Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Of What Is and What Has Been Before

Presumably, all of us in Mets Nation are simply happy that the Mets were able to come away with the victory in a game that they seemed to have frittered away via some sloppy fielding and sloppy pitching on a sloppy night at Shea, where I can only imagine the crowd was far less than the 48-some odd-thousand that were announced, on an August evening cleverly disguised as an April evening.

But the events leading up to Luis Castillo's first Heroship in a Mets uniform seemed to take on the feel of a couple of games from years past, games not forgotten, and that produced some signature moments for a couple of great Mets, one whom is still writing his book with the team, and one whose place is cemented as, arguably, The Best.

I speak, specifically of a game played exactly one year ago, similarly on a Tuesday night in late August at Shea Stadium, and another game, played on a similarly chilly April night eight years ago. We are all familiar with the results. The setting remains the same and some of the names do as well.

On April 28th, 1999, the Mets blew a late game lead to the San Diego Padres, and entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 3-2, and, as per usual, into the game comes Trevor Hoffman to presumably close out the game. Instead, John Olerud led off with a single and Mike Piazza followed by ripping a Walkoff HR into the Mets bullpen to give the Mets a 4-3 victory. Because of Piazza's stature and the fact that the image of Piazza raising his fists and dropping his bat was an enduring image from that season (and adorns the cover of the 2000 Mets Yearbook), this is not a Lost Classic. This is just a Classic.

On August 22nd, 2006, the Mets fell behind to the St. Louis Cardinals and A-Poo by a 7-1 score. The victim of this deficit was John Maine. But a Carlos Delgado Grand Slam and a Jose Reyes RBI later, the lead was down to 7-6 going into the Bottom of the 9th, where, against Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Beltran smacked a 2-run HR into the Mets bullpen to give the Mets a steely 8-7 victory. Because this game was constantly re-played on SNY and because of how this game was typical of the kinds of ways the Mets could beat you in 2006, this is not a Lost Classic. This is also just a Classic.

And so, that brings us to Tuesday night. With John Maine on the mound, the Mets raced out to an early lead buoyed by the hot hitting of Carlos Beltran. But Maine tired in the 6th, and the Padres came back and eventually took the lead in the 7th. But the Mets would battle back, not once, but twice. First, it was Beltran once again driving home the tying run in the 8th. But the Mets would falter again as Wagner allowed a run in the 9th. And so the Mets entered the last of the 9th, and just as it was in 1999, there was Trevor Hoffman coming in.

And, just as it was in 1999, Hoffman could not hold the lead. First, it was Milledge coming up with the leadoff hit, then Mike DiFelice laying down the key sacrifice, and then Marlon Anderson, playing a role as key as he did back in yet another one of these wild victories back in 2005, coming up with the tying hit, and then scoring the winning run on Luis Castillo's hit two batters later.

Hoffman. Beltran. Maine. Anderson.

Mets lore is dotted with these names, and once again, they all emerged as key players in Tuesday night's victory. And in a mostly uneven season for the Mets, it's good to see them summon up the magic of a couple of memorable seasons where victories like this were commonplace, and years where, by season's end, every last victory would prove to be crucial. What remains in this season will tell us just how crucial this victory will be.

Regrettably, this was not a Ballclub night at Shea; most of the games we have attended have been on Tuesdays, it seems, however we are slated to be in attendance on Thursday, on what will be another anniversary of another kind that I will discuss tomorrow.

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