left to a younger guy in the series finale that Monday, a game in which the Mets fit in well with the current team, blowing a pair of four-run leads in the rain and wind (I do prefer Luis Ayala to Willie Blair and Rigo Beltran), which drew Bobby Valentine out of the dugout to assist with tarp duty for a near two-hour rain delay.

Phillips played a hand too, drawing a two-out walk in the home eighth, with the Mets now down 7-6. Next up was Edgardo Alfonzo, who'd whiffed three times already, facing John Rocker. On a 3-2 count, Alfonzo buried a two-run homer to left field to put the Mets ahead and Franco finished the deal in the ninth. It marked the only time that the Mets put an L next to Rocker's name in a regular season game.

True Metlips know...Edgardo Alfonzo never hit a walk-off home run, but did have two walk-up home runs and three "walk-down" (top of the final inning) home runs in his Mets career (including postseason). Tony Phillips had three career walk-off home runs, but none for the Mets.

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