In Part 2
of this series we looked at some clutch performances near the end of Bobby Valentine's tenure with the Mets. In this, the final installment, we look at Willie Randolph's Mets, concentrating on 2006.You may have noticed in our look back at clutch moments for the Mets in the first decade of the 21st century, we've skipped over the Art Howe years. Yup.Omar Minaya took over as general manager and eventually installed Willie Randolph as rookie field manager of the club for the 2005 season. Having finished at 66-95 in last place in 2003 and at 71-91 in 4th place in 2004 under Howe, the club showed immediate improvement under the Minaya/Randolph tandem finishing at 83-79 in 3rd place, 7 games out of 1st.The team had it's greatest success (read: it's only post season appearance) under Randolph in 2006. 2007 was less successful, it was the year the Mets first registered their patent of the concept of "collapse." The residual effect of that collapse led to Randolph's firing in June 2008, handing the reins to former Chicago White Sox skipper and Met bench coach Jerry Manuel who presided over a resurgence which sputtered and ended in what I lovingly refer to as the "fake collapse." Met fans thought these collapses, real or imagined, were bad until being given the historic number of injuries to players in 2009 for comparison.Prior to cornering the market on collapsing and infirmity, the Mets did enjoy some clutch moments which we will look back on here.2005The 2005 team was officially eliminated from post season contention with 5 games left in the season the night of September 27, a night on which they won, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 despite getting only 4 2/3 innings from starter Victor Zambrano. Later that night the Houston Astros won which eliminated the Mets from wildcard contention. Ironically the Mets defeat of the Phillies clinched the NL East for the Atlanta Braves. In the two weeks or so leading up to their elimination the Mets did show some signs of life.September 16-18, 2005Entering a 3 game series against eventual division winner Atlanta, the Mets were 4 games under .500 at 71-75, 12.5 games out of 1st place. The night of the 16th the Mets sent Pedro Martinez to the mound and he responded with one of his best efforts as a Met. With one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning and David Wright on 1st base, Mike Jacobs hit a 2-run homer for all the scoring the Mets would need. Pedro outgunned John Smoltz by throwing a complete game shutout, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 10, and the Mets won 4-0.The Mets lost the middle game of the series then sent Brave-4-life Tom Glavine to the mound against his former club. The Braves broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 6th and led 1-0 when the Mets came to bat in the bottom of the inning. Facing John Thomson, Jose Reyes led off with a walk. Victor Diaz doubled to score Reyes and tie the game. Carlos Beltran followed with a double to plate Diaz and give the Mets the lead. Cliff Floyd followed with a 2-run homer for insurance that Glavine would not need. He allowed only the 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks in a complete game victory.September 20, 2005Losing 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th to the Florida Marlins, Victor Diaz led off with a double and scored on a Cliff Floyd single to tie the game, which went into extra innings. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 12th, David Wright doubled. Mike Piazza was intentionally walked and Mike Jacobs singled Wright home for the walk-off win.September 21, 2005The Marlins led this game 4-3 going into the bottom of the 8th. Carlos Beltran led off with a walk and was singled to 2nd base by Cliff Floyd. 1 out later, Mike Piazza singled to score Beltran with the tying run. Then in the 9th Reyes singled with 1 out and advanced to 2nd base on an error by Juan Pierre in centerfield. Miguel Cairo singled to drive home Reyes for a 2nd consecutive walk-off victory.September 23, 2005Tied 2-2 with the Washington Nationals entering the top of the 10th inning, Marlon Anderson walked with 1 out. Jose Reyes reached on an error by shortstop Deivi Cruz. 1 out later Reyes stole 2nd. Carlos Beltran followed with a 3-run homer giving the Mets their margin of victory 5-2. This victory was the 1st of a 5 game winning streak, the last game of which was the 3-2 win over the Phillies noted above after which the Mets were eliminated. They went down swinging, a phrase one cannot apply literally to the 2006 Mets.2006The Mets of 2006 were the first major league team to clinch it's post season berth, doing so with a 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins September 18th. I can't speak for anyone else but I personally felt around this moment in time that this Met team was going to become the 1st one since the 1986 squad to win the World Series. Earlier that summer, following 19 years of living outside New York state, I moved back. I didn't move back for
the Mets, but I would be lying if I said that at the bottom of my list of reasons to move back, after the many practical ones, it didn't say "to be around when the Mets finally win again."
So blame me, I jinxed it. It was not to be, but there were some clutch moments along the way.September 18, 2006Steve Trachsel throws 6 1/3 innings of 3-hit shutout ball leading the Mets to their 4-0 division clinching victory over the Florida Marlins. Jose Valentin's 2-run homer in the bottom of the 3rd gave the Mets the lead. Valentin added a solo shot in the 5th and Cliff Floyd rounded out the scoring with a 6th inning RBI single.October 4, 2006Tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the 7th, Brad Penny came on in relief for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jose Reyes drew a lead off walk. 1 out later Reyes stole 2nd base. After Carlos Beltran walked, Carlos Delgado singled driving in Reyes. David Wright then doubled home Beltran for a 6-4 lead and the Mets held on to win 6-5 to take game 1 of the NLDS.October 7, 2006In the NLDS clinching game the Mets were down 5-4 entering the top of the 6th. With Jonathan Broxton on in relief for the Dodgers, Shawn Green led off with a double. 1 out later Michael Tucker walked putting runners on 1st and 2nd. Jose Reyes singled to drive in Green with the tying run. Paul LoDuca singled to plate Tucker with the go-ahead run, then a Carlos Beltran single scored Reyes with some insurance. The Mets wound up winning 9-5 and advancing to the fateful NLCS.October 12, 2006The Mets won the first game of the NLCS versus the Cardinals 2-0 behind the strong pitching of Tom Glavine. Glavine threw 7 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and 2 walks.October 18, 2006Down 3 games to 2 in the NLCS, the Mets tied the series at 3 games apiece behind strong pitching from starter John Maine and the bullpen. Maine threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing only 2 hits, and left with a 2-0 lead. Chad Bradford, Guillermo Mota and Aaron Heilman combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief while the Mets tacked on 2 insurance runs, then held on to win 4-2 despite Billy Wagner's giving up 2 runs in the 9th inning.October 19, 2006In game 7 of the NLCS, starter Oliver Perez allowed just 1 run in 6 innings on 4 hits and 2 walks. Endy Chavez made his famous circus catch in the 7th inning to keep the score tied, but that would be the last successful clutch moment for the 2006 Mets as Aaron Heilman gave up 2 runs and the Cardinals held on for the series victory when Adam Wainwright froze Carlos Beltran with his infamous curveball.EpilogueThere have been some clutch performances since Endy's catch for the Mets, but I think a 3 part series listing many of them over the course of the last decade makes the point. While the team hasn't won a World Series since 1986, that does not mean that no player on the team since Ray Knight won the World Series MVP has come through in a clutch moment. Before calling a sports talk radio show, try and remember that.