What comes to mind when you see the name Chris Capuano? For most New York Mets fans, there’s one day that stands out.
This day wouldn’t have been possible without the events of January 3, 2011. The Mets, looking to build some semblance of a respectable team, went out and signed the free agent starter turned part-time reliever to a one-year deal. Capuano had just come off a season where the Milwaukee Brewers chose to treat him with kid’s gloves. Prior to the 2008 season, Capuano had undergone Tommy John Surgery. His action was limited in 2009 to a handful of minor league appearances and he wouldn’t take the mound at all in a big league game until 2010.
The Capuano signing by New York wasn’t meant to revitalize the franchise. The rotation consisted of youngsters Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, and Mike Pelfrey along with veteran journeyman R.A. Dickey. We can probably call them overachievers for winning 77 games in a season without a single player reaching 130 games played.
On one particular day, Capuano had his ultimate overachieving moment.
The one-year deal with Chris Capuano resulted in one great Mets game
Capuano was far from excellent during his lone year with the Mets in 2011. He finished 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA. I’m not sure you can get much more average than this.
After a no-decision versus his former team from Milwaukee on August 20, Capuano was 9-11 with a 4.71 ERA on the season. He would make his next start on Friday, August 26 versus the Atlanta Braves in front of a paid attendance of 22, 736. Nobody could have imagined that over the next 2 hours and 35 minutes that they would see some magic from Capuano.
Tasked to face Tim Hudson and a Braves squad with 79 wins compared to the Mets’ 61 entering the game, Capuano retired the side in order in the first. He did the same in the second. Then the third. Then the fourth.
It was a leadoff single by Dan Uggla in the top of the fifth that broke the perfect game. Noted Mets killer Freddie Freeman would ground into a double play to erase Uggla from the base paths. Capuano struck out David Ross to end the inning and continued to at least have the minimum number of batters faced through five.
Finally, in the bottom of the fifth, the Mets gave him some support. Back-to-back singles by Nick Evans and Josh Thole opened up the scoring. The team would give him a total of six runs of support on this night. As it turns out, Capuano only needed one.
In the top of the eight, with two outs already, Ross doubled for the second Braves hit of the evening. It hardly hurt Capuano’s momentum. A foul out to first base ended the frame.
A ground out followed by a pair of strikeouts would end the game in the top of the ninth with the Mets on top. It took him 122 pitches to make it happen. Capuano had just tossed a two-hit shutout with a lucky 13 strikeouts to his name. He got Atlanta leadoff hitter Michael Bourn all four times he stepped up to the plate, including the first and last at-bat of the game.
Was it the most important game in Mets history? Certainly not. But as far as individual pitching performances go, it might be one of the best. Capuano didn’t carry his perfect game too late into the night, however, he finished what he started and did it with authority rarely seen.