There’s a tendency to focus on the winners in sport. With good reason. Winners bask in the glory and adulation of fans and media. But in sport, there are always two sides. With winners, there are losers. Every team has lost a big game at some point. Sometimes it’s a matter of the opponent being better. But there are some losses that are so painful, they crush the soul of the players, coaches and supporters. This series of articles focuses on the deep pain of sport. Bring tissues if your team is featured.
Ah. The New York Mets. So much history. So much drama. So much heartbreak. Sure there was the Miracle Mets of 1969, coming out of nowhere to win the World Series. Sure there was the bad boy Mets team of 1986 that brought so much pain to the cities of Houston and Boston. But the Mets have had their share of agony and despair. They’ve had some awful teams, most notably in 1962 and 1993. They’ve been a frequent target of the New York tabloids. They have celebrity fans such as Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart and Don Cheadle. They’ve also had their heartbreaking moments. Here are five of them.
October 21, 1973. Oakland 5, NY Mets 2.
Ya gotta believe. That was the slogan for the Mets in 1973. It was coined by closer Tug McGraw who when he wasn’t chasing women with whiskey shots, he was trying to inspire a talented but sluggish Mets team in the highly competitive NL East Division.
McGraw had every right to be optimistic just as others had every right to be pessimistic. The Mets were sitting in last place with a month left in the season but were only 6½ games behind first place St. Louis. Led by McGraw who was a beast in the late innings thanks to a devastating screwball, the Mets went 21-8 down the stretch. With all the teams ahead of them fading, the Mets surged past the competition and nabbed the NL East crown as the rest of the division wallowed in mediocrity.
The Mets weren’t done surprising teams though. They were heavy underdogs against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS. The Big Red Machine were runners-up in the World Series the previous year and were expected to march on to a second straight Fall Classic appearance. But someone forgot to tell the Mets. In a bitterly contested series that saw a brawl break out between Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson in Game 3, the Mets took the series in 5 games thanks to strong pitching from Tom Seaver and McGraw and clutch hitting from Rusty Staub and Ed Kranepool.
The Mets went into the World Series as underdogs as well as the defending World Champion Oakland Athletics awaited them. The A’s weren’t exactly a happy family though. The bickering Bay Area Bombers were just as known for clubhouse brawls as they were for playing excellent baseball. Despite having more drama than a Days of our Lives episode, the A’s finished first in the AL West, 6 games ahead of Kansas City. The A’s were pushed to the limit by Baltimore in the ALCS but Oakland prevailed in 5 games thanks to the brilliant pitching of Catfish Hunter.
Game one was a pitcher’s duel between Ken Holtzman and John Matlack. The A’s took the first game as an error by second baseman Felix Millán keyed an Oakland rally. The Mets rebounded in Game 2 as a bright sunshine made life miserable for outfielders. It was particularly awful for the great Willie Mays as he struggled with every fly ball hit his way.
The series shifted to a rowdy Shea Stadium for Game 3. But the A’s silenced the Mets faithful as Bert Campaneris delivered an RBI single in the 11th inning for the decisive blow.
The Mets rebounded in Game 4 as Staub crushed a three-run homer while Matlack was superb on the mound allowing one run on just three hits over eight innings.
The Mets won Game 5 thanks to brilliant pitching from Jerry Koosman and McGraw who combined to blank the Athletics on three hits.
The Mets had a chance to win the series as it shifted back to Oakland. But the A’s showed why they were champions as Hunter outpitched Seaver and 2 RBIs from Reggie Jackson forced a seventh game.
Matlack and Holtzman would both take the hill in the deciding game in what was the rubber match between the pitchers. The game was played on a Sunday afternoon and there were concerns the sun would play a factor like it did in Game 2. It wouldn’t matter.
The game was blown open in the third inning as Campaneris and Jackson each swatted two-run homers, giving the A’s a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Mets had a chance to get back into the game in the fourth as they put two men on base. But John Milner weakly grounded to second to kill the rally.
The A’s increased their lead in the fifth as Joe Rudi’s RBI single cashed in Campaneris. With the Mets already in their bullpen, Oakland knew they had the Mets on the ropes.
But the Mets still believed. Staub delivered an RBI double in the sixth to put the Mets on the board and giving New York hope. But they Mets couldn’t do anything else and they were seeing their World Series dreams vanish.
The Mets final opportunity came in the ninth. Facing A’s closer Rollie Fingers was a daunting task but Ya Gotta Believe. Milner drew a leadoff walk. After Jerry Grote flew out, Don Hahn singled to raise concern in Oakland. Harrelson grounded out but advanced the runners. The Mets were down to their final out. Kranepool came up and hit a sharp grounder that first baseman Deron Johnson couldn’t handle. Milner scored while Hahn advanced to third while Kranepool reached safely on the Johnson error. Suddenly, the Mets had the tying run at the plate and Fingers was struggling. A’s manager Dick Williams made a bold move by pulling Fingers and calling on Darold Knowles to get the final out. Wayne Garrett came to bat representing the tying run. Ya Gotta Believe. But there were no miracles. Garrett hit a meek pop up to Campaneris at shortstop who grabbed it and the Mets no longer believed.
It was also the final appearance of Mays who retired following the 1973 World Series. One of the best all around players in the history of baseball, it was painful to see Mays struggle on the biggest stage in his swan song. Even though he hit a respectable .286, his final at-bat was a strikeout in Game 4. His struggles in the outfield were also a source of agony for those who remembered his amazing catch in the 1954 World Series and his 12 Gold Gloves. It was a sad ending to a great career.
October 19, 1999. Atlanta 10, NY Mets 9.
In order to get to Shea Stadium from Manhattan or Queens, most fans take the 7 train right to the ballpark. The 7 train is filled with diverse commuters that range from immigrants to lifelong New Yorkers who sound like extras from Goodfellas. It also drew the ire of John Rocker. The Braves pitcher was interviewed by Sports Illustrated in which he had this to say about New York and the 7 train.
“It’s the most hectic, nerve-wracking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with 4 kids. It’s depressing. The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people everything up there. How the hell did they get into the country?”
Rocker was also critical of Mets fans calling them degenerates and accusing them of throwing batteries at the opposing team.
Rocker wasn’t the only Atlanta Brave to rile up Mets fans. Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said this after a Braves win over the Mets,
“Now all the Mets fans can go home and put on their Yankees stuff.”
Chipper did have a point. The Mets were two games back of Cincinnati heading into the final weekend of the season. The Mets needed a miracle. They did their part by sweeping Pittsburgh. The prayers of the Mets faithful were answered as Cincinnati lost two out of three to Milwaukee, forcing a one game playoff in Cincinnati. The Mets easily defeated the Reds to advance to the NLDS to face upstart Arizona.
The Diamondbacks surprised the baseball world by topping the NL West in only their second season of existence. But the Mets weren’t falling into the trap of underestimating Arizona like most teams had. New York won the series in 4 as Todd Pratt clinched the series with a walk-off solo homer.
The Mets were about to face their bitter enemies from Atlanta in the NLCS. The Braves were dominant in the regular season, posting an NL best 103 wins en route to first place in the NL East, 6½ games ahead of the Mets. The Braves proceeded to eliminate Houston in the Division Series to set up a highly anticipated matchup with the Mets.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine stoked the fires of this heated rivalry further prior to the start of the series when he said:
“They better be ready to play some ghosts, because we were dead and buried two weeks ago.”
Greg Maddux and Rocker combined to shut down the Mets in Game 1 giving Atlanta the early advantage in the series. The Mets took the early lead in Game 2 but a three-run homer by Eddie Perez vaulted the Braves to a 2-0 lead as the series shifted to Queens.
Shea Stadium was absolutely rocking as the teams hit the field for Game 3 and Mets fans were in a foul mood. Their first target of derision was Jones who was greeted with chants of LARRY, LARRY every time he was at bat. Larry was Jones given name but he insisted he wanted to be addressed as Chipper. Mets fans were not about to oblige. But it was Rocker who received the brunt of the fans contempt. The fans used more obscenities than Joe Pesci in Goodfellas and Casino combined as Rocker mocked the Shea faithful by pretending to toss baseballs into the crowd and engaging into arguments with the fans. But Rocker was also effective on the mound, recording the save pushing the Mets to the brink of elimination.
Game 4 was another chance for Mets fans to release their vitriol on Rocker and company. This time, Mets fans went home happy as John Olerud delivered a two-run single off Rocker in the bottom of the eighth to keep the Mets hopes alive.
Game 5 was an enthralling, draining classic with many twists and turns. And of course, Rocker was the villain yet again. After he struck out Mike Piazza to end a Mets rally, he taunted Mets fans by saying “I just struck out your best hitter” while boos and unpleasantries rained down on the douchebag left-hander. But the Mets survived as Robin Ventura’s grand slam single in the bottom of the 15th, sent Shea into a frenzy and forced a sixth game back in Dixie.
The pitching matchup featured Al Leiter for the Mets who was working on just three days rest versus Kevin Millwood who was solid in a Game 2 victory. Valentine was hoping that Leiter, who led the Mets with 162 strikeouts, would be effective on short rest, despite the fact Leiter wasn’t used to pitching on three days notice nor was it his preference. Leiter didn’t survive the first inning. Even worse, Leiter didn’t record a single out.
Leiter plunked Gerald Williams then walked Bret Boone to start the rally. A double steal plus a throwing error by Piazza plated the first run. Leiter then hit Jones as his control betrayed him. Brian Jordan delivered an RBI single to cash in Boone. Andruw Jones hit a tapper back to the mound. Leiter attempted to get the runner at second base but the throw was off-line and everyone was safe. The play was ruled a fielder’s choice but it easily could have been scored as an error. The bases were loaded for Perez who was the Braves hottest hitter in the series. Perez continued his streak with a two run single giving the Braves a 4-0 lead and chasing Leiter from the game. Turner Field erupted as they could smell a pennant. Brian Hunter’s sacrifice fly scored Andruw Jones and the Braves led 5-0 after one.
The Mets were down and seemingly out. Their bats were silenced by Millwood who was sharp on the hill for the Braves. The good news for the Mets was Pat Mahomes was excellent in long relief, not allowing a single run on only one hit over four innings to give the Mets hope.
The Mets found their bats in the top of the sixth. Edgardo Alfonzo led off with a double and Olerud singled giving the Mets runners on the corners with nobody out. Piazza hit a sacrifice fly to score Alfonzo and put the Mets on the board. Ventura doubled to move the slow-footed Olerud to third and the Mets threat continued. Darryl Hamilton followed with a clutch two run single and the Mets were back in the game and Braves fans were suddenly nervous. Millwood was chased and veteran Terry Mulholland was called in. He walked Benny Agbayani and the Mets found themselves with the go-ahead run coming to the plate. But Rey Ordonez lined into a double play to end a productive inning that could have been more.
The Braves responded in the bottom half of the sixth as they got to Turk Wendell. Jordan was plunked to lead off the inning. Andruw Jones singled and the Braves were in business. Perez put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third. Wendell intentionally walked Hunter to load the bases. Walt Weiss grounded into a force play in which the Mets recorded the out at home and it looked like the Mets would escape the inning unscathed. Wendell was replaced by Dennis Cook who faced Jose Hernandez. It was Hernandez who won the battle by delivering a two run single giving the Braves a 7-3 lead after six. It was just another mountain to climb for the Mets.
But the Mets refused to die. Facing John Smoltz who wasn’t used to pitching out of the bullpen. It showed as back-to-back doubles by Matt Franco and Rickey Henderson shaved the deficit to three. After Alfonzo flied out, Olerud singled home Henderson and the Mets were within two. Piazza was next up and he crushed a Smoltz fastball over the right-centre fence to tie the game and stun the partisan Atlanta crowd.
The Mets took the lead in the eighth. Agbayani led off with a single and was advanced on a sacrifice but by Ordonez. Melvin Mora then punched an RBI single to score Agbayani and the Mets were ahead and the Braves were very nervous. The Mets showed plenty of heart and character in their comeback when they easily could have surrendered after the first inning.
But Atlanta had a response in the bottom half of the eighth. Perez singled with one out and was replaced by the speedy Otis Nixon. Nixon stole second and scored on Hunter’s RBI single. Fans were left breathless as the game was turning into another classic.
After neither team scored in the ninth, the game moved to extra innings. The Mets were facing the villainous Rocker in the tenth. They drew blood on the douchebag. Agbayani led off with a walk. After Ordonez popped out, Rocker looked to have Agbayani picked off. But an error by Hunter saved Agbayani who moved to second safely. Mora singled to move Agbayani to third then Todd Pratt, the hero of the NLDS, hit a sacrifice fly to score Agbayani to give the Mets the lead. But they couldn’t seal the deal.
Closer Armando Benitez left the door open in the bottom of the tenth. Andruw Jones led off with a single. After Greg Myers flew out, Ryan Klesko pinch hit for Hunter and drew a walk to move Jones into scoring position. Veteran Ozzie Guillen came through with a clutch RBI single to tie the game and force an eleventh inning.
The Mets went quietly in order in the eleventh to set up their heartbreak in the bottom half. Lefty Kenny Rogers didn’t know when to fold em on the mound. Williams led off with a double and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Boone. Rogers then intentionally walked Chipper Jones and Hunter to load the bases and set up a force play everywhere. Unfortunately, Rogers forgot where the strike zone was. With Andruw Jones up, Rogers walked him to force the winning run home and the Mets season ended while they watched their hated rivals celebrate.
The only good news for New York baseball fans was that the Yankees swept the Braves in the World Series thus vanquishing the loathed Rocker. But it was cold comfort for Mets fans who could only wonder what might have been.
October 26, 2000. NY Yankees 4, NY Mets 2.
Start spreading the news.
I’m leaving today.
I want to be a part of it
NEW YORK, NEW YORK!
Those lyrics sung by the legendary Frank Sinatra echoed throughout the Big Apple and especially at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium in 2000.
The Mets were looking to take the next step after coming oh so close to reaching the fall classic in 1999. Their first goal was to end Atlanta’s five-year reign as NL East champions. Although the Mets finished 1 game back of the hated Braves, they did secure a wildcard spot and a date with the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series.
After splitting the first two games in the Bay Area, the Mets returned home to a raucous crowd for Game 3. Benny Agbayani gave them every reason to get rowdy as he smacked a walk-off solo homer in the thirteenth inning to turn the series in the Mets favour. The Mets cruised in Game 4 and advanced to the NLCS against St. Louis.
The Mets were perceived as underdogs in the series as the Cardinals destroyed Atlanta in the NLDS which opened many eyes. The Cardinals dominance over Atlanta was supposed to be the start of a magical playoff run for St. Louis. Instead, the Mets turned the tables and dismantled the Cardinals in five games, outscoring the Cards 31-21 in the process. The Mets won their first pennant in 14 years and were headed to the Fall Classic where their crosstown rivals awaited.
The Yankees were the two-time defending World Series champions but 2000 wasn’t a smooth campaign by any stretch. Although they did finish first in the AL East, they had the fewest wins (87) of any division winner in baseball. Teams were starting to catch up to the Bronx Bombers and manager Joe Torre knew he had to pull all the strings in the right direction in order for success in the postseason.
The Yankees were in tough in the ALDS as they faced Oakland who were winning hearts and minds with their “Moneyball” approach. In a thrilling series, the Yankees eliminated the A’s in five games as the veteran guile of the Yankees bested the youthful enthusiasm of the A’s.
The Yankees then faced Seattle in the ALCS. The two franchises met in 1995 in a classic playoff series that the Mariners emerged victorious. The Yankees had to wait five years for revenge. They paid back the Mariners by dispatching them in six games to win the pennant and a subway series was born.
The last time two teams from the Big Apple met in the Fall Classic was in 1956 when the Yankees faced the Brooklyn Dodgers. That series was famous for Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 which led to a Yankees victory. This time it would be the borough of Queens who would challenge the Evil Empire that resided in the Bronx.
Game 1 was tightly contested affair that saw both teams give no quarter and none was taken. The Yankees won the opener when Jose Vizcaino’s RBI single in the 12th inning cashed in Tino Martinez.
Sparks flew in Game 2 as the intensity and the hatred rose to another level. Roger Clemens was on the hill for the Yankees and for some reason, he did not like Mets catcher Mike Piazza. In an interleague game in July, Clemens beaned Piazza with a high fastball that forced Piazza to the disabled list with a concussion. These two foes would meet again, this time on baseball’s biggest stage.
Piazza’s first at bat was in the top of the first inning. The Mets catcher fouled off a Clemens pitch that shattered the bat and the barrel of the bat came towards Clemens. The Yankee hurler picked up the remains of the bat and threw it at Piazza who looked quizzically at Clemens. Both benches emptied as Clemens was caught on camera saying “I thought it was the ball.” However, Tim McCarver who was doing analysis for FOX blamed Clemens calling him foolish and that he should have known better. Normally, I don’t agree with McCarver but in this case, he’s right. Clemens was probably going through roid rage or he was just being Roger Clemens which means he was a jerk. Piazza grounded out to end the inning but the tone was set. The Mets fell behind 6-0 but nearly came all the way back, scoring 5 runs in the ninth inning, just falling short of a miracle comeback.
The series shifted to Shea for Game 3 and the Mets used their home park to their advantage. The Mets scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to break a 2-2 deadlock and getting their first win of the series. But the Yankees responded in Game 4 as Derek Jeter’s leadoff home run set the tone and the Mets were on the brink of elimination.
Game 5 would see two lefties duel in Queens. Al Leiter had an outstanding season for the Mets in 2000, going 16-8 with a 3.20 ERA and a career high 200 strikeouts. Opposite Leiter was Andy Pettitte who also enjoyed a terrific season in 2000. The Yankees southpaw went 19-9 with a 4.35 ERA and 125 strikeouts. The two faced each other in Game 1 but both left with no-decisions as the game went deep into extra innings.
Before the game, Mets manager Bobby Valentine told reporters he would live and die on Leiter and the game would rest on the arm of his ace. It looked like a bad decision when Bernie Williams hammered a solo home run to leadoff the second inning. But the Mets bats and poor Yankee fielding bailed out Leiter in the bottom of the second.
Bubba Trammell drew a one out walk. Jay Payton singled to put runners on first and second. Kurt Abbott grounded out but managed to advance the runners into scoring position. Leiter was next up and he attempted to bunt hoping for a misplay. It worked as Leiter’s bunt attempt was fumbled by Pettitte which allowed Trammell to score, move Payton to third while Leiter reached first safely on the Pettitte error. Agbayani followed with an infield single to score Payton, giving the Mets the lead.
Leiter settled down and was effective over the next three innings. But in the top of the sixth Leiter served up a fastball that Jeter deposited out of the yard for a solo homer to tie the game.
The Mets had a chance to retake the lead in the bottom half of the sixth as they had runners on second and third with two out. But Agbayani grounded out meekly to Jeter to end the threat.
Valentine stuck with Leiter and it was working as the Mets left-hander was still looking strong, despite serving up two long balls. But the Mets bats weren’t giving Leiter run support as Pettitte and reliever Mike Stanton were baffling the Mets hitters.
The game was still tied entering the ninth inning. Leiter’s pitch count was nearing 140 but Valentine kept him in even though the bullpen was stirring. Leiter struck out Martinez and Paul O’Neill to start the ninth. It looked like the Mets would have a chance to win the game and extend the series in the bottom of the ninth. But the Yankees had other ideas. Jorge Posada drew a walk which was followed by a Scott Brosius single which put runners on first and second. Up stepped Luis Sojo who was known for a clutch hit that helped clinch Seattle’s first ever postseason appearance in 1995. Five years later, Sojo would deliver for the Yankees as he singled up the middle. Payton’s throw home hit Posada in the helmet and the ball rolled into the Yankee dugout. Brosius came around to score while Sojo ended up at third on the error.
The Mets had one last chance but they had to get two runs off the best reliever in baseball, Mariano Rivera, to extend the game. Agbayani drew a one out walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Edgardo Alfonzo lifted a fly ball to right that O’Neill easily handled and the Mets were down to their final out. Piazza stepped up with a chance to keep the Mets season alive. On a 0-1 count, Piazza drilled a Rivera cutter to deep centre field. The ball was crushed. Everyone at Shea rose to their feet as some thought the ball would leave the yard. The ball carried to the warning track but that’s as far as it went. Bernie Williams settled under it , made the catch and the Mets World Series dream died.
All offseason, Mets fans had to hear it from Yankee fans that the Bronx Bombers were the kings of New York. It didn’t matter if it was in Queens or Manhattan or Brooklyn or Yonkers or even Long Island. The Yankees ruled the Big Apple while the Mets were stuck with a rotten core.
October 19, 2006. St. Louis 3, NY Mets 1.
The 2006 New York Mets were poised for a big season. General manager Omar Minaya had carefully crafted the team to his liking but was still missing a few pieces. Minaya used the offseason to fill the missing pieces. He acquired first baseman Carlos Delgado in a trade with the Florida Marlins to bring a left-handed bat with power into the lineup. In a separate deal with the Marlins, the Mets acquired catcher Paul Lo Duca for two minor leaguers to strengthen their issues behind the plate. The Mets dipped into the free agency market as well, signing closer Billy Wagner away from division rivals Philadelphia.
The results were worth it. The Mets dominated the NL East, topping the division by 12 games over nearest rival Philadelphia, the first division title for the Mets in 18 years.
In the NLDS the Mets swept the Dodgers in three straight as they were in complete control, giving the Dodgers little opportunity to breathe. The Mets would enter the NLCS as heavy favourites against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals weren’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. On September 20. the Cardinals led Cincinnati by 7 games and Houston by 8½ games with only 12 to play. However, the Cardinals lost 7 straight including four straight to the Astros who were getting hot at the right time. The Cardinals lead in the division was shaved down to 1½ games. The Cardinals recovered and survived the push from Houston to win the NL Central with a mediocre 83-78 record. The Cardinals went 12-17 in September and were expected not to last long in October.
But October baseball is different and the Cardinals turned their game around as the calendar turned the page. The Cardinals eliminated San Diego in four games in the NLDS to set up a matchup with the Mets in the NLCS.
The Mets took Game 1 as Tom Glavine and Wagner combined on a four hit shutout while Carlos Beltran supplied all the offence with a two-run homer.
But the Cardinals surprised the Mets by taking Game 2, scoring 3 runs off Wagner in the ninth inning while wasting a 2 home run performance from Delgado.
The series shifted to St. Louis for Game 3 where it turned into the Jeff Suppan show. The Cardinals right-hander threw 8 shutout innings while only surrendering 3 hits. Suppan also homered as the Cardinals took the lead in the series.
The Mets responded in Game 4 as Beltran swatted two homers while Delgado and David Wright also homered as the Mets evened the series.
But the plucky Cardinals wouldn’t give in to the Mets. Homers by Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan combined with strong starting pitching from Jeff Weaver gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the series thus pushing the Mets to the brink of elimination.
The Mets needed a kickstart in Game 6 and Jose Reyes was happy to oblige. The Mets shortstop drilled a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first which set the pace for the Mets to even the series and force a seventh game.
The pitching matchup for Game 7 pitted lefty Oliver Perez for the Mets against Game 3 hero Suppan for the Cardinals. The Mets were hoping for a quick start with the bats and the pitching would hold up in later innings.
The Mets got the start they wanted in the first. With two outs, Beltran doubled and Delgado walked. Wright followed with an RBI single to cash in Beltran and the Mets drew first blood.
But the pesky Cardinals came right back in the second. Jim Edmonds led off with a single. Yadier Molina’s one out base hit advanced Edmonds. The Cardinals went small ball as Ronnie Belliard laid down a squeeze bunt to score Edmonds and tie the game.
After that, pitching and defence dominated this tense affair. The Cardinals looked like they would take the lead in the sixth. After Edmonds walked, Scott Rolen came up and belted a fly ball to deep left field. Most people at Shea including Edmonds thought it was a home run. But left fielder Endy Chavez had other ideas. Known for his defence, Chavez leapt up and extended well over the wall and made an incredible catch. Chavez wasn’t done there. Showing the presence of mind a la Willie Mays, Chavez fired a perfect throw to Reyes who relayed over to Delgado at first to double off Edmonds and end the inning. Shea was going crazy as Chavez got a standing ovation for his amazing play. It was now that the Mets would seize control.
Delgado drew a one out walk in the bottom of the sixth. That was followed by a throwing error from Rolen off a Wright ground ball. Delgado moved to third while Wright made it to second. Shawn Green was intentionally walked to load the bases. Everyone at Shea was on their feet as they anticipated a seismic shift in the game. But the Mets failed to capitalize. Jose Valentin struck out and Chavez flew out to Edmonds to kill the rally and the game remained tied.
Neither team could get anything going as the game entered the ninth inning deadlocked. The Mets turned to Aaron Heilman to keep the game tied and give the Mets a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth. It started well for Heilman as he struck out Edmonds to start the ninth. But Rolen followed with a single to bring up Molina to the plate. On the first pitch, Molina drilled a Heilman fastball over the wall in left field that Chavez could only watch helplessly for a two run homer and the Cardinals took the lead.
The Mets had one last chance. Valentin and Chavez both singled to start the bottom of the ninth. Cliff Floyd came up to pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot. Floyd had been battling injuries in the postseason but was capable of ending the game with one swing. But Cardinals closer Adam Wainwright struck out Floyd for the first out. Reyes then lined out and the Mets were down to their last out. They got a reprieve when Lo Duca walked to load the bases. The tying runs were in scoring position, the winning run was on base and the Mets couldn’t have asked for a better hitter to come to the plate.
Carlos Beltran was known as Senor October in the baseball world. Two years earlier as a member of the Houston Astros, Beltran belted 8 home runs which equalled a postseason record first set by Barry Bonds. Beltran led the Mets with 41 home runs in 2006 and already hit 3 big flies in the 2006 postseason. With Shea Stadium shaking Beltran faced Wainwright with a trip to the World Series on the line. Wainwright jumped ahead of the count 0-2 as Beltran took a patient approach. He was too patient. On 0-2, Wainwright through a curve that completely froze Beltran as it caught the heart of the plate for strike three. Beltran just stood there as the Cardinals celebrated as Mets fans who were so rowdy seconds earlier, went dead silent.
The best Mets season since 1986 came to a crushing end. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series. The Mets were left disconsolate and depressed.
October 5, 2016. San Francisco 3, NY Mets 0.
In 2015, the Mets made it to the World Series only to fall short as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Mets in 5 games. 2016 was supposed to be the completion of unfinished business by the Mets. But it wasn’t easy for the Mets. Faced with a formidable challenge from Washington in the NL East, the Mets were in tough in their own division.
By the time September rolled around, the Mets had basically conceded the division to the Nationals and focused on a wildcard spot. But the Mets received a terrible blow when starting pitcher Jacob deGrom was sidelined for the remainder of the season to have elbow surgery. It was up to veteran Bartolo Colon and youngster Noah Syndergaard to carry the rotation.
The Mets got enough innings from their pitchers as well as timely offence from Yoenis Cèspedes and Asdrúbal Cabrera to clinch a wildcard spot and a one game playoff against the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants had experience on their side as their World Series titles in 2012 and 2014 confirmed. Like the Mets, the Giants had strong pitching on their side as Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto were superb on the mound for the Giants. Despite that, the Giants finished 4 games behind their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. This forced the Giants to travel cross-country to New York where the Mets awaited.
Citi Field was charged up for this one game playoff. Mets manager Terry Collins decided to go with the young Syndergaard on the hill while the Giants went with Bumgarner, the 2014 World Series MVP. Everyone expected a pitching duel. Everyone was right.
Syndergaard was sensational for the Mets, allowing only 2 hits over 7 shutout innings, striking out 10 while walking 3. Collins removed Syndergaard after seven as his pitch count reached 108.
But Bumgarner was equal to the task as held the Mets off the scoreboard by baffling Mets hitters with his mixture of a curve, cutter, a four-seam fastball and a change-up.
The game remained scoreless heading into the ninth inning. The Mets called upon closer Jeurys Familia to pitch the ninth. Despite not being a save situation, Familia was the Mets best reliever and they needed him to hold the fort so that the Mets would have a chance in the bottom of the ninth.
But the Giants had the experience of playing in tight, tense postseason games and that experience came in handy. Brandon Crawford led off with a double. After Angel Pagan struck out, Joe Panik walked to bring up Conor Gillaspe to the plate. On a 1-1 count Gillaspe drilled a Familia fastball well over the wall in right-centre field for a three-run homer that silenced the raucous Mets crowd at Citi field.
When the Mets came up to bat they knew it was mission impossible. Bumgarner continued to bewitch the Mets bats as New York went down very quietly in order and the Mets were left stunned and heartbroken. It was a bitter end to a season of so much potential.