Tuesday, October 05, 1999
Mets 5, Reds 0
Magic runs out against Al Leiter
BY JOHN FAY and CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Reds' bats barely made a sound Monday in a 5-0 loss to the New York Mets during a one-game playoff for the National League wild-card berth. But the sellout crowd at Cinergy Field showed its appreciation for a great season by cheering the Reds from the first pitch to the last out and longer.
The crowd of 54,621 cheered the Reds for a curtain call when the game and the season was over.
That was a class act, first baseman Sean Casey said. They got an opportunity to thank us. And, hopefully, we got a chance to thank them.
I'll tell you, man, third baseman Aaron Boone said, that was an impressive crowd. They were really into it at key times. ... It felt good.
But just as enthusiasm for the Reds seemed reborn, their season died. The harsh end to the Reds' joyride prompted several players to weep once they retired to their clubhouse.
Losing pitcher Steve Parris agonizes after being replaced.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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It's not so much that we lost, said Casey, one of the more emotional Reds. It's just that the season's over.
The victory means the Mets (97-66) make the playoffs. They go to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks in a Division Series game at 11 tonight. The Reds (96-67) are done after losing four of their last five games.
Win 96 games and then go home, Reds manager Jack McKeon said. That's tough.
The only Reds team that won more games and didn't make the postseason was the 1974 team, which won 98 games yet finished second in the NL West.
The Reds could not overcome a sterling pitching performance by New York's Al Leiter. They managed only two hits and did not advance a runner to second until the ninth inning. It was the first time the Reds were shut out since April 30 and only the third time this year.
Al Leiter was unbeatable.
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The Reds wouldn't use fatigue as an excuse. They had forced the playoff by winning in Milwaukee late Sunday night and didn't arrive in Cincinnati until 3:30 a.m. Monday.
That didn't have anything to do with it, McKeon said. Al Leiter did.
The pair of wayward fans who sprang from the first-base stands and dove headlong into second base in the seventh inning did something that the Reds couldn't until Pokey Reese doubled in the ninth inning. Reese's hit and Jeffrey Hammonds' second-inning single were among just seven balls that left the infield off Leiter, who retired 13 Reds from the end of the third inning through the seventh while recording his first complete game of the year.
Edgardo Alfonzo drove in three runs with a two-run homer and a double and Rickey Henderson homered to support Leiter (13-12), who threw 135 pitches, including 77 strikes.
Jeffrey Hammonds leaps in vain after Edgardo Alphonso's HR.
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Leiter thrived with his cut fastball, which darted toward the hands of right-handed batters.
If he keeps that cutter in, the best thing they can do is pull it foul, Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee said.
But it wasn't just Leiter's cutter that sliced up the Reds.
He was working both inside and outside, said Reds left fielder Greg Vaughn. Usually he has just the cutter going, but he was in control of all his pitches.
Said Casey, Even in the ninth inning, it looked like he was throwing harder.
This was a historic matchup, if only for its sheer rarity. Though it marked the second year in a row that the NL needed an extra game to determine its wild-card winner, it was just the sixth one-game playoff in either league.
Henderson, among the finest leadoff batters of all time, singled off Steve Parris (11-4) to open the game before Alfonzo delivered his 27th homer.
Mike Piazza is at the center of Mets' celebration.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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I never really got a good rhythm going, said Parris, who allowed three hits and three runs while walking three in 2ö innings.
McKeon replaced Parris with starter Denny Neagle in the third inning and used closer Danny Graves in the sixth. But New York continued widening its lead.
If they play like they did tonight, I think they're going to go deep into the playoffs, Reds shortstop Barry Larkin said of the Mets.
The Reds were denied that thrill. But they experienced many others.
Nobody expected us to be here in the 163rd game, McKeon said. I'm proud of them because they gave everything they had.