A late run by the 1999 Cincinnati Reds put them solidly in contention for the National league Central division title or, at least, a wild card spot.
Manager Jack McKeon’s team had won 16 of their previous 21 games to take a one-game lead over Houston and a two-game bulge over the New York Mets for the wild card. But in the final game of their three-game series at The Astrodome, Mike Hampton won his 21st game of the season, beating the Reds 4-1 and it was a dead-even tie in the NL Central.
The Reds traveled to Milwaukee for the final three games of the year. Houston went to LA and the Mets hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Things started off well Friday night. Mike Cameron hit a two-run homer and Greg Vaughn blasted his 44th of the year to give the Reds and Denny Neagle a 3-0 lead. McKeon did then what he normally did during the 1999 season; he turned to his deep and talented bullpen.
He pulled Neagle after the 6th inning with the Reds leading 3-1. But Williamson didn’t have it that night. The Brewers scored two runs off him to tie the game. Danny Graves kept the game tied but Milwaukee scored a run off Scott Sullivan in the 10th to win the game.
On Saturday night, Reds starter Juan Guzman was shelled in the fourth inning. Reliever Denny Reyes was hit hard as well and Milwaukee erupted for seven runs in a 10-6 beating of Cincinnati. In the meantime, the Astros beat the Dodgers twice.
The Reds salvaged the third game, thanks to a three-run shot by Vaughn and the combined pitching of Pete Harnisch and Ron Villone, who scattered six hits in the Reds 7-1 win over Milwaukee. But Houston clinched the NL Central and the Mets, who were tied with the Reds, were in a 1-1 game against the Pirates.
But in the bottom of the 9th inning at Shea Stadium, the Mets loaded the bases with one out. Pirate relief pitcher Bard Clontz came into the game. He promptly uncorked a wild pitch, Melvin Mora scored from third base and the Mets and Reds were forced into a one game playoff.
That game took place at Riverfront Stadium; it would be the last playoff game to take place there. A stunning walk-up crowd (54,621) filled the ballpark. Unfortunately, Al Leiter pitched his best game of the year and Steve Parris was knocked out early.
Leiter entered the game with a 12-12 record and an ERA of 4.43. He allowed just two hits in the 5-0 shutout win (by Pokey Reese and Jeffrey Hammonds), walked four and fanned seven. Parris gave up home runs to two of the first three hitters he faced.
It was ironic the Reds were shut out in their final game of the year in 1999; they scored 711 runs that season, posted a 96-67 record and featured a powerhouse lineup with the likes of Vaughn, Cameron, Sean Casey, Barry Larkin, Dmitiri Young and Eddie Taubensee. Between that and McKeon’s bullpen, the Reds put together a terrific season, one that many Reds fans still fondly remember.
Photo of Riverfront Stadium by Blake Bolinger. It was slightly modified to fit the site. You can see the license for the photo here.