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The Best Games I Know- Braves

For an introduction, see the other "Best Games I Know" installments
Arizona Diamondbacks
St. Louis Cardinals (pre-2006 playoffs edition)

It should be noted that these are difficult to write. The original draft of this installment was penned in November, but I've hemmed and hawed over these for a good while. Narrowing the field down to 10 games wasn't easy, nor was trying to figure out what to write for each contest. Hopefully it will stir up some thought and discussion.

Best Games I Know
Mets vs Braves

#10 (May 12, 1962 G1, G2) The First Walk-Offs

Wins number 6 and 7 in Mets history were the first walk-off wins for this franchise in regular-season play. That they got a pair on the same date via walk-off home runs by Hobie Landrith (off Hall of Famer and future Met Warren Spahn) and (should-be Hall of Famer) Gil Hodges was rather neat and rather historic. It was the first time that both games of a doubleheader ended in that fashion, a feat that has only been repeated twice since.

True Metophiles know...Warren Spahn allowed 17 home runs in his brief tenure as a Met in 1965. None were walk-offs, but eight were to future members of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Willie Mays, Tony Perez, Jim Bunning, Lou Brock, Eddie Mathews, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Don Drysdale)

#9 (April 10, 2005) Willie's A Winner

The malaise that was the Art Howe era (error) hung over the Mets at the start of the 2005 season under new manager Willie Randolph, whose club lost a disastrous contest against the Reds, on Opening Day, then dropped four more heading into the season's first Sunday. They were behind 1-0 and five outs away from falling to 0-6 when Carlos Beltran rescued them, with a sudden two-run swat against masterful John Smoltz (15 of the Braves 18 strikeouts that day), propelling the team to a 6-1 win. Pedro Martinez pitched a gem, a 2-hitter for his first Mets win, and Randolph was able to smoke his victory cigar for the first time.

True Metophiles know... The Mets are 2-0 when striking out at least 18 times in a regular-season game.

#8 (1999 NLCS Game 4) They Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night

The 1999 Mets would not go out with a whimper into the October night, despite the potential to be swept away, after back-to-back home runs in the top of the 8th put the Mets behind. Most remember John Olerud's hit to get the Mets back the lead, but remember that it was made possible by one of the smartest and most underrated plays in team history, a double steal of second and third by Melvin Mora and Roger Cedeno to give them a chance to regain that advantage.

True Metophiles know...That John Olerud's go-ahead single nicked the glove of a future major-league manager of prominence, Ozzie Guillen.

#7 (1969 NLCS Game 1 and 2) One Brave Barrage

The inaugural postseason victories for a franchise known most notably for its great pitching were won with a strong offensive attack. The Mets took advantage of two Braves 8th-inning miscues to score five runs and post a come-from-behind 9-5 triumph for Tom Seaver (21-7 as a Met against the Braves) in the opener. They then scored in each of the first five innings of Game 2 on the way to an 11-6 rout. This was part of a series in which the Mets hit .327 as a team (85 points better than its regular-season average) with six home runs, five stolen bases, and 27 runs scored, somewhat reminiscent of the current pace the 2007 squad is on.

True Metophiles know... That the three professional New York franchises that I root for (Knicks, Rangers, Mets) have all swept a team from Atlanta in a postseason series.

#6 (July 4, 1985) What the Hell is Going On?

The title is in reference to one hand-crafted sign, shown on television in this insane affair, one that lasted 19 innings and ended at 4 am. When John Sterling tells you "This must go down as the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history," we can tell you he wasn't speaking with his usual dose of hyperbole. It was wacky, wild, and crazy, not to mention part of a win streak that eventually reached eight games. The 16-13 victory featured 46 hits, 22 walks, 37 men left on base, a cycle, four players registering 10 at bats, two rain delays, and two extra-inning game-tying home runs over 6 hours and 10 minutes of playing time. Oh, and let's make sure to note that one of those home runs came from (recently convicted) Braves relief pitcher Rick Camp, a guy who started his career with 3 hits in his first 110 (!) at bats, and at the time of his two-strike, two-out 18th inning clout, was actually on a 1-for-25 hot streak.

True Metophiles know...The 5 runs that the Mets scored in the 19th inning is a major-league record for runs specifically scored in the 19th inning.

#5 (July 17, 1973) Ya Gotta Believe

The "other" dramatic late-inning comeback against the Braves, less remembered because it happened so long ago. On this particular day, the cellar-dwelling Mets trailed 7-1 in the 9th inning in Atlanta but rallied for seven runs. Home runs by Rusty Staub and John Milner ignited the rally. A single by Jim Beauchamp tied the score with two outs in the 9th and Willie Mays followed with the go-ahead single to right. Harry Parker closed the Braves out in the home half to earn his second save and the Ya Gotta Believers had an unlikely 8-7 triumph.

True Metophiles know...That the Mets starting pitcher in this game was none other than "Ya Gotta Believe" inspirer Tug McGraw. It was the first of two starts by McGraw that season.

#4 (June 30, 2000) The Comeback

To paraphrase Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip "This is my year..." and the Mets weren't about to let anybody else from the National League use it for their purposes. Sure the Braves may have won the division but the Mets had the satisfaction of this victory, the comeback from an 8-1 deficit in the 8th inning capped by Edgardo Alfonzo's two-run single and Mike Piazza's go-ahead home run.

True Metophiles know... That three of the Braves starting infielders that day had a Mets connection. First baseman Andres Galarraga was a spring invitee in 2005, second baseman Quilvio Veras was a Mets prospect, eventually traded for Carl Everett, and third baseman Bobby Bonilla played for the Mets, though most of us prefer to forget that

#3 (1969 NLCS Game 3) National League Champs

The clinching victory in the Mets three-game sweep of the Braves has the distinction of being Nolan Ryan's best moment as a Met. Called on for heavy-duty relief work with runners on second and third and nobody out in the third inning, and the Mets trailing, 2-0, Ryan escaped that jam, then pitched the next six innings, yielding only two runs and retiring Moises' father, Felipe Alou as the tying run to close out the Braves final threat of the series in the 8th inning. The offensive star of this series were rather unlikely fellows, second baseman Ken Boswell and rookie third baseman Wayne Garrett, who had shown a knack all season for hitting with men on base (.327 batting average in such situations for Boswell, and a .290 batting average with runners in scoring position for Garrett). Boswell hit .333 in the series, and nearly matched his regular-season tally of three home runs by hitting a pair, including one in this clinching game. Garrett hit .385 and did match his regular-season home run output with the shot that put the Mets ahead for good in this contest.

True Metophiles know...That the Mets hit .256 with runners on base and .263 with runners in scoring position that season, both significantly better than the .231 they posted in situations with nobody on base.

#2 (September 21, 2001) One Powerful Moment

There was a little trepidation when it came to deciding whether I'd go to the first Mets game back in New York after the September 11 attack, but in the end, it was totally worth it. It was worth it because it was important for the city. It was worth it because it was good to feel good about baseball again. And it was worth it because it was good to believe in something magical, even just for a few moments. That was the power of Mike Piazza's go-ahead 8th inning home run, giving the Mets a truly meaningful come-from-behind victory.

True Metophiles know... Mike Piazza hit 7 go-ahead home runs for the Mets against the Braves. This was the only one of those to come in the 8th inning or later and the only one that came with the Mets trailing at the time.

#1 (1999 NLCS Game 5) What More Can I Say?

Read this, for now, because it's better than anything else I could write about this game:

True Metophiles know...That the Mets have played regular-season games of 19, 17, 16 and 14 innings against the Braves, but only in the postseason have they played a 15-inning game against them.


Anonymous said…
What?!? No reference to a Boston Market trip just ahead of "The Comback"?
Anonymous said…
It doesn't qualify if you're only looking for Mets wins (and I wouldn't blame you if you were), but as far as best games, there has to be room made for Game Six, '99 NLCS. It is, in this reporter's opinion, the best game ever. And we lost.

For symbolism, one could delve a little into the semi-magical year of 2006, Pedro's 200th win (set the tone) and the sweep in Atlanta at the end of July (slammed the door). I'd take either of them over Willie's first win, though that's a pretty decent choice.

Others off the top of one's head:

--The thrashing of closer John Smoltz in Atlanta in early 2002 (4/6)

--A thrilling extra-inning win at Shea that same month (4/15...a WALKOFF no less)

--Super hot nationally televised comeback versus Smoltz; Bonilla shouted at Valentine before game, ensuring his DL'ing (7/4/99)

--The attack on Greg Maddux culminating in Olerud grand slam (9/28/99)

--Opening Nights at the Ted in 2001 (Robin two homers) and 2004 (Kaz leadoff HR)

--The Carter assault on David Palmer (and then he throws at Strawberry) 7/11/86

--Culmination of pursuit of .500, 43-43 by beating Braves two of three (7/17/80)

--The Jerry Ford/Bruce Boisclair walkoff (4/27/76)

--18 runs scored (8/14/79)

--31 runs scored in a doubleheader (7/20/85)

--Mets peak at 12-19, eighth place with three-game winning streak, no less (5/20/62)

--Cangelosi/Smoltz brawl (5/14/94)

And so on. Lots of Mets-Braves history. Wish more of it was better.

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