Apr 22

Mets List: Mets-Braves Magic Moments

Unlike the Yankees, who always had the Red Sox as a historical sparring partner, the Mets haven’t had what you’d consider a for-the-ages rival. In their infant years, they had the Dodgers and Giants for obvious reasons, then in 1969, they developed a brief rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. Later, it was the Pirates, then the Cardinals, and eventually the Braves.

I have always wanted to run a weekly Mets List feature and plan to do so on Friday.

NO STRANGER GAME

NO STRANGER GAME

With the Mets in Atlanta today for the start of a three-game series, I have come up with five of the most memorable Mets-Braves moments. If you have others, please share.

Post Sept. 11 homer: On Sept. 21, in the first professional sporting event in New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Braves were in town. Emotions ran high, but boiled over when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer off Steve Karsay.

The Mets trailed by a run entering the eighth when Piazza delivered.

The 1969 NLCS: The Mets’ reward for overtaking the Cubs was to face the powerful Braves in the first year of divisional play.

The Braves were loaded with the likes of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Orlando Cepeda, but the Mets swept the series, winning 9-5 and 11-6 (at Atlanta) and 7-4 (at Shea Stadium).

Tom Seaver, Ron Taylor and Nolan Ryan were the winning pitchers. From there, the Mets continued to stun the sports universe by beating Baltimore in the World Series.

The Grand Slam single: The Mets trailed in the 1999 NLCS 3-to-1 in games and 3-2 entering the bottom of the 15th inning. The Mets tied it, 3-3, when Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk.

Robin Ventura followed with what appeared to be a grand slam, but was only credited with a single when the Mets stormed the field to congratulate Ventura. In the process, Mets’ runners passed each other on the bases necessitating the call. VIDEO

The Mets would lose Game 6, 10-9, when Kenny Rogers issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth.

The Subway Series against the Yankees would have to wait another year.

Late night fireworks: On July 4 and 5, 1985, the Mets had one of those games. The Mets tied it, 8-8, in the top of the ninth on Lenny Dykstra’s RBI single off closer Bruce Sutter.

The teams slogged around for several innings before Howard Johnson’s two-run homer off Terry Forster in the 13th inning. However, Atlanta tied it, 10-10, on Terry Harper’s two-run homer off Tom Gorman. The Mets regained the lead in the 18th on Dykstra’s sacrifice fly off reliever Rick Camp, but the Braves tied it again on Camp’s homer off Gorman.

The Mets seemingly blew open the game with five runs off Camp in the 19th, but pesky Atlanta pulled within 16-13 off Ron Darling.

The game ended shortly before 4 a.m., but the Braves went ahead with their fireworks night. That prompted many calls to police claiming their neighborhood was under attack.

Double-header treat: In a night that might have symbolized the passing of the torch was near, Mets started prize pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined for a double-header sweep on June 18 in Atlanta.

Harvey, who would pitch in the All-Star Game that year but eventually wind up on the disabled list and need surgery, won the first game, 4-3. Wheeler, who grew up near Atlanta, won the second game. 6-1.

Rarely had the Mets won in Atlanta, but sweeping a double-header was unfathomable.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey Tinkers With Mechanics

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Apr 22

Mets Today: On The Blog

Good morning. The Mets are in Atlanta today for the beginning of a three-game series with one of their biggest rivalries, although things have cooled off in recent years as the Braves plunged into mediocrity.

mets-logoball-2 Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets who will be going after their third straight series win.

Today on the blog I’ll have for you:

* Today In Mets History.

* A list on some of the most memorable moments in the Mets-Braves rivalry, with the promise Armando Benitez won’t be in any of them.

* A short piece on Harvey.

* Today’s lineups.

And, of course, an analysis on any breaking news.

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: Big Day For Tom Seaver

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Apr 03

Today In Mets’ History: Win Seaver In Hat Lottery

On this date in 1966, Tom Seaver’s name was picked from a hat in a special draft, awarding him to the Mets over the Indians and Phillies.

SEAVER: Mets hit lottery with him. (Topps)

SEAVER: Mets hit lottery with him. (Topps)

In 1965, Seaver was originally drafted by the Dodgers following his 10-2 sophomore season. However, the Dodgers balked at Seaver’s $70,000 salary demands and he re-entered the draft for 1966. This time, the Braves took him.

Seaver signed with Atlanta, but the contract was voided by then commissioner William Eckert because his USC college team had played two exhibition games (although Seaver didn’t play).

When Seaver’s father threatened a lawsuit, Major League Baseball backtracked with the hat lottery.

There are some interesting “what ifs” had history played out differently. For example, had the Dodgers agree to Seaver’s original salary request, he and Don Drysdale could have formed an interesting tandem. No, he never would have played with Sandy Koufax, but they might have gone to spring training together in 1966, which was the Hall of Fame left-hander’s last season. Koufax retired after the World Series that year because of an arthritic condition in his left elbow.

More delicious, however, would have been had he gone to the Indians, where he could have been part of an interesting rotation featuring Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and Sonny Siebert.

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Mar 08

Mets Matters: Harvey Has Solid Spring Debut

Matt Harvey threw 41 pain-free pitchings, mostly at 96 mph., in his exhibition debut Tuesday against the Braves. Harvey threw seven pitches in the first inning and overcome bases-loaded situations in the second and third innings at the cost of one run.

All in all, not a bad first start.

mets-matters logoHarvey told his reporters his “arm felt great,” and he thought it was good for him to get into – and escape – trouble.

“That’s what spring is about,” Harvey said. “You have to amp things up and get into those situations. You’re never really going to learn from anything if you go 1-2-3 with seven or eight pitches throughout the whole thing. Obviously, it’s spring training. Getting into those situations where you’re adrenaline starts pumping up a little bit, it’s good practice.”

It’s also a relief the element of the unknown in coming off Tommy John is gone. Harvey said it takes a load off not having to answer questions all the time about his arm. This spring the questions are directed at Zack Wheeler.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright didn’t play today, won’t play tomorrow and nobody knows for sure when he’ll play. However, he did say he will be ready for Opening Day. … ESPN reported St. Louis might inquire into the Mets about Ruben Tejada now that Jhonny Peralta could miss up to three months with a thumb ligament injury. … Jacob deGrom will start Wednesday.

Mar 08

No Brainer Harvey Will Be Opening Day Starter

The Mets like to say they don’t have one ace, but a whole rotation full of aces. It’s the politically correct thing to say, of course. It’s also nonsense because everybody knows it’s a no-brainer Matt Harvey will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City.

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

Jacob deGrom had a better season statistically – traditionally a yardstick in naming an Opening Day starter – and Noah Syndergaard might have a higher upside, but Harvey is the arm the Mets first boast about.

Harvey, today’s starter against the Braves at Disney, last pitched in Game 5 of the World Series when he convinced manager Terry Collins to go out for the ninth inning, and we all know how that worked out for the Mets.

Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year, but most importantly in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery was he made 29 regular-season starts and threw 216 total innings without any hint of re-injury.

Many times in the second year back from surgery the pitcher will come back even stronger and there are reports from Florida Harvey’s slider is back and his fastball has that last-second bite it lacked at times in 2015.

Harvey will make over $4 million this year, more than deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler combined. The Mets will say when they finally make the official announcement money had nothing to do with their decision, but that would be a misnomer.

Harvey makes the most because his age put him first in line. That’s a fact, but it’s also symbolic. You see, the Mets were going to rebuild with their young pitching and Harvey was the first. He was the one they were going to build around.

Then came Wheeler, and deGrom, then Syndergaard and Matz. Come July when Wheeler is back and Bartolo Colon is relegated to the bullpen, will the Mets’ rebuilding plan be whole.

But, symbolically Harvey was the first step, which is why he’ll get the ball in Kansas City. It’s symmetry.