July 7, 2002: Payton's 5 RBIs Flatten Fish

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Date: July 7, 2002
Mets starter: Pedro Astacio
Mets: 9
Marlins: 3
Winning pitcher: Grant Roberts
Key player(s): Jay Payton, Tony Tarasco, Roberto Alomar
Key play: Payton’s double and homer, Tarasco’s single, Alomar’s triple

The Mets faced the Marlins on a Sunday afternoon in Miami. Amid three rain delays that totaled more than three hours, the teams played the closer of a four-game series. Jay Payton drove in five runs in leading the Mets to a 9-3 win over Florida.

After rain held up the beginning of the game, Roberto Alomar singled against Marlins’ starter Brad Penny to lead off the top of the first inning. Alomar stole second base and was out on Timo Perez’s ensuing fielder’s choice ground ball via a throw by first baseman Derrek Lee to third baseman Mike Lowell. Edgardo Alfonzo hit a single to advance Perez to third base and Mo Vaughn was called out on strikes. Payton followed with a double to drive home Perez and Alfonzo for a 2-0 Mets lead. Penny then threw a called third strike past Tony Tarasco for the final out of the inning.

Luis Castillo singled against the Mets’ Pedro Astacio to open the bottom of the first. Astacio set down the next two Florida batters and issued a walk to Cliff Floyd. Lee drew a walk to load the bases and Kevin Millar doubled to score Castillo and Floyd with the tying runs. Charles Johnson drew a walk that reloaded the bases. Astacio then got Andy Fox to pop out to second baseman Alomar and end the inning.

Penny and Astacio each pitched a scoreless third. The game was again held up by rain and Vic Darensbourg came in to pitch for the Fish in the top of the fourth. Tarasco reached on an error by second baseman Castillo to start the inning. Vance Wilson hit a force play grounder back to Darensbourg and moved to third base on a double by Rey Ordonez. Darensbourg struck out pinch-hitter Joe McEwing and Alomar to finish off the inning. Mets’ reliever Grant Roberts then hurled a perfect bottom half.

With one out in the top of the fifth inning, Florida reliever Oswaldo Mairena issued a walk to Alfonzo. Vaughn singled and Payton flied out to center fielder Preston Wilson. Tarasco hit a single that plated Alfonzo with the go-ahead run. On the play, Vaughn came around to score via an error by Preston Wilson for a 4-2 Mets lead. Mairena got Vance Wilson on an inning-ending fly ball to right fielder Floyd. Roberts and the Mets’ Jaime Cerda then combined to pitch a scoreless bottom half.

Through another rain delay, Mairena and Mets’ reliever David Weathers each hurled a scoreless sixth inning. Mairena and Florida’s Blaine Neal teamed up for a perfect top of the seventh. With one out in the bottom half, Castillo singled to center field. Preston Wilson grounded out to shortstop John Valentin to advance Castillo to second base. Lowell hit a single to bring home Castillo for the Marlins’ third run of the game. Weathers was replaced on the mound by the Mets’ Mark Guthrie, who got Floyd to hit an inning-ending ground ball to Alomar. For the Fish, Braden Looper hurled a scoreless top of the eighth. Guthrie then recorded two strikeouts in shutting down the Marlins in the bottom of the inning.

Valentin singled against Florida reliever Armando Almanza to lead off the top of the ninth. Pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno’s sacrifice bunt moved Valentin to second base. An ensuing triple by Alomar scored Valentin to increase the Mets’ lead to 5-3. Pinch-hitter Mike Piazza singled to drive home Alomar. Alfonzo was struck out and Vaughn drew a walk. Payton followed with a three-run homer, extending the New York lead to six runs. Almanza then fanned Tarasco to close out the inning.

Against Mets’ reliever Armando Benitez, pinch-hitter Tim Raines led off the bottom of the ninth by reaching on right fielder Tarasco’s error. Castillo and Preston Wilson followed with consecutive fly outs to Tarasco. Benitez then retired Lowell on a grounder to Valentin that ended the game. The Mets had rain-soaked victory to finish off the series.