It was amazin' all right and in the end, it was the Atlanta Braves who came up with the miracle.
Andruw Jones drew a bases-loaded walk from Kenny Rogers with one out in the 11th inning and the Braves somehow survived a final string of Mets' comebacks, beating New York 10-9 Tuesday night to win the NL Championship Series 4-2.
On a night that had even more drama than the Mets' 4-3, 15-inning victory Sunday at Shea Stadium, the teams gave a roaring, raucous crowd of 52,335 all it could handle in one of the most thrilling playoff games ever.
The Braves wrecked the Mets' hopes of a Subway Series and advanced to the World Series to face the New York Yankees. Game 1 in the rematch of the 1996 Series will be Saturday night at Turner Field.
The Mets, who trailed 5-0 in the first inning, nearly became the first team in postseason history to win three games in a row after losing the first three.
"I told them they played like champions," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "We don't have a trophy, but they did everything they had to."
Then in the 11th, Gerald Williams led off with a double and moved up on Walt Weiss' sacrifice. Two intentional walks loaded the bases for Jones, and he worked the count full before taking a ball high and outside.
Valentine slammed the railing on the top step of the dugout and shouted, "Oh, no!" when Rogers missed.
"I was just going out there, taking pitches until he threw me a strike," Jones said. "He didn't, and I took a walk."
The tension showed on both sides, as every player, coach and person in each dugout was up against the railing for the final batter. The crowd, including a healthy dose of Mets fans, shouted along in the fifth straight game of the NLCS decided by one run.
"We never could give up. They never gave up," Perez said.
Now the Braves get a chance to avenge their loss to the Yankees in the October 1996. This marks the first time Series rivals have met in the regular season Atlanta went 2-1 at Yankee Stadium in interleague play right after the All-Star break.
"We've got another shot at them," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.
|The Mets "amazin" season is now over.|
With "Why not?" written on a clubhouse board, they scored three times in the sixth to chase starter Kevin Millwood and make it 5-3. Mike Piazza, banged up and silent for most of the week, homered off reliever John Smoltz to tie it at 7 in the seventh.
Both teams scored in the eighth the Mets on Melvin Mora's single, the Braves on Brian Hunter's single and each club had its chance to win in the 10th.
For the Braves, their eighth straight trip to the NLCS wound up with a win and a chance for them to win that elusive second World Series title in the 1990s.
For the Mets, the loss marked the end of an incredible run. They needed sweep on the final weekend of the regular season and a win over Cincinnati in the wild-card tiebreaker just to reach the playoffs.
Smoltz had earned a save in Game 2 in his first major league relief appearance, but had nothing this time. Given a 7-3 lead, the former Cy Young winner gave it right back on doubles by pinch-hitter Matt Franco and Rickey Henderson, an RBI single by John Olerud and Piazza's liner over the fence in right-center field.
Piazza was forced to leave Game 5 after 13 innings because of injuries to his hand, thumb and forearm. He was just 3-for-22 in the series before connecting.
Down 5-0, the Mets began yet another comeback bid with three runs in the sixth. Piazza had a sacrifice fly and Darryl Hamilton hit a two-run single that finished Millwood.
Reliever Terry Mulholland walked pinch-hitter Benny Agbayani and then shortstop Walt Weiss saved the day temporarily, at least by catching Rey Ordonez's line drive up the middle and outracing Hamilton to second base for a double play. Ordonez dropped his batting helmet and kicked it.
The Braves bounced back in a contentious bottom of the sixth for two runs and a 7-3 lead.
Brian Jordan was hit on his injured right hand by Turk Wendell's first pitch. Jordan glared at the reliever and walked onto the grass part of the infield before plate umpire Jerry Crawford got between them.
The Braves eventually loaded the bases, and Jordan was forced out at the plate on Weiss' grounder with a price for the Mets. Jordan, a former NFL defensive back, slid hard and wiped out Piazza, who had no intention of trying for a double play.
Piazza and Jordan stared at each other and, with both dugouts on the brink of emptying, order was quickly restored. Jose Hernandez, batting for pinch-hitter Keith Lockhart, hit a two-run single off Dennis Cook.
Pitching on three days' rest for the only second time in his career, Mets starter Al Leiter looked lost. He hit two batters, walked another and made a wild throw on a comebacker and was pulled after six batters, retiring none of them.
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