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Mets Top 100 Home Runs: From No. 31 (Gary Carter & Kevin McReynolds) to No. 35 (Carlos Beltran)

In 2009, I did a project for my website, Mets Walk-Offs and Other Minutiae, celebrating the best home runs in Mets history. I selected the top 60 regular season home runs and the top 15 postseason home runs. The reason I picked 60 was because it represented the top 1% of home runs in Mets history (and 15 just felt right for postseason).

This was fun to do, but it was imperfect. I had one egregious omission. I tended to favor oddities.

It’s time to give that project an update. And why not do it as a top 100?

The Mets have hit 7,671 regular season home runs. The top 80 represent about the top 1%. And the top 20 postseason home runs get us to an even 100 to celebrate.

Come along for the ride. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the reminiscing. Hopefully you’ll find it Amazin’. 

35. This would have been an all-timer … if only 
(September 28, 2008 vs Marlins)

I was hesitant to include this one and to put it this high. But it represented the last feel-good moment at Shea Stadium. I’m referring to the final home run hit there, a game-tying shot by Carlos Beltran in the sixth inning of the final game of the 2008 season. It was a pretty cool moment in that it ever-so-briefly made you feel like what happened to end 2006 and 2007 would not happen again.

That only lasted a few minutes. The Mets lost the game and missed out on the postseason again Enough about this one. On to the next.

My favorite stat: Shea Stadium ranked seventh among ballparks in home runs from 1964 to 2009 with 5,791. Wrigley Field had the most – 7,275. Dodgers Stadium had a two-year head start on Shea, but had 344 fewer regular season HR in that time.

34. Kirk Nieuwenhuis vs Jonathan Papelbon 
(September 8, 2015)
I previously referred to a Mets-Cubs series as “the best series ever” but the Mets-Nationals series from September 2015 is its more modern counterpart. The Mets entered with a four-game lead and left with a seven-game lead and the NL East all but clinched. They could have easily lost all three games, but won all three late. The middle of those three games was the most improbable.

This was shades of the 2000 comeback by the Mets against the Braves in that the Mets trailed 7-1 in the seventh inning, but scored six two-out runs to tie. Yoenis Cespedes had a three-run double against Drew Storen to make it 7-6 and Storen then walked the next three hitters to force in the tying run.

In the eighth, Nationals manager Matt Williams went to (as I like to call him) the leader of the Cobra Kai, Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon got the first two outs but then Kirk Nieuwenhuis surprised everyone by hitting a down-the-middle fastball well over the high fence in right center for a go-ahead home run. It was his first home run since his three-homer game on July 12 and after the Mets bullpen escaped the eighth and ninth innings, the Mets had what Howie Rose called “the granddaddy of ‘em all” comeback win.

My favorite stat: Kirk Nieuwenhuis got maximum value out of his 17 Mets home runs. He had a two-homer game, a three-homer game, a walk-off home run when trailing by two runs, a game-tying home run in the 14th inning, and this home run off Papelbon, which was his last home run with the Mets.

33. Yoenis Cespedes vs Drew Storen 
(September 9, 2015)
Yes, we put this one and the one before it back-to-back on purpose. This one came in the series finale. For the first seven innings, Stephen Strasburg was a smidge better than Jacob deGrom, and carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth. We should probably also salute Kelly Johnson, whose pinch-hit home run off Strasburg tied the game leading off the top of the eighth.

With one out, Curtis Granderson singled and Matt Williams for some reason hooked Strasburg for Drew Storen, who had given up a scorching three-run double to Yoenis Cespedes the previous night. This time, Cespedes got better launch angle, hitting a hanging slider into the Mets bullpen in true “homer on demand” fashion to put the Mets ahead for good. It was the signature moment of his two-month run at NL MVP votes.

“At some point, when do you stop hoping that it’s going to happen and start expecting that it’s going to happen?” Johnson told reporters afterwards. “You see it go up, and you know it’s gone, and you’re just like, ‘Oh my God, he does it again.’ 

My favorite stat: The Mets have hit 391 go-ahead home runs in the eighth inning or later in regular season games, their most in a season being 13 in 2000 (they had only 5 in 2015). The franchise against which they’ve hit the most is the Nationals with 41.

32. Howard Johnson’s grand evening 
(September 10, 1985 vs Cardinals)
The Mets and Cardinals played two epic series in September 1985 in their neck-and-neck battle for the NL East title. The first of those took place in the second week of the month at Shea Stadium, with the teams even in the standings with 27 games remaining.

In the first inning of the first game, the Cardinals scored first on a Tommy Herr home run. The Mets countered in the bottom of the inning, with Mookie Wilson scoring all the way from first base on a single by Keith Hernandez. The inning extended to Howard Johnson with an intentional walk to Darryl Strawberry and George Foster getting hit by a pitch. The latter was a big deal. Foster had stepped out of the batter’s box multiple times to throw Cardinals pitcher Danny Cox off his game. It worked on a couple of fronts  

Hojo didn’t have a particularly good season in 1985, but he came through for his teammates here, hitting a grand slam. The Mets led 5-1 and hung on for a 5-4 win that moved them into sole possession of first place – for the moment.

“The biggest hit of my career,” Johnson said at the time. He had more than a few against the Cardinals the next few years.

I feel like this is one of those “you had to watch it live” to experience it, as I’m not convinced my words do it justice. But I can assure you, it was a big home run at the time.

My favorite stat: Howard Johnson’s five grand slams with the Mets rank second in team history.

Most Grand Slams – Mets History
Mike Piazza       6
Howard Johnson    5
Robin Ventura     5
Kevin McReynolds  5
Carlos Beltran    5
John Milner       5
Yoenis Cespedes   5

31. Finally No. 300 for Gary Carter and a grand day for Kevin McReynolds 
(August 11, 1988 vs Cubs)
The Mets hit a couple of speed bumps on their way to winning the NL East in 1988. Gary Carter hit one too on the way to Hall of Fame enshrinement. The two came together in this game at Wrigley Field where the Mets (temporarily) got out of their funk and Carter ended a torturous chase for his 300th career home run.

Carter got it, after a 225 at-bat home run drought, in the second inning against Al Nipper, perhaps just the right pitcher at the right time, given that Carter hit two home runs against Nipper in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series.

“The monkey is finally off my back,” Carter said.

As for the Mets, they trailed 6-4 in the ninth inning of an ugly game that would have likely merited a team meeting had Kevin McReynolds not hit a game-winning grand slam against Cubs closer Goose Gossage with the Mets down to their last out. McReynolds said afterwards that he was just trying to put the ball in play. He did, crushing one to straightaway center.

“Fortunately nobody could make a play on it,” McReynolds said.

My favorite stat: Know how Stan Musial had 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road? Gary Carter had 162 home runs at home and 162 home runs on the road.

The rest of the list ...

No. 76 to 80 can be found here
No. 71 to 75 can be found here 
No. 66 to 70 can be found here 
No. 61 to 65 can be found here
No. 56 to 60 can be found here
No. 51 to 55 can be found here
No. 46 to 50 can be found here
No. 41 to 45 can be found here 
No. 36 to 40 can be found here

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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 that…