Piazza Saves Best For Last in Mets' Comeback Win

Mike Piazza went into Thursday's game owning Philadelphia's starter, Randy Wolf. He had two home runs in his career off of Wolf. He didn't hit any off Wolf, but hit a vital late-inning home run, as the Mets came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Phillies and split their two-game series. They also left for their 13-game road trip on a good note.

For the second night in a row, the Phillies took the early 1-0 lead. Bobby Abreau led off the second inning with a double, his third in two games. Shawn Estes then walked Burrell, undoubtedly conscious of how badly he has hammered the Mets during his career. Travis Lee hit a fly ball to deep center, but Jay Payton used his great speed to track it down. Abreau tagged up and went to third on that play while Burrell remained anchored at first. Estes continued with his shaky control in the inning, walking Mike Lieberthal to load the bases. Doug Glanville hit a looping fly ball to right center that Payton was able to track down. Abreau, seeing that Payton's momentum was carrying him towards the right field line, tagged up and scored easily, as Payton was unable to get anything on the throw to the plate. 1-0 Phillies. Estes then struck out Wolf to get out of the inning.

Estes looked like he was going to escape a men-on-first-and-second-with-no-outs situation in the fourth after he got Glanville to hit into a double play. All he had to do was retire Wolf. Unfortunately, as is Estes' custom, he lost his concentration, and grooved a pitch to Wolf, who hit a single to drive in Lee, who had advanced to third on the double play. Estes then walked Jimmy Rollins, prompting Bobby Valentine to have Satoru Komiyama start warming up in the bullpen. Estes then bore down and struck out Marlon Anderson on three straight pitches. Unfortunately, it came too late, as the Phillies now had a 2-0 lead.

With one out, Abreau hit his fourth double in two nights in the fifth inning and scored on Burrell's single to right to make it 3-0. Lee then singled, but they held Burrell at third. Estes then got Lieberthal to ground into a double play to end the inning.

The Mets got something going in the bottom of the fifth. Rey Ordoñez hit an infield single. Ty Wigginton, pinch-hitting for Estes, then followed with a single, his first major league hit. Alomar, who has struggled batting from the right side of the plate, looped a single and Ordoñez scored to make it 3-1. Wolf then plunked Alfonzo, bringing up Piazza, who has hit very well off of him, with the bases loaded and no one out. After working the count to 3-1, Piazza hit a sharp ground ball at Lee, who was playing first base. Lee immediately threw to second to force out Alfonzo but Rollins was unable to get the throw back to first for the double play and Wigginton scored to make it 3-2. Wolf then walked Mo Vaughn for the second time in the evening, again loading the bases. Payton, with a prime chance to do some damage and help his cause to remain an everyday player, smashed a wicked grounder at third baseman Scott Rolen. Rolen was able to dive and get a glove on it. He quickly stood up, turned and threw a strike to first. Too bad for Rolen that Payton had turned on the afterburners and beat out the throw. Piazza scored and the game was tied. Burnitz also had a chance to do some damage, but he was too aggressive and popped out to Lee at first for the second out of the inning. Cedeño flied out to end the inning, but the Mets offense had seemingly come to life.

Komiyama came in and pitched a scoreless sixth, but ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing the first two of three hitters to get on and gave way to Scott Strickland. Strickland only needed two pitches to get out of the inning. Burrell hit a long fly ball to right that Burnitz corralled at the warning track and then Travis Lee popped out to Alfonzo on his first pitch to end the inning.

Wolf gave way to Jose Santiago in the seventh. He got Alfonzo to ground out to short, but then a pitch jammed Piazza, who had hit a deep fly ball to center in his second at bat, but Piazza basically short-armed the ball over the center field fence for his tenth home run of the year and gave the Mets the lead, 4-3.

Strickland appeared to be sailing along, quickly getting two outs, but then he lost the strike zone. He walked pinch-hitter Jeremy Giambi, and fell behind in the count on Rollins. A mound visit by pitching coach Charlie Hough seemed to straighten him out, as he got Rollins to ground out to Ordoñez, who stepped on second to force out Giambi.

After an uneventful bottom of the eighth for the Mets, Armando Benitez came in the ninth inning to try to close out the game. Anderson led off the inning and hit a towering pop-up in foul ground near first base. Vaughn momentarily lost the ball in the air, and then made a half-diving, half-tumbling catch for the out. Again, hundreds of miles away, a geologist probably looked at his seismograph, wondering why it was giving him an earthquake reading for near New York. Then Rolen hit a fly ball to left center, and both Payton and Joe McEwing, who had come in for defense at the start of the ninth, converged on the ball. Mets fans likely held their breath here, because Payton and McEwing had had defensive miscommunications between them earlier this season, but Payton left no doubt that this ball was his, yelling authoritatively and McEwing backed off. After Payton made the catch and had thrown the ball into the infield, he bumped gloves with McEwing and gave him an affectionate rub on the head. All forgiven. Benitez then got Abreau, who had been the Mets main thorn in this two-game series, to fly out to center to end the game.


-The Shea crowd gave Wigginton a standing ovation when he got his first major-league hit.
-Strickland got the win, raising his record to 5-2 while Santiago was saddled with the loss, dropping him to 1-3. Benitez got his tenth save.
-Cedeño returned to the lineup after recovering from a bruised ankle, due to being hit by a pitch. He went 1-4.
-The Mets have an off day Thursday, and begin their road trip in Florida on Friday. Pedro Astacio (6-2, 2.65 ERA) will face AJ Burnett (5-5, 3.54).

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