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2000 Game Recap: Wild Leiter Outpitches Trachsel

If you’ve seen Steve Trachsel pitch before, you know it is a nightmare. First and foremost, you can see flights take off from Laguardia and land in LAX before he throws a pitch. Also, like we saw in the 1998 Wild Card play-in game, Trachsel can just lull a team to sleep with his pace and absolutely shut a team down. That’s what he did to the Mets today.

Over Trachsel’s seven innings, the Mets could just muster six hits. Fortunately for the Mets, two of those hits came in the fourth inning when Edgardo Alfonzo and Todd Zeile hit a pair of doubles giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. Zeile’s double looked foul for a moment but curved back in and confused Rays left fielder Greg Vaughn. Believe it or not, that would be it for the scoring in this game.

As good as Traschel was, Al Leiter was guttier. Leiter, who is mostly known for using his cutter to constantly pound the inside of the strike zone against right-handed batters, just couldn’t locate that pitch. That lead to him and Mike Piazza reconfigure the game plan on the fly. Instead of the vaunted cutter, we saw more curveballs. That proved to be a great decision.

In Leiter’s 6.2 innings, he only had only one 1-2-3 inning. That was partially a result of his walking five batters and hitting another. Still, with his also striking out eight batters, the Rays batters really had little other option than to just stand at the plate and hope Leiter walked them. In the end, while Leiter was wild, he was still difficult to hit.

In the seventh, Leiter had reached the end of the line. He allowed a lead-off single to Trachsel. After getting the next two out, he walked Vaughn. At that point, he had throw 124 pitches, and with the left-handed hitting Fred McGriff due up, Bobby Valentine went to Dennis Cook.

While Cook has struggled this year, McGriff was only 1-for-5 against him in his career. That became 1-for-6 when Cook got McGriff to ground out to end the inning. From there, we saw almost a mirror image of what happened over the final innings last night. After John Franco pitched a 1-2-3 inning, Armando Benitez got himself into trouble in the ninth.

Miguel Cairo hit a one out single, and he immediately got himself into scoring position by stealing second. After a walk to Steve Cox, the game was once again in Vaughn’s hands. For the second straight night, Benitez struck out Vaughn to end the game and earn the save.

Just because you are facing bad teams, it doesn’t mean they can’t play you tough. That’s what the Rays did tonight. That said, the Mets perserved and did what they needed to do to get to pull out the 1-0 victory.

Game Notes: After getting hit in the head by Gary Sheffield and missing yesterday’s game, Mike Piazza returned to the lineup and was 0-for-4. Melvin Mora got the start at short, and Jay Payton was in center again. Payton is earning his playing time as he has gone 4-for-12 with a walk, double, homer, and three RBI over his last seven games. He is also provided good defense out there.

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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