July 30, 1996: Baerga Hits Winning Single in Mets Debut

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Date: July 30, 1996
Mets starter: Jason Isringhausen
Mets: 5
Pirates: 4
Winning pitcher: Jason Isringhausen
Key player(s): Bernard Gilkey, Andy Tomberlin, Carlos Baerga
Key play: Gilkey’s two homers, Tomberlin’s double, Baerga’s single

The Mets faced the Pirates in a doubleheader on a Tuesday evening at Shea Stadium. The opener of the twinbill was the Mets’ first game since acquiring Carlos Baerga in a trade one day earlier. In his first at-bat with the team, Baerga hit a game-winning single for a 5-4 Mets victory over Pittsburgh.

Nelson Liriano singled against Mets’ starter Jason Isringhausen to lead off the top of the first inning. Al Martin hit a single and a wild pitch advanced Liriano to third base. Orlando Merced grounded out to first baseman Butch Huskey to drive home Liriano and send Martin to second. Mark Johnson singled to score Martin with the Bucs’ second run and Mike Kingery reached on an error by second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo. Isringhausen then threw a called third strike past Charlie Hayes and got Jay Bell on a line drive to center fielder Lance Johnson to end the inning.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, Bernard Gilkey hit a solo home run against Pittsburgh starter Darrell May. Todd Hundley singled and moved to third base on a single by Huskey. Alex Ochoa reached on an error by shortstop Bell that allowed Hundley to score and tie the game at 2-2. Tim Bogar was retired on a fly ball to right fielder Merced for the third out and May got a one-out single in the top of the second. Liriano followed with a double that sent May to third. Martin hit a sacrifice fly that plated May and put the Pirates back in front by a run. Merced reached on Huskey’s error and Mark Johnson lined out to left fielder Gilkey for the inning’s third out. May then yielded just a single to Isringhausen in the bottom half.

Isringhausen shut down the Bucs in the top of the third. Leading off the bottom of the inning, Gilkey hit his second homer to retie the game. Hundley singled to center field and Huskey flied out to center fielder Kingery. Ochoa hit a single and May was replaced on the mound by Pittsburgh reliever Elmer Dessens. Bogar and Rey Ordonez hit consecutive force play ground balls to close out the inning and Isringhausen pitched a perfect top of the fourth. Dessens then set down the Mets in order in the bottom half.

Isringhausen and the Pirates’ Marc Wilkins each hurled scoreless fifth and sixth innings. With one out in the top of the seventh, Martin drew a walk and advanced to third base on a single by Merced. Mark Johnson followed with a sacrifice fly to bring home Martin for a 4-3 Bucs lead. Isringhausen got Kingery on a grounder to Alfonzo to finish off the inning and Wilkins retired the Mets 1-2-3 in the bottom half. In the top of the eighth, Bell got a one-out single and a walk to Jason Kendall ensued. Pinch-hitter Dave Clark popped out to catcher Hundley. Isringhausen then got Liriano to ground out to Alfonzo and end the inning.

Pittsburgh’s Francisco Cordova struck out Huskey and Ochoa to begin the bottom of the eighth. Pinch-hitter Carl Everett followed with a single to center field. As a pinch-hitter for Ordonez, Andy Tomberlin doubled to drive home Everett with the tying run. Baerga came up to pinch-hit for Isringhausen and delivered a single that scored Tomberlin to put the Mets ahead. Cordova then retired Lance Johnson on a line drive to Kingery to close out the inning.

Mets’ reliever John Franco threw a called third strike past Martin to start the top of the ninth. Merced was retired on a ground ball to Huskey. Franco then got Mark Johnson to line out to Huskey and end the game. The Mets had begun the doubleheader with a thrilling comeback win.