July 10, 1999 is an awesome day if you like walk-offs. There were six, among them the Mets beating the Yankees on Matt Franco’s two-run single against Mariano Rivera and light-hitting Omar Vizquel clubbing a home run to beat the Reds.
There was also one by second-year Dodgers third baseman Adrián Beltré against the Mariners. It’s significant because it was the first of his long major-league career.
It was a good pitcher’s duel between Kevin Brown and John Halama, with each allowing one run – Halama in seven innings and Brown in eight. In the bottom of the ninth, Jose Paniagua got Gary Sheffield and Eric Karros out to start the inning, but Devon White and Raul Mondesi each walked on 3-2 pitches. Beltré singled home White on the first pitch he saw.
“It’s important to me that the team looks to me in situations like that,” Beltré told reporters after the game, a pretty good quote for a 20-year-old.
Beltré’s team looked to him for walk-offs many times in a career that ended with his retirement earlier this week. In 18 of them, he came through. The second one, a home run, also came against Paniagua and the Mariners on July 7, 2001, nearly two years to the day of the first one.
Among the other highlights:
– On September 22, 2001, Beltré’s two-run single gave the Dodgers a 6-5 win over the Diamondbacks (I’ve previously mentioned my affinity for 6-5 final scores). The Dodgers staged two pretty good comebacks in this game. They were down 3-1 in the ninth inning before Paul Lo Duca hit a game-tying home run against Randy Johnson. Then they were down 5-3 in the 11th in the moments leading up to Beltré’s hit.
The hit was big at the time because it moved the Dodgers within three games of the Diamondbacks for first place with 13 games to go. The Dodgers didn’t catch them, but still pretty cool.
– On August 20, 2003, Beltré hit a two-run home run against Rocky Biddle to give the Dodgers a 3-1 win over the Expos. I like it because of the Rocky/Adrian connection (I hear Creed 2 got good reviews).
– Beltré’s last came on July 25, 2016 against the Athletics. He had four hits and drove in the Rangers’ last three runs of the game, the first with a home run in the seventh inning against John Axford to cut the Rangers lead to 6-5, the second a two-run bomb against Ryan Madson with two outs in the ninth to win the game.
“What superlatives do you want me to put on it?” asked then-Rangers manager Jeff Banister.
There are a lot of superlatives you could put on Adrián Beltré. The walk-offs are just a small piece of his excellence, but one you might have overlooked.