When the half-inning began, the large crowd was almost silent. By the end of it, they were on their feet and Shea Stadium was rocking.
Mike Piazza and the Mets had treated their fans to a rally you had to see to believe. Trailing by seven runs against their arch-rival Braves, they put up a 10-spot in the home eighth inning, a comeback few could see coming – especially considering the opponent.
Atlanta had won 26 of the previous 32 regular-season contests between the two and had eliminated the Mets in the previous October’s NLCS. But the Mets got their pound of flesh on this night, prevailing 11-8 when Piazza capped the remarkable frame with his laser beam down the left-field line that just stayed fair.
“Hopefully, these are the type of games that get you into the playoffs,” Piazza said.
In the stunning inning on June 30, 2000, the Mets sent 13 batters to the plate against Braves relievers Don Wengert, Kerry Ligtenberg and Terry Mulholland. Robin Ventura made two of the outs and at one point, eight consecutive Mets reached base. They scored nine of the runs with two outs and plated three of the runs on bases-loaded walks. Edgardo Alfonzo and Piazza, the team’s two big run producers, had the biggest at-bats of the game. Alfonzo’s two-run single pulled the Mets even and Piazza’s homer was the game-winner.
“I think we wanted to make a close contest if not a winning contest,” Mets first baseman Todd Zeile said. “I think when we walked a few guys in the fans were on their feet behind us and we thought we might be a bloop and a blast away. And then now we might be one-swing away.”
For most of the night, it was just another one-sided Mets-Braves game. Atlanta was ahead 4-0 after three innings. Kevin Millwood scattered six hits over seven strong innings. The post-game fireworks show was the only thing keeping the crowd of 52.831 in its seats. But then came the miraculous bottom of the eighth inning.
“One of the most unlikely innings I’ve ever seen,” manager Bobby Valentine said.
It started innocently, with a few hits sandwiched around a few outs. Zeile’s two-out single made it 8-3 and Jay Payton followed with another single. Then came the walk parade. Ligtenberg issued free passes to Mark Johnson and Melvin Mora, then Mulholland came in and walked Derek Bell.
Suddenly, it was a two-run game. The Mets best hitters, Alfonzo and Piazza, were due up. Shea Stadium was alive. Alfonzo drove in two with a single through the left side of the infield off Mulholland, bringing up Piazza.
He smoked the first pitch he saw for his 22nd homer, a rocket that just stayed inside the left-field foul pole, marking the 13th straight game he had driven in a run. Piazza pumped his first as he trotted down the first-base line, one of the signature moments of his Mets career.
“I was just dealing with fair and foul,” manager Bobby Valentine said.
Added Zeile: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. Scoring nine runs after two outs in the eighth inning just doesn’t happen against a team like that.”