Series: Game 1 of 3

New York leads 1-0 (as of 9/21)

Game 1: Friday, September 21
Atlanta 2Final
New York 3
Game 2: Saturday, September 22
Atlanta 3Final
New York 7
Game 3: Sunday, September 23
Atlanta 5Final
in 11
New York 4

Braves 2

(78-68, 44-30 away)

Mets 3

(75-73, 41-32 home)

    7:10 PM ET, September 21, 2001

    Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York 

    R H E
    ATL - -
    NYM - -

    W: A. Benitez (6-3)

    L: S. Karsay (3-5)

    Mets pull within 4½ on emotional night

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Piazza gave all of New York a home run from the heart.

    Fri, Sept. 21
    It's just kept going. & Soaring off into the New York night. A baseball carrying an entire city's emotional baggage.

    There's no telling how far Mike Piazza's eighth-inning game-winning home run against the Braves at Shea Stadium flew on Friday ... because how do you measure the healing power of a swing.

    More than 400 feet? How do you quantify what sport truly means to a society.

    For whatever period of time -- the instant when bat met ball, the duration of the ball's flight or the entire frenzied celebration as the ball landed beyond the fence and Piazza glided around the bases -- the 41,325 fans in attendance and the millions of other New Yorkers who saw it on TV could forget.

    Forget the fear, the pain, the suffering, the death, the destruction.

    A moment, maybe a fraction of a second, maybe a full minute, of pure, mindless joy.

    Joy has been a precious commodity since those planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11.

    Of Piazza's 34 home runs this season, 12 have given the Mets a lead, but this one did significantly more than that. This one put a whole city, maybe a nation, ahead.

    Oh, and he did it for free, donating his $68,000 paycheck from the game to the relief effort.

    How nice to have Piazza & and that baseball & something flying through the air ... and rooting for it.

    Choked up by a pregame tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center collapse, Piazza hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning that lifted the Mets over the Atlanta Braves 3-2 Friday night and further tightened the NL East race.

    "I'm just so happy I gave the people something to cheer," Piazza said. "There was a lot of emotion. It was just a surreal sort of energy out there. I'm just so proud to be a part of it tonight."

    "These people are great," he said. "New York has been so strong through all this. I feel so sad. I met two kids today who lost their fathers."

    Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross took part in the ceremonies as baseball returned to the city for the first time since last week's terrorist attacks. A crowd of 41,235 included almost 10,000 walkup fans.

    Piazza had already doubled twice when he hit his 34th home run, a monstrous drive over the center-field fence off native New Yorker Steve Karsay (3-4).

    "I'm glad to give people a diversion from the sorrow, to give them a thrill," Piazza said.

    The surging Mets, playing at Shea Stadium for the first time since Sept. 2, have won four in a row and 10 of 11. The defending NL champions pulled within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Braves.

    "If the season ends tomorrow, we're all winners, because we didn't give up," Piazza said.

    Philadelphia, which beat Florida 1-0, closed within a half-game of Atlanta.

    Feelings were running high on and off the field.

    Karsay, still upset about a close, 3-2 pitch to Edgardo Alfonzo that resulted in a one-out walk before Piazza, was ejected when the inning. He charged plate umpire Wally Bell, and was restrained by teammates.

    "I'm a guy who never argues about balls and strikes," Karsay said. "I've never been thrown out of a game before. But when you're in a pennant race, things get hot."

    Said Bell: "I told him the pitch was high. I saw come running, but they held him back."

    Armando Benitez (6-3) got the win despite giving up Brian Jordan's go-ahead double in the eighth.

    Up until Piazza's homer, the Braves had played it perfectly. They hugged the Mets in the pregame tribute, cheered Giuliani and applauded Minnelli when she came on the field to sing "New York, New York" during the seventh-inning stretch.

    "It was a great night," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "We were lucky to be here tonight for this, but I wanted to be on the winning side."

    The Mets did it right, too. Their players, coaches and manager Bobby Valentine donated a day's pay -- about $450,000 -- to the families of the police officers and firefighters killed during the terrorist attacks.

    The Mets also had the date of the tragedy -- 9-11-01 -- embroidered on the left sleeve of their uniforms.

    "You couldn't have scripted it any better," said outfielder Jay Payton, who got a hug from Minnelli.

    Before Piazza homered, the biggest ovation of the night went to Giuliani -- in a ballpark where the noted Yankees' rooter is routinely booed during interleague games.

    Mike Piazza


    Mike Piazza set the 40,000-plus at Shea into a frenzy with this eighth-inning homer.

    Wearing an "FDNY" pullover shirt and a cap with the police department shield, he was cheered by Mets and Braves alike. Giuliani stepped down into Atlanta dugout and got a vigorous pat on the back from Cox.

    Valentine raised his arms and led cheers of "Rudy! Rudy!"

    Piazza scored in the fourth on Tsuyoshi Shinjo's sacrifice fly. Braves third baseman Ken Caminiti made a sensational play to prevent any more runs from scoring.

    With runners on second and third and two outs, Caminiti backhanded Payton's grounder and made a strong, off-balance throw from foul territory to end the inning.

    The Braves' only run off Bruce Chen came in the fourth and was unearned. Caminiti doubled with two outs and Chipper Jones scored from first base when Piazza let second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo's easy, one-hop throw home skip by for an error.

    Game notes
    The umpires, along with the Mets, wore caps representing the city's police, fire and emergency personnel during the game. B.J. Surhoff and other Braves from the local area wore them in warmups. ... Chen's only other game against his former team was a disaster. Atlanta tagged him for seven runs in two innings on July 5, and Philadelphia sent him to the minors the next day. ... The Mets are two games over .500 for the first time this season. ... After the first pitch, Bell took the ball out of play. He later gave it to Giuliani, asking the mayor to give it to someone special. The mayor said he would "give it to one of the children who has lost their father."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press