There are always those games. Years pass, but the shock remains. As a fan, you still can't believe your team lost them. And for those of us who root for teams that haven't won the big one in a while (for me, that would be...all of my teams), all we want is a chance at redemption.
On Sunday, we found out that Super Bowl LII will act as a chance for just that for one snake bitten franchise -- the Philadelphia Eagles. Mets fans are dreaming for that chance sometime soon, too. After a fairly unscathed 25 seasons, the last 31 have been peppered with more excruciating heartbreak than roaring success.
What are the worst Mets losses of all time? Here are my top (bottom?) five:
1988 NLCS, Game 4. Dodgers 5, Mets 4. F/12
I spoke about this game in my Dodgers playoff post, but for the uninitiated, this has to be the worst loss the franchise had before the turn of the century.
The Mets had won 10 of 11 from the Dodgers during the '88 season, and they were prohibitive favorites headed into the LCS. New York split the first two at Dodger Stadium, then won Game 3. And headed to the ninth inning of Game 4, with Doc on the mound and a 4-2 lead, it looked like they were about to take a commanding 3-1 series advantage.
Gooden walked John Shelby on a 3-2 pitch, a mistake that proved to be lethal. Scioscia, who, to that point, had a career that spanned 958 games ( that includes his postseasons) and had hit just 35 home runs. He went hunting for a first pitch he could handle, and boy, did he get it.
Believe it or not, this game got worse. Kirk Gibson hit a two out, solo home run off Roger McDowell to give the Dodgers a 5-4 lead. But in their half of the 12th, the Mets fought back. Macky Sasser and Lee Mazzilli opened the frame with back-to-back singles to put the tying and winning runs on base. After failing to get a bunt down for the second time that night, Gregg Jeffries flew out, and former Met Jesse Orosco relieved Tim Leary to face Keith Hernandez. Orosco walked his old teammate, and the bases were loaded, the tying just 90 feet away, and the winning run in scoring position as well. Darryl Strawberry would be the batter.
Orosco got Straw to pop out, and then Orel Hershiser took it from there. The Game 3 starter (and eventual Game 7 winner) came in and jammed Kevin McReynolds on a 1-1 pitch. It looked like this ball may fall into no-man's land, but centerfielder John Shelby came in and made the catch at knee height.
"And when you write the story of this game, where in the world do you begin," opined Al Michaels after the final out.
What makes this game harder to swallow is that you can really trace the consternation of Mets fandom back to this moment. All the angst of the last 30-ish years really starts here. It is the point in time where "the dynasty that never" cemented that legacy. It's a season that really should have ended in a world title. But it didn't, and the Commissioner's Trophy has only been handed out in Queens twice since, inside the visitors' clubhouse.
2007, Game 162. Marlins 8, Mets 1
We hear all the time about the "back-to-back" collapses of the 2007 and 2008 teams, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Sure, the '08 Mets had a 3.5 game lead with 17 games to play, but that lead was exceedingly shaky. Their bullpen was awful (Luis Ayala was closing games in September), with the Brewers and Padres hot on their heels for the Wild Card, '08 was never really a sure thing.
2007 was. It was done. Locked up. Over.
Prior to September 28, they were just a grand total of just 18 days where they didn't have at least a share of first the entire year. In fact, the last time the Mets trailed in the NL East before the final weekend of the season was May 15. After a win on September 12, the Mets had won five of six to take that infamous seven game lead, and the playoffs were a foregone conclusion. My dad and I even visited our playoff seats in the Mezz to get an idea of the vantage point.
But New York promptly lost five in a row, while the Phillies picked up 5 1/2 games over the span of those five days. And yet still, on the second-to-last Sunday of the season, the Mets won a thrilling 11 inning game in Florida to push their lead back to 2 1/2. It still felt like a sure thing. We know what happened from there. The Phillies pulled even on Thursday, ahead on Friday, back to even fter John Maine nearly threw a no-no and Jose Reyes "woke the Marlins up") on Saturday, and then that fateful Sunday. Tom Glavine on the hill. His line: .1 IP, five hits, two walks, seven runs, all earned.
People forget this, but in the bottom of the first, the Mets cashed one run in on a wild pitch had loaded the bases off Dontrelle Willis when Ramon Castro stepped into the box. Castro missed a grand slam by mere feet. He thought he got all of it. He did not.
Had Castro's swing indeed made the game 7-5, who knows what would have happened from there. Instead, it started a slow march toward the grave at Shea that day.
2015 World Series, Game 5. Royals 7, Mets 2 F/12
Personally, Game 1 stung more. The Mets were two outs away from a 1-0 series lead when Jeurys Familia's quick pitch splitter just up a millimeter too much, and Alex Gordon blasted it over the centerfield wall, it changed the complexion of the entire series. Juan Lagares crumpled against the padding depicted the spirit of every Mets fan in that moment.
Even Game 4, where the Mets were five outs away from tying the series when Tyler Clippard's back-to-back walks started the Royals eventual-game winning rally, felt bigger.
But there is no denying Game 5 will always be the defining moment of this series.
"I'd assume you have to send him back out for the ninth," my dad turned to me and said on the commercial break before Matt Harvey came roaring back onto the field.
"One would think," is all I could muster in response.
They did. It did not go well.
Harvey sprinted to the mound. A 2-0 Mets lead that quickly became a 2-1 Mets lead. The David Wright side arm lollipop that coaxed the very dumb Eric Hosmer base running decision, onr that was made to look incredible because of this throw.
If Duda throws a strike there, the Mets head back to Kansas City and sure, maybe they lose Game 6 by a score of 13-0. But with Jacob deGrom on the hill, and Noah Syndergaard waiting in the wings for a potential Game 7, who wouldn't have loved to see the Mets get a chance? Just one year later, the Cubs would overcome the same series deficit.
Instead, Christian Colon broke the tie in the 12th, and Daniel Murphy's second back-breaking error in as many games opened the flood gates. Just minutes later, the dream of 2015 was dead. It was something that, when Harvey popped back on the rubber, no one dreamed of. But it is a nightmare we just won't escape until the Mets finally reach the mountain's summit.
2000 World Series, Game 1. Yankees 4, Mets 3 F/12.
I mentioned Game 1 of the 2015 World Series above, and if you saw Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, you'd think that FOX had decided to show a re-run episode 15 years later.
The Mets led by one headed to the bottom of the 9th. Mets closer Amando Benitez got Jorge Posado to fly out. One away. Two outs from a series lead, a guaranteed split on the road, and a chance to take a commanding advantage in their home stadium.
But when Paul O'Neill came to the plate, it's like we all knew what ridiculousness awaited us. And as O'Neill fought off pitch after pitch of his 10 pitch at bat, fouling them off and working the count back full from down 1-2, you knew what was coming. Benitez walked him. He walked the tying run on. Shit...
Back-to-back singles by Luis Polonia and Jose Vizcaino set up Chuck Knoblauch's game-tying sac fly. And even as the Mets' bullpen escaped jams in the 10th and 11th, it was only a matter of time.
The Mets didn't put a single runner on in the three extra inning frames. Once the Yankees got runners on second and third in the 12th, we knew. Turk Wendell got Luis Sojo (who would come through with a big hit four games later) to foul out to Todd Pratt, but Vizcaino, the former Met, wasted no time, and slapped a first pitch slider the other way and ended the misery.
Just like the Game 1 loss in 2015, this one changed the complexion of the whole series. The Mets had a chance to take control and were just two outs away from doing so when the roof caved in.
Just throwing it out there now: When the Mets do get back to the World Series, I'm not watching the opposing team's 9th inning in Game 1. Someone just tell me how it goes.
2006 NLCS, Game 7. Cardinals 3, Mets 1.
The Knicks have the Starks blocked shot in '94. The Jets have '86 Divisional round in Cleveland. Long-suffering teams always have that one loss that stings the most.
This is the loss in Mets history.
Beltran's strikeout gets all the attention, but the Mets truly lost this game in the sixth inning. After Endy Chavez saved the day, the Mets were gifted a golden opportunity against Jeff Suppan. With one out, Carlos Delgado walked. David Wright followed with a weak tapper to Scott Rolen, who airmailed the throw into the stands to put Delgado at third and Wright at second with one out.
Tony LaRussa walked Shawn Green intentionally to get to Jose Valentin. Bases loaded. One out. The Mets could blow it open right here.
But Valentin chased a 1-2 curveball in the dirt to strike out, and Endy flew out on the first pitch. The game remained tied, and would stay that way until Yadier Molina came up in the 9th.
"We had so much momentum, Shea was literally shaking, and I'm getting chills right now taking about it. To having the bases loaded right after that [...] and not scoring. It was almost like Shea went completely silent," Paul LoDuca told Darren and me on Orange and Blue Thing.
I think every Mets fan will tell you that they legitimately thought 2006 was the season, maybe as late in the year as the 9th inning of this game. Maybe until the moment Wainwright's curveball broke into the zone. And the fact that it wasn't is something I don't think I'll ever quite get over.
One day, the the clouds will part, the sky will open up, and the baseball gods give us our day in the sun again. Until then, we'll all be wondering: What if Doc got Scioscia to ground into a double play? If O'Neill hadn't gotten a piece of one of those Benitez fastballs or if Gordon had just gotten under Familia's splitter? What if the Mets had just won two more gamesi n 2007, or if Beltran split a gap? Unfortunately, we'll never know, but we'll keep hanging on until the story ends with a jaunt down the Canyon of Heroes for the boys in orange-and-blue.