The 1996 New York Mets are a team trying to break out of an ugly era in Metropolitan history. They’ve got veteran talent such as Todd Hundley, Jeff Kent and Lance Johnson, and young talent such as Jason Isringhausen, Edgardo Alfonzo and Alex Ochoa, but it hasn’t quite come together. Dallas Green, in his 4th season as manager of the Mets, has them at 37-45 going into a matchup with the 34-47 Phillies at Veteran Stadium. The Mets are trying to snap a 5-game losing streak.
On the mound for the Fightin’s is Terry Mulholland, the 6’3”, 33-year-old right-hander. On the mound for the Mets is Mark Clark, the 6’5” 28-year-old right-hander. Both pitchers breeze through the 1st inning, with 2nd baseman Mickey Morandini of the Phils the only hit between the 2 teams (he is erased by a 4-6-3 double play.)
Things get started in the top of the 2nd, when 3rd baseman Kent singles to right field on a line drive. Catcher Hundley then flies out to center field to make it 1 on and 1 out. Right fielder Ochoa walks up to the plate, looking to live up to the expectations of his prospect status. He gets his evening started off right, singling up the middle to send Kent to 2nd. Up walks 1st baseman Butch Huskey, aiming to give the Mets an early lead. He does so with a single through the hole on the left side of the infield, scoring Kent and sending Ochoa to 2nd. Shortstop Rey Ordonez heads to the plate, and pops one down the right field foul line. The 1st baseman chases it down to make the catch, turning and throwing to 2nd to catch Ochoa off the bag for the last out of the inning.
Handed the lead, Clark looks to shut the Phils down in the bottom half of the 2nd. He gets 3rd baseman Todd Zeile to ground out to short, but then gives up a single to right fielder Jim Eisenreich on a line drive to left field. Left fielder Pete Incaviglia then triples on a line drive to right field, scoring Eisenreich to knot the game up at 1 apiece. Clark navigates around a couple more base runners to get out of the jam.
The top of the 3rd is a breeze for Mulholland, with every batter grounding out to Morandini at 2nd.
Clark gets into a pickle right away in the bottom half. Center fielder Ricky Otero singles on a line drive to center. He gets the next 2 batters, Morandini and 1st baseman Gregg Jefferies, to strike out looking and fly out deep down the left field line, respectively. Zeile, however, doubles to deep left-center, scoring Otero for the 1-2 lead. Eisenreich grounds out to short to end the inning.
The Mets immediately respond in the top of the 4th. After left fielder Bernard Gilkey strikes out swinging, Kent doubles down the 3rd base line. Hundley then turns a left field blooper into a double, which scores Kent to tie the game at 2. Ochoa continues to rake, driving a triple to right-center, scoring Hundley for the 3-2 lead. After Huskey pops it up high to right field, even Ordonez gets into the fun, sending a line-drive single to short right field, scoring Ochoa for the 4th Mets run. Clark then grounds out to short to end the inning.
Clark settles down a tiny bit, but gives up a run in the bottom of the 5th to make it 4-3 Mets. Ochoa gets the 6th started off with a bang, doubling to center field. Huskey walks up, looking for his 2nd hit of the night. He gets it in a big way, sending a 2-run home run to deep left field to make it 6-3. That drives Mulholland to the showers, and in comes reliever Ron Blazier. He gets the next 3 batters out with ease to send the game into the bottom of the 6th.
Clark, now with a 3-run lead for the 1st time all night, is looking to give the Mets some length this evening. He does not get any help from Kent at 3rd, as he lets catcher Benito Santiago reach 1st on an error. After shortstop Kevin Stocker strikes out swinging, pinch hitter J.R. Phillips (hitting in the pitcher’s spot) walks to put 2 on and 1 out. Otero flies out to center, but Morandini singles hard to center to load the bases for Jeffries. Gregg then singles to center field, scoring Santiago. Johnson throws home but not in time to get Phillips, who scores as well. Now 6-5, Mets, Clark is done and Green brings in reliever Paul Byrd to face Zeile. He hits the ball towards Ordonez in the 3rd base hole. He gets it and throws off-balance, and unfortunately throws the ball away. Morandini scores to tie the game. Jeffries goes to 3rd and Zeile goes to 2nd. They intentionally walk Eisenreich to load the bases, and the strategy pays off when Incaviglia strikes out swinging to end the inning.
Things settle down till the top of the 8th inning. Reliever Ken Ryan is now on the mound for the Phillies and immediately gets Hundley to ground out to shortstop. Up walks Alex Ochoa, looking to continue his hot hitting, needing only a home run for the cycle. On a 1-2 pitch, he sends a long drive to deep left-center field, way back for the bomb and the the cycle, giving the Mets a 7-6 lead as well. They never look back, and win 10-6, snapping their 5-game losing streak. They tack on 1 more run in the 8th and 2 more in the 9th (on a Bernard Gilkey home run and yet another Alex Ochoa double.) He goes 5 for 5 with the cycle, scoring 3 and driving in 3.
Paul Byrd, though he blew a lead, is the winner, pitching 1.1 innings, striking out 2, giving up 1 hit and 1 walk.
The loser is Ken Ryan, who gives up 2 runs in 2/3 of an inning.
The Mets go 71-91, 25 games out of 1st place. Todd Hundley sets a new single season catcher home run record with 41 dingers. Jeff Kent with Jose Vizcaino is traded near the deadline to the Cleveland Indians for Álvaro Espinoza and Carlos Baerga. Dallas Green gets fired with 31 games left, and is replaced by former Mets player Bobby Valentine,who goes 12-19.
The 1996 New York Mets.
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