In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at clutch moments from the year 2000.Â Today we look at the final seasons of manager Bobby Valentine’s career as Met manager.
After finishing 2000 with a regular season record of 94-68 and an appearance in the World Series, the Mets under Valentine failed to make the playoffs in 2001 or 2002.Â The team went 82-80 in 2001, then fell to last place with a record of 75-86 in 2002 and Valentine was dismissed after the season.
There were some clutch moments during this period despite their overall “un-clutchness.”
With the Mets 8.5 games out of first place and 7 games under .500 at 64-71, they entered September needing to win a lot of games to make it to the post season for a third consecutive year.Â Making the post season in both 1999 and 2000 marked the first time in franchise history that the team had made the playoffs in 2 consecutive seasons so doing it 3 years in a row would better what was already the best stretch in the team’s history.Â Despite ultimately failing to do so, the 2001 Mets team did not go down without a fight.
September 1, 2001
Desperately trying to climb back into contention the Mets started September off with an extra-inning walk-off win.Â Kevin Appier started and allowed only 2 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks in 8 innings, striking out 7.Â But the offense could only manage 2 runs and Appier left with the game tied.Â With 1 out in the bottom of the 11th Jorge Toca singled off Florida Marlins reliever Juan Acevedo.Â 1 out later Jay Payton doubled in Toca to win the game for the Mets.
September 3-5, 2001
With the Mets in 3rd place they needed to win any game they could but they especially needed to win games against the 2 teams ahead of them in the NL East.Â One of those teams was the 2nd place Philadelphia Phillies.Â On September 3rd the Mets entered the top of the 9th at Veteran’s Stadium down 7-5.Â Facing Jose Mesa, Edgardo Alfonzo led off with a single.Â Mike Piazza followed with a double putting runners on 2nd & 3rd.Â Timo Perez came on to pinch-run for Piazza.Â Tsuyoshi Shinjo grounded out moving Perez to 3B and scoring Alfonzo to cut the Phillies’ lead to 7-6.Â Todd Zeile singled home Perez tying the score.Â Jay Payton then singled, forcing Mesa from the game.Â With Robin Ventura at the plate, Mesa’s replacement Jose Santiago made an error on a pick off throw to 2B allowing Zeile to move up to 3B, then on the same play shortstop Jimmy Rollins made an error attempting to throw out Zeile at 3B which allowed Zeile to score the go-ahead run while Payton moved up to 2B.Â Ventura then singled moving Payton to 3B.Â Desi Relaford hit a sacrifice fly making it 9-7 Mets, and pinch hitter Lenny Harris capped the scoring with an RBI single.Â Final Mets 10, Phils 7.
The next night Mets starter Steve Trachsel threw 7 shutout innings.Â He tired in the 8th, allowing 3 runs, but the Mets had already scored 5 and held on to win 5-3.
The following night the Mets completed the sweep of the 3-game series by knocking Phillies’ starter Dave Coggin out of the game in the 1st inning.Â Coggin walked Matt Lawton, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza to load the bases with no one out.Â Tsuyoshi Shinjo singled to drive in Lawton.Â Robin Ventura singled to drive in Alfonzo.Â Jay Payton then singled to drive in Piazza and Shinjo, and drive Coggin from the game before he could retire a single batter.Â The Mets led 4-0, then held on for the 7-4 victory and sweep.
September 8, 2001
The Mets entered the top of the 9th inning at the Florida Marlins trailing 7-6.Â Antonio Alfonseca came on to close the game for the Marlins and gave up a lead off single to Todd Zeile.Â Jorge Toca pinch-ran for Zeile and moved up to 2B on a Jay Payton single.Â After a Rey Ordonez sacrifice moved both runners up, pinch-hitter Mark Johnson was intentionally walked loading the bases.Â Matt Lawton doubled scoring Toca for the tie and Zeile for the lead.Â Desi Relaford then singled home Johnson giving the Mets a 9-7 lead.Â Armando Benitez recorded a 1-2-3 inning getting the last two batters to strikeout swinging for the Mets 6th win in a row.Â They were now 1 game under .500 at 71-72 but still 7 games out of 1st place.
September 17-19, 2001
Tied at 1-1 entering the top of the 9th the night of the 17th at the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Mets scored 3 runs off Mike Fetters for the win.Â Tsuyoshi Shinjo was hit by a pitch leading off.Â Shinjo stole 2B.Â Two outs later, Jay Payton walked.Â Then Rey Ordonez singled to drive in Shinjo with the go-ahead run.Â Pinch-hitter Mark Johnson doubled home Payton and Shinjo for the eventual winning score of 4-1.
The next night the Mets entered the top of the 8th down 4-3.Â With one out Edgardo Alfonzo singled off Scott Sauerbeck knocking him from the game.Â Reliever Omar Olivares came on and promptly gave up a 2-run homer to Mike Piazza.Â One out later Todd Zeile homered giving the Mets a 6-4 lead.Â The Pirates (Brian Giles) and the Mets (Matt Lawton) traded solo home runs in the bottom of the 8th and top of the 9th respectively, then Armando Benitez threw a 1-2-3 9th for the save.
The Mets blew out the Pirates 9-2 the following afternoon, highlighted by 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief from Dicky Gonzalez, to sweep the series.Â The Mets had now won 9 of their last 10 games, had a record of 74-73, and were 5 behind the 1st place Atlanta Braves who were next on the schedule.
September 21-23, 2001
Baseball had taken a hiatus following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.Â Since the resumption of game action, both New York teams had been on the road.Â September 21st marked the return of baseball to the city of New York.Â With 1 out in the bottom of the 8th the Mets were losing 2-1 and relief pitcher Steve Karsay was on the mound.Â Edgardo Alfonzo walked.Â Then arguably the most emotionally charged clutch moment in Met history occurred.Â Mike Piazza hit a 2-run homer giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.Â Armando Benitez held on for the save.Â The Mets had not only beaten the 1st place team in their division, cutting the Braves’ lead to 4.5 games, but they had won the 1st game in NYC since 9/11.
The next night Steve Trachsel threw 7 innings of 1 run, 5 hit ball and the Mets won 7-3, moving to 3.5 games out of 1st place.
The following afternoon the Mets lost and the Braves regained their 4.5 game lead.Â The Mets got as close as 3 games out but were officially eliminated October 2 following a 10-1 loss to the Pirates.
Valentine’s last year at the helm was fairly devoid of clutch moments.Â The team was officially eliminated from post season contention on September 13.Â The Mets lost that night 11-8 to the Montreal Expos, then later that night when the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres all avenues to the playoffs for the Mets were closed.Â That 9/13 loss left the Mets record at 70-77 and they were 23 games out of 1st place.Â They wound up 75-86, 26.5 games out in last place.Â Valentine was replaced by Art Howe.
(Thanks to Baseball Reference for providing the box scores and game logs that make this series possible.)