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2 And A 3 Ain't Bad

The Mets have been 2-3 before. Many times. In fact, they were 2-3 in 1969, 1986, and 2000, so maybe that's a good omen. Of course, they've been 2-3 in some lousy years, so maybe not.

But the Mets have never had as interesting a 2-3 start as they did 40 years ago.

Greg Prince, of "Faith and Fear" did a nifty job chronicling the precursors to the Miracle team in the recently published Meet the Mets annual, but we'll zoom in a little closer on the beginnings of those beginnings.

The 1968 Mets opened with a walk-off loss, but it wasn't just any walk-off loss. It was a blow-your-guts out and eat 'em with a knife-and-fork 5-4 loss, in a game in which Tom Seaver led Juan Marichal and the Giants, 4-2 in the ninth inning. Moises Alou's uncle Jesus delivered the stomach-punch, a two-run double off Danny Frisella that plated the tying and winning runs. The Mets didn't get many opportunities to win games like that. Some might even call it a devastating defeat in baseball terms though Tom Glavine (poor guy, got a no-decision last night) might not approve.

Actually we won't, because of what happened the next day. The Mets won 4-0 as a young midwesterner, Jerry Koosman, welcomed himself to the pitching rotation with a finely tossed 4-0 shutout.

The opportunity presented itself for the Mets to scale the .500 mark the next day, but alas against Don Drysdale, that was too much to ask. Don Cardwell made one mistake, allowing a home run in the second inning to Ron Fairly, and that stood up for a 1-0 Dodgers victory.

On April 14, another youngster, this one a fireballer from Texas, welcomed himself to the starting rotation in a big way. Twenty-one-year-old Nolan Ryan, making only his third big league appearance, threw 6 2/3 innings of triumphant, scoreless, three-hit ball, whiffing eight Astros in the process. Though he left with a blister, the New York Times noted that he was "every bit as good as the Mets had anticipated." Within the span of three days, two pitchers who would combine for 546 wins had each earned their first major league victories. And they had done so as Mets.

Now even at 2-2, the Mets had another chance to go over .500. In fact, they had many, many, many chances to get over the .500 mark in this game. Alas, they did not come through.

The fifth game of this season was among the most historic in Metdom, a 24-inning 1-0 defeat against the Astros. Yes, it was a walk-off loss, with the game ending the only way it could- on an error (by Mets second baseman Al Weis, who let a ground ball roll through his legs in Bucknerian fashion)- as no one was planning to claim victory on their own at any point.

Among the remarkable feats from this contest:

* Tom Seaver, with nary a Jimmy Qualls in site, retired 24 straight hitters in one stretch. He allowed a hit in the second inning, than yielded only one other hit in his 10 innings of work, a single by none other than Rusty Staub.

* Astros reliever Jim Ray struck out 11 batters in seven innings of work (the 14th through 20th). That's a record for most Mets struck out in a game, by a relief pitcher. In fact, no one else before or since has reached double digits

* The Mets 3-4 hitters: Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda, were a combined 0-for-20 with nine strikeouts. In these days, Mike and the Mad Dog would have probably run them out of town. Thankfully, with no WFAN to harass them, those two guys stuck around a little while longer.

It's worth noting that two days after those offensive struggles that the Mets returned to New York for their home opener, just as they're doing on Tuesday. They rebounded nicely, as Koosman pitched a 10-strikeout shutout, evening things up at 3-3, just as the team hopes to do today.

2 out of 3 Metophiles know...That when the Mets were 2-3 in 1986, they evened their record by beating the team they'll face Tuesday, the Phillies.


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