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Best Games I Know: Bad Pitcher, Good Game

So after doing the Tom Seaver compilation, I felt like I should go in the opposite direction. Instead of looking up the best wins from the best starter in Mets history, why not look up the best WINS by the WORST starters in Mets history.

Admittedly, worsthood is in the eye of the beholder, so there's some significant subjectivity involved in this list. I made a printout of every Mets starting pitcher's linescore for games IN WHICH THEY WON and had a Game Score of 80 or better, than sifted through the names. If my initial reaction on seeing a name was "(SIGH)," he's on this list.

The 82

Mike Bruhert: 9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 5 K, W, 2-0 at Phillies, September 17, 1978

No offense to the former pitching coach at Fordham University (he was also Gil Hodges' son-in-law for a time), but I think even Mike Bruhert would tell you that he didn't have a particularly good season in his one year in the big leagues. Consider that in 1978:

* His ERA was 4.78 in a year in which the NL ERA was 3.47

* He was 6-6, 220 pounds, yet he averaged 3.8 strikeouts per 9 innings

* He threw 10 wild pitches and made 5 errors

* He was 3-for-40 as a hitter

But that doesn't mean he wasn't capable of one moment of greatness amongst his four victories. For Bruhert, that happened to come in the thick of a pennant race. With the Phillies neck-and-neck with the Pirates, Bruhert stymied their offense completely, yielding only four harmless hits. Details on this game are somewhat scarce because of a newspaper strike, but Bruhert was so unfazed by a lineup that would make the playoffs for the second straight season that he nearly duplicated the feat six days later, losing to Philadelphia, 1-0. He should have stopped right there. In his next start, the last of his career, the Cubs mauled Bruhert for five runs in four innings.

True Metherts know...Mike Bruhert is tied for the Mets record for fewest home runs allowed in a season of 20+ starts. Bruhert allowed 6 home runs in 22 starts in 1978, tying him with Bob Ojeda, who allowed 6 home runs in 29 starts in 1988.

The other 82

Eric Hillman: 9 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 5 K, W, 4-0 at Dodgers, July 25, 1993

In a prior post, we mentioned the amazin'ness of Hillman's start/win ratio with the Mets (36 starts, 4 wins). What we failed to mention was that the starts that were wins were pretty darn good, like this one, which followed eight innings of shutout, 3-hit ball in San Diego.

This win got a little lost in the shuffle, since it came the same day of revelations that Vince Coleman was a firecracker-thrower. Hillman induced 15 groundouts and didn't walk a batter, providing a memorable moment for an otherwise extraordinarily forgettable season.

True Metsmans know...In Eric Hillman's 4 wins, he had an ERA of 1.05. In his 45 other appearances, he had an ERA of 5.51.

Yet another 82

Charlie Puleo: 9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 4 K, W, 6-0. vs Padres, May 11, 1982

It's hard to call Charlie Puleo mediocre, when his Mets record wound up 9-9, so we'll avoid that, and we'll also salute him for this pitching performance, the best in a season in which his ERA was 4.47 and his walks-per-9 rate was 4.7.

Puleo walked only one in this game, the only career shutout for the local guy from Glen Ridge, NJ, whose claim to fame would be his inclusion in the deal that brought George Foster to the Mets that winter.

Puleo's aberrational dominance should rank high on a list like this. The Padres only got one man to second base, and he was eliminated quickly, by the third out in the second inning. The rest was smooth sailing and flawless, with Dave Kingman leading an offensive charge with a home run and 4 RBI. The Mets were 16-15 at this point, and Puleo had 4 of those wins. But it wouldn't last.

True Metleos know...Charlie Puleo's Mets career began with him not allowing an earned run in his first 14 1/3 innings of work.

The last of the 82s

Alay Soler: 9 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 K, W, 5-0 at Diamondbacks, June 10, 2006

Whatever happened to this guy anyway? Soler's career basically toileted after his Yankee Stadium debacle later in the season Apparently he signed with the Astros a couple weeks back, and I sense a Kris Benson-esque revenge scenario should he ever face the Mets again.

This wasn't exactly dominance at its finest (hence only an 82, for a 2-hit shutout), but it was still pretty impressive, considering that Soler outpitched then 8-0 Brandon Webb, yielding only a pair of harmless doubles. Yes, he struck out only two, but of the rest of the outs, 15 came on ground balls. Soler's future looked pretty bright, but he hasn't won in the big leagues since.

True Metlers know...Steve Trachsel and Mark Bomback are the only other Mets pitchers to throw a shutout of at least nine innings, allowing two hits or fewer, while striking out two or fewer. Bomback's is the most impressive, since he did it in 1980 against the eventual champion Phillies. Trachsel's was actually a one-hitter at the Angels.

The 83

Nino Espinosa: 9 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 7 K, W, 6-1 vs Pirates, July 15, 1977

You could have called this list "The Espinosas" in honor of Nino, who actually had four wins with Game Scores of 80 or better as a Met. Actually, we kind of cheated a little bit to include him, because Espinosa had two seasons as a regular Mets starter- one good, one decidedly mediocre- and we pulled from his good year.

It came against the Pirates, on the one-month anniversary of the Mets trading Tom Seaver to the Reds, and you could even call Espinosa's effort Seaver-esque. He went the distance, allowing only an unearned run, and his strikeout total was particularly unusual. Admittedly, this was against a lineup that included Mario Mendoza, so let's not get totally carried away.

It was a banner day for Mike Vail, who went 4-for-4 in the 90 degree heat, the last of a 9-game hit streak that would be his second-longest as a Met. For those who don't recall, his longest hit streak was 23 games, then a club-record.

True Metspinosas know...Nino Espinosa's 76 strikeouts in 1978 are the fewest of any Mets pitcher to pitch 200+ innings in a season.

The 86
Tracy Stallard, 9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 7 K, W, 10-0 vs Braves, July 25, 1964

I wanted this to be a list primarily of pitchers I'd lived through, but I felt like I had to incorporate someone from the Mets early years. I couldn't bring myself to call Al Jackson a not-so-good pitcher, so instead, I picked Tracy Stallard, who wasn't all that bad either.

Stallard lost 20 games in 1964 but pitched reasonably well, to a 3.79 ERA in a league in which the final tally was 3.54. He's best known for allowing Roger Maris' 61st home run, which was actually good for him, because it brought a lot of publicity to a guy who finished 30-57.

This was one of those rare blowout shutouts for theose early Mets, one in which Stallard settled in and allowed next-to-nothing, as the Braves only had one at-bat all game with a runner in scoring position. It also happened to be among the best days in the careers of Tim Harkness (4 hits) and George Altman (HR, 3 RBI) who powered the Mets to an easy win.

True Metlards know...By my count, five pitchers who gave up a HR to Roger Maris in 1961, pitched for the Mets. They are Chuck Estrada, Bob Shaw, Frank Lary, Jack Fisher and Tracy Stallard.

The 89

Jeff D'Amico: 9 IP, 0 R, 2 H. 8 K, W, 2-0, at Dodgers, May 15, 2002

I guess we refer to Jeff D'Amico as "a poor man's Mike Bruhert," since the two shared the quality of being both large and not as good as we would have liked.

D'Amico's Mets career was a little frustrating. It started well enough (in 3 of his first 4 wins, he didn't allow any runs), but then when you get to the stretch where he went 1-6 with a 7.86 ERA over 12 starts, it makes your eyes bug out a bit.

May 15 was one of his good days, as D'Amico went the distance to give the Mets their second straight 2-hit shutout (Pedro Astacio pitched the first). Mo Vaughn's home run helped the Mets to a 21-19 mark through 40 games and there was temporary optimism for what turned out to be Bobby Valentine's final season in New York. But as D'Amico went, so did the Mets, and their fortunes and his tumbled not long afterwards.

True Metmicos know...Jeff D'Amico is one of 3 Mets pitchers to finish a season with a record of 6-10, the first to do so in 22 years. The other 2 were Neil Allen (1979) and Pat Zachry (1980).

The 90

Pete Schourek: 9 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 7 K, W, 9-0 vs Expos, September 10, 1991

So what is White Sox general manager Ken Williams' Mets claim to fame? No, it's not that he took Roberto Alomar off our hands, but rather, he broke up a no-hit bid in one of the finest Mets pitching performances in the last 20 years.

I'm referring to the 1-hitter by Pete Schourek, who inspired New York Times columnist Harvey Aarton to write "Hope returned to the New York Mets yesterday..." (note to Harvey: It didn't last too long).

The only hit was a Williams single with two outs in the fifth, though third baseman Gregg Jefferies and shortstop Jeff Gardner reportedly made valiant efforts for the ball (forgive me for not remembering, and relying on the newspapers).

Other than that, this game showed the flash of brilliance that Schourek could never repeat. He went 11-20 for the 1992-1993 Mets, with the misfortune of being a young talent on The Worst Team Money Could Buy. That meant he was dispatchable and the Reds were smart to grab him off waivers. Two years later, he was a playoff-pitching ace, and the Mets were still looking for the .500 mark.

True Metreks know...The only 2 pitchers to hit a home run off Curt Schilling were Mets at one point in their careers, though neither was a Met when they hit the home run: Pete Schourek and Steve Trachsel.

Feel free to add to this list in the comments section. It is far from complete...


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