NY Mets and Padres rivalry goes back further than Bartolo’s home run
The year that the New York Mets won their first World Championship in 1969 was also the year that the San Diego Padres came into the league as a new expansion team. Though the Mets had a seven-year head start in the National League, both teams have crossed paths in a number of interesting ways over the past 50-plus years.
One of the most memorable games between the two clubs came just one year after the Padres entered the league. On April 22, 1970, at Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver pitched one of the greatest games of his Hall of Fame career. He twirled a complete game two-hitter against the Padres, resulting in a 2-1 victory for the Mets. But he didn’t stop there. Seaver struck out 19 (!) Padres hitters in that game, which is one fewer than the single-game Major League record.
He also accomplished something that no pitcher in Major League history had done, before or since. Seaver struck out the last 10 Padres hitters in a row to end the game. That is the longest streak of consecutive strikeouts by one pitcher in any recorded MLB game. Seaver also became the first pitcher to win a start in which he struck out 19; Steve Carlton had been on the losing end of a 19-strikeout effort the year before for the Philadelphia Phillies, funnily enough, against the Mets. On that April day, the Padres got one of the most “Terrific” versions of Seaver that ever took the mound.
As the 1970s progressed, the two-headed monster of Seaver and Jerry Koosman dominated the National League year after year. Seaver won multiple NL Cy Youngs in the 1970s, emerging victorious in 1973 and 1975. Not to be outdone, Randy Jones of the Padres won the Cy Young in 1976, two years after he had lost 22 games and three years after making his MLB debut against the Mets in 1973. Koosman finished second in the voting, receiving seven first place votes to Jones’ 15.
In retrospect, when comparing their stat lines, the voting could potentially have gone the other way. Koosman’s 2.69 ERA was lower than Jones’ 2.74 figure, and Koosman also struck out 200 batters compared to Jones’ 93. Jones did toss 315 innings that year, compared to Koosman’s (still high by today’s standards) 247 innings, and back when pitcher wins still ruled the roost, Jones’ 22 league-leading victories likely helped edge him out over Koosman for the award. That 1976 season was the closest Koosman ever came to winning a Cy Young.
As of 2021, 136 players have batted for both the Mets and the Padres, and one of the biggest bats to ever play for both teams was Kevin McReynolds. He started his career in San Diego in 1983 and had one of his best career years the following season, when the Padres made one of their two World Series appearances. Meanwhile in Queens, a young hitter named Kevin Mitchell was coming through the Mets’ Minor League system. Mitchell broke out with the Mets in 1986 and famously scored the tying run in the fabled 10th inning of Game 6 in the World Series. He also finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting that offseason.
On December 11, 1986, the Amazins and the Friars decided to do a little swap, which brought Mitchell to San Diego and McReynolds to New York, among other players. Mitchell spent only half a season in San Diego before he was then traded to the San Francisco Giants, where he spent several very productive years and won the NL MVP in 1989. Meanwhile, McReynolds played for the Mets from 1987 until 1994 and, both offensively and defensively, became one of the very best left fielders the Amazins have ever had.
By the mid-1990s, when McReynolds was no longer a Met, baseball had begun expanding internationally more than it ever had before, and the Mets and the Padres took part in a unique event to signify this global expansion. From August 16-18, 1996, the two teams played a three-game series in Mexico, which marked the first time that Major League Baseball had ever been played outside the U.S. or Canada.
Los Angeles Dodgers legend, and native Mexican, Fernando Valenzuela took the mound for the Padres in the series’ first game, opposed by the Mets’ Robert Person. The Padres ended up winning that game and took two out of three in the series. Though the Mets have never returned to the Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey (the stadium in Mexico where the series took place), the Padres have played in Mexico twice since — once in 1999 vs. the Rockies, and again in 2017 against the Dodgers
In the 21st century, the Padres have found themselves victim to two of the most memorable and remarkable plays in Mets history. The first occurred on August 9, 2005, at Petco Park. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Padres right fielder Brian Giles broke his bat on a bloop fly ball to shallow left field. Wright scampered back, grabbed the ball with his bare right hand, and dove to the ground, quickly raising his arm to show that he had fully caught the ball.
In classic Mets fashion, the Amazins lost the game 8-3, but this play likely opened the eyes and ears of many National League opponents to Wright’s Gold Glove potential. It was, quite simply, one of the greatest defensive plays ever made by a New York Met, and will remain high on that list for decades to come.
The second play on this list occurred just under 11 years after Wright’s catch. On May 7, 2016, Bartolo Colon started for the Mets at Petco Park against James Shields. In the top of the second inning, on a 1-1 count with two outs and a runner on second, Colon defied absolutely all odds and launched a home run to left field. It was the first, and in all likelihood the only, home run of his Major League career. It was spectacular.
This play has gained such a cult following among Mets fans that they now celebrate its anniversary every year. The Mets did end up winning this game, 6-3, but all anyone could talk about from that day, then or since, was Colon’s massive home run.
Of course, one of the most upsetting regular-season games in recent Mets history also occurred against the Padres. I need not remind the Flushing Faithful about the infamous rain delay game on July 30, 2015, which featured a blown save by Jeurys Familia and a game-winning three-run bomb by Justin Upton. Probably best to just skip that one.
The Mets and the Padres were also connected by a rather dubious legacy for a while. They were the two most recent MLB teams to get their first no-hitter, and hold the two longest streaks in that capacity in MLB history. It took the Mets 50 years from franchise inception in 1962 until Johan Santana’s no-no in 2012 to break that streak. The Padres recently edged them out, taking 52 years from their first season in 1969 until their first no-hitter in 2021, tossed by Joe Musgrove.
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As of 2021, these two teams have never met in the playoffs, but that could easily change in the coming years. The Padres have one of the brightest young stars in the league with Fernando Tatis Jr, a deep pitching rotation, and a fan base hungry for the team’s first World Series title after a playoff berth in 2020. Meanwhile, the Mets are entering a new era of ownership and boast a fan base who desperately want Jacob deGrom to get back to the playoffs. Either way, it should hopefully be a fun few years for both of these teams.