In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
In one of the most thrilling Subway Series games, the New York Mets beat the New York Yankees 9-8 at Shea Stadium. The game featured five lead changes and six home runs from the Yankees and a bomb by Mike Piazza for the Mets. The game ended in the ninth inning when the Mets down to their last strike got a two-run single from Matt Franco to hand Mariano River a loss.
What a difference a month makes, when the Mets faced the Yankees in June, they were in the middle of a swoon. After dropping the first two games in the Bronx, the Mets on an eight-game losing streak fell below .500 at 27-28 and fired three hitting coaches Tom Robson, pitching coach Bob Apodaca and bullpen coach Randy Niemann. The move, which was a clear warning shot to Manager Bobby Valentine, as Mickey Brantley took over for Robson, Dave Wallace took over for Apodaca and Al Jackson took over for Niemann. The move worked as the Mets salvaged the final game at Yankee Stadium and won 15 of their next 18 games, including a memorable game in which Valentine snuck back on the bench with a fake mustache after being ejected.
The Mets started round two of the Subway Series with a bang, as Mike Piazza’s three-run home run off Roger Clemens in the sixth inning was the difference in a 5-2 win, that improved the Mets to 49-38 on the season to lead the Wild Card, while the Yankees came in atop of the American League East at 51-33.
The second game was a played on a pleasant Saturday Afternoon with National Coverage on Fox. Andy Pettitte got the start for the Yankees, while Rick Reed got the start for the Mets. The Yankees drew first blood as Paul O’Neill followed a single by Bernie Williams with a home run to right-center field. The Mets got a run back in the bottom of the first as Mike Piazza doubled home Rickey Henderson who led the inning off with a hit and stole second. In the second Roger Cedeno manufactured a run on the bases stealing second and third and scoring on a Rey Ordonez sacrifice fly after taking a one-out walk to tie the game 2-2. In the fourth, the Mets scored two runs to take the lead as Robin Ventura doubled home Benny Agbayani and scored on a second sac fly from Ordonez. The Yankees quickly tied it with back-to-back home runs from Ricky Ledee and Jorge Posada in the fifth inning.
Greg McMichael came on to pitch for the Mets in the sixth inning and was greeted by Paul O’Neill who hit his second home run of the game to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. In the seventh, it was Chuck Knoblauch adding to the Bronx Bombers home run tally as he made it 6-4 with a blast against Rigo Beltran. That inning saw Ramiro Mendoza come on to relieve Pettitte and try to build the bridge to Mariano Rivera in the ninth. After quickly retiring Brian McRae, he found himself in trouble when Rickey Henderson blooped a double to right. After retiring Edgardo Alfonzo, Mendoza made the mistake of walking John Olerud. Up stepped Mike Piazza, who hit a titanic three-run home run over the bullpen into the picnic section to give the Mets a 7-6 lead that had Shea Stadium shaking to its foundation.
The Mets lead would not last long, as Dennis Cook walked Scott Brosius to lead off the eighth. Brosius was onboard when Jorge Posada hit his second home run and the Yankees sixth home run of the game to give the team from the Bronx an 8-7 lead. Mike Stanton made quick work of the Mets in the bottom of the inning and paved the way for Mariano Rivera to finish off the Mets in the ninth.
After Pat Mahomes worked in and out of trouble in the ninth, keeping the score 8-7, the Mets faced the daunting task of needing to beat the best reliever in the game. Coming in the Yankees had won 124 straight games after leading after eight innings, making the win probability slim for the Amazins. The inning began well for Rivera as Brian McRae grounded out weakly to second. However, the pesky Rickey Henderson worked out a walk. Edgardo Alfonzo followed with a double to put the tying and winning runs in scoring position with one out. With a chance to win or tie the game, the usually reliable John Olerud grounded the ball to first with no runners able to advance. With Mike Piazza coming up next and first base open, Yankees Manager Joe Torre called for an intentional walk. Bobby Valentine responded by having Matt Franco pinch-hit for Melvin Mora. After falling behind the count 0-2, and taking a close third pitch which was called a ball, Franco ripped the ball to right, send home Henderson and Alfonzo who just beat the throw from Paul O’Neill to give the Mets a thrilling 9-8 win.
The Yankees went on to win their second straight World Series and their third in four years, beating the Atlanta Braves with a sweep. The Mets also made the playoffs and fell just short of making it a Subway World Series, as they lost in the NLCS in six games. The base hit by Matt Franco would be the signature moment of his career. Franco who spent nearly a decade in the minors before finally breaking through was best known as being the nephew of actor Kurt Russell.