June 19, 1997: Hardtke Hits Game-Winning Single

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Date: June 19, 1997
Mets starter: Mark Clark
Mets: 7
Pirates: 6
Winning pitcher: John Franco
Key player(s): Jason Hardtke, Carl Everett, Dale Sveum
Key play: Sveum's home run, Hardtke's single

The Mets and Pirates faced each other on a Thursday night at Shea Stadium. The teams combined for 23 hits in the opener of a four-game series. After squandering a five-run lead, the Mets emerged with a 7-6 win on Jason Hardtke’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Mets’ starter Mark Clark pitched a perfect top of the first inning. In the bottom half, Pittsburgh’s Jon Lieber retired the first two Met batters before giving up consecutive singles to John Olerud and Todd Hundley. An ensuing double by Carl Everett scored Olerud to put the Mets ahead, 1-0. The Pirates tied the game on Jose Guillen’s force play grounder that brought home Kevin Young in the top of the second. Lieber pitched a perfect bottom of the inning and Clark set down the Bucs in order in the top of the third.

With one out and two runners on base in the bottom of the third inning, Hundley singled to score Bernard Gilkey from second. Everett followed with his second double of the game, bringing home Olerud and Hundley for a 4-1 Mets lead. Pittsburgh reliever Chris Peters completed the inning with a strikeout of Carlos Baerga on which Everett was caught stealing third. After scoreless fourth and fifth innings, Clark retired the Pirates in order in the top of the sixth.

Peters walked Baerga with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Edgardo Alfonzo followed with a double to score Carlos from first base. A single by Luis Lopez brought home Alfonzo to increase the Mets’ lead to 6-1. Pittsburgh reliever Jason Christiansen then recorded the final two outs of the inning.

In the top of the seventh, the Pirates had runners on first and third base with none out. A double by Mark Smith scored Young and Joe Randa to reduce the Met lead to three runs. Clark retired the next three Pittsburgh batters to finish the inning with no further scoring. The Mets then loaded the bases in the bottom half, but failed to score against Bucs’ reliever Clint Sodowsky.

After a scoreless eighth inning, John Franco took the mound for the Mets in the top of the ninth. Young hit a leadoff single before Franco struck out Randa and got Smith on a force play grounder. Guillen doubled to send Smith to third and Dale Sveum came up to bat. Sveum connected for a home run to tie the game for the Pirates. Franco then retired pinch-hitter Keith Osik on a ground ball to second baseman Hardtke for the final out of the inning.

Pittsburgh’s Ricardo Rincon struck out Olerud to begin the bottom of the ninth inning. Hundley and Everett drew walks and Hardtke stepped up to the plate. Jason delivered a single that scored Hundley and ended the game. After letting a five-run lead slip away, the Mets had come up with a victory.