June 24, 1997: Baerga's Big Hits Beat Braves

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Date: June 24, 1997
Mets starter: Mark Clark
Mets: 6
Braves: 5
Winning pitcher: Greg McMichael
Key player(s): Carlos Baerga, Carl Everett
Key play: Baerga’s home run in 8th and single in 9th

The Mets faced the Braves on a Tuesday night at Shea Stadium. The teams played for the second time during a three-game series. Carlos Baerga came through with clutch hits in the eighth and ninth innings for a 6-5 Mets win over Atlanta.

Mets’ starter Mark Clark struck out Jeff Blauser to begin the top of the first inning. Michael Tucker followed with a home run and Chipper Jones singled to right field. Fred McGriff hit a single and Ryan Klesko drew a walk to load the bases. Andruw Jones lined out to right fielder Alex Ochoa. An error by catcher Todd Hundley on Ochoa’s throw to the plate allowed Chipper Jones to score the Braves’ second run. Clark then retired Javy Lopez on an inning-ending ground ball to shortstop Edgardo Alfonzo.

Lance Johnson tripled against Atlanta’s Chris Brock to lead off the bottom of the first. A sacrifice fly by Alfonzo scored Johnson to cut the Braves’ lead to 2-1. Brock got John Olerud to pop out to catcher Lopez and retired Hundley on a grounder to first baseman McGriff for the third out of the inning. Clark and Brock each hurled a scoreless second and Mark set down all three Atlanta batters in the top of the third. Ochoa hit a triple to begin the bottom half and Clark went down on strikes. Johnson followed with a ground ball on which second baseman Mark Lemke threw to Lopez for an out at home on Ochoa. Brock then retired Alfonzo on a grounder back to the mound to end the inning.

Klesko got a leadoff single in the top of the fourth. Andruw Jones doubled and Lopez was retired on a grounder back to Clark. Lemke reached on a ground ball as Klesko came home to score. Brock hit a grounder to second baseman Baerga for an inning-ending double play and Olerud singled to open the bottom half. Hundley hit a double to drive home Olerud and a walk to Carl Everett ensued. Baerga singled to load the bases and Brock followed up with strikeouts of Matt Franco and Ochoa. Clark then popped out to Lopez to end the inning.

Clark and Brock each pitched a scoreless fifth. In the sixth, Mark set down the Braves in order and Baerga drew a one-out walk in the bottom half. Franco singled to center field and Atlanta reliever Brad Clontz walked Ochoa to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Bernard Gilkey hit a sacrifice fly to score Baerga and tie the game at 3-3. Braves’ reliever Alan Embree then got Johnson on a ground ball back to the mound for the inning’s third out.

Lopez singled against the Mets’ Cory Lidle to begin the top of the seventh inning. Lemke flied out to left fielder Gilkey and a pinch-hit single by Keith Lockhart followed. Blauser hit a single to score pinch-runner Rafael Belliard and put the Braves back in front. Mets’ reliever Takashi Kashiwada got Tucker to fly out to center fielder Everett and yielded a single to Chipper Jones that brought home Lockhart for a 5-3 Atlanta lead. McGriff grounded out to Baerga to end the inning. Braves’ reliever Mike Bielecki then set down the Mets 1-2-3 in the bottom half.

Despite loading the bases, the Braves failed to score against Kashiwada in the top of the eighth inning. Everett doubled against Bielecki to lead off the bottom half. Baerga followed with a two-run homer to tie the game at 5-5. Luis Lopez drew a walk and moved to second base on Ochoa’s sacrifice bunt. Gilkey was walked intentionally and pinch-hitter Butch Huskey’s fly out to right fielder Tucker advanced Luis Lopez to third. Atlanta reliever Mark Wohlers then came in to pitch and got Alfonzo on an inning-ending force play grounder to shortstop Blauser.

The Braves came up empty after loading the bases against the Mets’ Greg McMichael in the top of the ninth. Wohlers issued a walk to Hundley with one out in the bottom of the inning. Everett singled to send Hundley to third base. Baerga then delivered a single to score Hundley with the winning run. The Mets had a comeback victory on Carlos’s key hits in the final two innings.