September 21, 2001: Piazza's Patriotic Blast

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Date: September 21, 2001
Mets starter: Bruce Chen
Mets: 3
Braves: 2
Winning pitcher: Armando Benitez
Key player(s): Mike Piazza, Armando Benitez
Key play: Piazza’s home run

The Mets faced the Braves on a Friday night at Shea Stadium. The teams opened a three-game series in front of 41,235 fans on hand. The game was New York’s first major sports event since the September 11 attacks. Mike Piazza hit an unforgettable two-run homer in the eighth inning to left the Mets to a 3-2 win over Atlanta.

Bruce Chen and the Braves’ Jason Marquis each pitched three innings of one-hit scoreless ball to start the game. The Mets were held to a double by Piazza while Chen gave up just a walk to Marcus Giles and a single to Rey Sanchez. Chipper Jones singled with one out in the top of the fourth. Brian Jordan lined out to center fielder Jay Payton and a double by Ken Caminiti ensued. On the play, Chipper Jones scored as catcher Piazza mishandled a relay throw from second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo. Chen then retired Andruw Jones on a ground ball to shortstop Rey Ordonez for the inning’s final out.

Piazza hit a one-out double in the bottom of the fourth. Mike advanced to third base on Robin Ventura’s single and scored the tying run on Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s sacrifice fly. Todd Zeile doubled to send Ventura to third and Payton grounded out to third baseman Caminiti to end the inning. Chen limited the Braves to a single by Javy Lopez in the top of the fifth. With two outs in the bottom half, Matt Lawton singled to center field. Alfonzo hit a single and Piazza followed with an inning-ending force play grounder to Caminiti. Chen set down all three Atlanta batters in the top of the sixth and Shinjo got a one-out single in the bottom half. Zeile then hit a double play ground ball back to Marquis for the final outs of the inning.

Caminiti singled with one out in the top of the seventh. Andruw Jones was retired on a pop-up to first baseman Zeile. Pinch-runner Jesse Garcia stole second base and moved to third on a single by Lopez. Chen got Sanchez on a grounder to Ordonez that closed out the inning and the Mets were set down in order by Atlanta relievers Steve Reed and Mike Remlinger in the bottom half. With two outs in the top of the eighth, Mets’ reliever John Franco issued a walk to Julio Franco. Chipper Jones hit a single and Jordan followed with a double against New York’s Armando Benitez to drive home pinch-runner Cory Aldridge for a 2-1 Braves lead. Benitez then walked pinch-hitter Dave Martinez and retired Andruw Jones on a fly ball to Payton for the third out of the inning.

Atlanta reliever Steve Karsay got Lawton on a grounder to shortstop Sanchez to begin the bottom of the eighth. Alfonzo drew a walk and Piazza came to bat. Mike hammered a home run over the center field wall (with pinch-runner Desi Relaford scoring ahead of him) to put the Mets ahead. The mammoth blast was received enthusiastically by the Shea crowd, which included several members of local fire and police departments who had lost people close to them in the attacks. Following the emotional round-tripper, Karsay threw a called third strike past Ventura and retired Shinjo on a ground ball to Sanchez to finish off the inning.

Lopez singled to lead off the top of the ninth. Pinch-hitter B. J. Surhoff went down on strikes. Benitez then got Keith Lockhart to hit a grounder to Ordonez for a game-ending double play. The Mets had a comeback victory which sent a message that the city, the nation and baseball itself will endure.

Notes

  • Aldridge’s run scored was the only one of his major league career.