Saturday, September 25, 1999


Four-run rally cuts Mets' wild-card lead to one game

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Danny Graves smiles after getting the save Friday night.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        When this season ends, it is Greg Vaughn's September that Reds fans will remember fondly.

        After all, his feats may also lead to a memorable October.

        Vaughn continued his torrid hitting during this month with a pair of RBI singles, including a sixth-inning hit that broke a 4-4 tie and helped the Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4.

        Cincinnati (91-63) improved its prospects for a postseason berth as the New York Mets lost to Philadelphia 3-2. The Reds trail the Mets (92-62) by one game in the wild-card standings. It's the closest Cincinnati has been to the top spot in the wild-card race since Aug.14.

        Many in the crowd of 36,974 — which included approximately 5,600 day-of-game walk-up admissions — probably came to see St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, who went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks.

        But the biggest hitters were the Reds, who overcame a 4-1 lead with a four-run sixth inning.

        Jeffrey Hammonds, who went 3-for-4, delivered his biggest hit of the game to ignite the Reds' crucial sixth against Cardinals starter Darren Oliver. Hammonds cleared the left-field wall with his 17th home run, narrowing the difference to 4-2.

        After singling, Pokey Reese broke for second base on a full-count pitch to pinch-hitter Dmitri Young. He poked the ball through the vacated hole on the right side for another single that gave the Reds runners at the corners with one out.

        Reliever Rick Croushore (3-6) walked Mike Cameron on a full-count pitch to load the bases. After Croushore retired Barry Larkin on a called third strike, the Cardinals summoned Mike Mohler to get a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup against Sean Casey.

        Casey checked his swing

        on a 2-0 pitch and blooped a single to left field, scoring Reese and Young to make it a 4-4 tie.

        Up came Vaughn, who faced right-hander Heathcliff Slocumb. Vaughn wasted no time, singling to left-center on the first pitch to score Cameron.

        Danny Graves pitched 1 innings for his 26th save.

        Until that outburst, the evening appeared bleak for the Reds. Uncharacteristic errors by Larkin and Reese, who have been essential to the club's season-long defensive excellence, helped St. Louis notch a pair of unearned runs in the first inning.

        Reds starter Steve Parris (11-2) retired the first two Cardinals he faced. When McGwire hit an easy grounder to shortstop, it appeared Parris had finished an easy inning.

        But Larkin, who charged the ball, threw on the run and sent the ball over first baseman Casey's head and into the Reds' dugout, sending McGwire to second base.

        Ray Lankford then hit a grounder up the middle that Reese, who was playing almost in shallow right field, dove for and smothered. He quickly threw to third base, where McGwire had made a wide turn. But the peg eluded Aaron Boone and skipped into St. Louis' dugout, enabling McGwire to score and moving Lankford to second.

        Thomas Howard then hit a slow chopper toward shortstop. Larkin had no choice but to charge the ball and attempt a risky short-hop pickup. He missed the ball, resulting in an RBI single.

        The Reds halved the difference with a two-out rally in the third inning. Larkin walked and Casey singled before Vaughn scorched Oliver's 3-2 pitch past shortstop for an RBI single.

        St. Louis added a pair of runs in the fifth when its eighth- and ninth-place hitters reached base safely to open the inning.

        After Parris walked Alberto Castillo, Oliver bounced a single over the head of Boone, who was playing shallow in anticipation of a bunt. Edgar Renteria's sacrifice bunt set up Adam Kennedy's sacrifice fly and McGwire's intentional walk. Lankford's first-pitch single to center scored Oliver.


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