The Mets suffered a 7-1 loss in Game 2 but came back with a 9-2 win in Game 3. Henderson, who hit .400 for the series, saved his best for the finale. The game was tied 1-1, and Arizona lefty Brian Anderson was cruising with a three-hitter when Henderson led off the bottom of the sixth. After Henderson had taken four pitches from Anderson, the count was 2-2. Then: foul ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball. Nine foul balls. On the 14th pitch, an 88-mph fastball on the inside corner, Henderson fisted a single to right. He scored on Benny Agbayani's double. "I tried every trick in the book: I threw fastballs, changeups; I threw from a different arm slot," said Anderson. "I didn't want to give up, but after 14 pitches it gets really frustrating." Anderson, standing in front of his locker, looked ready to cry. "God, 14 pitches—that's an inning to me."
The Mets are no pushovers; there's reason for the Braves, who beat them in nine of 12 regular-season matchups, to be wary this time. It wasn't enough that manager Bobby Valentine's club had to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last series of the regular season, then beat the Cincinnati Reds in a one-game playoff, just to earn the wild card. No, these Mets do everything the hard way. Piazza, whose left thumb had been sore since Sept. 17, when he was hit by a foul tip, missed Games 3 and 4 because of an adverse reaction to a cortisone shot. Also before Game 3, a profile of Valentine, in which he was quoted making uncomplimentary references to various members of his team and staff, appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of SI. The article, an "ill-timed fire," in the words of general manager Steve Phillips, once more put the spotlight on Valentine, who faced a barrage of questions regarding the article before the game. "What can you do?" said Henderson. "Just another bump in the road. Gotta still play hard."
Playing hard has occasionally been an issue with Henderson. On Sept. 23, in a 6-3 loss to Atlanta, he jogged from first to third on Alfonzo's double before running through third base coach Cookie Rojas's stop sign and getting nailed at the plate. It was an embarrassing moment for a future Hall of Famer. "Give the guy a break," says Mets first base coach Mookie Wilson. "Look at what he's doing at age 40. I mean, who's ever seen anything like it?" The Mets are counting on the Braves seeing a lot of it.
Anderson, for one, knows how formidable Henderson can be. As the pitcher prepared to leave Shea for the flight back to Phoenix, he thought once more of the 14 pitches, of the havoc caused by a legendary base runner. " Atlanta better be ready," he said. "That Rickey Henderson—he's sure one tough old son of a gun."