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A Mets Perfect Season
By Howie Karpin
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2011 Howie Karpin
All rights reserved.
March 30, 2000
Mets 5, Cubs 1 (11 innings)
Agbayani's Pinch Grand Slam Ends it Tokyo
Benny Agbayani's pinch-hit grand slam in the top of the 11th inning gave the Mets a 5 — 1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in a regular-season game that was played at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
Some 55,000 fans were on hand to watch the Mets stage a two-out rally in the 11th that led to the deciding blow off Cubs pitcher Danny Young, who was making his major league debut.
Todd Zeile started the rally with a two-out single. Walks to Rey Ordonez and Melvin Mora followed. Agbayani then drove one over the 406-foot sign in center field to snap a 1 — 1 tie and earn him the replica of a shogun helmet, which is a tradition in Japan that goes to the star of the game.
The Mets took a 1 — 0 lead in the top of the fifth inning (the Mets were the designated road team) off Cubs starter Kyle Farnsworth. Zeile and Ordonez led off with back-to-back walks. Mets pitcher Rick Reed sacrificed the runners to second and third base. Rickey Henderson's sacrifice fly then drove in the first run.
The Cubs answered with an unearned run in the fifth off Reed and the game remained 1 — 1 until the 11th.
Afterward, the humble Agbayani downplayed his heroics.
"It's only one game," he said. "It's not like I did it for 50 games."
At a Glance
WP: Cook (1 — 0)
HR: Agbayani (1)
Key stat: Reed 8 IP, 1 unearned run
March 31, 1998
Mets 1, Phillies 0 (14 innings)
Castillo Comes Through in the Clutch
Mets backup catcher Alberto Castillo was sitting around for nearly four-and-a-half hours when he finally got the call.
Castillo delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off RBI single with two out in the bottom of the 14th inning to give the Mets a thrilling 1 — 0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium before a crowd of 49,142.
Castillo was the only position player left on the bench, so manager Bobby Valentine used him to bat for pitcher Turk Wendell.
With runners on first and third base and two outs in the 14th, Phillies reliever Ricky Bottalico threw a 3 — 2 fastball and Castillo delivered the game-winning single to right to score Brian McRae from second base.
Afterward, Castillo said getting the count full worked in his favor.
"He (Bottalico) paid for it," Castillo said. "I think he was getting too tired."
Both starting pitchers were brilliant. Curt Schilling threw eight scoreless innings while striking out nine for the Phillies. Right-hander Bobby Jones put up six scoreless innings on his pitching line.
The Phillies had a major threat in the top of the eighth. With runners on first and third against Mets reliever Greg McMichael, Mike Lieberthal lined out to third. Valentine replaced McMichael with lefty Dennis Cook, who got out of it when he struck out Rico Brogna, a former Met.
Castillo was not known for his hitting, but he stood out on this day.
"I believe I can be a good hitter," he said, "but sometimes I try to do too much."
This time, it was just enough.
At a Glance
WP: Wendell (1 — 0)
Key stat: Six Mets pitchers combine for 14 scoreless innings
April 1, 2002
Mets 6, Pirates 2
New Faces Don't Shine, But They Bring a Win
The Mets debuted four new players but it was the incumbents who did the damage. Left-handed pitcher Al Leiter allowed just an unearned run in six innings of work and Edgardo Alfonzo had three hits in a 6 — 2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium.
A crowd of 53,734 watched first baseman Mo Vaughn and second baseman Roberto Alomar make their debuts with the Mets. Left fielder Roger Cedeno and right fielder Jeromy Burnitz were back for their second tour. Cedeno played for the Mets in 1999 and Burnitz in 1993 — 94. The foursome was a combined 2-for-17 with three RBIs.
Vaughn was 0-for-5 for the first time to begin a season since 2000.
"As long as you win the game, that's the bottom line," the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Vaughn said.
The Mets didn't exactly pound the Pirates. Six of their nine hits were of the "bloop" variety, but it was enough to get the job done.
The Mets scored three runs in the second inning off starter Ron Villone on three "soft" hits, a walk and a hit batsman.
Mets center fielder Jay Payton took the Pirates' lefty deep in the fourth inning with a solo shot for a 4 — 1 lead.
David Weathers and Armando Benitez gave the Mets three scoreless innings in relief of Leiter, who was pleased to get off on the right foot.
"All the expectation and anticipation for this year is very high," Leiter said, "not only for all the fans but for all the guys in the clubhouse."
At a Glance
WP: Leiter (1 — 0)
HR: Payton (1)
Key stat: Alfonzo 3-for-4
April 2, 2008
Mets 13, Marlins 0
Mets Make It a Whitewash in Miami
The Mets pounded out 17 hits en route to a 13 — 0 thrashing of the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium before a crowd of 13,720.
David Wright and Ryan Church each had a home run and three hits while Carlos Beltran had three doubles, although one should have been ruled a home run.
The television replay rule was not yet in effect so Beltran's blast was never reviewed. However, the second-base umpire who was closest to the play, Rick Reed, thought it was a home run. (The other three umpires eventually overruled Reed.)
"That's why I believe in the replay," Beltran said. "You could have at least one a game for each team. Right now, it didn't mean anything because we were ahead by five runs. But what if we were losing by two runs or one run? That can cost a game."
(Major League Baseball instituted the "instant replay rule" on Aug. 28, 2008.)
Oliver Perez gave the Mets six scoreless innings for the win.
"I'd like to bottle that and put it away," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "(Perez) was awesome tonight. He was in a zone and threw his off speed pitches where he wanted. All his pitches looked crisp. He stayed in his rhythm and didn't freelance like he can do."
The Mets took a 3 — 0 lead in the second inning on an RBI from Carlos Delgado, followed by a two-run homer by Church.
Wright's three-run homer was the big blow in a five-run sixth inning that blew the game wide open.
"I feel good at the plate and you've got to take advantage of it when you feel that way," Wright said. "This can be a fickle game."
At a Glance
WP: Perez (1 — 0)
HR: Church (1), Wright (1)
Key stat: Wright 3-for-5, 3 RBIs; Beltran 3 doubles
3B David Wright
David Wright has been the Mets' starting third baseman since he made his major league debut on July 21, 2004.
Wright is a five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and a two-time National League Silver Slugger award winner.
The Norfolk, Va., native is one of 34 players who have joined the "30-30" club (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season).
Wright accomplished the feat during the 2007 season, when he hit 30 home runs and had 34 stolen bases.
The 28-year-old third baseman tied Mike Piazza's club mark of 124 RBIs during the 2008 season and he became the club's all-time leader in doubles when he passed Ed Kranepool's total of 225 early in the 2010 season.
On April 13, 2009, Wright had the first Mets hit at Citi Field — a first-inning double — and he hit the first Mets home run in the fifth inning — a three-run shot off the Padres' Walter Silva.
April 3, 2001
Mets 6, Braves 4 (10 innings)
Ventura's Homer Ends Hex at 'the Ted'
Robin Ventura's second two-run home run of the game in the top of the 10th inning lifted the Mets past the Atlanta Braves 6 — 4 before a crowd of 42,117 at Turner Field.
The Mets came into the game having lost 18 of 21 at "the Ted."
With two outs in the 10th, Ventura took Kerry Ligtenberg's fastball and deposited it into the bleachers in right field for a two-run lead. Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who was on first base with his first major league hit, scored ahead of Ventura. (Shinjo made his major league debut as a pinch runner in the eighth inning when he ran for Benny Agbayani.)
It was a battle of southpaws as Al Leiter took the mound for the Mets against Tom Glavine. Leiter tossed seven solid innings, allowing two runs on six hits. After the game, Leiter reflected on the Mets' inability to consistently win games at Turner Field.
"You don't want to fall into, 'How are they going to win this?'" Leiter said. "We've had some pretty wacky ways of losing here."
Ventura's two-run homer in the eighth (also with Shinjo on first) off Braves reliever John Rocker snapped a 2-2 tie.
Atlanta tied the game 4 — 4 in the bottom of the eighth on a Rafael Furcal RBI double and an RBI single from "noted Met killer" Brian Jordan.
"A lot of things are going to happen in a Mets and Braves game," Mets third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo said. "They're going to be tight games, they're going to be close games. That's why you have to prepare for that. That's the way it's been the last couple of years. It's been exciting."
The Mets took a 2 — 0 lead in the first inning off the future Met on a two-run homer by Mike Piazza. Atlanta got one back in the first and then tied the game in the seventh on a solo home run by Javy Lopez.
In a mild surprise, Ventura batted third against the left-hander Glavine, ahead of Piazza. Ventura had batted third only five times the previous season.
"Robin's batting third to get Glavine out of his rhythm before he gets to Mike," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
Shinjo not only recorded his first big-league hit, he made a nice catch on a Dave Martinez liner to left field to send the game into extra innings.
Coming into the game, the Mets' numbers at Turner Field were staggering. Since the Braves began play at their new ballpark in 1997, the Mets were 6 — 21, including 0 — 6 in 1998.
An extra-inning win at Turner Field was a good start toward turning things around in Atlanta.
"They're a good team and they know we're a good team," Valentine said. "We're starting to mold the character of this team again."
2B Edgardo Alfonzo
Edgardo Alfonzo was one of the Mets' best hitters during the late 1990s and into the early 2000s.
The native of Venezuela played eight seasons with the Mets and ranks in the club's all-time top 10 lists in 15 offensive categories.
Alfonzo set a club record when he went 6-for-6 against the Astros in Houston (see Aug. 30, 1999).
During the 2000 National League Championship Series against St. Louis, Alfonzo batted .444 with eight hits and four RBIs.
In the 1999 National League division series vs. Arizona, Alfonzo hit two home runs in Game 1, including a grand slam, and drove in a club-record-tying five runs.
The versatile Alfonzo played third and second base during his Mets tenure. He is the Mets' all-time leader in several postseason categories, including games played, hits, doubles, RBIs and runs scored.
April 4, 1994
Mets 12, Cubs 8
Kent Takes Advantage of Windy Wrigley
All you had to say about this one was: "The wind was blowing out at Wrigley."
The Mets beat the Cubs 12 — 8 thanks to Jeff Kent's four-hit day, but it was also a game in which Dwight Gooden gave up seven runs (five earned) on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings, yet got a win. The 1985 National League Cy Young Award winner also made it a memorable day for one Tuffy Rhodes, a career minor leaguer who hit three home runs off Gooden.
A crowd of 38,413 that included first lady Hillary Clinton watched the teams put up 20 runs on 30 hits against eight different pitchers.
Rhodes came up in the sixth inning against Mets left-hander Eric Hillman with a chance at a fourth consecutive home run, but he walked. The Cubs center fielder and leadoff batter completed his career day with a single off Mets closer John Franco in the ninth.
"We made him a legend," Mets manager Dallas Green said.
With the game tied at two in the fourth inning, the Mets scored four times to take a lead they would never relinquish.
Kent led off the inning with a home run off Cubs starter Mike Morgan. Ryan Thompson doubled in two more and Jose Vizcaino completed the scoring with a sacrifice fly that gave the Mets a 6 — 2 lead.
Rhodes' third home run in the fifth inning helped narrow the gap, but Hillman, Mike Maddux and Franco combined for 3 1/3 effective innings out of the bullpen to nail down the win.
At a Glance
WP: Gooden (1 — 0)
HR: Vizcaino (1), Hundley (1), Kent (1)
Key stat: Kent 4-for-5, HR, 2 RBIs
April 5, 1983
Mets 2, Phillies 0
Seaver's Second Stint Starts Strong
Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver made this walk many times before, but as he left the bullpen in right field to begin his second tour of duty with the Mets, a crowd of 51,054 came to its feet for a memorable standing ovation.
After a five-and-a-half year stint with the Cincinnati Reds, Seaver tossed six shutout innings in his first game back to lead the Mets to a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and Steve Carlton at Shea Stadium.
On June 15, 1977, the popular right-hander was dealt to the Reds in exchange for Pat Zachry, second baseman Doug Flynn and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.
Earlier that year, Seaver criticized Mets chairman of the board, M. Donald Grant, for not trying to improve the team. New York Daily News columnist Dick Young wrote a piece that said Seaver was jealous of former Mets pitcher Nolan Ryan and the amount of money he was making with the California Angels, while invoking the names of both spouses.
"That Young column was the straw that broke the back," Seaver said to Bill Madden of the Daily News in an interview nearly 30 years later. So "The Franchise" was gone, but in December 1982, the Reds traded Seaver back to the Mets for pitcher Charlie Puleo, outfielder Lloyd McClendon and a third player.
There was a heightened sense of excitement that day at Shea and the matchup of the two future Hall of Famers did not dissapoint. Carlton matched Seaver zero for zero for six innings, but the left-hander faltered in the seventh as the Mets broke through.
Mike Howard's RBI single scored the first run and the second run came courtesy of a Brian Giles sacrifice fly.
Seaver did not qualify for the win, but it didn't matter. It was a successful return to the place where he made his name as a three- time Cy Young Award winner.
"It was a very emotional day," the Mets' first Hall of Famer said. "It was great to be back, but so emotional I still felt it for two innings."
Rookie Doug Sisk (who had less than nine innings of big-league experience) relieved Seaver to toss three adventurous, but scoreless, innings for his first win in the majors.
After the game, Phillies second baseman and future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan offered this view of the veteran right-hander.
"He's (Seaver) smarter," Morgan said. "He knew everybody was coming back from spring training, anxious and jumping, he fed us a lot of slower speeds, and guys kept swinging at bad pitches."
Seaver's first inning was right out of a movie as he faced two future Hall of Famers (and one who arguably should be in). "Tom Terrific" struck out the leadoff batter, Pete Rose, but walked Morgan, who moved to second on Seaver's throwing error. Seaver came back to retire Gary Matthews on a 4 — 3 ground-out and then got future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to fly out to left.
In the seventh, Dave Kingman, who struck out in his other three at-bats, singled to left. George Foster followed with a single to right to put runners at first and second with nobody out. The game turned with the next batter.
Hubie Brooks was instructed to sacrifice, but he put down such a good bunt toward third that he was able to reach safely to load the bases.
"He was supposed to sacrifice," Mets manager George Bamberger said, "but he made a perfect bunt."
Brooks admitted he wasn't looking for a hit.
"I wasn't trying to be cute and beat it out," he said. "I just wanted one good pitch, and got it. Once I hit the ball, I didn't even know where it went."
Howard didn't waste any time as he drove the first pitch from Carlton into left field to score Kingman. Giles lined to Rose and Foster was able to tag and score the second run.
When it was over, Seaver's line was "Tom Terrific": six innings pitched, three hits, no runs, one walk and five strikeouts.
Rose, who struck out twice, marveled at his ex-teammate's performance.
"I don't remember the last time I struck out twice in a game," Rose said. "I only missed two pitches all spring."
At a Glance
WP: Sisk (1 — 0)
Key stat: Seaver and Sisk combine for shutout
April 7, 1984
Mets 3, Astros 2
Doc's Debut Good Enough for a Win
Ever since Dwight Eugene "Doc" Gooden was the fifth overall selection of the 1982 draft, the Mets anxiously awaited his entrance into the major leagues.
Excerpted from 162-0 by Howie Karpin. Copyright © 2011 Howie Karpin. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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