Like with his last start, Mike Hampton had to square off against another great pitcher. Last time, it was Kevin Brown. This time, it was Mike Mussina. Again, Hampton pitched well, but he would be out-pitched by the other team’s ace.
The shame of it was the Mets actually led this game 2-0. Those two runs came in a second inning two out rally started by a Melvin Mora bunt single. After that, Hampton singled himself. That set the stage for the recently called up Jason Tyner to have his first big moment.
Tyner would hit an RBI single giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. After that, Mussina would uncharacteristically lose command of the strike zone walking Derek Bell and Edgardo Alfonzo to force home a run. After that Mussina was Mussina again shutting down the Mets offense for the rest of his six innings.
With respect to Hampton, he had his lead, but he would not be able to hold onto it. The first crack came in the third. Rich Amaral would hit a one out single and steal a base, and he would take third on a Jeff Conine fly out. That put him in position to score on an Albert Belle RBI single.
Entering the seventh, Hampton still had a 2-1 lead, and he had thrown 99 pitches. At that point, he had retired nine of the last 10 batters he had faced. Given how he was rolling and how the Mets bullpen had taken a hit yesterday, you can certainly understand why he was out there for the seventh. After all, he is the team’s ace, and he has been pitching like it of late.
The Mets lead evaporated when B.J. Surhoff led off the seventh with a homer off of Hampton. At that point, it seemed like Hampton was tiring and had lost it. Mark Lewis followed the Surhoff homer with a single, but he would not get into scoring position as Hampton was quick to pounce on a Mussina sacrifice bunt attempt to nail Lewis.
While Hampton got Lewis, he could not get Mike Bordick. The Orioles shortstop who is having an uncharacteristically good year at the plate delivered the go-ahead RBI single to give the Orioles 3-2 lead. After Hampton struck out Conine, Bell got to Hampton again hitting an RBI double to increase the Orioles lead to 4-2.
It was a much better start for Hampton than the four earned over 6.2 innings would indicate. Fact of the matter is, he went a little too long in the game, and it cost him and the Mets. The main takeaway you want to take from Hampton in this start was in back-to-back starts he went against another true ace, and he put the Mets in a position to win. That is all you can ask from your ace.
In terms of the Mets offense, they were beat by a great pitcher in Mussina. It happens. You just lament the missed opportunity here and hope they put it behind them as they try to win tomorrow.
Game Notes: Rick Reed will make his scheduled start after skipping his last one due to an oblique injury. Ryan McGuire was sent down to make room for Tyner. Tyner had a memorable debut with the RBI single as well as an infield single. On the day, he was 2-for-3 with a sac bunt and an RBI.
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.