July 31, 1996: Gilkey and Jones Hit Clutch Home Runs

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Date: July 31, 1996
Mets starter: Paul Wilson
Mets: 3
Pirates: 2
Winning pitcher: Jerry DiPoto
Key player(s): Bernard Gilkey, Chris Jones
Key play: Gilkey’s homer in 9th, Jones’ homer in 10th

The Mets faced the Pirates on a Wednesday night at Shea Stadium. Riding a four-game winning streak, the Mets were looking for their fifth win in a row. Bernard Gilkey and Chris Jones hit home runs in the ninth and tenth innings to produce a 3-2 Mets win.

Through the first four innings, Mets starter Paul Wilson shut down the Bucs. He gave up leadoff walks to Jay Bell and Jermaine Allensworth in the third and fourth, respectively, and retired all other Pittsburgh batters. Wilson recorded four strikeouts and a double play while pitching hitless ball. Meanwhile, Pirates’ starter Denny Neagle held the Mets to singles by Butch Huskey and Carl Everett while striking out eight batters.

Mark Johnson walked and stole second base to open the top of the fifth inning. Charlie Hayes grounded out to second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo to advance Johnson to third. Bell hit a sacrifice fly that scored Johnson for a 1-0 Pirates lead. Wilson retired Jason Kendall on a fly ball to center fielder Jones for the third out. Neagle then fanned two more batters in pitching a scoreless bottom of the inning.

In the top of the sixth, Al Martin doubled with two outs for the Bucs’ first hit off Wilson. Paul got Jeff King to line out to third baseman Carlos Baerga to end the inning. Jones reached second base on third baseman Hayes’ error to start the bottom half. Alfonzo popped out to catcher Kendall. Neagle then fanned Gilkey and Todd Hundley for the final outs of the inning.

Wilson and Neagle each pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings. Mets’ reliever Paul Byrd walked Allenworth to open the top of the ninth. Martin singled and reliever Jerry DiPoto got King to hit into a force play at second. Orlando Merced hit a grounder to Alfonzo for an inning-ending double play. Leading off the bottom half, Gilkey homered to tie the game. Neagle retired the next two batters and Huskey got an infield single. Alex Ochoa then grounded to shortstop Bell for the third out.

Johnson hit a single to start the top of the 10th inning. Hayes’ sacrifice bunt and Bell’s ground out to first baseman Huskey moved Johnson around to third. Kendall singled to left field to score Johnson for a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead. Pinch-hitter Dave Clark followed with another single to left. DiPoto then struck out Allensworth to end the inning.

Facing Pirates’ reliever Dan Plesac, Alvaro Espinoza began the bottom of the 10th by reaching on an error by Bell. Pinch-hitter Rey Ordonez bunted into a force play. Jones followed with a two-run homer to end the game. The Mets had their fifth consecutive victory.