Sunday, April 12, 2020

Great Games: June 11, 2005 Mets vs. Angels

The Mets game vs the Angels on Saturday, June 11, 2005 at Shea Stadium was not only arguably the best Mets game of the 2005 season, all these years later I still rank it as one of their best wins of all time.

Going into the game the Mets were floating along on the edge of competing in the National League East race in the way mediocre teams always seem to do: alternating bad and good games, putting a streak of solid ball together and then following with some weak efforts.

Coming off a dispiriting 12-2 loss in the series opener that featured anther poor performance from fifth starter Kaz Ishii (a candidate for a future goat story) and the bullpen, the Mets were sitting a game over .500 at 31-30, good for last place in a very competitive NL East.

Kris Benson started the game for the Mets and pitched very well, holding the Angels to 2 runs and 2 hits over 7 innings. He received a huge assist from CF Carlos Beltran, who went up over the fence to take a 2-run homer away from Bengie Molina in the seventh.  Angels starter Jarrod Washburn and reliever Scott Shields were better, however, holding the Mets to 1 run through 8 innings.  This one had the look of many dispiriting 2005 losses where a good pitching performance was squandered by the light-hitting offense. Their one meager run came on a bases loaded walk to pitcher Kris Benson.

It didn't look good when the Mets came up for their last chance in the bottom of the ninth against closer Frankie Rodriguez. Rodriguez was at the height of his game as a true power closer, for that season allowing only 45 hits in 67.1 innings while striking out 91 batters.  He would finish the year with only 5 blown saves in 50 chances.

After David Wright struck out to open the inning, Manager Willie Randolph sent Marlon Anderson up to hit for Chris Woodward.  Anderson hit a ball pretty well to Right Center Field.  I remember watching this game and thinking CF Steve Finley looked like he might be able to make a play on the ball, but the former Gold Glove winner was at the end of his career and he came up quite short.  In the process the ball bounced on the ground, back up and off his knee and careened towards right field.  With RF Vladimir Guerrero moving towards Finley to back up the play there was no OF in position to field the ball, forcing Finley to chase it down.

Anderson wasn't Jose Reyes, but he had good speed.  Once the ball bounced off of Finley's knee he knew he had a triple and a chance for more.  Two things to notice in the embedded video below: Anderson actually blowing a bubble between first and second base and how obviously he was running out of steam rounding third.  Aided by a nice slide and an accurate but rather weak relay throw by Adam Kennedy, Marlon tied the game with that improbable play.

The game didn't stay tied for long. In the top of the 10th closer Braden Looper came on. After recording the first out of the inning he allowed a single to Adam Kennedy who then stole second. Looper got Orlando Cabrera to ground out for the second out, and looked like he was going to get out of the inning unscathed when PH Jeff DaVanon hit a grounder to 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, a light hitting first baseman who was signed for his defense. Mientkiewicz, of course, failed to make the play and the inning was prolonged.

This proved to be costly as Darin Erstad followed with a single on a ball that David Wright should have been able to make the play on and the Mets were down a run.  All of the excitement and electricity that resulted from Marlon Anderson's improbable inside the park home run drained out of the stadium as the Mets again found themselves again down to their last chance.

Brendan Donnelly came on to pitch the bottom of the tenth.  Hope managed to make a comeback for Mets fans when Reyes singled to open the frame and Mike Cameron followed with a walk. I remember sitting on my couch thinking that even the Mets should be able to tie this game, but Beltran and Mike Piazza struck out and that burst of hope faded fast.  Bad defense and poor situational hitting seemed to be dooming the Mets to another dispiriting loss.

Cliff Floyd came up as the last chance for the Mets and worked the count to 3-2.  He turned on Donnelly's next pitch and sent one screaming down the RF line.  I jumped off my couch.  I screamed out loud.  I was sure it was going to stay fair.

It didn't.  Foul ball.  I remember thinking when you miss one like that you could kiss the game goodbye.  No way Cliff was going to come back and do it again.  He had struck out in his previous 3 at bats and the dreaded Golden Sombrero loomed.

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'."

There were a couple more foul balls that kept the count 3-2, and then this happened:

I was alone in my house watching this game, and I just remember screaming and jumping.  The Mets had come back from the dead twice that day, and won it on the most improbable walk off I can remember.  An instant classic that's still one of my favorites in more than five decades of being a fan.

Sadly, in true 2005 Mets fashion the Mets squandered whatever momentum they might have built up when they dropped the rubber game the next day.  Pedro started and pitched 7 solid innings, allowing 3 runs.  Looper (again) gave up the game winner in the top of the ninth aided by a David Wright error and the Mets, who managed only a single hit in 3 1/3 innings against the Angel's bullpen, went quietly in the ninth.  No late heroics that day.

That was the reality of the 2005 Mets.  Even an all-time great win couldn't keep the good times going.  Still, as they did on that memorable Saturday evening in June, they kept fighting all year long.

Thanks for giving me a chance to share one of my best memories.  Stay well, everyone.  We'll be back tomorrow.

My Series on the 2005 Season:

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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