By Mike Steffanos
Game 91: Mets 5 - Giants 0 (Wednesday)
Game 92: Mets 7 - Giants 3 (Thursday)
It seems like every time the Mets got it going for a while this year they would stumble into a momentum killer -- often against opponents who were not top echelon teams.
In May, the Mets were 19-16 and looking like they might put it together for a decent run. Then they lost 3 of 4 at home to the Nationals in an exhibition of all the faults that would plague them for most of the first half.
They rebounded to take a couple of games from the Yankees at the stadium, but then dropped a 4-game series in Atlanta where they managed to score only 9 runs total. Dropping another 2 of 3 in Colorado put them two games under .500, and then they came home and lost the opener of a series with the Marlins to go 3 games under.
They picked it up and took the next two games and the series, and then jumped on the Dodgers winning 3 of 4. Back to a game over .500, and with talk of firing Randolph toned down considerably, the Mets managed 2 of 3 in San Francisco despite Oliver Perez' memorable implosion in game one of that series.
The 30-28 Mets rolled next rolled into San Diego for a 4-game set against the 24-37 Padres. After losing 3 consecutive 2-1 games, the Mets forged a 6-4 lead in the finale. Duaner Sanchez managed 2 outs in the eighth, but also allowed a double and a walk. Randolph went for a 4-out save from his multi-million dollar closer who had sharply criticized Ollie Perez to the press a few days earlier.
The multi-million dollar closer allowed a single and then a 3-run homer to Tony Clark that gave San Diego a 4-game sweep. The once again reeling Mets came to face the Diamondbacks, who were having their own troubles.
The Mets jumped out to a 5-1 lead after 2, but Maine and the bullpen allowed the struggling D-backs to score the next 8 runs of the game. Mike Pelfrey was brilliant the next day, allowing one run in eight innings of work. Wagner came in with a 3-run lead and was lucky to leave the inning tied. Beltran's homer won in it in the 12th, but the bullpen had to work hard in a game that should have been won. When Wagner coughed up another 2-run lead the next day the Mets weren't so lucky, dropping the game and series and falling to 31-34.
Looking back, that was the low point of the season. They managed to take 2 of 3 against Texas in Randolph's last weekend at the helm. The Mets took 2 of 3 from the Angels as Manuel replaced Willie after the game one victory, and followed up with another 2 of 3 in Colorado. That promising 4-2 road trip raised the record to 37-37, but they followed up by dropping 2 of 3 at home to the worst-in-baseball Mariners and a 4-game split with the Yankees.
When the Mets ended June by dropping the first game of a 4-game set in St. Louis, looking lifeless and lost, I thought the season was on the verge of going under. The Mets were 40-42, 6-7 under Jerry Manuel, and looking very little like a team capable of sustaining a run at a playoff spot.
They won 2 of the next 3 to split the series and moved on to Philadelphia. A tough 3-2 loss in game one was reminiscent of so many games lost to Philly in the second half last year. Back to 42-44, 5-1/2 off the lead and on life support, the Mets fell behind 4-3 in the seventh inning of game 2 of the series. Inexplicably, they exploded for 6 runs in the final two innings against the Phillies bullpen which had owned them for more than a season.
Yet another blown save from their multi-million dollar closer ruined a fine effort from Ollie Perez in game 3. Wagner really tore our hearts out on that one by giving it up with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the ninth, but Joe Smith and Fernando Tatis were heroes on that day as the Mets pulled it out in 12. The epic 10-9 win the next day also featured Wagner giving up 2 in the ninth, but fortunately he had a 3-run lead to work with.
You couldn't have followed the Mets all year without wondering if they would squander yet another flirtation with righting the ship against a second division club when the Giants rolled into town. You were dreading it, half-expecting it, yet at the same time wondering if maybe Jerry Manuel hadn't gotten them around a psychological corner. Three wins later, there is reason for optimism.
I didn't talk much about these last two games. To me, it really wasn't all that important how they did it, it was important that they did it. Now 4 games over .500 and on a 6-game win streak, the Mets finally look like a team with a chance. No guarantees, and still some real issues to work around, but make no mistake -- this team has a chance. Even the oft-maligned Carlos Delgado is showing legitimate signs of life.
Speaking of signs of life, to those of you out there who are kind enough to care if your humble blogger can keep some food on his humble table, please consider using the terrific services of our friends at Ticket Solutions. They can help you out with Mets tickets and also New York theatre and concert tickets. If only they could help John Maine keep his pitch count down...
Oh, and thanks, Jerry. It's fun again.