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2000 Game Recap: Hoffman Doesn’t Let Mets Score With Bases Loaded In Ninth

This should serve as a reminder the schedule makers should be provided with a map of the United States. After being in California a little more than a week ago, the Mets are back on the west coast to play the Padres. Wait, it gets better. From there, they’ll fly to St. Louis and then fly back to California to play the Dodgers.

This is exhausting for any team, and today, we saw the signs of that fatigue as the Mets bats did not wake up after exploding against the Diamondbacks. Really, it speaks volumes when the Mets beat up on Randy Johnson, but they can’t get anything going against Matt Clement.

The only time the Mets got going against Clement and the Padres was in the second. Matt Franco and Benny Agbayani hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with one out. That rally went nowhere as Rey Ordonez grounded out to Clement, who nailed Franco at the plate, who was going home on the contact play.

After the second inning, the Mets would muster just one hit off of Clement who pitched eight scoreless innings striking out six Mets.

On the bright side of the Mets, Glendon Rusch was his equal. After a recent tough stint, the Mets skipped his last start. That proved to be the right move as Rusch went from the pitcher to allowed 6+ runs in two out of his last three starts to the pitcher he was in the beginning of the year. That pitcher pitches at a quick pace going seven innings allowing two or fewer runs.

Against the Padres, Rusch went seven scoreless, and like Clement, he only allowed three hits. Also like Clement, he got in trouble early only to have the defense get an out at home.

That first inning was really an adventure. Eric Owens struck out to lead off the inning, but he reached on the wild pitch on strike three. He’d then get picked off by Rusch. Owens mistake proved costly as Ruben Rivera tripled in that at-bat. Rivera wouldn’t score as he was nailed at the plate by Robin Ventura on a Tony Gwynn grounder.

The Mets then had their second and final rally of the game in the fourth. Ventura drew a walk, the Mets only walk against Clement, and he would go to second on a Mike Piazza single. That single was the Mets last hit against Clement. After an Agbayani fielder’s choice, there were runners at the corners.

During Rey Ordonez‘s at-bat, a Clement pitch got away from Carlos Hernandez but not far enough. Ventura broke from home, but Hernandez would get it home in time for Clement to get the tag down. After that play, the Mets would not have another base runner or chance against Clement.

With Rusch shutting down the Padres as well, this game would eventually turn into a battle between John Franco and Trevor Hoffman, two of the pitchers with the most saves in baseball history. Neither were particularly good, but one would be just good enough.

In the eighth, Owens led off the inning with a single like he did in the first. The difference is this time he would not get picked off. Instead, he would steal second. With him in scoring position, this time Rivera was able to drive him home to give the Padres a 1-0 lead. Things could have been worse, but Franco got Gwynn to hit into an inning ending double play.

With the way the Mets offense had been going, this looked like it should be an easy night for Hoffman. It wasn’t. Edgardo Alfonzo and Piazza led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Then, in a truly bizarre move Bobby Valentine had Ventura bunt Alfonzo and Piazza to second and third.

After Hoffman intentionally walked Franco to load the bases, Jay Payton popped out to second, and Mark Johnson flew out to center to end the game. Looking at that inning, you have to wonder if Ventura was allowed to hit, how much different things would have gone. Then again, you have to wonder what would have been different if the Mets took advantage of any of their opportunities in this maddening 1-0 loss.

Game Notes: Ventura returned to the lineup after sitting two games with a sore left thigh. Joe McEwing again led off and played center.

Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.

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