By Mike Steffanos
Mets 6 - Nationals 2
Final Record 97-65
The Mets finished the 2006 regular season the same way they started it, with a win over the Washington Nationals. The victory was their fourth in a row, and number 97 on the year. The victory total ties the 1999 wild card team for the fifth most wins all time for a Mets team.
The Mets did all of their scoring in a 6-run second inning. Oliver Perez gave them 4 solid innings at the start, and then Roberto Hernandez, Pedro Feliciano, Chad Bradford, Guillermo Mota and Aaron Heilman took care of an inning each to close it out. Perez was touched up for a run in his 4 innings, and Heilman allowed the other before closing it out in the ninth. The game was the final one in Frank Robinson's career as a manager.
Rather than spend a lot of time dissecting a game that had the feel of a spring training contest, I'll just share some general observations. Cliff Floyd started and played most of the way in left field. He's obviously still hobbled, and I have to wonder about him in the playoffs. Through no fault of his own he is a defensive liability in the outfield, so he will really need to hit to justify playing time.
For the offense, Shawn Green and Jose Valentin both had 3-hit games. Both have been struggling somewhat, and both will be needed starting Wednesday afternoon. David Wright also stayed hot with a pair of hits, finishing with a .311 average in his second full major league season. Anderson Hernandez had a 2-run triple that ballooned his RBI total for the year to 3. Along with his solid hitting, Shawn Green also had a nice defensive play in the outfield, as did Lastings Milledge late in the game.
Perez has come a long way since coming to the Mets, though the bare numbers aren't very impressive. I wouldn't be one who is in favor of Oliver on the playoff roster, but if the Mets decided to go that way it certainly wouldn't be indefensible. More importantly, with Pedro's career in doubt -- and a shoulder injury at his age with so many major league innings under his belt threaten more than just an 8 month layoff -- I suspect Oliver Perez will be an important part of the Mets plans for 2007.
It's too early to think about next year, though, because the Mets are playing meaningful games in October for the first time in 6 years. It looks likely that the Mets will be facing the Dodgers on Wednesday, as the Padres are romping to an apparent easy victory as I write these words. So ignore all of the dire talk about Pedro's future and our starting pitching in the playoffs. Two years ago this team was managed by Art Howe, enduring its second consecutive 90-loss season, and there truly was no light at the end of the tunnel. Today we have 97 wins and a berth in the NLDS. We've come a long way, my friends. The marathon is over, the sprint is about to begin.