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On This Date in Sports October 19, 1999: Walking it Off

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Atlanta Braves reach the World Series for the fifth time in nine years, surviving a late push from the New York Mets in the NLCS. The Braves had won the first three games before the Mets won the next two to send the series back to Turner Field. Game 6 was a microcosm of the series, as the Braves won 10-9 in ten innings on a walk-off walk.

The Mets had risen back to contention in the National League in 1999. However, they could not figure out how to beat the Atlanta Braves. The Braves who were winning their eighth straight division title, with the 1994 strike season being thrown out. That year Atlanta, led by Bobby Cox, posted a record of 103-59. The Mets meanwhile led by Bobby Valentine went 97-66, needing to beat the Cincinnati Reds in a one-game playoff for the Wild Card, as they had to recover from a late-season collapse that included two sweeps at the hands of the Braves.

In the Division Series, the Mets stunned Randy Johnson in the opener 8-4, after a 7-1 in Game 2 the series moved to Shea Stadium, with the Mets winning 9-2 without Mike Piazza. Piazza also missed Game 4, as his backup Todd Pratt hit a walk-off home run in a 4-3 ten inning win to send the Mets to the NLCS. The Braves meanwhile lost the opener, but won the next three games against the Houston Astros, in the finals games ever played at the Astrodome.

When the NLCS started, it appeared as if the Braves’ domination of the Mets was going to continue. The Braves took the opener 4-2, as Greg Maddux outpitched Matsado Yoshii, with Eddie Perez providing the offense. With Kenny Rogers opposing Kevin Millwood, the Mets had a 2-0 lead in Game 2, before the Braves got two-run home runs from Brian Jordan and Eddie Perez in the sixth inning to win the game 4-3. At Shea Stadium in Game 3, it was the pitching of Tom Glavine that doomed the Mets, as a first-inning run was just enough as he outdueled Al Leiter 1-0.

In Game 4, the Braves looking to complete the sweep had John Smoltz on the mound against Rick Reed. The game would be another pitchers’ duel as the Mets broke a scoreless tie with a home run by John Olerud. However, Atlanta answered with back-to-back homers from Brian Jordan and Ryan Klesko. In the bottom of the eighth with time running out the Mets rallied, scoring two runs on a two-out single by Olerud off John Rocker to win the game 3-2 to stay alive for Game 5.

With Yoshii and Maddux meeting in a rematch of Game 1, John Olerud continued to drive the Mets hopes, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning. The Braves got two runs in the fourth with hits from Jordan and Chipper Jones to tie the game. The game would stay tied until the 15th inning when Keith Lockhart hit a triple off Octavio Dotel to give the Braves a 3-2 lead. The Mets would not go down without a fight as Shawon Dunston led off with a single and stole second. The Mets would load the bases with one out against Braves reliever Kevin McGlinchy, who walked Todd Pratt to force in the tying run. Next up was Robin Ventura, who hit the ball over the wall to win the game, 5-4 as he was held to a single as an over-enthused Pratt tackled Ventura at second base, creating the “Grand Slam Single.”

Back in Atlanta for Game 6, the Mets had momentum and emotion on their side as Al Leiter came on to pitch on short rest. Leiter simply did not have his best stuff, giving up five runs in the first inning without retiring a batter. The Mets hopes appeared loss, but Pat Mahomes came on and allowed just one hit over the next four innings to give them a chance to come back. The Mets began to claw their way again with three runs in the sixth inning with Mike Piazza and Darryl Hamilton supplying the key at-bats. However, the Braves answered with two runs on a single by Jose Hernandez against Dennis Cook. Looking to shut down New York, the Braves called on John Smoltz in relief in the seventh inning. Smoltz was smoked by the Mets, who scored four runs to tie the game with Mike Piazza’s two-run home run providing the critical blow.

The Mets would briefly take the lead in the eighth inning on an RBI single by Melvin Mora. However, the Braves answered as John Franco have up a tying hit to Ottis Nixon. In the tenth, the Mets retook the lead on a sac fly by Pratt, only for the Braves to answer against Armando Benitez to tie the game 9-9. With nobody left to pitch in the 11th, the Mets turned to Kenny Rogers, who had struggled mightily in the postseason. Rogers would falter again as the Braves won 10-9 with Andruw Jones walking with the bases loaded to go to the World Series, where they got swept by the New York Yankees.