October 19, 2006, is the day New York Mets fans remember most for one particular moment. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two strikes, Carlos Beltran let a curveball freeze him for the final strike and last out of the game. With the bat on his shoulder, the Mets were eliminated. The St. Louis Cardinals advanced and the club wouldn’t get back to the postseason again until 2015.
It was heartbreaking for Mets fans who had already waited since 2000 to see their team play playoff baseball. Again, the Mets finished on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Although this game is remembered for some big moments—Beltran’s strike three call, the astonishing catch made by Endy Chavez, and Aaron Heilman’s meatball to Yadier Molina—there is an unspoken aspect of this game that was the true downfall of the Mets.
The Mets suffered from a fate we know too often: they didn’t show up to hit
A 3-1 score isn’t exactly ripped from the pages of the Dead-ball era. However, it’s certainly not an average score in the game. Days removed from winning Game 4 by a score of 12-5, the Mets knew they could hit. It wouldn’t be so in this game.
Against six Cardinals hits, the Mets had only four. Four hits. Beltran, of all people, had the lone extra base hit. This came in the first inning where two batters later, David Wright singled him in.
That was all it would take to doom New York in this affair. The Cardinals got the run back in the top of the second and the two teams traded scoreless frames until Molina’s two-run shot in the top of the ninth.
The not-so-Amazin offense was so weak that after the pair of hits in the first inning, they wouldn’t get another hit until the ninth. While they had base runners, not a single member of this potent lineup was able to reach base by means of a hit. Jose Valentin ended the streak with a leadoff single in the ninth followed by Endy Chavez who did the same.
A Cliff Floyd strikeout looking shifted momentum slightly. Jose Reyes’ lineout to center field put the Mets’ backs up against the wall. Then came the walk to Paul Lo Duca which made one errant pitch far more dangerous.
The Mets were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position on this night with a total of 11 men left on base. Was it mastery by the Cardinals pitchers? Starter Jeff Suppan struck out only two batters in his seven innings and issued five free passes via walk. He even hit a batter and the Mets got another base runner via error.
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The opportunities were there. The Mets never capitalized and the thing we have hated most about more recent clubs clobbered them out of contention.