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The Best Games I Know: Giants

The fourth installment of our series, "The Best Games I Know," celebrating the greatest wins in Mets history. This one covers the Giants. I cheated a little bit here, in order to fit more games on the list, by grouping selected games together under a common theme. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section

#10 (April 23, 24, 25, 1965) Hope Springs Eternal

The good feelings that came with the start of the 1965 baseball season lasted two weeks longer than any Mets season previous. In other words, they lasted for two weeks. The reason for that was the way the Mets performed in winning three of four games against a San Francisco squad that feel just short of the pennant. The manner in which they won- triumphs of 9-8, 7-6 and 4-3 rivaled anything that the club has already done in its extraordinary early 2007 triumphs.

The 9-8 victory required a comeback from 6 runs down against future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, including a 4-run rally in the 9th. The 7-6 win required a similar such 9th inning burst with pinch-hitter Danny Napoleon playing the Damion Easley role by lashing a 3-run, 2-out, 2-strike triple to put the Mets ahead (Casey Stengel, celebrated in the clubhouse by yelling "Vive La France!" then learned afterwards that it was his 3,000th pro managerial victory). The 4-3 triumph was one for the ages, an early birthday present for soon-to-turn-44-year-old complete-game tosser Warren Spahn.

"Where will it all end?" The New York Times asked as the Mets stood a respectful 6-7 after 13 games.

The Mets were within an out of .500 in Houston 2 nights later when the earth returned to spinning on its normal axis. A fly ball, lost in the room turned into a game-losing two-run double. The 1965 Mets finished a very familiar 50-112.

True Metophiles know...The Giants record for consecutive wins against the Mets is 9 games, done twice. The first time began immediately following this series, and ran from June 8-August 27, 1965. The second streak ran from August 27, 2001 to May 16, 2003.

#9 (May 15, 1987) When Fat(e) Intervened

He would have done it, I swear. If Sid Fernandez had not suffered bodily harm he would have thrown a no-hitter that day. He had one for five innings against the Giants but the physical damage of the portly southpaw hitting a triple in the fourth proved to much to bear. Doug Sisk relieved and the no-hitter was "poof" one-third of the way into the sixth. The one consolation: beating Mike Krukow, who beat the 1986 squad 4 times, 8-3, with home runs from Len Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson. As a Giant, Krukow went 11-4 against the Mets, but this was not one of his better days.

True Metophiles know...Sid Fernandez's other triple came on August 17, 1985, in a 4-3 win over the Pirates. Fernandez ranks tied with Ron Darling for third place on the Mets pitchers all-time triples list with 2.

#8 (August 31, 1990) A Rally Good Time
An improbable rally- three runs with two outs in the bottom of the 9th- made all the more improbable by the coincidence of the Pirates giving up three runs with two outs in the bottom of the 9th against the Astros. Back-to-back singles by Howard Johnson and Kevin McReynolds brought in the tying and winning runs, made a winner of Frank Viola, and pushed the Mets to within 1/2 a game of first place.

Read about it here:

True Metophiles know... The win capped a month in which the Mets got 3 wins in games in which they got a game-tying RBI with 2 outs in the 9th inning.

#7 (September 1, 1985) The 'Mex'ster is Out of the Cage
"Can one swing turn around a hitter? Absolutely." That was the question asked and answered by Keith Hernandez on page 341 of the paperback edition of his book, If At First, after this game.

Hernandez ended August in a 1-for-17 funk and if the Mets wanted to have any shot at the division title in 1985, they needed a great September from Hernandez. But with his best hitter struggling and lefty Dave Lapoint on the mound in San Francisco, Davey Johnson opted to bench Hernandez for that day's game. He saved him for when he was needed most.

That happened to be with Mookie Wilson representing the tying run on second base, with one out in the ninth inning and Giants reliever Mark Davis (whom the Mets beat 3 times that season) on to try to preserve a 3-2 lead. Hernandez fell behind, 1-2, guessed curveball, and guessed right. He cranked an upper-deck home run, putting the Mets ahead for an eventual 4-3 victory.

"The swing today may be the best I've ever executed," Hernandez wrote. It got him back on track. He went 5-for-5 the next game against the Padres and ended up hitting .395 combined in his final 32 games. The Mets didn't win the division, but Hernandez did everything he could to give them a chance.

True Metophiles know...On 14 occasions, a reliever has lost 3 games to the Mets in a season, but the only one to lose 4 is Jeff Shaw (1998).

#6 (May 30, 1986) A Giant Mixup

For those unfamilar, I've referenced this game, a personal favorite, a couple of times in blogging. This is the "other" game that the '86 Mets won on a walk-off error in the 10th inning, a dropped popup as the result of a collision between Giants second baseman Robby Thompson and shortstop Jose Uribe. It was a fascinating game, one in which the lead changed hands four times. It's importance on the non-existant pennant race was minimal, but its impact on my life was what I consider significant. You can read about it here:

True Metophiles know...The only time the Mets lost to the Giants on a walk-off error was August 14, 1971. The miscue was made by pitcher Charlie Williams, who was traded to the Giants the next season for Willie Mays.

#5 (May 29 and August 24, 1973) Giant-Sized Believers
How do you win a pennant? Win games like these two improbable triumphs. May 29 featured a 16 K gem by Seaver (who homered in the game), which would have been a 2-1 loss were it not for a 4-run rally in the 9th. August 24 was a 1-0 10-inning walk-off against Juan Marichal in which the key play, prior to Felix Millan's game-winning hit, was a sacrifice bunt by a man with 660 career home runs, Willie Mays.

True Metophiles know... Seaver and Dwight Gooden share the Mets record for most strikeouts in a game against the Giants. Gooden had 16 on August 20, 1985, topping a 14 K game he had against them on May 30, 1985...Willie Mays had 13 career sacrifice bunts, including four in his final two seasons as a member of the Mets.

#4 (June 14, 1980) Hendu For a Home Run

The signature win for the "Miserable Mets" (circa 1977-1983), who for a very brief period during the 1980 season gave the fans a sense of hope that had been missing for a long time. This was one of the first games we blogged about, a five-run bottom-of-the-ninth rally, capped by Steve Henderson's first home run of the year, a 3-run shot that gave the Mets a 7-6 victory.

Henderson recalled that game, on the 25th anniversary of its occurrence, here:

True Metophiles know...Steve Henderson ended up going 5-for-6 in his career against Allen Ripley and hit for the "career cycle," with 2 singles, a double, a triple, and the home run against him.

#3 (May 14, 1972) The A'Mays'in Met

It wasn't a walk-off, though it might as well have been, since the drama was just as great for this moment, as a game-ender.

New York Times writer Joe Durso referred to this 5-4 victory as a "far-fetched" soap opera and perhaps "Another World" would have been the appropriate title. After an early 4-0 lead, courtesy of a Rusty Staub slump-snapping grand slam, was erased by a four-run Giants comeback, Willie Mays, playing in his first game since being traded to the Mets, lined a go-ahead home run off Don Carrithers in the fifth inning. Neither team would score again, meaning that Mays actions had prompted victory against the team for whom he had played the previous 20-plus years.

True Metophiles know...Willie Mays had 2 walk-off hits in his career against the Mets, a home run in 1962 and a single in 1968

#2 (August 19, 1969) Agee Whiz

The signature game (yes, I like that phrase) of the 1969 refuse-to-lose Mets (or, for those who prefer, "Miracle Mets") was this 1-0, 14-inning squeaker against the Giants and Juan Marichal. The Mets never beat Marichal, but this game was the rarest of exceptions, one in which Gary Gentry and Tug McGraw combined to hold Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey to 0-for-17 at the plate, an extraordinary accomplishment often overlooked because of the way this game ended- with Tommie Agee smacking a home run off Marichal in the last of the 14th.

True Metophiles know...Including the postseason, the Mets have shut out the Giants 41 times. Likewise, the Giants have recorded 41 shutouts against the Mets.

#1 (2000 NLDS G2, G3, G4) Each One Better Than The Last

Chances are, if you've read this far, that you're quite familiar with Games 2, 3 and 4 of the 2000 NLDS between the Mets and the Giants, so I'll keep the details minimal and the perspective unusual.

Did you know that Barry Bonds was the final out of each of these three games? As Gary Cohen pointed out in Monday's telecast, Bonds was frozen by a John Franco changeup to close Game 2. He popped out to Edgardo Alfonzo just prior to Benny Agbayani's walk-off home run in Game 3. And, he made the final out of the series by flying out to Jay Payton to end Game 4.

Even though Game 3 of this series was a Saturday, I've always associated it with "Thank God It's Friday." That's where I was eating when Edgardo Alfonzo got the oft-forgotten game-tying hit off Giants closer Robb Nen in the bottom of the 8th inning. I scurried to work in time to see the contest's conclusion and had the pleasure of standing next to a Phillies fan when Benny Agbayani hit his walk-off home run. "Don't you think the Mets celebration was a little excessive?" he asked. I couldn't answer. I was too busy running victory laps around our newsroom.

In regards to Game 4, I spoke to someone with a strong connection to that game, from the losing end, and when I asked about Bobby Jones' near-perfect clinching performance, he huffed. "Jones had nothing that day." Actually, I think the more appropriate term for the one-hitter, the best-pitched Mets game I've seen in person, would be "almost nothing."

True Metophiles know...That since the LDS was resumed, the 2000 Mets hold the NL record for most consecutive scoreless innings thrown in a series, with 18 (spanning Game 3 and 4). The AL record is 20, set last season, by the Tigers against the Yankees.


Anonymous said…
Great list. Hard to boil it down to 10 after 45 intermittently eventful seasons of this quasi-rivalary, but just keeping within the realm of what's been chosen, I'd add an addendum to your No. 8 pick: The next day brought the Met debuts of pennant-push pickups Tommy Herr, Charlie O'Brien and, most forebodingly, Julio Valera. It was a very successful bow for all of them as the Mets defeated the Giants again, 6-5, but it signaled the coming end of the greatest era in the history of Mets baseball, with Valera replacing Ron Darling in the rotation and Cardinal villain Tommy Herr donning blue and orange. Those two developments as much as anything said the Doc-Darryl-Davey days were truly becoming part of the past. By the next summer, Buddy Harrelson's Mets would be making no 1990-like lunge at Pittsburgh and the horrific makeover that sunk the Mets for another five years was just around the corner.

But we did win 6-5.
Anonymous said…
A very quick and highly incomplete WORST Mets-Giants games primer:

--That four-game sweep on the first trip to Pac Bell in 2000, including a great catch by Jay Payton, a McCovey Cove bouncer by Jon Nunnally and Mike Hampton wandering the streets of San Francisco

--Piazza going down with that nasty leg injury in '03

--David Cone taking a ball off the finger while bunting in '87 (we won, but at what cost?)

--Frank Tanana doesn't get the first no-hitter in Mets history, 1993 (we won, but it was 1993)

--The miserable three-game sweep to start the home schedule in 1997

--Pulling a triple play but losing in the heat of summer, 1998

--Ed Halicki no-hitter, 1975

--Doubleheader sweep on a Sunday in August 1984 (Bob Brenley homered, I recall)

--Kaz Matsui ruins a rally in the first game of a time-lapsed doubleheader at Shea, June 2005

--Oliver Perez and Lino Urdaneta scorched for nine runs in the fifth inning, May 7, 2007 (too soon?)
metswalkoffs said…
G-FAFIF also sent this, which I thought was post-worthy too

Nice esoteric list, reflective of the Mets-Giants erratic relationship over the years. You know my feelings on 6/14/80. You also stumbled into two games that will show up in one form or another over the next two Fridays.

But there are so many others that I think this exercise requires an alternate Top 10 (a couple of losses included because they're too historic to be ignored). No particular order.

A Doubleheader of Some Length...

Pre-Catch, A Met Icon's Finest Hour...

A Newie But Goodie...

A Record Breaker and a Walkoff on Successive Nights...

A Lost Classic (and personal favorite; Fonzie's return, Bonds 2 HRs, Heilman perseveres) plus a big return the next night...

Tied and Won in Powerful Fashion (I listened to the end while at the movies; "Defending Your Life")...

Not a thrilling result, but an eventful boxscore, considering who our leftfielder is today...

First time two teams that each called a ballpark home played each other there in the regular season...

One Superstar's Coming Out Party, One Immortal's Business As Usual (most exciting game of a dark era)...

Amazin' If Forgotten (check out somebody's hustle in the eighth to put up the first run; it was breezy)
Anonymous said…
I was at that Bobby Jones Giants playoff one-hitter. He had nothing. The Giants hit more line drives and one-hoppers right at people than anybody had a right to hope for. At one point the Giants put two on with (I think) one out in the 4th. I honestly thought the Mets were done. But the Giants just kept hitting 'em at people.

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