April 1, 1996: Opening Day Comeback

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Date: April 1, 1996
Mets starter: Bobby Jones
Mets: 7
Cardinals: 6
Winning pitcher: Jerry DiPoto
Key player(s): Rey Ordonez, Bernard Gilkey, Todd Hundley
Key play: Hundley’s & Gilkey’s homers, Ordonez’s throw, Mets’ five singles in 7th

It was a rainy April Fool’s Day for the Mets’ season opener at Shea Stadium. A crowd of 42,060 braved the wet conditions to see the Mets take on the Cardinals. The home team fell behind by six runs, but came back to defeat St. Louis, 7-6.

Mets’ starter Bobby Jones retired the Cardinals in order on three ground balls in the first inning. Bobby then allowed single runs to the Cards on a sacrifice fly by John Mabry in the second and Royce Clayton’s third inning double. Bobby was removed from the game in the fourth after home runs Mabry and Willie McGee provided St. Louis with a 6-0 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Rico Brogna led off with a single against Cardinals’ starter Andy Benes. The next two hitters were retired and Todd Hundley hit a home run to give the Mets their first two runs of the game. Bernard Gilkey added a homer off Benes in the sixth to make the score 6-3.

Clayton got a single off Mets’ reliever Jerry DiPoto with two out in the seventh inning. Ray Lankford then hit a double to left field on which Clayton tried to score. Gilkey retrieved the ball and threw it to shortstop Rey Ordonez. From his knees, Ordonez made a relay throw to the plate, where Hundley tagged Clayton for the final out of the inning.

In the bottom half of the seventh, the Mets got five consecutive singles with one out. Jose Vizcaino and Ordonez got the first two off the Cards’ Rick Honeycutt and pinch-hitter Chris Jones got the third one off Cory Bailey to bring home Vizcaino. Tony Fossas relieved Bailey and gave up singles to Lance Johnson and Gilkey to score Ordonez and Jones, respectively, tying the game at 6-6. Johnson then came home on Brogna’s sacrifice fly to put the Mets ahead.

Relievers Doug Henry and John Franco held the Redbirds scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings to finish off the game. The Mets had their 23rd win in their last 27 season opening games. The impressive come-from-behind victory was no April Fool’s joke.