August 1, 1997: Mets Win Battle of Late Hitting

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Date: August 1, 1997
Mets starter: Dave Mlicki
Mets: 8
Astros: 5
Winning pitcher: John Franco
Key player(s): Jason Hardtke, Carl Everett, Todd Hundley, Edgardo Alfonzo
Key play: Everett’s two-run single, Hundley’s RBI single, Alfonzo’s double

The Mets and Astros faced each other on a Friday night in Houston. The teams began a three-game series with a low-scoring contest that turned into a hitting battle. In the end, the Mets emerged with an 8-5 win in 10 innings.

After a scoreless first inning, Astros’ starter Ramon Garcia retired the first two batters in the top of the second. Jason Hardtke followed with a home run for a 1-0 Mets lead. Garcia struck out Rey Ordonez to end the inning and the Mets’ Dave Mlicki shut down Houston in the bottom half. Both teams were held without a run in the third and fourth innings and Garcia pitched a perfect top of the fifth. Leading off the bottom of the inning, Luis Gonzalez singled and advanced to third base on an ensuing double by Sean Berry. J. R. Phillips popped out to second baseman Hardtke and an intentional walk to Brad Ausmus loaded the bases. Tim Bogar hit a sacrifice fly to score Gonzalez and tie the game at 1-1. Mlicki then threw a called third strike past Garcia for the third out.

Garcia and Mlicki each hurled scoreless ball in the sixth and seventh innings. In the top of the eighth, Hardtke led off with a single and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Ordonez. Garcia fanned pinch-hitter Luis Lopez for the second out of the inning. Lance Johnson singled off Astros’ reliever Billy Wagner to drive home Hardtke and put the Mets in front by a run. On his own hit, Johnson was out at second via a throw by third baseman Berry to second baseman Craig Biggio for the third out. A single by Ricky Gutierrez off the Mets’ Greg McMichael opened the bottom half. Biggio followed with a home run for a 3-2 Houston lead. McMichael then retired three of the next four batters to end the inning.

Wagner struck out Bernard Gilkey to start the top of the ninth. John Olerud singled and a single by Todd Hundley advanced pinch-runner Alex Ochoa to second base. A passed ball by catcher Ausmus moved the runners to second and third. Edgardo Alfonzo drew a walk to load the bases. Carl Everett singled to score Ochoa and Hundley, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead. On the hit, center fielder Chuck Carr made an error that put runners at second and third. Wagner issued a walk to Hardtke that reloaded the bases. Houston reliever Mike Magnante then got Ordonez and pinch-hitter Butch Huskey on consecutive outfield fly balls to close out the inning.

Mets’ reliever John Franco walked Jeff Bagwell to begin the bottom of the ninth. A sacrifice bunt by Ausmus moved Bagwell to second base. Franco fanned pinch-hitter James Mouton for the second out of the inning. Gutierrez reached on an error by third baseman Alfonzo that allowed Bagwell to score the tying run. Franco then retired Biggio on a fly ball to right fielder Ochoa to send the game onward.

Astros’ reliever Jose Lima walked Johnson and Gilkey to start the top of the 10th inning. Ochoa got a bunt single to load the bases. Hundley singled off reliever Jose Cabrera to score Johnson and put the Mets ahead, 5-4. Alfonzo hit a double to left field that plated Gilkey and Ochoa. Pinch-hitter Todd Pratt grounded out to shortstop Gutierrez. Hardtke hit a sacrifice fly to drive home Hundley and extend the Mets’ lead to 8-4. Cabrera then struck out Ordonez to end the inning.

Mets’ reliever Cory Lidle got Carr on a ground ball to first baseman Huskey to open the bottom of the 10th. Derek Bell drew a walk and went to second base on defensive indifference. Gonzalez grounded out to Huskey to advance Bell to third. A single by Bill Spiers scored Bell with the fifth Houston run. Bagwell followed with a single to right field. Lidle then retired Ausmus on a fly ball to Ochoa to end the game. The Mets had an extra-inning victory to start the weekend series.