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The Best Games I Know: Mets vs Diamondbacks

As I previously mentioned, one of my goals this offseason is to produce a series of essays spotlighting the Mets best wins in the history of their rivalry against every NL opponent. The "pilot episode" of these pieces ran on October 9, just before the start of the NLCS between the Mets and the Cardinals and can be found at this link

http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2006/10/best-games-i-know-mets-vs-cardinals.html

I shall update that to include this year's postseason games in due time, but have decided to proceed first in alphabetical order by team name (not nickname) and that means that we commence with a look at the brief history of victories against the Arizona Diamondbacks. I will try to write these on a regular basis, which means that hopefully you'll see one per week during the winter.

I have made a list of those wins which I felt rated as the best. As previously stated, the criteria for picking was simple: If I felt it belonged on the list, it made it. I will do a Top 10 wins for every team and that's harder for the Diamondbacks because there are only 40 games from which to choose. I may have wrongfully included and excluded...that's up for you to decide. Hopefully you'll enjoy the stroll down memory lane.

#10 Pratt at the Bat (May 6, 1998)

Originally, I was going to make this list fewer than 10 games, because the Diamondbacks have not been around long enough to have that many extraordinarily satisfying defeats suffered at Mets hands. But then, I felt that creativity should prevail over brevity, so I've provided a full list. We start with this game, for no good reason in particular other than that it ranks as Todd Pratt's second-best moment against the Diamondbacks, when he hit his first and only Mets triple as part of a seven-run 8th inning in an 8-2 victory. And what could be more satisfying than a scoreless inning from Mel Rojas, who earned the win?

True Metophiles know...Mel Rojas had a 19.64 ERA in his final 5 appearances with the Mets, a number that corresponds with the year in which Shea Stadium opened. In his defense, it should be noted that Rojas pitched in 73 games for the Mets and in 44, he was credited with scoreless work.

#9 El Duque's Revenge (June 8, 2006)

Orlando Hernandez was traded to the Mets on May 24, 2006. Two weeks later, he was back in Arizona, pitching against the team that decided it no longer wanted him. Hernandez pitched angry that evening, in his finest hour as a 2006 Met. He yielded only a harmless 9th inning run and the Mets put this game away early with a run in the first and four runs in the third, for a very satisfying 7-1 triumph.

True Metophiles know...Orlando Hernandez is one of 24 players to have played for both the Mets and Diamondbacks at some point in their major-league careers

#8 Broadcaster Jealousy (August 25, 2005)

By circumstance, I had the chance to watch the Diamondbacks broadcast feed of this particular contest in Arizona and as Pedro Martinez's no-hit bid stretched into the sixth inning, it became clear that the announcing team of Thom Brennaman and Mark Grace was jealous of Martinez's potential to make history. Grace began taunting Pedro from the broadcast booth in a rather abhorent display. With one out in the 6th, Luis Gonzalez got a hit, much to their delight. The Mets got the last laugh with a 3-1 win. I wonder if these jokers were chuckling at the 37-9 bulge that the Mets put up against their team in the 2006 trip to Phoenix.

True Metophiles know...That the only pitcher to strike Mark Grace out three times in a major league game is Sid Fernandez, who did so for the Mets on August 10, 1990. Grace made contact the fourth time up but popped up meekly to the catcher to conclude Fernandez's complete-game win.

#7 Tom Glavine is actually good? (May 12, 2004)

There was a rumor going around that Tom Glavine actually used to be a good pitcher, but after an incomprehensible disaster of a 2003 season, few Mets fans would have believed it (some still don't). Glavine started off the 2004 season with the mission of recapturing his past success. He opened 6-2 and among the wins was a 1-0 triumph over Randy Johnson in Arizona, powered by Kaz Matsui's leadoff home run. Glavine allowed only 3 hits in 7 2/3 shutout innings. Though he reverted back to form by season's end (finishing up 11-14), Glavine showed at least a few flashes of brilliance, setting up much better campaigns in 2005 and 2006.

True Metophiles know...That the Mets have three shutouts against the Diamondbacks, with two of them coming by 1-0 scores.

#6 Game 3, 1999 NLDS (October 8)

This is the forgotten game of the 1999 playoffs because of the ease of victory, but I'll remember it well because my dad and I were in attendance. The Mets blew this game open with a six-run sixth, with the key hits being a pair of two-run singles by lefthanded swingers John Olerud and Darryl Hamilton against lefthander Dan Plesac. Orel Hershiser, of all people, ended up closing out a 9-2 Mets win.

True Metophiles know...That the biggest margin of victory by the Mets in a playoff game is 7 runs. They've won by 7 on 3 occasions- Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS (also, 9-2), Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS (7-0) and Game 3 of the 1999 NLDS.

#5 Randy Ain't so Dandy (August 25, 2000)

The Arizona Diamondbacks were the Mets closest competitors in the wild card race at this point in the season and the Mets needed to deliver a knockout punch to a team coming off a 3-game sweep by the Brewers. The Flushing denizens delivered with a 13-3 pummeling of Randy Johnson, who went whiff-less in 2 1/3 innings, allowing six runs. Impressive for the Mets, who took two of three in the series, was that they pounded out 16 hits and put up 13 runs, despite not hitting a home run.

True Metophiles know...That twice in their history, the Mets have scored as many as 15 runs without hitting a home run, with the more recent occurrence coming on June 11, 2006, in a 15-2 win over these Diamondbacks. The other was in a 15-6 win over the Giants on August 27, 1997.

#4 Pitchers Duel Extraordinaire (May 31, 2006)

For 3 hours and 19 minutes I sat riveted at Shea Stadium by the work of Pedro Martinez and Brandon Webb, both basically flawless with Webb going 7 innings and Pedro tossing 8 scoreless. The bullpens enchanted us as well, in particular Duaner Sanchez and his three frames of runless work. In the last of the 13th, Endy Chavez had his second-finest moment of the season, lining a single to score Jose Valentin and end a 1-0 win that was as thrilling as if the score had been 10-9.

True Metophiles know...That this was the 100th and likely last decision in the major league career of Jason Grimsley, who, if finished, ended with a career record of 42-58

#3 Little Joe, the Dynamo (May 21, 2000)

I always liked Joe McEwing the Met because he was smart and scrappy. I also lived in the same town he did, for a time, in Yardley, Pa. and respected how he once signed autographs (two for me) to benefit the Bucks County Historical Society. I also liked him because he hit Randy Johnson hard. In this game, McEwing knocked Johnson for three hits, including a game-tying home run, and scored the winning run on Derek Bell's walk-off hit in the bottom of the 9th. The Mets rallied from deficits of 1-0, 3-2, 5-3 and 6-5 to win, 7-6.

True Metophiles know...That McEwing's success against Randy Johnson didn't last, as his career batting average against Johnson has plummeted to .250. But it's also worth noting that he's 5-for-10 in his career against Kenny Rogers.

#2 Game 1, 1999 NLDS (October 5)

Just 24 hours after dispatching the Reds in a one-game playoff, the Mets had to go up against Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks in the opener of the NLDS. True pro Edgardo Alfonzo may have hit only .260 in his Mets postseason career, but just about every one of his 26 hits was clutch. That includes the first-inning home run that got the game going in the right direction, and the ninth inning go-ahead grand slam off Bobby Chouinard that put the Mets in line for an 8-4 triumph. And let's give properly due credit to the Mets bullpen, which pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings after Luis Gonzalez tied the game with a home run in the sixth.

True Metophiles know...Randy Johnson went three full regular seasons (from 1998 to 2000) without giving up a home run to a lefthanded hitter, but southpaw John Olerud tagged him for a home run in the third inning of this game.

#1 Game 4, 1999 NLDS (October 9)

The Greatest Game I Never Saw had a lot of Metmorable moments, even if you subtract Todd Pratt's series-winning home run in the last of the 1oth. They included fine pitching over 7 2/3 innings by Al Leiter, another home run by Alfonzo, a throw-out at the plate by left fielder Melvin Mora, a rally to tie in the 8th on Roger Cedeno's sacrifice fly. And think about this: If Steve Finley had Endy Chavez's leaping ability, Todd Pratt might become about as well known in Mets lore as Joe Pignatano.

True Metophiles know...That Pratt actually set up his walk-off moment by grounding into a fielder's choice with the score tied in the 8th inning, in which John Olerud was thrown out at the plate.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Nice work squeezing in the blowouts as part of a larger narrative. And kudos for remembering the lesser known Tank job of 1998. I was at that game. He was just back from his banishment to Norfolk. The scoreboard put up a big TANK in his triple's honor. To that point, his nickname wasn't really publicly known. Also, there was a rain delay and DVision treated us to the Rey O video, featuring Cookie Rojas chatting us up while Rey showed you kids how to make spectacular plays. Rey didn't say much, we thought, because he didn't speak English. Turns out he just thought we were stupid.

For parallel purposes, worst loss to D'Backs ever: Game 1 of what I'm thinking is the only doubleheader the two teams have played, August 3, 2002. Craig Counsell homers off Armando Benitez to tie it in the ninth after a Fonzie dinger put Mets ahead in the eighth. Mets lose in ten. Wild Card chase ends before the second game (for which EVERYBODY cleared out) commences. Begins the winless home August. And, for all intents and purposes, ends the Bobby Valentine era as we knew and treasured it.

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Alright, so it's 2 days later and the challenge for me now, after reading through about a dozen game stories and listening to talk radio, is to provide a fresh perspective on walk-off #324. If you're going to be a serious reader of this blog, you know what happened already, so let's look at what made this particular walk-off stand out. It would seem that the place to start is with the idea that everything broke just right on both sides of the ball. Particularly, I'm talking about Carlos Beltran's catch in the 7th inning, where he went over the center field fence to rob Jose Molina of a home run. Every no-hitter seems to have one defensive gem that makes it possible and perhaps that's true of great walk-off moments as well (We'll be looking into that!) Marlon Anderson's home run required a remarkable combination of events. It was only the sixth inside-the-park home run at Shea Stadium by a Met and the first since Darryl Strawberry in 1989. It required t