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The Best Sacrifice Flies I Know

Have a little time to spare (or sacrifice) away from the rumors of the Winter Meetings (most of which won't come true anways). If so, saddle up for our lengthy look here at the most Metmorable of the Mets 2,074 (regular and postseason combined) sacrifice flies.

The First (April 11, 1962)

The Mets trailed their first-ever game, 2-0 in the third inning when they staged the first rally in team history. Charlie Neal got the team on the board with an RBI single, and then with one out and runners on the corners, Frank Thomas delivered the first 'clutch' play in Mets history, putting himself into the history books with a fly ball to center that scored Felix Mantilla.

The score was tied. The Mets had hope. The Mets had life.

The Mets had very little. They'd lose to the Cardinals, 11-4. Their next sac fly didn't come for another week.

True Metophiles know...Ed Kranepool holds the Mets career record with sacrifice flies with 58, though David Wright (38) is gaining fast.

The Standard Setter (August 3, 1963)

There have been 19 different members of the Mets who hit two sacrifice flies in one game.

Someone had to be first to achieve that milestone of distinction, and in this case, the honor falls to Jesse Gonder.

Despite never hitting more than seven home runs in any season in his career as a backup catcher, Gonder was good enough to hit cleanup on this day against the Milwaukee Braves, wedged between power hitters Duke Snider and Frank Thomas.

Gonder had a pretty good day at the plate, extending his hit streak to 13 games, and even his first couple of outs were productive. Gonder extended a 4-1 lead by a run with one sacrifice fly, then cut an 8-6 deficit to one run with his second.

By the end, the good fortune caught up to Gonder and his teammates, who squandered a sizable advantage. With the team down 10-7 in the ninth, Gonder popped into a game-ending double play. As Gordon White of the New York Times wrote: "Give the Mets half a chance and they'll turn a possible victory into a sure defeat."

True Metophiles know...Four Mets have had multiple games of two sacrifice flies: Cleon Jones, Howard Johnson, Danny Heep, and Edgardo Alfonzo.

Two For One (July 17, 1964)
There are very few things that have happened ONCE in Mets history, but after checking thru Baseball-Reference's archives, I've found only one instance in which a Met received two RBI for hitting a sacrifice fly. It came against a Cardinals team that won a World Series title that year, and versus a pitcher, Mike Cuellar, whom the Mets would see in their first World Series appearance five years down the road.

Jesse Gonder was the batsman in this case as well, though newspaper reports indicate that the major credit belonged to the runner on second base, Joe Christopher. Gonder flied to center field, an estimated 420 feet from home plate, with runners on second and third and one out in the seventh inning. Christopher ran hard all the way, never stopped, and was able to beat the subsequent throw home. Of course, the Mets still lost, 9-8

True Metophiles know...Gil Hodges has the single-season mark for most sacrifice flies,with 19 in 1954 (the first year they were officially tallied in the current manner). Former Met Bobby Bonilla is tied for third-most with 17.

One And Only (June 6, 1967, August 26, 1968; July 27, 1972, April 29, 1973, Oct 1, 1982, May 10, 1993)

The Mets have won five games, 1-0, in which their only run came via sacrifice fly. A quick review of this quintet:

1967- The Mets won a pair in extra innings on the road against the Pirates, beating closer Roy Face on both occasions. In the first win, it took Ken Boyer's sacrifice fly to snap a 27-inning scoreless drought and give the Mets a 1-0 win. The second featured some power from Ron Swoboda, who hit the ball a little bit further for a game-winning home run off Face in the 10th.

1968- Jim McAndrew's first major league win didn't come easily. It required his pitching a shutout on the road against the defending champion Cardinals, and beating future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in the process. The lone run, set up by Tommie Agee's steal of third base with one out, came on a Cleon Jones sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.

The McAndrew bio in the must-read new book The Miracle Has Landed recounts how McAndrew got no run support (as in none whatsoever) in the first four starts of his major league career. One run in start number six must have felt like a windfall.

1972- The Mets managed 11 hits, but had only one in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, which explains why it took a Wayne Garrett 10th inning sacrifice fly for Jon Matlack to beat the Pirates, 1-0.

1973- Jerry Koosman spoiled Hank Aaron Poster Day in Atlanta, beating the Braves, 1-0, on a second-inning sacrifice fly by Jerry Grote. The Mets had all sorts of issues early in 1973, but you couldn't blame them on Koosman, who, to this point, was 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA.

1982- We'll get to this one shortly...

1993- The stench of this season was tempered ever-so-briefly for one of Bret Saberhagen's finest Mets outings- a three-hit shutout of the expansion Marlins. The Mets got all the run(s) they would need on Eddie Murray's sacrifice fly, which scored Vince (ugh) Coleman.

True Metophiles know...Mets who had a sac fly for their only Met RBI: Ben Johnson, Pete Harnisch, Jeff Gardner, Mario Diaz, and Ike (not Mike) Hampton.

Postseason (Assorted Dates)
The most significant postseason sacrifice flies in Mets history...

1969
The first run the Mets ever scored in a World Series game came via sacrifice fly. Al Weis, who would make a significant impact later in the series, brought it home with the Mets trailing the Orioles, 4-0, in the seventh inning of the opener. It would be the Mets only run of the game.

1986

The sacrifice fly played an extremely important role in helping the Mets garner their second World Series title.

Ray Knight's ninth-inning sacrifice fly after an epic at-bat against Dave Smith, capped the Mets three-run rally that tied Game 6 against the Astros and forced extra innings. Knight, thought by Astros catcher Alan Ashby to have been struck out earlier in the at-bat, got more than enough on Smith's pitch to drive the ball to right center field, allowing Keith Hernandez to score the tying run. Knight would bring home the go-ahead pennant clinching run seven innings later.

Because of how the 10th inning went, few probably remember that the Mets tied Game 6 of the 1986 World Series on an eighth-inning sacrifice fly by Gary Carter. It was a bit of an oddity in that it came on a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded, when a walk would have tied the game, but it was an effective maneuver nonetheless.

Knight would hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series, but Keith Hernandez would get a vital RBI in that frame too. With the Mets ahead, 5-3, Hernandez extended the lead with a sacrifice fly. That would grow in importance when the Red Sox rallied for two runs, but came a run shy of tying, in the top of the eighth.

1999

Oh, what could have been. Todd Pratt, already a hero in Mets history for his LDS-winning home run against the Diamondbacks and his game-tying walk in the 15th inning of Game 5 of the LCS, had one other big moment- a 10th inning go-ahead sacrifice fly in Game 6. It is forgotten in light of Armando Benitez giving the run back in the bottom of the 10th, and Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones with the bases loaded in the 11th to end the series.

True Metophiles know...The Mets are 1,103-710 all-time in games in which they get at least one sacrifice fly. That includes an 11-4 mark in postseason play.

The Most (July 26, 1967, September 23, 1972, June 24, 2005)

The Mets have had four sacrifice flies in a game on three occasions. You'll read about one later, and the first occurrence, that wasn't so much the story as it was rookie "prodigy" Tom Seaver (as the papers described him) gaining his 10th win of the season, in an 11-5 victory over the Giants. So we'll dwell on the second instance, from the close of the 1972 campaign, in which the sac flies were of greater significance.

The quartet of sac flies earned newspaper headlines, since it tied a league record, and the four fly balls were responsible for all but one of the Mets runs in a 5-3 triumph over the Phillies.

The Mets had six plate appearances in this game with a runner on third base and all five were productive. The only ones that didn't result in sac flies resulted in walks, which set up sacrifice flies. Kudos to Msrs. Jones, Staub, Garrett, and Dyer, for putting the team, and complete-game hurler Jon Matlack, in position to win.

True Metophiles know...The record for sacrifice flies by a team in a game against the Mets is four, set by the Giants, in a 9-1 win on August 29, 1987. Candy Maldonado had three in that game. He's the only player to have a three-sacrifice fly game against the Mets.

Ball on The Sacrifice (August 21, 1973 and September 7, 1973)

The Mets pennant push in 1973 would not have been complete without a pair of victories in which sacrifice flies were necessary to the outcome.

On August 21, 1973, they rallied from a 1-0 eighth-inning deficit to beat the Dodgers, 2-1, tying the game on Don Hahn's sacrifice fly in the eighth and winning on two walks and a John Milner single against Don Sutton in the ninth. The win also came via the sacrifice of spot starter Ray Sadecki, who pitched his first complete game in almost two years.

Hahn and Ray Sadecki were the key figures in the other sacrificial win, in the second game of a doubleheader in Montreal against the Expos. The Mets won Game 1, 1-0, with the only run scoring on Wayne Garrett's leadoff homer in the first. Game 2 would stretch out to 15 innings, with the Mets putting up three runs in the top of that final frame, the first on a sac fly by Hahn, and the last two on a single by Tug McGraw.

How did Sadecki figure in? Well, when McGraw, perhaps overexcited from his clutch hit and fatigued from getting the last out in Game 1, got into trouble in the home 15th, Sadecki bailed him out of a bases-loaded jam by whiffing Pepe Mangual and getting Felipe Alou on a flyout to end the game.

True Metophiles know: This great tidbit, which were alerted to via Baseball-Almanac.com:
"In 1973 Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds set a unique record of most at-bats (six-hundred eighty) without a single sacrifice fly. While that record has never been surpassed, odd enough it has been tied twice since then by Frank Taveras of the Pittsburgh Pirates / New York Mets in 1979 and Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins in 1986."

Surviving Seaver (August 23, 1981)

The Mets held their own in the 11 games in which Tom Seaver pitched against them, going a respectable 5-6. Seaver pitched really well in almost every one of those games, but sometimes the Mets were able to find a way against the Reds. Case in point was this contest, in which Seaver allowed two runs and four hits through nine innings, but got a no-decision.

The Mets denied Seaver a victory when they tied the score at 2-2, on Mike Jorgensen's sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. After Neil Allen escaped bases-loaded trouble in the Reds eighth inning, the Mets would push across the winning run in the 10th inning on a sacrifice fly by Bob Bailor.

True Metophiles know...The most career sacrifice flies by a Mets pitcher is 6, by Dwight Gooden.


Extra Good (April 28, 1982, September 3, 1983)

The Mets have won 21 extra-inning games in which the winning run scored on a sacrifice fly. The deepest they've ever had to sacrifice themselves to win an extra-inning game was the 15th inning, and it has happened on three occasions. We wrote about one previously a few paragraphs ago, so let us acknowledge the other two.

1982- The Mets got off to a good start under new skipper George Bamberger, and wins like this made you think they had something special in them (they didn't). This was a 15-inning triumph in San Diego, pushing the team's record to 10-8. Bob Bailor plated the winning tally with a sacrifice fly. Of note: The Mets held a Bonilla (Juan, not Bobby) to an 0-for-7 effort, and coaxed 11 shutout innings from their bullpen.

1983- Again it was the Mets and Padres, in a near-rerun of last year's struggle, except at this point in this season, both teams weren't any good. The Mets bullpen was again Amazin, for lack of a better word, credited with 8 2/3 scoreless innings. Tom Seaver started, but it was Brian Giles who finished, winning the game with a 15th-inning sacrifice fly.

True Metophiles know...The Mets are currently riding a six-game regular season win streak in games in which they get an SF (scoring abbreviation for sacrifice fly) in SF (San Francisco). Their last such loss in the regular season came on May 1, 2000.

One Hitter (October 1, 1982)

In this game against the Phillies, Terry Leach authored one of the most surprising pitching performances in Mets history, throwing 10 shutout one-hit innings to beat the Phillies. In their history, only six Mets pitchers have thrown a 10-inning shutout and you could argue that none have done it better than Leach. None have done it since Leach either, whose only blemish was a fifth-inning triple by future villain and third-base coach, Luis Aguayo.

Phillies starter John Denny authored a near-duplication of Leach's effort, yielding just a Dave Kingman second-inning single through the first nine frames. Joe Durso of the New York Times said that both men pitched as if it were a World Series game, impressive considering that it was only Leach's second major league start.

This was the third straight game in which the Mets would manage just one run. Leach's support system came on a Hubie Brooks sacrifice fly, scoring Dave Kingman. The Phillies would not score against the Mets starter in their half of the 10th, giving him a victory he'd always remember.

True Metophiles know: Mets who have led, or tied for the NL lead in sacrifice flies: David Wright (11, 2008), Carlos Delgado (10, 2006), Bernard Gilkey (12, 1997), Howard Johnson (15, 1991), and Gary Carter (15, 1986).

The Sacrifice Fly That Wasn't (June 6, 1984)

The Mets were supposed to lose this game, and a former Met was supposed to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. But Lee Mazzilli was ruled to have left third base too early, trying to tag up on Jason Thompson's fly ball to center field. A walk-off victory turned into humiliation and embarrassment for Mazzilli, who was called out when catcher Mike Fitzgerald threw to third baseman Hubie Brooks.

As it turned out, it would take awhile for the Mets to get the win. They had scored in the sixth inning on Darryl Strawberry's sacrifice fly, but wouldn't score again until the 13th Rod Scurry deprived Strawberry of a second potential sacrifice fly, by throwing a wild pitch that scored Wally Backman. The Mets would clinch the win when Mazzilli, representing the winning run in the bottom of the inning, popped out to end the game.

True Metophiles know...Andre Dawson's 17 sacrifice flies against the Mets are the most by any player, three ahead of Mike Schmidt's 14, which ranks second.


Those Wild And Crazy Games (May 30, 1986 and August 27, 1986)

Two of the most noteworthy games the Mets played during the 1986 regular season featured sacrifice flies as a key component, overshadowed by the manner in which the contest concluded.
The first was against the Giants, a game in which the Mets trailed by a run entering the bottom of the 10th. They would win when Jose Uribe and Robby Thompson collided while trying to catch a pop up, but before they could win, they'd tie the game, on Ray Knight's bases-loaded sacrifice fly.
The second came in San Diego and ended in the bottom of the 11th inning with Mets catcher John Gibbons tagging out a man at the plate, and then throwing to third base to complete a bizarre double play. The Mets had taken the lead in the top of the frame when Keith Hernandez followed singles by Len Dykstra and Wally Backman with a sacrifice fly against future Hall of Famer Rich Gossage.

True Metophiles know...The first Met with 10 sacrifice flies in a season was Keith Hernandez, with 10 in 1985. In 1986, Gary Carter broke that record, by hitting 15, a mark since tied by Howard Johnson in 1991.

How Many Chances Can You Get? (June 18, 1988)

The Mets and Phillies staged an epic clash on this date, one lasting 14 innings that neither team seemed to want to win. There were multiple instances in which the teams had chances for victory, and could not take advantage. Sacrifice flies played a key role.

The Phillies missed out in the top of the ninth when, with runners on the corners and one out, Von Hayes grounded into a fielders choice, and Chris James was thrown out at the plate. They'd fail again at getting a sacrifice fly with runners on the corners and no outs in the 10th, ending up with no runs in the process.

Not that the Mets weren't without baseball sin. Wally Backman was thrown out trying to score on a potential game-winning hit by Gary Carter to end the ninth, and the Mets went without sacrifice, and without runs, when they loaded the bases with no outs in the 12th.

The Phillies would take the lead on Steve Jeltz's sacrifice fly in the top of the 14th, but Carter, helped a wild pitch, tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the home half, and Keith Miller won it with an infield single, making the Mets 3-2 victors.

True Metophiles know...The most plate appearances by a Met without a sacrifice fly is 843 by Rod Kanehl.


End All, Be All (June 28, 1998)

The weirdest sacrifice fly in Mets history is probably this one, which concluded a 2-1 win against the Yankees in a Sunday night affair. Luis Lopez plated Carlos Baerga with the winning run, with a fly ball to right center, deep enough to score Baerga easily.

The victory was nearly spoiled by Brian McRae, who wandered aimlessly off first base and was nearly doubled off by Paul O'Neill's throw from right field. In fact, first base ump Bruce Dreckman, not realizing that the throw got past Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, initially called McRae out, creating a reasonable amount of brief confusion for those like myself who were watching from the stands.

True Metophiles know...The Mets have had 12 walk-off sacrifice flies, and they've come from 12 different players.

Three for All (June 24, 2005)

In the second inning of a 6-4 win over the Yankees, the Mets set a National League record and tied a major league mark with three sacrifice flies in the second inning, and tied the previously-mentioned team mark with four sac flies in a game.

How do you get three sacrifice flies in an inning? You do so via a scoring rule that allows the official scorer the discretion to award a sacrifice fly on a dropped fly ball, one that would have been a sacrifice fly had it been caught.

This rarity came about after the Mets loaded the bases on hits by Marlon Anderson and Doug Mientkiewicz (on a bunt!) sandwiched around a walk to David Wright. Ramon Castro scored Anderson with a fly ball to right field. Jose Reyes scored David Wright when his fly to center was muffed by Marlon Anderson. After another miscue on a pickoff attempt by Mike Mussina put runners on second and third, Mike Cameron's fly to right scored Mientkiewicz with the record-setting run.

The output produced a win for Willie Randolph in his first game managing at Yankee Stadium and snapped an 0-3 skid for Pedro Martinez in his previous six starts against the Yankees.

True Metophiles know...Eddie Murray's 128 sacrifice flies are the most all-time. He had 17 with the Mets.

Comments

Binny said…
"The second came in San Diego and ended in the bottom of the 11th inning with Mets catcher John Gibbons tagging out a man at the plate, and then throwing to third base to complete a bizarre double play."

Bizarre, eh? I grew up watching "1986: A Year to Remember," and I was under the impression it was "just your routine double play."
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