Mets Greatest Games - The Grand Slam Single
by: Evan Silverberg | Special to Sports Day | Thursday, November 27, 2003
October 17, 1999: it was a rainy, cold night at Shea, a night that will be remembered in Mets history as one of their greatest games. The starting match up leaned heavily in the Braves favor, Greg Maddux vs. Masato Yoshii. The Mets were down 3-1 in the series, and were on the brink of elimination. It was do or die for the Mets, and they needed to come through in a big way when it was needed most, and they did.
The Mets bats struck early, scoring two runs in the first inning on a homerun by John Olerud. Although Yoshii looked solid, he was only able to pitch three innings. Yoshii left the game in a tough situation with the score tied up at two each. With their momentum slipping, the Mets had to go to the bullpen early, bringing in veteran Orel Hershiser. Hershiser pitched great ball and went for 3 1/3 innings, giving up no runs and allowing just one hit with five strikeouts. Maddux didn't allow any runs after the first inning, and ended up pitching seven strong innings--allowing 7 hits, 2 runs, and nailing five strikeouts. The Mets, on the other hand, used up their entire roster through the first 9 innings of the game, following Yoshii and Hershiser with Turk Wendell, Dennis Cook, Pat Mahomes, John Franco and Armando Benitez.
In extra innings, pitching was still the name of the game as Mike Remlinger, Russ Springer, and the loud-mouthed John Rocker pitched outstanding ball for the Braves up until the fourteenth inning. The same went for the Mets, as Armando Benitez, Kenny Rogers, and Octavio Dotel pitched exceptional ball heading into the 15th.
It wasn’t until the 15th inning that the drama occurred, and it is the 15th inning that made this game unforgettable. In the top of the 15th, Dotel got himself into trouble, let a runner get on base, and struggled to get two outs in the inning. Keith Lockhart was the next batter for the Braves, and came through in a clutch situation, hitting a key RBI triple to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead, the first run scored since the 3rd inning. Dotel did not allow any more runs and escaped just giving up one run and the lead.
The Mets were now three outs from being eliminated from the postseason, but the team did not quit. Atlanta brought in 22-year-old rookie Kevin McGlinchy instead of allowing game 6 starter Kevin Millwood (who was ready in the bullpen) to get the chance for the save. The bottom of the 15th started off with an outstanding at-bat by Shawon Dunston, who, after fouling off pitch after pitch, lined a single to center. Next, McGlinchy walked pinch-hitter Matt Franco. The faithful Shea fans came back to life, as there were runners on first and second with no one out. Edgardo Alfonzo, who many argue was the best hitter on the 1999 ball club, put the team first and laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt. Next, John Olerud was intentionally walked to load the bases for Todd Pratt, who had replaced an injured Mike Piazza. Pratt was walked on 5 pitches, tying the game up at three even.
The crowd was in hysteria, realizing that just a sacrifice fly would make the series within one game of possibly one of the greatest series comebacks of all time. At bat came the struggling 3rd baseman Robin Ventura, who after having the greatest regular season of his career, was just 1-18 in the series. On a 1-1 count, Robin Ventura took the Kevin McGlinchy pitch over the left field wall for a game winning grand slam!
But wait… as Ventura rounded first, he was mobbed by his teammates, and never made it around to home plate. The game ended in a 4-3 Mets win, instead of a 7-3 win as the homerun went into the record books as a single. Years from now if a person decided to look up the box score of this game, they would not have any idea of the events that took place. In the end, it all didn’t matter--the Mets won the game and were within one game of tying the series as it headed to Atlanta. As many of us remember, the series ended in heartbreaking fashion.
The 5 hour and 13 minute duel will be remember as the game in which the longest single in Mets history was hit, and one of the greatest memories in Mets history was made. This game will be remembered by generations of Mets fans, putting a smile on their face as they think back at Robin Ventura telling his teammates to get off the field, waiving his hands at them. Because of the drama and excitement of this outstanding game’s ending, it is definitely one of the Mets all-time great games.
Pictures by David G. Whitham. Courtesy of kcmets.