Braves finish off Mets

Base-loaded walk to A. Jones in 11th ends drama, 10-9

Mets push it all way

Williams' run gives Atlanta NL pennant

October 20, 1999

ATLANTA -- Andruw Jones stood motionless as the last pitch sailed past him. Without so much as a flick of the wrist, he had applied a tomahawk chop to every New Yorker's dream of a Subway Series.

Jones drew a bases-loaded walk off Kenny Rogers in the 11th inning, scoring Gerald Williams to give the Braves a 10-9 victory over the New York Mets in Game 6 of the NLCS before 52,335, the largest crowd ever at Turner Field.

The Braves advanced to their fifth World Series this decade. They also set up a rematch with the New York Yankees, who defeated them in 1996 by rallying from a 2-0 deficit. Game 1 will be Saturday in Atlanta.

The Mets had moved ahead in the eighth on a run-scoring single by pinch hitter Melvin Mora, and again in the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Todd Pratt, whose homer in Game 5 of the Division Series carried New York to the next level of the postseason.

Both times, the Braves fought back. They delivered the knockout punch in the 11th by barely lifting a glove.

Williams led off the inning by lining a double to left off Rogers, the eighth pitcher used by manager Bobby Valentine. He took third on a sacrifice bunt by Bret Boone, and stayed there as Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan were walked intentionally.

With the count full, Rogers missed outside with a changeup, touching off a wild celebration and assuring that the Braves wouldn't become the first team to blow a 3-0 lead in the LCS.

"I was trying to make sure I didn't take wings," Williams said. "It's a situation where you're totally happy and feel like you can almost fly. I wanted to make sure I could stay on the ground."

Both teams kept getting off it. The game had appeared to be over numerous times. It also looked like it would never end, much like Sunday's 15-inning marathon at rainy Shea Stadium that the Mets won, 4-3, to force Game 6.

Mike Piazza completed a seventh-inning comeback by slamming a two-run homer off John Smoltz. Benny Agbayani then opened the eighth by singling off Mike Remlinger, was sacrificed to second and scored on a pinch-single by Mora. It was the third hit to come from New York bench players batting in the pitcher's slot.

It also was the latest indignity suffered by the Braves, who still were smarting from Sunday's loss. They blew a lead in that game, as well, having gone ahead 3-2 in the top half of the decisive inning, only to watch the Mets again rise from the dead.

The Braves tied it in the eighth on a single by Brian Hunter that scored pinch runner Otis Nixon, who had stolen second and moved to third on a throwing error by Piazza.

The Mets reclaimed the lead in the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Pratt off left-hander John Rocker, who was pitching one day after being involved in a minor car accident. But the Braves again pulled even on a pinch-single by Ozzie Guillen off former Orioles teammate Armando Benitez, who had allowed a leadoff single to Andruw Jones and one-out walk to Ryan Klesko.

Until the latter innings, comebacks in this game had been the Mets' specialty. They were down by five runs in the first inning, and down by four going into the seventh. But they were never out.

"They beat us during the season and they deserve to move on," Valentine said, "but they played a championship team. I told my guys they should feel like champions.

"It's difficult to give it up but we gave everything we had. There's a lot left out on that field, I guarantee you that."

The Braves had scored twice in the sixth to build a 7-3 lead. In came Smoltz, who saved Game 2 as a converted reliever. Back came the Mets.

Pinch hitter Matt Franco and Rickey Henderson doubled to open the seventh. One out later, John Olerud singled to right to score Henderson. Piazza then launched a 2-1 pitch over the fence in right-center field, giving the Mets 15 total bases in 1 1/3 innings and tying the score at 7.

Piazza has taken a beating in this series, getting nailed by backswings, foul tips and angry base runners. Just as painful, he was 3-for-22 with no homers before connecting off Smoltz.

"It was an amazing game because we had held their hitters so well the entire playoffs, and almost the entire season," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. "All of a sudden, they had nothing but line drives."

The Braves took advantage of Al Leiter's wildness to jump all over the Mets in the first inning and give the false appearance of seizing control.

Leiter, who had a 1.47 ERA over his last four starts, established an LCS record by hitting two batters in the same inning. He also failed to record an out, with all six batters reaching before Pat Mahomes was summoned from the bullpen. Mix in a throwing error by Piazza and a brain cramp by Leiter, and it added up to a 5-0 lead.

Leiter also tied an NLCS record for shortest outing by a starter, equaling the futile effort by Pittsburgh's Bob Moose in Game 2 of the 1972 series against Cincinnati.

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