With Mariano Rivera’s well-deserved election to the Hall of Fame, let us remember that he was surprisingly mortal against his rivals from Queens. Rivera was 4-4 with a 3.53 ERA against the Mets in 34 regular-season appearances. He did have 20 saves, (plus two more in the 2000 World Series), but the Mets did walkoff against him three times. Each of the walkoff victories were seven years apart, from 1999 to 2013. Let’s rewind to those special days.
It was the second game of a three-game series at Shea Stadium. The game is commonly known as the Matt Franco Game in Mets’ lore, so named for pinch-hitter Matt Franco’s game-winning ninth-inning single off Mariano to win the game for the Mets 9-8. The starting pitching matchup featured Rick Reed for the Mets, and Andy Pettitte for the Yanks.
The game was a thrilling back-and-forth contest with five lead changes. The Yankees hit six home runs in defeat. Mike Piazza’s mammoth three-run homer off Ramiro Mendoza in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Mets a 7-6 lead, but the Yanks reclaimed the lead, 8-7, in the eighth.
That was the score heading into the bottom of the ninth against Rivera. Rickey Henderson started a rally with a one-out walk, followed by a double by Edgardo Alfonzo. Bernie Williams had a chance to catch Alfonzo’s ball at the left center field wall, but missed it. After John Olerud grounded out to first, Mike Piazza was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine sent up the left-handed hitting Matt Franco to pinch-hit for Melvin Mora with the game on the line. After Franco took a borderline 0-2 pitch called low for a ball, he lined the next pitch into right field for a single. Henderson and Alfonzo scored to give the Mets the victory. Pat Mahomes was the winning pitcher for the Mets.
It was a Friday night, the first game of a three-game weekend series at Shea. The Yankees started Randy Johnson, while the Mets countered with Geremi Gonzalez. Gonzalez was a journeyman pitcher from Venezuela in the last year of a six-season major league career. He made only three career starts the Mets, and this was the worst of them. He surrendered six runs on nine hits in 3+ innings before being removed from the game after a leadoff double in the top of the fourth.
Despite the bad start, the Mets stayed in the game against Johnson. The key blows were a three-run homer by Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the first, and a two-run shot by Xavier Nady in the bottom of the third. Kaz Matsui tied the game at 6-6 with a single to left in the bottom of the fifth scoring David Wright.
The score stayed the same until the bottom of the ninth, when Rivera came into a tie game for the Yanks. Paul Lo Duca hit a one-out double, and Carlos Delgado was intentionally walked with two outs to bring up David Wright with runners on first and second. Wright hit it a 2-2 pitch over Johnny Damon’s head and onto the centerfield warning track to drive in Lo Duca for the win.
The Mets have by now moved into Citi Field, and this was the second of four straight games the Mets would sweep from the Bombers that season. Unlike the first two games in our trilogy, this one was a pitching duel. Matt Harvey, who was in prime form during his All-Star year, started for the Mets, opposed by Hiroki Kuroda for the Yankees.
Harvey held the Yanks to one run on six hits while striking out 10 in eight innings. However, the Mets trailed 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth. Rivera, who was in the final year of his career, entered the game looking for the save. This time, Rivera was unable to even record an out before the Mets rallied for the victory.
Daniel Murphy led off with a ground-rule double to left. David Wright followed with a line-drive single to left center to drive in Murphy to tie the game. Then, Lucas Duda ended the contest with a single to right to score Wright and give the Mets a 2-1 win. The Amazin’s had walked off against Mariano Rivera for the third time in his glorious career.
In addition, the Mets defeated Mariano 3-0 in the 10th inning of a game at Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2001. Mike Piazza, Timo Perez and Todd Zeile all had RBI singles against him that day. So, he really was quite human against the Mets, which we are happy to remind you of on this great occasion.