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A Final Look Back at the 2005 Season

Mike SteffanosWednesday, October 12, 2005
By Mike Steffanos


Part 1 of 4

We're going to wrap up our look back at the 2005 season by looking back at some of the games that were high points of the year, games that Met fans can actually enjoy looking back on. If you're a "glass half empty type" and looking for a funny recap of the season's low points, Metsradamus has a great one here.

April 10 -- Pedro beats the Braves for the Mets' first win
After Looper blew the opener against the Reds the Mets proceeded to lose the next 4 games in depressing fashion. People were already calling up WFAN and calling for Willie to be fired. The team looked tight. John Smoltz was coming off a bad loss to the Marlins and you knew he had something to prove.

The only scoring through 7 innings was when Estrada doubled home Larry Jones in the fourth. Smoltz looked like he was going to make that run hold up, scattering a few hits and piling up strikeouts -- he wound up with 15 Ks in 7-1/3 innings. Pedro was at least as good after surrendering the one run.

Jose Reyes singled to lead off the top of the eighth, and Cairo bunted him over to second, bringing up Carlos Beltran. Smoltz fell behind 2-0 in the count, then got a called strike. He then tried to sneak a fastball that Beltran lined over the right field wall to put the Mets up 2-1. Floyd followed with another HR, then Doug Mientkiewicz doubled and Wright homered, and out of nowhere the Mets were up 5-1.

Pedro made it stand up, being his own closer with a complete game 2-hitter, and both the Mets and their fans could finally take a deep breath.

April 15 -- Who the hell is this guy?
It was a classic "no chance" pitching match-up. Young, arrogant and dominant Josh Beckett vs. Aaron Heilman, who was pitching his second start of the season for the Mets after getting clobbered for 5 runs in 5 innings by the Braves the week before. The Mets got off to a decent start, scratching out a pair of runs in the first while Heilman retired the first 9 Marlins that he faced.

Then in the top of the fourth, Heilman hit Juan Pierre with a pitch. Pierre promptly stole second base, then advance to third on Castillo's weak infield single. First and third, no outs; Cabrera, Delgado and Lowell coming up. Mets fans had flashbacks to previous Heilman outings that started off promising and came crashing down in one bad inning.

But Cabrera lined out to third, Delgado flied out weakly to Beltran, and Lowell hit into a force play to end the inning, and Castillo's infield single was the only hit the Marlins could manage. Piazza doubled in a pair of insurance runs in the fifth, but Heilman didn't need them, dominating the Marlins completely, going all the way in a game that resurrected his career and made him one of the real feel-good Met stories of 2005.

May 21 -- Mr. Koo vs. The Big Eunuch
After dropping the first game of the Yankees series to Kevin Brown of all people, the Mets were looking to get a little back the next day in a nationally televised game on FOX. The game began well enough, with Reyes and Wright driving in single runs in the 2nd and 3rd while Chris Benson was shutting out the Yankees through 6. Then in the top of the seventh, Rodriguez led off with a single, and the tiring Benson was lifted for Dae-Sung Koo, who got out of the inning by striking out Martinez and Posada.

In the bottom of the seventh, the left-handed Mr. Koo led off against Randy Johnson. Announcer Tim McCarver was in the middle of calling it one of the biggest mismatches of all time when Koo lined a 1-1 pitch over Bernie Williams' head for a double. Jose Reyes bunted Koo to third on a ball that Jorge Posada had to come out and make.

Shocked Met fans gasped as Koo rounded third and continued towards home while Posada rushed back to the plate. Even though he looked out on the replay he was called safe. Posada looked like he was going to cry.

Then Cairo homered off of a reeling Johnson to expand the Mets lead to 4-0. (As a side note, Koo's head-first slide actually injured his shoulder and led to a stint on the disabled list.) They added 3 more against the great Buddy Groom in the eighth, and held on for a 7-1 victory.

June 11 -- Cliff's Improbable Home Run Beats Anaheim
To me, this was the highlight of the season, one of those games that I will remember years from now. The Mets weren't playing very well, riding a 3 game losing streak that included a 12-2 embarrassment to the Angels the night before in which Kaz Ishii, Mike Dejean and Manny Aybar all stunk out the joint.

Kris Benson started the game for the Mets and pitched well, allowing only 2 runs on 4 hits in 7 innings, aided by a fantastic catch by Beltran, robbing Bengie Molina of a two run HR in the seventh. Unfortunately for the Mets, Jarrod Washburn and Scot Shields were even better, combining to hold them to 1 run through 8 innings. Since the Mets were in the throws of one of their prolonged team hitting slumps at the time (the only run came on a bases loaded walk to Chris Benson) I remember watching with very little hope as closer Francisco Rodriguez faced them in the bottom of the ninth.

David Wright struck out on a called strike to start the inning, bringing up Marlon Anderson to pinch hit for Chris Woodward. Rodriguez fell behind 3-1, and then came in with a fastball that Marlon smoked to right-center. CF Steve Finley and RF Vlad Guerrero converged on the ball, then Finley made a somewhat awkward semi-diving attempt to catch the ball which he probably should have had; instead it bounced and then careened off of his knee into the warning track in right field that Guerrero had vacated.

Anderson was off to the races as Finley desperately chased down the ball -- as soon as I saw how hard that ball hit off of Finley's knee I knew he had a chance to score. Finley retrieved the ball and got it into 2B Adam Kennedy, whose relay throw home was weak and to the first base side of the plate, allowing Anderson to just beat Jose Molina's tag and tie the game.

Braden Looper, who had allowed a couple of hits in the top of the ninth but escaped by striking out 3B Dallas McPherson, began the tenth by getting pinch hitter Chone Figgins on a fly out to Cliff Floyd in left. Kennedy followed with a single and stole second, but Looper got Cabrera to ground out for the second out. It looked like he escaped again when he got PH Jeff DaVanon to ground softly to 1B, but Mientkiewicz misplayed the ball for an error, putting runners on first and third, still 2 outs. Darin Erstad followed with an RBI single that David Wright should have played, and the unlucky Mets were down a run again heading into the bottom of the tenth.

Brendan Donnelly came into the game in relief of Rodriguez who had been pinch hit for in the top of the inning. Jose Reyes led off with a bloop single, then Mike Cameron walked on a 3-2 pitch, putting the tying run into scoring position with no outs. But Donnelly struck out Beltran and Piazza. Sloppy defense in the top of the inning and bad situational hitting in the bottom seemed to doom the Mets as Cliff Floyd came up as the last chance. Floyd worked the count to 3-2, then creamed a pitch down the right field line that had a chance. I remember jumping to my feet and begging for the ball to stay fair, but it didn't.

The crowd let out a collective groan as Cliff retreated back to the plate, and you just knew that the baseball Gods weren't going to let you have this one...

Looking back after the game, Cliff said, "I had a chance to look in the stands, and people were standing with the hands on their heads or bending over in pain or covering their eyes. They figured that was my best shot. 'Nice try, Cliff. Thanks for the at-bat.' But I just told myself, 'Don't give in and don't give up'."

After fouling off a couple more pitches, Cliff got hold of a pitch and sent it to deep right-center. Once more I was on my feet, screaming out loud with Dave O'Brian, "He did it!" I remember watching Cliff round the bases, smiling like a little kid, epitomizing the joy of baseball at its best, and thinking to myself, this is why I do it, this is why I watch, why I root for the Mets despite everything...


Next...

A final look back at the 2005 season, part 2.

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