Texas left fielder Mark McLemore hit bases-loaded, 3-run double with two outs in the ninth to give the Rangers a dramatic 3-2 win over the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks at the Ballpark in Arlington before a crowd of 33,328.
Arizona was in just its second year of existence and manager Buck Showalter had a high-priced roster to work with in an attempt by Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo to seek quick success. Showalter started Arizona's prize free agent acquistiion, Randy Johnson, who had gone through a run support drought that rivaled the Atacama Desert in Chile. In Johnson's last four starts, the Diamondbacks had failed to score a run and been no-hit once (by Jose Jimenez of St. Louis) and also lost a one-hitter and a two-hitter.
The Rangers, managed by Johnny Oates, were in first place and were aiming for their third AL West in four seasons. Rick Helling made the start for Texas.
Arizona finally scored a run for Johnson in the top of the first. Right fielder Tony Womack walked, stole second and scored on a single by third baseman Matt Williams. Womack looked to have scored another run in the third, but he was called out at the plate on a close trying to score on a single by left fielder Luis Gonzalez. Second baseman Jay Bell hit his 25th homer of the season in the eighth to make it 2-0.
Johnson sailed through eight innings, striking out eight, giving up six hits and walking two. But in the ninth, Showalter opted to bring in Matt Mantei to relieve. Mantei had been acquired from Florida on July 8 in an attempt to patch up the bullpen problems that had been plaguing Arizona all season. Arizona sent Brad Penny, Abraham Nunez, and Vladimir Nunez to Florida.
Mantei started the ninth by striking out third baseman Todd Zeile and getting rookie center fielder Ruben Mateo to bounce out back to the mound. With Johnson out of the game, Oates called one of the lefties on his bench that he was resting, Rusty Greer, to pinch hit for shorstop Royce Clatyon. Mantei got Greer to a 1-2 count, but Greer fought off several pitches and worked a walk.
Oates went to the bench again and called on Rafael Palmeiro to bat for second baseman Luis Alicea. Palmeiro walked and Scarborough Green ran for him. Feeling lucky, Oates called on lefty Lee Stevens to bat for first baseman Jon Shave, a career minor leaguer getting a call this night to face Johnson. And Mantei walked Stevens to load the bases. The Rangers tied a major league record with their three consecutive walks by pinch hitters.
Mantei got two strikes on the next batter, McLemore, but couldn't put him away and McLemore lined a pitch into right-center that brought home all three runners to give Texas the win. It was the 11th walkoff loss for Arizona in the season at this point. Mantei became the eighth different Arizona pitcher to blow a save. And Johnson's drought of wins continued even though his ERA in this stretch had gone down from 3.36 to 2.86.
At this point in the season, Arizona was 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco. However, Arizona would finish the season strong, going 41-16 from August 1 until the end of the season to finish with 100 wins. The Giants stumbled home at 30-28 over the same stretch and finished 14 games out of first. The DBacks were in the playoffs in just their second year, but they would be knocked out in the Division Series by the wildcard New York Mets in four games.
The Rangers, who led by five games at this point, increased their lead as the season went on and beat out Oakland by eight games to win their third AL West title. Texas would end up getting knocked out of the playoffs by the New York Yankees for the third time, losing in three straight. In the Rangers three trips to the playoffs, all against the Yankees, they were 1-9 and won only Game 1 of the 1996 Division Series. Texas has not made it to the postseason since then.
Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez would be a somewhat surprising choice to win the 1999 AL MVP. Pudge hit .332 with 35 home runs. Rodriguez beat out Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez who went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. Martinez had an ERA+ of 245, a figure he would actually surpass in 2000 at 285.
Johnson would win the NL Cy Young Award with a 17-8 mark, 2.48 ERA and 364 strikeouts. Surprisingly, Houston's Mike Hampton got 11 votes as voters were impressed by his 22-4 record, pitching in a much more favorable park for pitchers, the Astrodome. Jose Lima finished fourth in the voting, so go figure.
Mantei would eventually settle down to get 22 saves for Arizona, which led the team. Mantei did give up a home run to New York's Todd Pratt in the fourth game of the Division Series to end that series. Arizona fell to third place in 2000 at 85-77 depsite the acquisition of Curt Schilling to join Johnson and Showalter was fired in the offseason and replaced by Bob Brenly, who somehow managed to win the World Series in 2001 despite being one of baseball's dopiest managers.