Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.
 

Jan 31

Mets Had The 27th Best Offseason

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, ranked which teams had the best offseason and had the Angels ranked first followed by the Yankees, Rangers, Cardinals and Tigers rounding out the top five. The Mets were ranked 27th.

27. METS – They lost their most exciting player (Reyes) and their best hitter (Beltran), so established players like David Wright and Jason Bay have to bounce back. They dealt Pagan to the Giants for outfielder Andres Torres, and added bullpen pieces in Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez. Johan Santana returns from a major shoulder injury, but what are you getting?

Cafardo had the Padres, Athletics and Astros as the only teams ranked worse than the Mets.

The Mets are banking on healthy returns from key players such as Johan Santana and Ike Davis, and comeback seasons from Mike Pelfrey, Jason Bay and David Wright who are each coming off the worst seasons of their careers.

As far as new additions go, they have replaced Frankie Rodriguez and Jason Isringhausen with Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez, and Andres Torres will replace Angel Pagan in centerfield and most likely Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot. Jon Rauch was also added to the bullpen, while Ronny Cedeno, Omar Quintanilla and a few other minor league signings will help fill bench roles.

Jul 03

Today in Mets’ History: Mets, Straw, outlast Astros.

Resiliency was one of the best descriptors of the 1986 Mets. They dominated with an attitude that they were never beaten.

STRAWBERRY: Big in the clutch in 86.

On this day against future playoff opponent Houston, the Mets overcame two two-run deficits to beat the Astros, 6-5, in 10 innings.

Down 2-0 with Ron Darling pitching, the Mets tied the game, 3-3, in the fifth inning on Darryl Strawberry’s two-run homer off Jim Deshaies.

Houston regained the lead, 5-3, in the 10th against Jesse Orosco on Phil Garner’s two-run homer, but the Mets came back with three on Strawberry’s two-run, game-tying homer and Ray Knight’s game-winner off Frank DiPino.

BOX SCORE

Strawberry was such a clutch player that season, driving in 24 runs with two outs and runners in scoring position and 60 runs with the game within two runs either way.

 

Jun 26

Today in Mets’ History: Looking at Rusty Staub.

Rusty Staub was one of the good guys in Mets’ history, not to mention one of their better players. Who can forget him playing the 1973 World Series with basically one arm?

STAUB: Pinch-hitter delux

Staub developed into one of the game’s great pinch-hitters. On this date in 1983, Staub tied Dave Philley’s then major league record  with his eighth consecutive pinch-hit in the first game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia.

Staub played 23 seasons in the major leagues, including nine with the Mets. He broke in with Houston in 1963 – the Astros’ second year of existence – then played with Montreal (1969-71); the Mets (1972-75); Detroit (1976-79), where he had three of his best seasons; another brief stint with the Expos at the end of the 1979 season; Texas in 1980; and finally five more years with the Mets.

Staub finished with 2,716 hits and 292 homers.

After his career, Staub worked on Mets’ telecasts, then own and operated two restaurants in Manhattan. He is a chef and wine connoisseur.

The Expos retired Staub’s No. 10 in 1993.

STAUB CAREER

Jun 25

Today in Mets’ History: Sid stars for ’86 powerhouse.

While the 1969 Mets gathered steam and rolled late in the second half, the 1986 team steamrolled the National League from start to finish as that team dominated as manager Davey Johnson projected.

FERNANDEZ: Had great stuff.

On this date in 1986, Sid Fernandez and Roger McDowell combined to stuff the Montreal Expos, 5-2, at Shea Stadium.

While Doc Gooden was the headliner, the 86 staff was solid with Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Fernandez and Rick Aguilera.

All but Aguilera made at least 30 starts with over 200 innings pitched. There were no 20-game winners on that staff, but six pitchers all won in double digits, including McDowell, who was 14-9 in relief with 22 saves and 128 innings pitched.

Fernandez was 16-6 that season, and all indications were he was going to be a special pitcher. In many ways, Fernandez personified the Mets from that era in that he had loads of talent, but never developed into a big winner.

Fernandez never won more than the 16 games that season and finished his career in 1997 at 114-96 in 15 years with the Mets, Dodgers, Orioles, Phillies and Astros.

FERNANDEZ CAREER

BOX SCORE