March 31, 1998: The 14-inning Opener

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Date: March 31, 1998
Mets starter: Bobby Jones
Mets: 1
Phillies: 0
Winning pitcher: Turk Wendell
Key player(s): Alberto Castillo
Key play: Castillo’s single in 14th

For the first time in team history, the Mets played a regular season game in March. The early-scheduled opener at Shea Stadium lasted four hours and thirty-five minutes. When it ended, the Mets had a 1-0 win over the Phillies in 14 innings.

Bobby Jones and Philadelphia’s Curt Schilling pitched extremely well in their Opening Day assignments. Jones allowed only four singles and two walks to the Phils in six shutout innings while Schilling pitched two-hit scoreless ball and struck out nine Mets batters in eight innings. Greg McMichael and Dennis Cook pitched three scoreless innings in relief for the Mets and Jerry Spradlin gave the Phillies a perfect ninth inning to send the game onward.

Both team had chances to score in the extra innings. In the tenth, the Phils had two runners on base when John Franco struck out Mike Lieberthal for the third out. The same situation arose in the top of the twelfth before Mel Rojas got Scott Rolen on an inning-ending fly ball. The Mets had two runners on base in the bottom of the twelfth, but Ricky Bottalico struck out pinch-hitter Jim Tatum for the final out.

Bottalico was still on the mound for the Phillies in the fourteenth. The Mets got two singles and a walk against him to load the bases with two out. Alberto Castillo came up to pinch-hit for pitcher Turk Wendell. Castillo hit a single to right field to score Brian McRae from third base, ending the game. The Mets had their first win of the year before the arrival of April.