After a long road trip with a lot of travel, there is nothing like coming home, having an off day, and then seeing the lowly Tampa Bay Rays on your schedule. The Mets took full advantage today.
What is interesting is the Mets actually fell behind in this game, and that was due to the bat of Fred McGriff.
Entering the sixth, the Mets had led 2-1 off of a pair of solo homers from Jay Payton and Todd Pratt, who started in place of the injured Piazza, off of Rays starter Albie Lopez. As noted above, McGriff would not let that lead stand.
In the fourth, Gerald Williams hit a lead-off double, and he would score off a McGriff RBI single. In the top of the sixth, McGriff hit a two run homer giving the Rays a 3-2 lead. Looking at that Rays lineup, McGriff was the one batter Glendon Rusch really struggled facing.
Two of the six hits Rusch allowed were off the bat of McGriff and all three of the runs scored off of Rusch were RBI courtesy of McGriff. If not for McGriff, Rusch probably gets through his six innings relatively unscathed. Instead, he walked off the mound in the sixth down 3-2.
Unlike most of his starts, his teammates would pick him up and reward him for his quality start by giving him the run support he needed. Against Rays reliever Rick White, Edgardo Alfonzo would hit a one out double. After Robin Ventura walked, Todd Zeile hit a three run homer to put the Mets ahead for good.
The seventh inning was eventful. Rusch allowed a lead-off single to Mike Difelice before getting lifted for Pat Mahomes. Mahomes did a bit of a tight rope walk. After recording two outs, he allowed a single to Steve Cox, and he uncorked a wild pitch and would walk Randy Winn to load the bases. Mahomes rebounded to get Williams to fly out to end the inning.
After that, John Franco pitched a perfect eighth, and Armando Benitez worked his way around the two walks he issued in the ninth to record his 14th save of the season. What made the save so impressive for Benitez was how he rebounded from the wildness to strike out the ever dangerous Greg Vaughn who stepped to the plate as the tying run.
With that, the Mets began a homestand with a 5-3 win, and they will look forward to seeing Piazza get back into the lineup soon and how this now revamped roster will take the next step forward.
Game Notes: Benitez has not allowed a run over his last 12 appearances striking out 14 in 12 innings. Mike Piazza was held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons and may be able to return tomorrow. With Piazza’s injury, Vance Wilson was called up from Triple-A with Jim Mann being sent down. Bill Pulsipher was traded to the Diamondbacks to bring Lenny Harris back to the Mets. With his hitting just .189, Jon Nunnally was designated for assignment.
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.