April 4, 1996: Mets Emerge With Win Over Cards

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Date: April 4, 1996
Mets starter: Paul Wilson
Mets: 10
Cardinals: 9
Winning pitcher: John Franco
Key player(s): Bernard Gilkey, Rico Brogna, Brent Mayne
Key play: Brogna’s double, Gaetti’s error, Mayne’s single

The Mets faced the Cardinals on a Thursday afternoon at Shea Stadium. The teams played the third and final game of a season-opening series. After squandering a five-run lead in the eighth inning, the Mets scored twice in the ninth to come up with a 10-9 win over St. Louis.

Making his major league debut, Mets’ starter Paul Wilson pitched a perfect top of the first inning. The Cards’ Alan Benes hurled a scoreless bottom half and Ron Gant was hit by a pitch to begin the top of the second. Gary Gaetti singled and John Mabry hit a single that drove home Gant. Pat Borders followed with a ground ball on which shortstop Rey Ordonez threw to third baseman Jeff Kent for an out on Gaetti. Luis Alicea singled to load the bases and Benes popped out to second baseman Jose Vizcaino. Wilson then struck out Willie McGee to end the inning.

Todd Hundley drew a walk with one out in the bottom of the second. Vizcaino followed with a single to advance Hundley to third base. Ordonez reached on an error by shortstop Royce Clayton to score Hundley with the tying run. With Wilson at bat, Vizcaino was caught stealing on catcher Borders’ throw to third baseman Gaetti. Benes then fanned Wilson to close out the inning.

Wilson set down the Redbirds in order in the top of the third. Lance Johnson hit a triple to lead off the bottom half. Bernard Gilkey singled to bring home Johnson and a single by Rico Brogna ensued. Butch Huskey lined out to center fielder Ray Lankford after which Gilkey moved to third base. On a wild pitch third strike to Kent, Brogna went to second and Gilkey scored the Mets’ third run of the game. Benes then struck out Hundley to finish off the inning.

Wilson held the Cardinals to a single by Mabry in the top of the fourth. Vizcaino and Ordonez got back-to-back singles to begin the bottom half. Wilson reached on an error by second baseman Alicea that allowed Vizcaino to come home and Ordonez to go to third. Johnson followed with a grounder on which Borders mishandled Gaetti’s throw as Ordonez scored. Gilkey was retired on a fly ball to Lankford. Brogna hit a double to drive home Wilson and Johnson, increasing the Mets’ lead to 7-1. Benes was replaced on the mound by St. Louis reliever Jeff Parrett, who got Huskey to line out to right fielder McGee. Kent and Hundley drew consecutive walks that loaded the bases. Parrett then got Vizcaino on a force play grounder to Clayton for the inning’s final out.

Parrett drew a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth. McGee singled to send Parrett to third base and moved to second on Clayton’s ground out to first baseman Huskey. Lankford went down on strikes and Gant singled to score Parrett and McGee. Wilson retired Gaetti on an inning-ending fly ball to right fielder Carl Everett. Parrett then set down the Mets on three straight infield ground balls in the bottom half.

Wilson shut down the Cards in the top of the sixth. Gilkey drew a walk against St. Louis reliever Cory Bailey to open the bottom of the inning. Everett and Huskey followed with consecutive infield groundouts that advanced Gilkey around to third base. Bernard came home on a double by Kent for an 8-3 Mets lead. Ensuing walks to Hundley and Vizcaino loaded the bases. Bailey then retired Ordonez on a fly ball to left fielder Gant to end the inning.

Mets’ reliever Doug Henry pitched a scoreless top of the seventh. Bailey gave up just a single to Gilkey in the bottom half and Mabry reached on second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo’s error to begin the top of the eighth. Borders hit a single on which Mabry went to third base on another error by Alfonzo. Alicea followed with a force play ground ball to Henry that brought home Mabry. Pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney drew a walk and McGee singled to score Alicea. Henry was then replaced on the mound by Mets’ reliever Blas Minor.

Clayton reached on an error by Everett to load the bases. Minor was relieved by the Mets’ Rob MacDonald, against whom Lankford hit a force play grounder to Ordonez that drove home Sweeney. Gant singled off New York reliever John Franco to score McGee and advance Lankford to third base. Gaetti reached on an error by Kent (the Mets’ fourth miscue of the inning) that allowed Lankford to come home and tie the game. Franco retired Mabry on a ground ball to Kent to finish off the inning. Cardinals’ reliever T. J. Mathews then pitched a scoreless bottom half.

Leading off the top of the ninth, Borders hit a double to right field. Alicea’s ensuing sacrifice bunt moved pinch-runner Miguel Mejia to third base. Sweeney went down on strikes and McGee followed with a single that plated Mejia, giving the Redbirds a 9-8 lead. Franco then threw a called third strike past Clayton for the third out of the inning.

Cardinals’ reliever Dennis Eckersley retired Ordonez on a grounder to Gaetti to start the bottom of the ninth. Alfonzo singled and advanced to second base on Johnson’s ground out to Alicea. With the Mets down to their final out, Chris Jones reached second on an error by Gaetti that allowed Alfonzo to score the tying run. Pinch-hitter Brent Mayne followed with a single to drive home Jones and end the game. The Mets had overcome a Redbird rally and emerged with an exciting victory.