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A Brief History of "Agony to Ecstasy Finishes"

Monday's Opening Day win ended in rather unusual fashion, even for the Mets, with Jose Vidro getting thrown out by Carlos Beltran trying to extend a single into a double.

The good folks at Retrosheet, led by David Smith, sent us a list of Mets contests that ended in a similar manner. Originally, I referred to the manner of contest conclusion as a "Slide-off" and then "tag-off" but hastily realized that in my request to Retrosheet, I left certain possibilities out of the equation (A runner could get thrown out attempting to advance on a flyout or groundout, which also could involve a tag play). Thus, in searching for a new name, I came up with the idea of the "Agony to Ecstasy Finish."

The definition of the "Agony to Ecstasy Finish" is a game in which your team won, in which the final out of the game came as the byproduct of a base hit. Agony to ecstasy seems like the ideal phrase to describe the emotions of the fan whose team emerges victorious (particularly if the game is close).

Opening Day marked the 9th time in Mets history that team won by an Agony to Ecstasy finish. Amazingly, all of them took place in games decided by one run. Here's a capsule summary of those games, in order starting with the most recent...

Feeling Chipper...I can't believe I forgot about May 23, 2003, which was the last such A to E conclusion. The Mets edged the Braves, 5-4, clinching the win when Tusyoshi Shinjo threw Chipper Jones out at the plate, on a base hit by current Met Julio Franco. When Armando Benitez thanked Shinjo for the bailout, Shinjo jokingly replied he'd like a massage as his reward.

Grand Ole' Win....May 20, 1999 is better known as the date in which Robin Ventura hit a grand slam in both games of a doubleheader. Less remembered is the way that Game 1, an 11-10 Mets victory, concluded. With the score 11-9 and two men on base, Sean Berry hit a pop up to shallow right that second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo couldn't catch. Lead runner Marquis Grissom scored, but trail runner Alex Ochoa, not running at full speed because he appeared to think the game was over, was nailed at the plate by right fielder Roger Cedeno. Bobby Valentine told the media afterwards: "I'm just glad we got the third out. We didn't catch it, but we threw it, and tagged it, and got it done."

Brian McRae does something right...We've previously used this blog as mocking space for Brian McRae's various absent-minded antics, but we'll give credit, at least a little bit, for the 1-0 September 13, 1998 win over the Expos. McRae threw Shane Andrews out at the plate for the final out, after Mike Hubbard singled off John Franco. McRae made a rare winner of Willie Blair, and a mini-hero of Todd Hundley, who was on the receiving end of the throw, playing catcher for the first time in nearly 12 full months.

Victory Spehr'ed from Defeat...The year of misery that was 1993 had one of its more entertaining wins on August 2, 1993. With two on and two outs in the ninth inning, and the Mets clinging to a 4-3 lead, Wil Cordero's infield single turned into a game-ender. After Cordero beat Bobby Bonilla's throw across the diamond to first base, Mike Lansing edged slightly off second. Lansing was able to get back to second, but when the Mets tried to nail him there, lead runner Tim Spehr embarked on a mad dash for the plate. Spehr (the last Met not named Mike Piazza to start at catcher on Opening Day, prior to Lo Duca) ended up getting caught in a rundown, with Tim Bogar applying the tag that concluded the contest.

A 'Routine' Win...We mentioned this one earlier in the week. On August 27, 1986, the Mets won at San Diego, 6-5 in 11 innings. The game ended in an unusual fashion as Len Dykstra threw Gary Templeton out at home plate on Tim Flannery's single. When Templeton bowled over catcher John Gibbons, Flannery, who went to second on the throw home, tried to advance to third base. Gibbons promptly rolled over and fired to third baseman Howard Johnson, who slapped a quick tag on Flannery for the final out of a wild win. As announcer Tim McCarver noted, it was "Just your routine double play."

Just Gooden-ough...On May 25, 1984, Dwight Gooden tied Nolan Ryan's club rookie record by striking out 14 Dodgers in eight innings of work. Gooden left with a 2-1 lead, one that nearly slipped away. With two outs in the ninth, Jesse Orosco allowed a single to Jose Morales and then a double to center by R.J. Reynolds. Pinch-runner Dave Anderson tried to score, but was gunned down at the plate, thanks to a nice relay throw from underappreciated second base platooner Kelvin Chapman.

The Wacky World of Mets...Ever see those blooper shows hosted by Jay Johnstone? Wonder if he ever included the time he was on the Padres, playing the Mets on July 21, 1979. With the Padres trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Johnstone batted against Andy Hassler with two on and two outs. Johnstone grounded in the hole between first and second. The ball was fielded by Doug Flynn, but with no one covering first, all hands were safe. Seeing the confusion, lead runner Paul Dade got caught straying a little too far from third base and was thrown out. The tag was applied by defensive replacement at third base, Sergio Ferrer, who somehow played 32 games that season without getting a base hit (he went 0-for-7 with 2 walks). That's a club "record."

This game ended too late for morning editions...Because Game 2 of a quasi-meaningless September 26 doubleheader between the Mets and Phillies at Veterans Stadium, went extra innings I'm left without an archived newspaper account of this contest. What I can tell you is that the Mets won, 3-2 in 12 innings. The Phillies trailed 3-1 with two on and two out in the 12th. Pinch-hitter Mike Rogodzinski doubled, bringing home one run, but in trying to score the tying run, Tim McCarver was thrown out at the plate, on Felix Millan's relay of a Rusty Staub throw.


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