April 25, 2002: Johnson's Homer Downs Cardinals

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Date: April 25, 2002
Mets starter: Steve Trachsel
Mets: 7
Cardinals: 6
Winning pitcher: Scott Strickland
Key player(s): Jeromy Burnitz, John Valentin, Mark Johnson
Key play: Valentin’s double, Johnson’s home run

The Mets faced the Cardinals on a Thursday night at Shea Stadium. The teams played the finale of a three-game series. Mark Johnson hit a home run in the eighth inning for a 7-6 Mets win over St. Louis.

Mets’ starter Steve Trachsel pitched a perfect top of the first. The Cards’ Josh Pearce hit Roberto Alomar with a pitch to begin the bottom half. Alomar moved to second base after John Valentin’s fly out to left fielder Albert Pujols and a walk to Mo Vaughn followed. Edgardo Alfonzo flied out to center fielder Jim Edmonds and a single by Jeromy Burnitz scored Alomar for a 1-0 Mets lead. Jay Payton then popped out to Pearce to end the inning.

Trachsel surrendered only a walk to Pujols in the top of the second. Pearce shut down the Mets in the bottom half and Edgar Renteria got a leadoff single in the top of the third. Mike Matheny followed with a home run to put the Redbirds ahead, 2-1. Pearce grounded out to shortstop Valentin and a double by Fernando Vina ensued. Trachsel retired Placido Polanco on a ground ball to Valentin and got J. D. Drew on a pop-up to second baseman Alomar that ended the inning. Pearce then gave up just a single to Vaughn in the bottom half.

Pujols drew a walk against Trachsel to begin the top of the fourth. Edmonds singled and advanced to third base on Tino Martinez’s single that drove home Pujols. Renteria hit a single to score Edmonds and increase the St. Louis lead to 4-1. Mets’ reliever Grant Roberts retired Matheny on a fly ball to left fielder Roger Cedeno. A sacrifice bunt by Pearce moved the runners to second and third before Roberts retired Vina on a fly ball to Cedeno that closed out the inning. Pearce then set down the side in order in the bottom half.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Pujols reached on an error by first baseman Vaughn. Pujols advanced to third base on Edmonds’ single and came home as Martinez reached on catcher Vance Wilson’s error. Roberts retired Renteria on a fly ball to right fielder Burnitz for the inning’s third out and singled to begin the bottom half. Alomar reached on third baseman Polanco’s error and came around to score with Roberts on a double by Valentin. Vaughn hit a single to bring home Valentin and reduce the Redbirds’ lead to 5-4. Alfonzo drew a walk and Pearce was replaced on the mound by St. Louis reliever Luther Hackman.

With Burnitz at the plate, a wild pitch moved Vaughn to third base and Alfonzo to second. Jeromy followed with a sacrifice fly to drive home Vaughn and send Alfonzo to third. Payton drew a walk and Cedeno hit a force play grounder to shortstop Renteria that plated Alfonzo for a 6-5 Mets lead. Hackman then got Wilson on a force play ground ball to Polanco to close out the inning.

Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo tripled against Roberts with one out in the top of the sixth. Vina got a bunt single to bring home Cairo and tie the game at 6-6. Polanco singled and Mets’ reliever Mark Guthrie struck out Drew. Pujols walked to load the bases and Guthrie threw a called third strike past Edmonds to end the inning. Alomar got a one-out single against Cardinals’ reliever Mike Timlin in the bottom half. Valentin was hit by a pitch and Vaughn’s ground out to first baseman Martinez advanced the runners to second and third base. Timlin then retired Alfonzo on a fly ball to right fielder Drew to finish off the inning.

Guthrie and Mets’ reliever Scott Strickland combined for a perfect top of the seventh. Timlin set down the side 1-2-3 in the bottom half and Strickland retired all three batters in the top of the eighth. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Johnson (pinch-hitting for Strickland) homered against the Cards’ Dave Veres to put the Mets back in front by a run. Alomar was retired on a line drive to second baseman Vina. Veres then fanned Valentin for the inning’s final out.

Mets’ reliever Armando Benitez got Drew on a called third strike to begin the top of the ninth. Pujols was also called out on strikes. Benitez then struck out Edmonds to bring the game to an end. The Mets had come away with a victory to conclude the series.