The New York Mets enjoyed an NL pennant and very little else over the last decade. Today, we explain it through 10 random games.
As the first decade of the 2000s drew to a close, the New York Mets were looking ahead to big things. The 2009 season had been a bad season, but things were going to turn around. David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to carry the Mets back to big things in 2010. Jason Bay and Johan Santana were going to help. They also had Luís Castillo, Carlos Beltrán and Jeff Francoeur, so… things were looking up.
Oh, how far we’ve come.
So how did we get from closing day 2009, a Nelson Figueroa complete-game shutout against the Houston Astros, to the present? It’s been a bumpy ride, anything but straightforward, but I’ve tried to pick out some games that tell the story.
Wherever possible, I tried to avoid games that stood out too much. Everyone already remembers Wilmer Flores night at Citi Field.
So we begin the story of the Mets in the 2010s. It wasn’t pretty. But my goodness, I’d do it again in a second.
Oct. 3, 2010: Nationals 2, Mets 1 (14)
It was closing day, and the 2010 season was already a lost cause. The Mets were 79-82, better than 2009 but not good enough. The lone bright spot in the lineup was Ike Davis, the young first-baseman whose lefthanded power and acrobatic catches had quickly made him a Mets fan household name.
Mike Pelfrey started. He pitched seven innings and only allowed one run, lowering his E.R.A. to 3.66. The Mets scored their only run in the fifth when Josh Thole grounded into an RBI double play. The game went to extras tied at one… Ryota Igarashi, then Hisanori Takahashi, then Sean Green. Manny Acosta threw three scoreless innings. The Mets had one reliever left.
In the 14th, Óliver Pérez came in. He struck out the first batter he faced. Then, suddenly, the top of the 14th became the most Óliver Pérez inning of all time: hit-by-pitch, walk, walk, RBI walk. Pat Misch came in and induced a double play to end the inning, but the damage was done. The run raised Pérez’s E.R.A. to 6.80.
At the end of the 2019 season, one member of the 2010 Mets was still an active pitcher, and his name was Óliver Pérez.
Sept. 24, 2011: Mets 2, Phillies 1
It was another lost season. José Reyes was chasing a batting title, but the Mets were 74-82, 22 games behind the Phillies. In the midst of a stellar season, R.A. Dickey took the mound against Cole Hamels. Both pitched well, but Dickey cracked first when Ryan Howard hit an RBI single in the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of the inning, after Willie Harris and Mike Nickeas made outs, Terry Collins sent up a pinch-hitter. He was a hulking, brutish outfielder who was playing in the major leagues for the first time since 2004. At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, his name was Valentino Pascucci.
It was almost karmic. Pascucci took a gargantuan, bruising swing, and crushed Hamels’ pitch into the seats to tie the game. David Wright hit an RBI double in the eighth, and the Mets won. But Valentino Pascucci was the hero of the day. And who but the 2011 Mets could say that?
Aug. 22, 2012: Rockies 5, Mets 2
The first time I saw Matt Harvey pitch in person, he went six innings against the Rockies, struck out nine, and didn’t get any run support. Can you imagine? The game was tied 1-1 in the seventh when Ramón Ramírez took over and promptly allowed two runs. The Mets got a run back in the eighth on an Ike Davis RBI single, but Frank Francisco quickly gave up two more. The Mets came to bat in the bottom of the ninth down 5-2.
With one out, Mike Baxter singled. After Daniel Murphy struck out, Justin Turner walked. The tying run came to the plate.
Unfortunately, the tying run was Ronny Cedeño, who hit 40 home runs over a 10-year career. So he barely meant anything.
“We may be losing,” yelled a fan sitting nearby, “but you have to go back to Colorado, so who are the real winners?”
Then, suddenly: deep fly ball! Surely, Cedeño just snuck the ball over the right-field fence and tied the game… but no. Carlos González caught the ball on the warning track, and the Mets lost. And that’s pretty much how Matt Harvey’s career went: too many Ronny Cedeños, hitting too many deep fly balls just a hair too shallow.
Aug. 26, 2013: Phillies 2, Mets 1
On Aug. 24, Matt Harvey pitched against the Tigers. Somehow, despite allowing 13 hits, he held them to two runs over 6.2 innings. Two days later, the afternoon of Aug. 26, the Mets announced that he would need Tommy John surgery.
That night, Zack Wheeler, still a promising rookie, took the mound. He pitched into the seventh and struck out seven while allowing two runs. The Mets took the lead in the second inning on an Andrew Brown RBI single. But after a Cody Asche two-run triple in the fourth, the Mets put three men on base the rest of the game. Wheeler got the loss.
Harvey was gone for a year or more. In the midst of one of his best seasons since 2008, David Wright had pulled his hamstring beating out an infield single and would miss more than a month. The Mets couldn’t score, and if they did, they couldn’t pitch. In the fall of 2013, things didn’t look good.
May 26, 2014: Pirates 5, Mets 3
It was the third start of Jacob deGrom’s career, and he didn’t disappoint. The 26-year-old rookie, who was already making waves among Mets fans, pitched 6.2 scoreless innings and left with a 2-0 lead on the strength of a Daniel Murphy two-run single. Jeurys Familia got the last out of the seventh.
Scott Rice gave up a home run to Gaby Sanchez leading off the eighth, but then got two outs. Terry Collins, evidently, didn’t trust Rice to get a third. So Jose Valverde came in. Valverde quickly gave up a double and a single, and the game was tied.
The real head-scratcher came in the top of the ninth, game still tied at two. Valverde stayed in. A single, a walk, another single; a Curtis Granderson error let two runs score on the single, and the Mets were down 4-2. Finally, Valverde came out; Carlos Torres replaced him and gave up an RBI double. Lucas Duda hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough, and the Mets lost 5-3.
This game is more important, though, for what happened later. Soon after the loss was official, the Mets announced that they’d released Valverde, whose 5.66 E.R.A. wasn’t impressing anyone. For years, the Mets had hung onto mediocre relievers like they were gemstones. Now they were letting one go.
“Wait a minute,” Mets fans thought. “Are we… are we actually trying to get better?”
June 14, 2015: Mets 10, Braves 8
It was an ugly one from the start.
One-one after one inning, 4-1 Braves after two, 8-3 Braves after the top of the fourth. Then, quietly, the comeback began.
Darrell Ceciliani led off the Mets’ half of the fourth with a home run. Two batters later, Dilson Herrera homered too. The Braves led 8-5—still a deficit to overcome, but a less daunting one.
Lucas Duda singled with one out in the fifth, and Travis d’Arnaud hit the ball over the left-field fence. 8-7.
In the bottom of the sixth, Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson singled. Juan Lagares lined a low pitch from Luis Avilan into the left-field stands. The Mets led 10-8. Comeback complete.
Sean Gilmartin, Bobby Parnell, Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia combined for five innings of scoreless relief. It was June 14, and the Mets were 34-30, leading the N.L. East by half a game. They weren’t dominating yet — but already, it seemed clear that these Mets were something special.
Sept. 5, 2016: Mets 5, Reds 0
The rosters had just expanded and Matt Reynolds was flying. The Mets had just called him up from AAA, and Reynolds flew from Salt Lake City to Boston, then switched planes and flew from Boston to Cincinnati. He landed around 8:30 a.m. ET in the morning without a wink of sleep and napped for half an hour in his hotel room. The Mets had a 1:10 game against the Reds, and Reynolds was starting at shortstop.
The score was still tied when Reynolds batted for the first time in the top of the third. But not for long. Reynolds took the fourth pitch he saw the other way, over the right-field fence to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. The Mets scored again on a Kelly Johnson home run in the fifth; in the top of the seventh, Reynolds hit another RBI single. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch-hit for Bartolo Colón after six scoreless innings and added an RBI single of his own. Alejandro De Aza followed with a sac fly.
Reynolds was three for four on the day, with a home run and two RBIs. The Mets were chasing the Giants and the Cardinals for a wildcard spot; after the win, they were one game out.
For the Mets, 2016 was a showcase for the surprise hero. T.J. Rivera, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, James Loney, Alejandro De Aza, Gabriel Ynoa… at one point or another, with the bigger names hurt, someone else had to step up and propel the Mets forward. But no one besides Reynolds did it hopped up on coffee, after two flights and half an hour of sleep.
April 15, 2017: Marlins 5, Mets 4
11 games into the 2017 season, things seemed fine. The Mets had made the playoffs two years in a row, and had largely the same team back again; they were 7-4, and after seven innings and 13 strikeouts from Jacob deGrom, were leading the Marlins 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth.
Fernando Salas got the first two outs of the inning, but then walked Miguel Rojas. Christian Yelich came up.
Perfect! A power-hitting lefty at the plate representing the tying run, and Jerry Blevins is ready in the ‘pen! Blevins always gets lefties out! Terry, you saved Blevins for Yelich in this huge spot, you’re a genius!
Except Terry, with two outs and a lefthanded power hitter at bat representing the tying run in the bottom of the eighth, decided not to go to his lefty. Yelich took Salas deep to tie the game, and Giancarlo Stanton, up next, did the same, and gave the Marlins the lead. Then Terry went to Blevins to face Justin Bour, a lefty. Blevins, of course, struck him out.
The Mets were on the cusp of being 8-4. Instead, they started losing, and by the end of the month they were 10-14 and any hopes of a third-straight playoff appearance were long gone. Can a season completely turn on what seems like an inconsequential game in April? I don’t know. But if it can happen, this game certainly would have done it.
June 10, 2018: Mets 2, Yankees 0
The Mets went 5-21 in June 2018, going from an even .500 on May 31 to 16 games below on June 30. It was one of the worst months in franchise history. But between an eight-game losing streak and a four-game losing streak, the Mets beat the Yankees at Citi Field.
Seth Lugo pitched. He was primarily a reliever by now, but Noah Syndergaard was out with finger swelling and discomfort. So Lugo went six scoreless innings and struck out eight, decisively outpitching Yankees ace Luis Severino. Todd Frazier put the Mets on the board with a two-run homer in the fifth, and that was that: Robert Gsellman pitched two scoreless innings, and Anthony Swarzak nailed down the save.
Sometimes it just happens that way. Sometimes you have the worst month in franchise history, with a shining moment in the middle of it. If there was a point to the 2018 Mets season — David Wright working all year to return, Jacob deGrom pitching to a 1.70 E.R.A. and having 10 wins to show for it, Brandon Nimmo pulling his hamstring in the second-to-last game of the season — it was that sometimes, things just happen. If you’re a Mets fan, the sooner you understand that, the happier you’ll be.
April 7, 2019: Nationals 12, Mets 9
The Mets looked good. They were 6-2 out of the gate, and everyone looked strong. Even when the Nationals took a 5-0 lead in the second inning at Citi Field, it seemed like things might still be okay.
Sure enough, Wilson Ramos hit an RBI single in the bottom of the second. Then things were quiet until the fifth, when Zack Wheeler, holding on by the skin of his teeth all afternoon, finally cracked again and allowed two more runs on a walk and a wild pitch. Against Tim Peterson in the sixth, the Nationals scored two more runs to go up 9-1. In the seventh, Anthony Rendon hit a three-run homer. 12-1.
Finally, the bottom of the seventh. Luis Guillorme and Amed Rosario singled. Brandon Nimmo doubled home Guillorme, and Jeff McNeil singled home Rosario. Then Pete Alonso lined a ball into the left-field seats for a three-run homer. Going to the eighth, the Nationals led 12-6. Robert Gsellman pitched a scoreless inning.
Bottom of the eighth: Dominic Smith led off with a walk, then went to second and third on two consecutive wild pitches. Guillorme walked too. But then Rosario and Keon Broxton both struck out, and Nimmo flew out to deep right to end the inning. Seth Lugo pitched a scoreless ninth.
The bottom of the ninth. McNeil was hit by a pitch leading off. Alonso walked. With one out, Michael Conforto slammed a ball into the right-field stands. 12-9.
That was as far as the comeback got: Lagares struck out, and Guillorme flew out to end the game. The 2019 Mets: close but no cigar.
So the world continues turning, and eventually, we’ll have our share of stories about the Mets of 2020 to 2029. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? No one knows what the next decade of Mets baseball will bring. All we know is that it will bring Mets baseball. That just might be enough.