Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 19, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Seven
Game Seven. The importance needs no explanation, the drama no introduction. If the people on the LIRR with me an hour before game time were any indication, the crowd will certainly be raucous.
The Mets have played a double-elimination game (loser goes home) four times in their history, and won three, including both that have been played at Shea.
1973, NLCS Game Five, at Shea: The 1973 NLCS was a mirror image of this one, an 82-win Mets team against a Big Red Machine with a powerful and versatile offense and a suspect rotation. The deciding game pitted Tom Seaver against Jack Billingham. Ed Kranepool drove in two runs in the first, Cleon Jones had three hits and two RBI, and the Mets behind Seaver won 7-2.
UPDATE: Writing too fast, forgot Game Seven of the 1973 World Series, John Matlack vs. Ken Holtzman at the Oakland Coliseum, which the Mets lost.
1986, World Series Game Seven, at Shea: Even with a day's rain giving Bruce Hurst the start against Ron Darling, a shell-shocked Red Sox team couldn't hold a lead. Keith Hernandez had the big hit and Darryl Strawberry a famous insurance home run, but the hero was Sid Fernandez, pitching 2.1 electrifying innings of hitless relief, striking out 4 to hold the fort until the offense arrived. 8-5 Mets.
1988, NLCS Game Seven, at Dodger Stadium: Darling knocked out early again, this time fatally and with the help of a meltdown by the Mets' infield defense, with errors by Wally Backman and Gregg Jefferies. Gooden, Leach and Aguilera pitched scoreless relief but the damage was done, as Orel Hershiser shut the Mets out. 6-0 Dodgers.
1999, One-Game Playoff, at Riverfront Stadium: The Reds again, after the Mets recovered dramatically from a September swoon to force a one game playoff for the Wild Card. Al Leiter vs. Steve Parris; Edgardo Alfonzo homered and drove in three, but the key guy was Leiter, pitching as dominant a game as I have ever seen, a 2-hit shutout in which I believe the Reds got only one runner as far as second base. 5-0 Mets.
Obviously, while any number of players will be important tonight, the guy with potentially the biggest impact is Jeff Suppan. Oliver Perez is very unlikely to throw a dominating pitching performance here, especially on three days rest. But Suppan shut the Mets down the last time around, and despite his terrible road stats, he is a threat to a good start tonight.
Perez gets a fly out after falling behind Eckstein, then punches out Preston Wilson looking. A good start. But now Pujols is up. 0-1.
Ugh, Perez gets Pujols - Pujols! - to pop it up in the infield, but Delgado drops it and Pujols ends up on second.
Perez gets out of trouble. If my expectations for Game Four were low, this time it's even lower - two scoreless innings is all I ask. Everyone is available.
Beltran barely legs out a 2-out double. Mets get started.
2-2 to Delgado. Mets need a base hit. 3-2.
Delgado walks, and Wright drops a single down the right field line. Slump over? 1-0 Mets.
Top Two, 1-0 Mets
Leadoff single for Edmonds. Let's not see that graphic again about the Cards scoring to answer every Mets score.
Rolen flies out.
0-2 on Molina.
Edmonds goes to third on a bloop single to left; Chavez bobbles it but to no cost.
1-1 to Belliard. Strikeout would be good here; Perez isn't a ground ball pitcher.
Belliard bunts the run home.
Suppan's not likely to homer here, with Trachsel not pitching.
Bottom Two, 1-1
We're hearing about Suppan in Game Seven in 2004 again.
1-2-3. Suppan hopefully is not getting into a groove.
Top Three, 1-1
Eckstein leadoff double. Typical of Eckstein, it was just blooped in front of Chavez.
Two strikes on Preston, the crowd smells blood.
Walking Pujols with 1 out. I guess you need to do this, but I hate to give Perez the chance to give up a 3-run homer.
A lineup with both Wilson and Encarnacion will really strike out a lot. 0-2 on Encarnacion.
Encarnacion shatters his bat and hits into the 5-4-3 double play. Perez has now exceeded expectations.
Bottom Three, 1-1
This is sad: Armed Forces Radio won't cover the World Series for the first time in 60 yars due to lack of interest, as uniformed personnel prefer overhwelmingly to watch on TV (and in the military, unlike an office job, you can't listen to the radio on duty).
It really hasn't sunk in that the winner here starts the Series with just one travel day to Detroit.
Reyes and Lo Duca have been quiet so far tonight.
Another 1-2-3 inning. A pitchers' duel is not what the Mets need tonight.
Top Four, 1-1
Perez really is throwing more strikes than usual, so far. Long as he does that, he will stay in the game, although of course the longball remains a risk.
Perez gets Edmonds. Gets ahead of Rolen 0-2 before throwing a ball.
3-2. This is still Perez, folks.
Perez gets Rolen on an infield popup. Strike one to Molina.
Perez gets Molina.
Bottom Four, 1-1
If Perez gets out of this game having allowed just 1 or 2 runs, that will be a huge confidence-builder. Of course, you generally don't use these games for that purpose...
Leadoff walk for Delgado.
Weak grounder for Wright, at least he avoids the DP. Probably should not have swung at the first pitch.
Green whiffs again. I've perhaps been too hard on Green's hitting, but he has struck out quite a bit in this series.
Suppan just winked twice - does he have a nervous twitch? That would explain the wink to Trachsel before his home run.
You always see something in baseball you never saw before - maybe I have seen this, but I don't remember it - Valentin gets beaned by a pitch that bounces off the plate and hits him in the face.
Top Five, 1-1
Still 1-1? I'm nervous again. Perez can't hold the fort that well. Suppan can.
Leadoff single for Belliard, just out of Reyes' reach.
Game Seven in 1986 comes to mind, where the Mets struggled early to get good wood on the ball as they had before against Hurst.
Idiot Bartman-esque fans almost interfere with an Eckstein foul that Chavez misses. Eckstein then takes one for the team.
Perez is probably on his way out here, but Randolph likes him against Wilson. 0-2.
Make that 0-3. Wilson just can't lay off Perez' high hard stuff.
Randolph leaves in Perez to face Pujols. This is nuts.
Well, it worked. Perez gets Pujols to pop up to Reyes in short left. Amazin'
Bottom Five, 1-1
Wow, Perez is batting! Randolph is treating him like a real starting pitcher.
Reyes goes quickly again, Lo Duca is up. Last night's heroes, quiet this time against the Soup Man.
The problem with letting Perez bat is that he is throwing on three days' rest. He's thrown just 76 pitches, though; he can probably go one more inning. But I'd have taken him out.
Collision between Edmonds and Wilson - not really that violent, but Edmonds looks a little shook up.
Top Six, 1-1
Edmonds is still in.
3-2 to Edmonds. Edmonds walks.
Perez issues his first walk, has thrown 87 pitches. This has to be it for him soon.
WOW WOW WOW! Chavez robs Rolen of a home run AND doubles Edmonds off first, Edmonds having rounded second.
Move over, Ron Swoboda. There's a new best catch in Mets postseason history.
Bottom Six, 1-1
I actually feel bad for Rolen. Guy just can not catch a break.
Now, we need to capitalize on the momentum.
But Beltran grounds out. I think Wright needs another RBI this inning.
Delgado walks, here comes Wright.
I'm assuming that Perez really is done now.
Wright still up there hacking early.
Wright hits a very slow roller, Rolen throws the ball into the seats. This really is not his day. They're walking Green to load the bases with one out for Valentin.
Cards are clearly banking on the DP here.
Hey, was that John Franco in the stands?
Perez, Chavez, - now Valentin? That would be your unlikely heroes.
1-0. Nowhere to put him.
Just get it out of the infield.
Rain is coming down something serious here.
Whiff. Looks like Endy Chavez has to do everything tonight.
Chavez flies out to center, a fly that would have been great news if Valentin had hit it.
Top Seven, 1-1
I want Heilman here, Heilman or Bradford.
Seventh game, seventh inning, still tied. Many hearts yet to be broken tonight. Until then, no, it does not get better than this.
Bradford's in. Perez did everything you could possibly have asked of him. Now if we can be rid of Suppan, we go bullpen-to-bullpen. I'll take those odds.
2-2 to Molina - Bradford is very good at getting even when he starts off behind in the count.
Good play by Valentin on yet another of those slow bouncers past the mound against Bradford.
Suppan stays in to hit. Grrrrr.
Bottom Seven, 1-1
Dare I breathe it: extra innings? I do not want to see Wagner except in a save situation, I know that.
Tucker pinch hitting. I guess he's the best option to lead off.
OK, time for the top of the order to make something happen.
1-2-3 inning. Suppan still pitching like there is no tomorrow. He just threw his 100th pitch.
Top Eight, 1-1
Heilman is in. He's the guy I want here, win or lose.
Gets Eckstein, 1-2 on Speizio, batting for Wilson. Pujols on deck.
Long at bat here. Heilman punches him out.
You pitch here to Pujols verrrrrry carefully.
Now, they make it intentional. Yes, I prefer Encarnacion with two outs and a man on first than Pujols with the bases empty, at least in a tie game.
0-2. I have a feeling Heilman's going to spend a lot of time here trying to get Encarnacion to swing at a bad pitch.
Nope, just one in the dirt.
Bottom Eight, 1-1
Beltran, Delgado, Wright due up next. It's go time.
Taguchi is in in left. La Russa must be expecting to see Wagner.
3-1 to Beltran. A leadoff walk would be good. Mets do not have a hit since the first. I hate Suppan.
Beltran walks. No Suppan for you! Tony goes to his bullpen, at last.
Randy Flores is in, probably just for Delgado.
Rain falling pretty visibly now. I wonder what it would take to stop the game. In 1925 they played Game Seven in a downpour and in the dark, with ugly results, lots of balls to the outfield that disappeared in the slop. Walter Johnson went the distance and set a record for total bases allowed in a World Series game.
Delgado strikes out on a check swing. Sure didn't look like he swung, but there we are.
Wright takes the first pitch. Good, stay back, play within himself, like he usually does.
2-0, way outside. I think I am still breathing. If I stop typing you will know why.
2-1, check swing, at least that was a swing. Now 3-1. 3-2, Wright takes one inside.
Wright strikes out. It's up to Green.
Green hits a shot to Pujols.
Top Nine, 1-1
Please, no Wagner. Tie game. Pitcher up in the next inning. Leave. In. Heilman.
Both teams have put on a tremendous struggle here, but this will be a tough one to lose.
Heilman still in.
Edmonds strikes out on another one in the dirt.
0-2 on Rolen. McCarver just called Endy "Eric Chavez"
Rolen takes a ball right down the middle.
Rolen is certainly battling here. Single to left. Molina is up, the designated bad hitter who kills us.
And he does. Home run, 3-1. Doom, defeat, ruination.
Molina smacked that ball into the LF bullpen. Now we need a miracle.
Adam Wainwright warming up. We will need him to be Calvin Schiraldi tonight.
No further damage. Three outs remain, and they belong to the bottom of the order.
Bottom Nine, 3-1 Cards.
The starters held the line, the last two games. How ironic.
Ball One to Valentin. Wait the kid out.
Three high pitches, two balls.
Bloop, very Game Six 1986-ish bloop, to right center. Chavez bats as the tying run. McCarver wants him to bunt for a hit????
Wainwright almost sails one to the backstop. It ain't over till it's over.
Cliff Floyd goes up looking for a
1-1 to Kirk . . . Cliff Floyd.
With Floyd up there it feels like two outs. Molina tries to pick Chavez off first.
2-2. Floyd strikes out, it's up to Reyes and maybe Lo Duca.
High ball, inside strike. 1-1 to Reyes. Foul, 1-2. Another foul. Reyes drills one to center, too close to Edmonds. All up to Lo Duca.
Gotta sit on the curve, Wainwright can't get the fastball down into the zone.
Bases loaded for Beltran. Tying run in scoring position. An out ends it, a single ties, a double or HR wins it.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Beltran strikes out looking. It's over. It's over. It's over.
Yadier Bleeping Molina.