T.J. Rivers

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:


It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”



Syndergaard Sparks the Offense as the Mets Hold On

After Noah Syndergaard allowed a fourth inning laser homerun to Yasmany Tomas, it looked like Syndergaard was going to have to take matters into his own hands if the Mets were going to win the game. He did:

The home run was Syndergaard’s third of the year tying him with Tom Seaver and Walt Terrell for the Mets single season home run record. Syndergaard’s homer was a no doubter homer scoring him and Alejandro De Aza giving the Mets a 3-1 lead.

De Aza was on second because Michael Bourn absolutely robbed Rene Rivera of an extra base hit. With runners on second and third, it turned into a sacrifice fly scoring T.J. Rivera. It was part of a huge inning the Mets had off Braden Shiply that saw the Mets bat around scoring four runs.

That Syndergaard home run did more than give the Mets the lead, it sparked the offense.  Later on that inning, Jose Reyes tripled and scored on a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly.  In the fifth, Kelly Johnson would lead off the inning with a solo home run.  Rivera would then single and score on a De Aza double.  De Aza would then come home on a two out RBI infield single by Reyes.   Just like that it was 7-1 Mets through the first five and a half innings.

However, it wasn’t a laugher.  Nothing is that easy with the Mets.

The Diamondbacks sixth inning rally started on a Rivera “throwing error” allowing Jake Lamb to reach.  It wasn’t a great throw, but it was another example of James Loney not making a full stretch at first base.  Lamb and Wellington Castillo would score on a Mitch Haniger triple.  Haniger would come in to score on a Rivera two out fielding error (that one was on him).  Overall, while Syndergaard started the game out strong, he would up struggling again.  He pitched 5.2 innings allowing seven hits, four runs, two earned, and two walks with eight strikeouts.  He was fortunately bailed out by Jerry Blevins to end the sixth.

In the seventh, Hansel Robles continued his recent shaky play giving up a leadoff double to Paul Goldschmidt and issuing a two out walk to Castillo.  Terry Collins would then go to Addison Reed as he is the only person on the planet that does not know the Reed isn’t good with inherited runners.  Reed was welcomed with a Haniger (him again) double scoring Goldschmidt.  Just like that it was 7-5 Mets, and they were in for a fight.

Fortunately, Reed would settle down in the eighth with a 1-2-3 innings, and Jeurys Familia would slam the door shut in the ninth.  With that, the Mets are now a game over .500 again, and they kept pace in the Wild Card race.

Game Notes: Rivera was a surprise late replacement for Neil Walker who had to sit out the game with a sore back.  Rivera had the two errors, but he had a strong day at the plate going 4-4 with two runs.  Reyes seems closer to his old self going 2-4 with a run, RBI, and a triple.  Jay Bruce had his best day as a Met going 2-4 with a walk.

Pennant Race: The Dodgers beat the Phillies 15-5.  The Reds beat the Marlins 6-3.  The Cardinals beat the Astros 8-5.  The Rockies beat the Nationals 6-2.  The Pirates beat the Dodgers 4-3.  The Mets are in third place in the NL East 10.5 games out, and they are 3 games out of the final Wild Card spot behind the Cardinals, Pirates, and Marlins.