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Seconds, Please

OK, so what do you call a game that ends like Opening Day did for the Mets? A slide-off? The preference when I got up this morning was "tag-off." My best recollection of something like that dates back to August 27, 1986 and what Tim McCarver referred to as a "routine" 8-2-5 game-ending double play (Dykstra to Gibbons to HoJo) on Tim Flannery's potential game-tying single to centerfield in extra innings in San Diego, but I'm guessing there have been other instances since then.

It was also similar in nature to the scenario of September 14, 1997, a game I attended. In this case, it was the ninth inning (not the eighth) in which Todd Pratt (not Paul Lo Duca) got a major break from the home plate ump, with one out in the ninth inning (with the Mets up 1-0), after dropping Rey Ordonez's relay throw, while colliding with incoming Expos baserunner David Segui (and not Alfonso Soriano...follow all that?). That day, if my understanding is right, the errant ruling was that Segui missed the plate (replays showed he nicked it), then got tagged by Pratt after the fact. The Mets held on for the win when Greg McMichael came on to get Vladimir Guerrero for the final out.

That distracted me from the main point I wanted to make today.

I don't understand, nor do I like, the idea of taking a day off between your first and second games of the season. It makes no sense to me. It's almost like day two is one of recovery, which may explain why Game 2, at least in Metsland, is among the worst-attended of the season.

They shant be playing at Shea today and that's a shame. I would venture to say that most players would like to get that second game in within 24 hours, rather than sit around and wait. If you lost on Opening Day, you probably want to erase the stench and memory as quickly as possible. If you won on Opening Day, you want to play again to carry over the momentum and the high from victory.

Most people remember the 1973 Mets because of how they finished up. Let's take a moment here to recall how they commenced.

The 1973 squad, a special one in the memories of many Mets fans, was the first to start a season with an actual winning streak (one victory does not make a streak).After an Opening Day, 3-0 triumph over Steve Carlton and the Phillies (Cleon Jones hit two home runs, drove in all three runs), the Mets returned to the field the next day, a Saturday, and pitched Jon Matlack against Jim Lonborg.

The Phillies scored in the first, but the Mets answered in the second when John Milner homered, then seized the lead in the third when Jones' two-out single scored Rusty Staub. Matlack held the lead until the sixth when Bill Robinson led off with a home run.

In the seventh inning, the Mets established a major threat, one that began when Lonborg walked Matlack to start the frame. The next two men reached, giving the Mets a bases loaded no-out scenario and they had the right man at the plate in Willie Mays.

The problem was that this was the 42 year old version, for whom 1973 would be the final season, and the creaky-legged future Hall of Famer punched a weak grounder to third base, one that turned into a 5-2-3 double play. That made Mays 0-for-7 for the season. The Phillies escaped the jam when, after Staub was walked, Jones grounded into a force out, keeping the score tied.

Matlack set the Phillies down without issue in the eighth, than escaped trouble in the ninth, which in turn gave the Mets their best chance to win.

The home ninth began with a walk (recalling memories of blogs gone by) to Ed Kranepool. Bud Harrelson struck out, but Felix Millan did his job, advancing pinch-runner Teddy Martinez to second base, via groundout.

That brought Mays to the plate again.I'm going to take a wild guess and say that his at-bat probably began with radio voice Bob Murphy stating "Baseball is a game of redeeming features..." It ended with Mays redeeming himself.

The newspapers describe the swing as a lunge, which isn't surprising given Mays' bad knees. He put just enough on the hack at the 1-2 pitch to punch it into the outfield, on a bounce. Martinez pranced home with the winning run and the Mets were victors, and 2-0 for the first time in team history.

True Metstwos know...The Mets are 13-10 in second games of the season, played without an off-day, and 8-13 in Game 2's of a season played after at least one off-day. Four of those 21 combined wins were via walk-off, with three coming in scenarios in which there was no off-day between the games.


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