This article was written by Thomas J. Brown Jr.
The Mets and the Braves had become intense rivals towards the end of the 1990s. The 1999 season ended with the two teams playing a dramatic league championship series that the Braves won in six games. With the Mets’ fortunes rising, the Braves finally returned to Shea Stadium on June 30, 2000. It was Fireworks Night at Shea and the 52,831 fans that came out for the game saw many more fireworks than they expected.1
The Braves jumped out to the lead in the top of the first inning. Quilvio Veras hit a leadoff single off Mike Hampton. After Andruw Jones lined out to center field, Brian Jordan singled to left. A passed ball by Mike Piazza allowed both runners to advance. Andres Galarraga was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hampton walked Javy Lopez to score Veras. Although it looked like the Braves might blow the game open, Hampton got Bobby Bonilla to ground into a double play that ended the inning.
The Braves continued to rattle Hampton in the third inning. A leadoff single by Veras was followed by another single by Jones. Hampton walked Galarraga to load the bases. Lopez then singled to left field. Veras and Jones scored on the hit. Galarraga also scored when Piazza was not able to handle Benny Agbayani’s throw to home plate. Although Lopez ended up at second base on the play and moved to third on a wild pitch, Hampton was able to finish the inning with no more damage. Bonilla grounded out to third base and Trent Hubbard eventually struck out.
Braves starter Kevin Millwood held the Mets to one earned run through seven innings. He scattered several singles over the first six innings. Eventually the Mets were able to get on the scoreboard with a trio of singles in the seventh inning. Both Todd Zeile and Jay Payton hit singles. After Agbayani struck out swinging, Matt Franco pinch-hit for Hampton. He hit a single to right field. Mets fans suddenly had some hope that the Mets might stage a comeback victory.2
Unfortunately the Braves quickly dashed those hopes in the top of the eighth when Brian Jordan hit a three-run home run off Eric Cammack, who had taken over for Hampton. The Braves now had what appeared to be an overwhelming 8-1 lead.
Heading into the bottom of the eighth, it appeared as if Fireworks Night would be a fizzle, although most fans were still sticking around, willing to see any sort of display that night.3Braves manager Bobby Cox brought in Don Wengert to pitch the eighth inning. He replaced Millwood, who had been taken out of the game for a pinch hitter in the top of the inning. Derek Bell led off with a line drive single to center field. Edgardo Alfonzo hit a fly ball to deep center field for the first out. Piazza then singled. An error by shortstop Rafael Furcal allowed Bell to move to third and Piazza to second. Robin Ventura then grounded out to second base for the second out. Bell scored on the play, making the score 8-2.
Although things were still looking bleak for the Mets, the excitement was just beginning. Zeile hit a single that scored Piazza. The score was now 8-3. Another single by Payton brought Kerry Ligtenberg into the game to replace Wengert. Ligtenberg immediately walked Agbayani to load the bases. Mets manager Bobby Valentine sent Mark Johnson to the plate to pinch hit for Cammack. Ligtenberg walked Johnson to score Zeile. The score was now 8-4 and the bases were still loaded. Ligtenberg walked the next batter, Melvin Mora, to score another run and the score was 8-5. Cox now brought in Terry Mulholland to replace Ligtenberg, while Valentine sent Joe McEwing into the game to pinch-run for Johnson.
Unfortunately, Mulholland fared no better than any of the other Braves pitchers. Bell came to the plate for the second time in the inning and Mulholland walked him on four straight pitches to score the Mets’ sixth run of the inning. Alfonzo hit a single to left field that scored both McEwing and Mora. Now the Mets were tied with the Braves and the crowd was on their feet. The fireworks had finally started.
With runners on first and second, Piazza came to the plate for the second time that inning. Most of the crowd was ready for what happened next. Piazza hit the first pitch for a line drive home run over the left field wall. It happened so fast that Mets announcer Gary Cohen barely had enough time to make his “It’s outta here!” call.4 With one swing of the bat, the Mets were up 11-8 and Shea Stadium erupted.
Armando Benitez was brought in to pitch the ninth inning and finish the game for the Mets. Benitez always had trouble pitching 1-2-3 innings and this was no exception.Two of the first four batters he faced reached base.5 After leadoff batter Lopez fouled out to first baseman Zeile, Keith Lockhart was brought in to pinch hit for Bonilla. He singled on a ground ball. Benitez got Hubbard to strike out swinging for the second out. Then he walked Furcal to put runners on first and second. Benitez finally ended the game and earned the win when he got Wally Joyner to fly out to center field.
Shortly after the game ended, the Mets put on their advertised fireworks show. But the planned show took a back seat to what occurred in the eighth inning. Many Mets fans describe this comeback victory as one of the ten best games in the franchise’s history. Valentine described the winning outburst as “one of the most unlikely innings I’ve ever seen.”6
This article was published in “Met-rospectives: A Collection of the Greatest Games in New York Mets History“ (SABR, 2018), edited by Brian Wright and Bill Nowlin. To read more articles from this book at the SABR Games Project, click here.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, I also used the Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for box score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other material pertinent to this game account.
1 Ed Leyro, “June 30, 2000: 10-Run Rally Capped By Piazza Blast,” Mets Merized Online.com, June 30, 2009.
2 Ed Leyro, “10 Years Later: The 10-Run Rally Still Amazin’ To Me,” Mets Merized Online.com, June 30, 2010.
3 Ed Leyro, “June 30, 2000: 10-Run Rally Capped By Piazza Blast,” Mets Merized Online.com, June 30, 2009.
4 Mark Simon, “Mike Piazza’s 10 most memorable home runs for the Mets,” ESPN.com, January 7, 2016.
5 Ed Leyro, “June 30, 2000: 10-Run Rally Capped By Piazza Blast,” Mets Merized Online.com, June 30, 2009.
6 Jon Blau, “Shea moment No. 8: 10-run eighth,” MLB.com, September 23, 2008.