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Piazza's homer from the heart sinks Braves

Piazza's homer from the heart sinks Braves

This story was originally published on MLB.com in 2001.

NEW YORK -- The Mets came home Friday night and brought the pennant race with them.

On an emotional evening where baseball took a backstage to a celebration of humanity, New York continued to write its fairy tale-ending to what many believed would never be anything more than a nightmarish season in the Big Apple. But after Mike Piazza launched a titanic two-run homer in the eight-inning, lifting the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Braves, the thoughts of the postseason are running rampant at Shea Stadium.

The victory, New York's 21st in its last 26 games, pulled the Mets to within 4.5 games of first-place Atlanta. The Braves, who lost for the fourth time in five games, also saw their lead in the East slip to a half game over Philadelphia, which edged out Florida.

"This was a perfect evening," said New York Manager Bobby Valentine, whose team last played at Shea Stadium on Sept. 2. "I'd like to put it in a bottle and whip it out when I need to. It was the perfect opportunity to get away from it all and get to the never-never land of sports. I was energized by every second of it."

The moment that provided the most energy for Valentine and Co. was Piazza's shot. The homer came on an 0-1 offering from reliever Steve Karsay (3-4) and gave the Mets a 3-2 lead after John Franco and Armando Benitez combined to surrender the go-ahead run in the top half of the inning. Benitez (6-3) regrouped and pitched the ninth to earn the win.

"Todd [Zeile] and I have talked about this before," third baseman Robin Ventura said. "Usually when he [Piazza] hits a home run, this place goes crazy. Tonight, though, the noise level was the loudest I've ever heard this place."

Karsay took exception with home plate umpire with Wally Bell after the inning ended, storming after him to argue about balls and strikes. It did no good, though. Piazza had done his damage and the Mets had inched another game closer to performing baseball's version of a miracle.

"I can't explain that last at-bat," said Piazza, who finished the evening with three extra-base hits. "I don't think I've faced Karsay but once. I was just happy to stay in the center of the field. [Atlanta starter Jason] Marquis threw me a good pitch on 3-2 in my previous at-bat [a grounder to third] and I felt locked in on that one but didn't come up with anything.

"I just want to keep things in perspective. Life is precious. We all witnessed that recently. I was just happy that I came through and gave these people [41,235 strong] something to cheer about."

Karsay, however, was not caught up in the fervor of the moment. The home run cost the Braves another game in the NL East race and that was the bottom line. Whether they will be able to regroup in the long run the way the Mets regrouped in the eighth inning Friday will be determined over the next two weeks.

"There's not much you can do as a pitcher," Karsay said. "When you're not getting calls, you've got to throw pitches that you don't want to. I have no excuses. I gave up a two-run homer after my team had battled all the way back. Obviously, this wasn't my night."

Perhaps this isn't the Braves year. They have struggled to stay a step ahead of Philadelphia all season and now that the Mets have charged back into the picture, Atlanta's run as the beast in the East may finally be coming to an end.

Valentine, who was visibly exhausted after the game, spent all of Thursday at the World Trade Center site and didn't sleep at all upon returning to his Connecticut home. The game itself drained whatever emotion he had remaining, yet he was still able to muster up some talk of miracles.

"I certainly hoped that it [Piazza's homer] was meant to be," Valentine said. "Small miracles work in every facet of life. Tonight maybe one worked in the middle of the diamond."

It certainly seemed that way. There was pomp, circumstance, patriotism, tears, grieving and celebration all rolled up into one magical evening in Queens. The notion that the Mets may be destiny's darlings isn't lost on Valentine. It isn't lost on some folks in the other clubhouse, either.

"They got a reprieve for one day," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said. "If you look at the game objectively, though, and I'm not playing on the other side, I would certainly be rooting for the New York Mets."

Objectivity goes out the window again, however, on Saturday night when these two teams square off in the second game of the series. New York will take the field with the opportunity to knock the Braves out of first place.

The Mets came home Friday night and brought the pennant race with them. Now, all that remains to be seen is if Team Valentine can finish that race while carrying the hopes of city on its back.

Box score

ATLANTA (2) VS NY METS (3) - FINAL
ATLANTA ab r h rbi bb so lob avg
M Giles 2b 3 0 0 0 1 1 1 .282
Ju Franco 1b 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .239
Aldridge pr 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Karsay p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
C Jones lf 4 1 2 0 0 1 0 .321
B Jordan rf 4 0 1 1 0 0 1 .292
Caminiti 3b 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 .240
J Garcia pr 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200
Helms 3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .214
b-Da Martinez ph-1b 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .302
A Jones cf 4 0 0 0 0 1 5 .251
J Lopez c 4 0 3 0 0 1 0 .266
Derosa pr 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .303
R Sanchez ss 3 0 1 0 0 0 3 .275
c-Surhoff ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .270
J Marquis p 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .037
S Reed p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Remlinger p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
a-B Gilkey ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .268
Lockhart 3b 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .227
Totals 33 2 9 1 3 7 14
a-struck out for Remlinger in the 8th; b-walked for Helms in the 8th;
c-struck out for R Sanchez in the 9th.
BATTING: 2B - Caminiti (8, Chen); B Jordan (28, A Benitez). RBI -
B Jordan (83). 2-out RBI - B Jordan. Runners left in scoring position,
2 out - M Giles 1, A Jones 3, R Sanchez 1. GIDP - R Sanchez, Lockhart.
Team LOB - 7.
BASERUNNING: SB - R Sanchez (2, 2nd base off Chen/Piazza);
J Garcia (6, 2nd base off Chen/Piazza).
FIELDING: DP: 1 (J Marquis-R Sanchez-M Giles-Ju Franco).
NY METS ab r h rbi bb so lob avg
Lawton rf 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .247
Alfonzo 2b 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 .249
Relaford pr-2b 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .300
Piazza c 4 2 3 2 0 0 2 .295
Ventura 3b 4 0 1 0 0 2 1 .231
Shinjo lf 3 0 1 1 0 1 1 .274
Zeile 1b 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 .268
Payton cf 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 .249
Ordonez ss 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 .249
Chen p 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .133
a-Ma Johnson ph 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .243
b-Mcewing ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .292
Jo Franco p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
A Benitez p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 30 3 8 3 1 5 7
a-pinch-hit for Chen in the 7th; b-fouled to catcher for Ma Johnson
in the 7th.
BATTING: 2B - Piazza 2 (24, J Marquis 2); Zeile (24, J Marquis).
HR - Piazza (34, 8th inning off Karsay 1 on, 1 out). SF - Shinjo.
RBI - Shinjo (52), Piazza 2 (84). Runners left in scoring position,
2 out - Ventura 1, Payton 2, Piazza 1. GIDP - Zeile. Team LOB - 5.
FIELDING: E - Piazza (6, catch). DP: 3 (Zeile, Ordonez-Alfonzo-Zeile,
Ordonez-Zeile).
--------------------------------------------------
Atlanta - 000 100 010 -- 2
Ny Mets - 000 100 02X -- 3
--------------------------------------------------
ATLANTA ip h r er bb so hr era
J Marquis 6 7 1 1 0 4 0 3.59
S Reed 2/3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3.81
Remlinger 1/3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.81
Karsay (L, 3-4; BS, 4) 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 2.48
NY METS ip h r er bb so hr era
Chen 7 6 1 0 1 5 0 4.54
Jo Franco 2/3 1 1 1 1 1 0 3.81
A Benitez (W, 6-3) 1 1/3 2 0 0 1 1 0 3.01
Pitches-strikes: Chen 102-70; Jo Franco 17-8; A Benitez 20-14;
J Marquis 97-63; S Reed 12-9; Remlinger 5-5; Karsay 22-14.
Ground balls-fly balls: Chen 6-9; Jo Franco 0-1; A Benitez 2-1;
J Marquis 5-9; S Reed 0-2; Remlinger 0-1; Karsay 2-0. Batters
faced: Chen 26; Jo Franco 4; A Benitez 6; J Marquis 24; S Reed 2;
Remlinger 1; Karsay 5.
UMPIRES: HP--Wally Bell. 1B--Marty Foster. 2B--Mark Hirschbeck.
3B--Ron Kulpa. EJECTIONS: ATLANTA's Karsay by Kulpa (9th).
T--3:07. Att--41,235. Weather: 71 degrees, clear. Wind: 7 mph,
right to left.

BOXSCORE COURTESY OF SPORTSTICKER ENTERPRISES, L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Kevin Czerwinski is the site reporter for Mets.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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