The Braves still lead 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, with Game 5 set for Sunday afternoon at Shea Stadium. It will have a hard time topping this one.
"We really wanted to win that game tonight," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "We were four outs away from doing it."
Smoltz gave up a single to Roger Cedeno leading off the eighth, the third hit of the game for the New York player. After Rey Ordonez popped up an attempted sacrifice bunt, Mike Remlinger entered the game and struck out pinch-hitter Benny Agbayani.
Remlinger walked the next batter, Melvin Mora, and Rocker sprinted in from the bullpen for the fourth straight time in the series. He had infuriated New York fans with his inflammatory comments and kept up the trash talking before the game, boasting that he would be immersed in champagne at the end of Game 4.
While Rocker charged toward the mound, one fan threw a baseball and another launched a cup of beer. Both missed the mark, but the Mets didn't.
Barely paying attention to the runners, Rocker allowed them to pull off a double steal. Then, on a 2-2 pitch, Olerud hit a high chopper up the middle.
Rocker leaped for it but had no chance. Ozzie Guillen, who had just entered the game for Walt Weiss in a double-switch, got his glove on the ball but couldn't hold on, and it rolled into short center field while both runners scored. Rocker stood near the mound, hands on his hips in disgust.
"I don't think any of our shortstops catch that ball," Cox said. "It ends up the same way."
Olerud was 0-for-9 with five strikeouts against Rocker in his career, fanning in both at-bats during the NLCS.
"Well, Rocker, he's been awfully tough on us," Olerud said. "I got a good pitch to hit on the first pitch (fouling it off), and then I thought I was in trouble. But then, I got a fastball and was able to hit it up the middle."
Guillen nearly added another twist in the ninth, hitting a long drive that cleared the wall in right but hooked just foul. Armando Benitez settled down to get the final three outs and a save, something Rocker couldn't do.
The Mets have made a habit of rallying from the dead in recent weeks. They were two games behind wild-card leader Cincinnati entering the final weekend of the regular season, only to sweep Pittsburgh winning the final game when Mora scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth while the Reds were losing two of three at Milwaukee.
New York defeated Cincinnati 5-0 in a wild-card playoff and upset 100-game winner Arizona in the division series on Todd Pratt's 10th-inning homer in Game 4.
|John Olerud was the hero Saturday - driving in all the runs for the Mets.|
The late-inning heroics overshadowed the brilliant pitching of Reed and Smoltz.
Smoltz, the winningest postseason pitcher in baseball history (12-3), made only one major mistake, serving up a 1-1 fastball that Olerud drove far over the right-field wall with two outs in the sixth.
Reed cruised into the eighth, the only base-runner coming when Bret Boone singled through the pitcher's legs in the fourth. Boone was thrown out stealing.
But Jordan hit the first pitch of the eighth off the U.S. Postal Service sign in deep left-center field, a 408-foot drive that tied the game and brought a deadening silence to the Shea faithful.
Jordan, who hit only one homer in his final 139 at-bats of the regular season while troubled by a sore hand, has now hit three homers in the postseason.
While the Braves were still celebrating in the dugout, Klesko connected with a 1-0 pitch from Reed and sent a 400-foot drive over the right-field wall. This time, the Atlanta players poured out onto the field while Klesko circled the bases.
"If I could've crawled under mound, I would have," Reed said.
But the Mets had another comeback in them, perhaps inspired by Saturday's 30th anniversary of the Amazin' Mets clinching victory over Baltimore to win the 1969 World Series.
Still, New York faces an amazin' struggle. No team has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a series.
"Someday, someone's going to do this," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
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