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Best Games I Know: Mets 7, Other Guys 5

This is part 2 of what I’d call my Silly Scores phase – You may have seen my last endeavor in which I looked at games that the Mets won 3-1. I was born on January 31, so those numbers had some significance. I was born in 1975, so my next stop in this silliness is Mets 7, Others 5.

Mets 7, Other Guys 5 has some big bops, like one from 2019 in which Wilson Ramos had 6 RBIs, one from 1966 when Ron Hunt drove in 5, and another from 2001 when Robin Ventura hit a grand slam. There’s late-game heroics from Mookie and Fonzie and also Tony Clark.

There neat quirks, like a Tom Seaver complete game and a Pedro Martinez start in which he allowed five runs and three hits, but struck out 11. And it’s good for some undeserved credit, such as when Armando Benitez got a hold for a relief appearance of four walks, one out. It’s also a good day for pitcher’s hitting – Jon Matlack had 2 RBI, Ron Darling had 3, and Noah Syndergaard homered.

But none of those were Mets enough to make my list!

Let’s stroll down memory lane and look at 10 notable 7-5 Mets wins.

May 6, 1962- Go Forth With the First (vs Phillies)

The very first 7-5 win for this team was the fourth win in Mets history. Unfortunately for them, they already had 16 defeats at the time. It is also the first extra-inning win in Mets history and it merits a special salute because Gil Hodges had the go-ahead hit, a 2-run single in the 12th inning.

Roger Craig earned the unofficial save after four scoreless innings from Craig Anderson, who was 1-1 at the time, but finished 3-17.

This was supposed to be Game 1 of a doubleheader but for a bizarre quirk. The game ended at 6:41pm (due to a rain delay) and Pennsylvania’s blue laws did not allow a baseball game to start after 7pm (Game 2 would have started just after 7). Bizarre!

Also odd: The Mets traded Don Zimmer to the Reds for third baseman Cliff Cook and lefty pitcher Bob Miller. Miller’s presence gave the Mets two pitchers of the same name! Casey Stengel solved that by calling the right-handed Bob Miller “Nelson” though I don’t know if that was intended as his first or last name.

Sept 18, 1975- King Kong! (vs Cubs)

I don’t like Dave Kingman that much. He was terribly nasty to reporters (he sent a female reporter a live rat). He was a one-dimensional hitter. And when I got his autograph, the first I ever got as a seven-year-old kid, he couldn’t even take the time to look up and say hello. I was bothered that he was greeted so warmly at Shea Stadium’s closing in 2008.

But I’ll acknowledge the moment and not the person. Kingman’s walk-off home run was his 35th of the season, breaking the single-season franchise record set by Frank Thomas in the inaugural season of 1962. It gets bonus points for coming against Darold Knowles, the pitcher who got the last out against the Mets in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series.

Lest we forget the home run hit by Rusty Staub in the fifth inning against Cubs starter Donnie Moore. That gave Staub 100 RBI for the season, making him the first Mets player to make that mark.

Both records are since broken and in both cases, they trail the leader by a considerable margin. But at the time, this was a modestly big deal, so it merits a mention here.

July 9, 1977- The Marathon (vs Expos)

It took the Mets 4 hours, 17 minutes and 17 innings to snap a nine-game losing streak. I guess you’d call that hard-earned. This one was tied, 4-4 after nine because Expos third baseman Wayne Garrett (yes, Expos) tied the game with a sixth-inning hit. The Expos took the lead when catcher Gary Carter (in his pre-Met days) put them ahead with an 11th-inning hit.

But Steve Henderson’s home run leading off the 11th evened the score. There was some foreshadowing here. Henderson homered after getting knocked down on the previous pitch. He hit a game-winning home run after being knocked down against the Giants in 1980.

The next few innings were boring. The Expos couldn’t get a runner home from third in the 12th. The Mets left two on in the 16th. Finally, in the 17th, Lenny Randle’s two-run home run off Will McEnaney (the same guy who got the last out of the 1975 and 1976 World Series) won it.

On a funny note, the Bill Gallo cartoon in the Daily News was a discussion of pro teams like the Cosmos moving from New York to New Jersey. The punch line was “But don’t worry, we’ll keep the Mets. They’re sure to get turned down.”

August 10, 1981- Welcome Back Baseball! (vs Cubs)

I got super-excited when I saw the box score for this game. This was the first game back after the 1981 strike and barely 7,500 people were in Wrigley Field for a matchup of two bad teams.

But the second-season 1981 Mets had a little bit of that early 1980 magic to them. They won some odd games along the way and actually were in contention (as it were) until the final week or so of the season.

This was a battle of Mikes – Scott vs Mets-killer Krukow - and both were quite good, save for Krukow balking in the first run upon baseball’s return. Scott had a shutout bid into the seventh but lost it when Bill Buckner(!) homered to tie the game. This one went into the 11th inning when Dave Kingman hit a go-ahead three run home run against Cubs reliever Rawly Eastwick.

But prosperity would not come easily for the Mets. The Cubs scored one run on a passed ball, then two more when Bobby Bonds hit a two-out double to tie the game.

The Mets were undaunted and went back ahead in the 12th on Mike Jorgensen’s RBI single. It took the Cubs two batters to tie the game against Dyar Miller, with Tim Blackwell’s hit bringing in the tying run.

The fiercely-resolute Mets fought back once again, with Ellis Valentine and Hubie Brooks driving in runs to turn what was a 1-1 game after regulation into a 7-5 contest.

The Cubs took one more shot at tying but Bonds hitting into a double play squashed that threat – until pinch-hitting pitcher Randy Martz walked to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But Ken Reitz flew out to end the game. The fresh-start Mets were 1-0.

“To lose three leads on the road and still win, blow a three-run lead with your best reliever, and still win says a lot about our character,” said manager Joe Torre. The Mets would go on to win their first three games, winning late in all three.

June 23, 1983- The 5-inning save (vs Cardinals)

You would think that what would get me about this game was Hubie Brooks’ four RBI or Keith Hernandez getting three hits against the Cardinals team that had traded him eight days earlier. Nah.

I like quirks and this is a box score quirk among box score quirks. Doug Sisk got a 5-inning save against the defending champs.

The 5-inning save is a baseball weirdity (who the heck pitches five innings in relief and who does it to close a game?). There have been two such saves since 2003. The famous one is Madison Bumgarner’s in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The other was by Austin Pruitt of the Rays in 2018.

Sisk’s is the only one in Mets history, though it’s not the only one by a Sisk. Tommie Sisk had one for the 1969 Padres.

Sisk was very good in both 1983 and 1984, saving a combined 26 games and posting an ERA of 2.18. He allowed two home runs in 182 innings thanks to a nasty sinker. And when he he to, he could give a bullpen length.

Sadly, Sisk wasn’t among those quoted that I could find. And the attention went in other directions. Phil Pepe of the Daily News wrote “Keith Hernandez has added a measure of class and professionalism to a team sorely lacking in those areas. The man is a winner, a professional hitter in the middle of the lineup, a stabilizer in the infield, and a presence in the clubhouse.”

So sadly, the five-inning save goes unappreciated. Except by us J

July 10, 1983- Daaaaryl! (vs Astros)

Darryl Strawberry had a lot of late-game big hits in his Mets career. This was an early preview of what was to come.

Two months into his career, Strawberry hadn’t quite been the savior Mets fans had been pining for. He entered the day hitting an even .200 in 82 games And after drawing a walk, his future nemesis Bob Knepper struck Strawberry out twice. In the eighth inning of a 5-5 game with one man on base, he had a better matchup against righty Bill Dawley. And he did damage.

Strawberry homered to right field on an 0-2 pitch for the game-winning hit.

“The key is to be more aggressive at bat rather than playing it cautiously as he has been doing,” hitting coach Jim Frey told reporters afterwards. “Once he becomes more consistent then I feel certain that we’re going to see the player we think Strawberry is.”

Strawberry went 0-for-3 in his next two games but went on a tear after that. In his last 69 games he hit .305 with 17 home runs. He lived up to Frey’s words then and for much of the rest of his Mets career.

September 24, 1984- Oldies but Goodies (vs Phillies)

While the Cubs were clinching the division on this particular day, the Mets were doing a little celebrating of their own. They won in an old-fashioned way, emphasis on ‘old.’

With the score tied 5-5 in the eighth inning, the Mets loaded the bases against Phillies reliever Larry Anderson. The Mets sent up Rusty Staub as a pinch-hitter for Jesse Orosco.

The Phillies countered by bringing in Staub’s former teammate, Tug McGraw and Staub inched closer to home plate to watch McGraw warm up (and he noted afterwards- to avoid hearing if Davey Johnson called him back). One of McGraw’s warm-up pitches hit Staub on a bounce and after the game McGraw alluded to animosity with Staub’s agent so that may have been deliberate. It was of no matter to Staub, whose two-run double hit on a line down the right field line put the Mets ahead to stay.

The team got a standing ovation from the 11,000 or so in attendance that night. They earned it. The 87th win of the season was the second-most in team history to that point, trailing only the 1969 team’s 100.

“We’ve had a great season and this kind of a season is going to prove that we can be competitive for a long time,” Staub said afterwards in what poved to be a good call.

May 31, 1995- Mr. Walk-Off wins one (vs Padres)

Give Chris Jones credit. He made the most of his 12 Mets home runs. Jones is tied for the most walk-off home runs in Mets history with 4. The first was this one and 14 months later, his run was complete.

This one carries the most cachet given that it was a three-run shot against future Hall-of-Famer Trevor Hoffman, who was in his second season as Padres closer. The Mets entered the 10th trailing 5-4, but after Bobby Bonilla’s flyout, singles by Jeff Kent and Joe Orsulak set up Jones’ moment.

It was noted in the Bergen Record that Jones lifted weights for 20 minutes before talking to reporters.

“Pinch-hitting home runs, there’s a lot of luck involved,” Jones said after the game. Whatever it was, Jones had a knack.

July 17, 2000- Making Things Better (vs Blue Jays)

Having lost 9 of 12, Bobby Valentine was looking for a way to get the most out of his team, so he called a group meeting before the game against the Blue Jays on this date.

And then Rick Reed gave up a home run to Carlos Delgado and the Mets trailed 2-0 just four batters into the game.

There would be a reward for patience though. The Mets rallied from a 5-2 deficit to win 7-5 in 11 innings. Derek Bell snapped a 1-for-21 slump with a game-tying hit in the eighth inning. The Mets won in the 10th on Mike Piazza’s force out (the Blue Jays didn’t have a chance at the runner coming home) and Todd Zeile’s RBI hit.

Bobby Valentine did his best Yogi Berra after the game.

“I think we’re underachieving, obviously,” he said. “But the good news is that means we’ll overachieve.

As was often the case in 1999 and 2000, Bobby Valentine was right.

September 18, 2011- Spoiler Alert! (vs Braves)

After sweeping the Mets in a doubleheader, the Braves were 7 ½ games ahead of the Cardinals for the NL wild card with 18 games to play. They couldn’t possibly pull a 2007 Mets, could they?

They could!

And the 2011 Mets helped a little bit. They beat the Braves 2 of 3 as part of the Braves 5-13 tailspin. The second of those wins was by a 7-5 score.

After Ronny Paulino’s bases-loaded walk tied the game, 5-5 with two outs in the eighth inning, Ruben Tejada’s single, his 4th RBI of the game, put the Mets ahead for good. Lucas Duda’s ninth-inning homer accounted for the final run.

A game that helped knock out the Braves: Seems like a good way to end this piece.


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Cliff Notes

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