In the dark days of the early 1990s, the Mets abdicated their fleeting role as New York’s team. Taking advantage of the power vacuum, the Yankees reestablished themselves as the baseball kings of the Big Apple. One key reason for the Bombers’ return to domination was that in 40 to 50 or so games a year, their opponents only played eight innings. One man always put them to sleep in the 9th inning. This Amazin’ Ten story is about a time the opponents woke up.
#3 – The Mets’ MO-ment (May 28)
You could fill a book with the words said about Mariano Rivera in his final big-league season (and you could read that book while sitting on the chair of broken dreams). Mets fans will look back on Rivera’s saves in Games 4 and 5 of the 2000 World Series at Shea Stadium and know all too well that with the Sandman’s cutter coming at you, your chances go straight to wherever Metallica keeps singing about. Still, the team showed its classy side as Mo prepared for his final regular season game at Citi Field – he threw out the first pitch of that game to the Mets’ legendary closer John Franco. Little did anyone know at the time, but that stunt may have served as a scouting ploy.
After stealing the first game of the home-and-home Subway Series, the Mets turned to Matt Harvey to keep the ball rolling against Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees. The team from Queens threatened to score in the first inning and the team from the Bronx got runners aboard in the third, but Harvey and Kuroda kept the duel alive the whole night, locked into the baseball equivalent of H-O-R-S-E for five innings.
In the sixth, Harvey missed. Brett Gardner led off with a single and went to second on a Marlon Byrd error. After Harvey retired Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells, he appeared to be home free. Cue Lyle Overbay, one of the most ordinary baseball players to ever play the game, who came through in the clutch(?) with a single up the middle. 1-0 Yankees, and Matt Harvey, who would finish with 10 strikeouts in eight fabulous innings, was in line for the loss. Another Harvey Day put to waste.
A few innings (and a Terry Collins ejection) later, the Mets found themselves still down 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth. Out of the bullpen came a shape I’m certain countless ballplayers must have at least once mistaken for the shadow of Death himself. Mariano Rivera was coming to close the game, ready to finish off his crosstown rivals one more time. To Met fans, it must have felt all too appropriate.
Except there’s a dirty little secret when it comes to Mariano’s time against the Mets. While the magical Rivera racked up 20 regular season saves against the team in his career, the Amazin’s often found their own magic against the Sandman. His ERA in 34 appearances against the Mets stands at 3.53 – only the Angels managed to do better. They had gotten to him as recently as 2011. It could be done.
Daniel Murphy pounced on Rivera quick, slashing a ground-rule double down the left field line. Up came David Wright, who took the first two balls before getting a cutter that didn’t cut. Wright laced a line drive that barely missed pegging Murphy through the hole in center field, a hole where Reid Brignac was trying to make Yankee fans forget about Derek Jeter. Murphy beat the throw home to tie the game, and David advanced to second when the ball bounced around the backstop. “Oh, there is joy in Mudville,” proclaimed Keith Hernandez. The Mets had broken Rivera.
Now Lucas Duda, no stranger to clutch hitting himself, was looking to break the game. And on a 1-1 cutter, he looped a weak liner into right center. Wright crossed the plate, and the Mets were 2-1 winners.
Not only did the Mets hand Rivera the first blown save as a 43-year-old, they delivered him a career first: his first and only blown save without recording a single out. When history looks back at the dazzling career of the Sandman, they will look to May 28, 2013 at Citi Field as his weakest moment. Thanks to Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Lucas Duda.
The Subway Series was a high point for the Mets in 2013 – two days later Dillon Gee would cap the first-ever season sweep of the Yankees. Amazin’ fans were riding high at the end of May, but a sweep at the hands of the Marlins that weekend quickly sent them low.
As for Rivera, he would return to Citi Field one more time, claiming All-Star Game MVP in July after tossing a perfect eighth to the sounds of “Enter Sandman.” The numbers will be etched in his Cooperstown plaque in 2019: 652 saves, 42 postseason saves, 0.70 postseason ERA. Rarely do you get to watch the greatest ever at what he does and know it. The times that you do overcome that greatness become even more special. On this night, the Mets overcame greatness.
May 28: the 3rd most Amazin’ game of 2013. On Monday we’ll start the final week of our countdown with a comeback, if you can possibly imagine, even more unlikely than this one.
Amazin’ Ten of 2013
#3 – The Mets’ MO-ment (May 28)