Sunday, September 29, 2013
Mike Piazza’s most memorable HRs
By Mark Simon
Credit: AP Photo/Julie JacobsonThere was nothing more exciting as a Mets fan from 1998 to 2005 than seeing a home run hit by Mike Piazza.
Mike Piazza had many curtain calls, including this one for breaking the catchers' home-run record.
The Mets have had two players who seemed to be able to homer on demand -- Darryl Strawberry and Piazza. Time and time again, they came through when the team needed them most.
Piazza will be honored for his Mets tenure and for those 220 home runs by being inducted into the team's Hall of Fame on Sunday. Here's a look back at his 10 most noteworthy homers during his time here.
10. April 28, 1999 vs. Padres
The Padres entered this game having won 181 straight games when leading after eight innings, thanks to their great closer Trevor Hoffman.
But Piazza got the better of Hoffman a couple of times. His second career walk-off homer against Hoffman gave the Mets a come-from-behind win and started a six-game winning streak.
Piazza would hit four walk-off home runs as a Met, tied with Cleon Jones, Chris Jones and Kevin McReynolds for the most in team history.
9. July 29, 2001 vs. Phillies
This one is listed as "author's choice," a game I attended with my father.
With Piazza due to bat second during the home half of the ninth in a tie game, my father turned to me and said, "We'll be going home after Piazza's at-bat."
As soon as Piazza swung, the father tapped the son on the thigh and said, "Let's go."
One other cool anecdote from this one: Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas' call of the at-bat summed up how most felt after giving up a homer to Piazza.
Piazza would hit 26 homers against the Phillies while with the Mets, matching his most against any team. He would also hit 26 against the Braves.
8. Aug. 9, 2006 vs Mets
We're going to cheat and include something Piazza did against the Mets. Piazza homered twice in his second game back in Shea Stadium after signing with the Padres after the 2005 season. Piazza would hit two home runs against Mets starter Pedro Martinez, but the Mets would prevail, 4-3.
7. June 17, 2001 vs. Yankees
This wasn't quite the 10-run eighth-inning comeback against the Braves (which we'll get too), but this made for a pretty nice moment for Piazza.
The Mets would rally from 7-2 down in the eighth inning to beat the Yankees, scoring six runs, the last two of which came on Piazza's home run against reliever Carlos Almanzar.
Piazza hit .317 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 38 regular-season games against the Yankees as a Met.
6. 1999 NL Championship Series Game 6 vs. Braves
Piazza dealt with a severe thumb injury that postseason, but that didn't hinder his flair for the dramatic.
He helped the Mets rally from an early deficit with a game-tying homer against John Smoltz in the seventh inning.
Andy Lyons/AllSport/Getty Images
Piazza and Al Weis are the only Mets to hit a game-tying homer in the seventh inning or later of a postseason game.
This homer might have ranked higher had the Mets not lost the series when Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones in with the game-winning run in the 11th inning.
5. June 9, 2000 vs. Yankees
From a baseball perspective, the Mike Piazza-Roger Clemens rivalry was one-sided.
In his first 15 at-bats against Clemens, Piazza had eight hits and four home runs. The one in this game was a majestic grand slam in the third inning.
The Mets would pound Clemens for nine runs in five innings in a 12-2 drubbing of the Yankees in the Bronx.
Piazza's four home runs against Clemens matched his most against any pitcher while playing for the Mets. He also had four against Damian Moss and Tom Glavine.
4. Sept. 16, 1998 vs. Astros
The Mets and Astros played a memorable series in Houston late in the team's wild-card chase. On this date, they were shut out for eight innings by Astros starter Mike Hampton, who would give way to Billy Wagner in the ninth inning with a two-run lead.
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Wagner put two men on base and Piazza smashed a three-run go-ahead homer.
The Astros tied the score in the home ninth, but the Mets would win in extra innings on a homer by the man Piazza replaced as the Mets' full-time catcher, Todd Hundley.
It was a game that kept the team's postseason hopes -- that would later be dashed on the final day -- alive and well, and solidified Piazza's reputation as a big-time performer.
3. May 5, 2004 vs. Giants
The highlight of the disastrous run that was 2002 to 2004 was the day Piazza broke Carlton Fisk's record for most home runs as a catcher with his 352nd in this game, against Giants starter Jerome Williams.
Also cool was what would happen the next day, when Piazza beat the Giants with a walk-off homer.
Piazza hit 427 career home runs. Of those players whose careers have started in 1960 or later, only two hit 400 or more homers and struck out less than Piazza did -- Albert Pujols (so far) and Vladimir Guerrero.
2. June 30, 2000 vs. Braves
The Mets staged an epic rally to come back from an 8-1 eighth-inning deficit against the Braves, with Piazza's home run against Terry Mulholland being the perfect capper.
It was not a typical Piazza homer -- this one was more of a screaming line drive down the left-field line, barely giving Gary Cohen enough time to make his "It's outta here!" call.
Piazza hit 16 go-ahead homers in 2000, tying Gary Carter's single-season mark for the most such home runs in Mets history.
1. Sept. 21, 2001 vs. Braves
Matt Campbell/AFP/Getty Images
Piazza's most famous Mets home run was the one that came in the eighth inning of the first game back after the Sept. 11 tragedy.
With the Mets trailing in the bottom of the eighth, Piazza hit a moon-shot home run to center against Braves reliever Steve Karsay to put the Mets ahead.
They would go on to win, with native New Yorker John Franco getting credit for the victory.
But that win was about much more than just a game.
Piazza's homer is often cited as one that allowed the city to feel good about itself at a time when it needed something to get over the unspeakable tragedy with which it was dealing.