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After finishing over .500 (83-79) for the first time since 2001, the "New" Mets became the New "New" Mets—and rode the wave to the best record in the NL; their first NL East pennant, and came dangerously close to a World Series berth.
The Mets said goodbye to Mike Piazza, the final player from the NL Champion 2000 team, when they failed to offer him arbitration after he declared free agency. The Mets replaced Piazza behind the plate with Paul Lo Duca, acquiring him from the Florida Marlins for pitching prospect Gaby Hernandez and a low-level minor leaguer.
But Piazza's departure, even given his decline over the years prior, left a gaping hole in the lineup. General manager Omar Minaya cleared salary by trading Mike Cameron to the Padres for one-time San Diego organizational darling Xavier Nady, and used the budgetary wiggle-room to absorb the contract of Carlos Delgado. Delgado, acquired from the Marlins in a trade separate from the Lo Duca deal (at the price of Yusmeiro Petit and Mike Jacobs), was a top target of Minaya's in the prior year's offseason.
The biggest change, however, may have been the bullpen. The Mets inked free agent relief pitcher Billy Wagner to a four year, $44 million dollar deal, solidifying the closer slot and replacing Braden Looper, who departed via free agency himself. Starting pitchers Jae Seo and Kris Benson were traded for Duaner Sanchez (from Los Angeles) and Jorge Julio (from Baltimore, with John Maine), respectively. Aaron Heilman moved from the pen to the rotation, filling the fifth slot behind Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, and Victor Zambrano.
Of perhaps primary concern to Mets fans was the state of Pedro's big toe on his right foot. The injury, a bi-product of his pitching style, required Martinez to wear a specially designed Nike shoe.
On the business end, the Mets launched SNY, their own sports network. Also, the city of New York issued bonds to help further the creation of a new stadium.
Regular Season Highlights
The 2006 New York Mets opened their season on April 3, 2006 with a 3-2 win against the Washington Nationals. The attendance at the Mets' home opener, though not quite the sellout capacity, the crowd of 56,337 was still impressive. Tom Glavine, starting his 3rd Opening Day game since joining the Mets in 2003, threw 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks, with 5 strikeouts. The lone run given up by Glavine came on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Royce Clayton. David Wright hit a solo HR, Xavier Nady went 4-4 with 2 2B and an RBI for to spark the Mets offense. The save was picked up by new closer Billy Wagner, who gave up one hit and struck out pinch-hitter Matt LeCroy.
The Mets got off to a blistering start, finishing April with a 16-8 record. In the second game of the season, the Mets lost to the Washington Nationals 9-5 in 10 innings, falling a half-game behind the Atlanta Braves for 1st place in the National League East. This was significant because it was the first and last time the Mets would be out of first place for the entire 2006 season. After the loss to the Nationals, the Mets went on a tear, winning 7 in a row, including a 2-game sweep at home against the Florida Marlins and a 3-game sweep at RFK versus the Nationals.
The Mets' first true test of the season came in the form of a 3-game series against the Braves. Unfortunately for the team, after a strong showing by Pedro Martinez in the opener led to a 4-3 win, the Mets dropped the final two games, 7-1 and 2-1. However, at the end of the month, the Mets took two of three from Atlanta to even their season series at 3 games apiece
The Mets, while not quite maintaining their .667 pace, still managed to post a respectable 16-12 record in the month of May, although their division lead did shrink from 6 games on May 1 to 4.5 games on May 31. The highlight of the month was the first half of the yearly Subway Series held between the Mets and the crosstown New York Yankees. In a hard-fought series, the Mets managed to take 2 of 3 from the Bronx Bombers, with their only loss coming in an extra-inning 5-4 contest.
In June, the Mets continued to play above-.500, and finished the month with a record of 15-12. The Mets set a major league record in June, as they became the first team in major league history to win 8 consecutive games on the road while scoring in the first inning. The 8 consecutive road victories (including a 4-game sweep at Arizona and a 3-game sweep against the rival Phillies) were also a Met team record. The only stumbling block that the Mets encountered was via interleague play. The Boston Red Sox handed the Mets their first sweep of the season after a 3-game set at Fenway. Despite losing the last game of the month to the Yankees in the second half of the Subway Series, the Mets managed to almost double their lead, from 5.5 games to 10.5 games. June was the month in which the Mets began to distance themselves from the rest of the NL East.
On June 9, the Mets finally decided to cut ties with free agent second baseman bust Kazuo Matsui. Matsui was traded to the Colorado Rockies for utility player Eli Marrero, a disappointing ending to a Mets career that seemed so bright. In 2003, the Mets signed the then-shortstop for the Seibu Lions to a 3-year, $20.1 million contract. The Mets even went so far as to shift prized prospect Jose Reyes to second base, away from his natural position of shortstop. After spending a disappointing debut in 2004, in which he played the majority of games at shortstop, Matsui was shifted to second base in 2005, and after proving to be injury-prone as well as ineffective when healthy, he began sharing time with Miguel Cairo. In the 38 games before being traded, Matsui hit only .200, with only one home run (an inside the park job) and 7 RBIs.
Matsui's trade left a hole in the starting lineup. Jose Valentin, who signed with the Mets prior to the 2006 season, won the starting position and went on to have a great season, finishing the season with a .271 batting average, 18 home runs, and 62 RBI, very impressive for a player who was supposed to primarily be a pinch-hitter.
July was a month in which the Mets continued to assert their dominance over the National League, finishing the month with a remarkable record of 16-9. Even though the month started off poorly, with the Mets losing the second half of the Subway Series to the Yankees 2 games to 1, they were able to right their ship relatively quickly. This was followed by the Mets taking 3 of 4 from the Pirates, splitting a 4-game set with the Marlins, and taking 2 of 3 from the Cubs, Reds, and Astros before finally losing 2 of 3 to the Cubs. The most impressive aspect of July for the Mets was the ending, in which the Mets swept the rival Braves in Atlanta. In the period from 1991-2005 (the period in which the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles), the Braves had absolutely dominated the Mets at home. The Mets had a record of 34-71 during that time, and 2006 was the first time that the Mets had swept the Braves in a road series of at least 3 games since July 4–7 (a 4-game series) 1985. Meanwhile, the Mets' sterling July record allowed them to increase their lead from 11.5 games to 13.5 games, further strengthening their stranglehold on the NL East.
In the 2007 MLB All-Star Game, the Mets initially had 6 players on the roster. Centerfielder Carlos Beltran, catcher Paul Lo Duca and third baseman David Wright were named as starters to the NL squad. Shortstop Jose Reyes was also voted to start the game for the National League, but he missed the game with a cut pinky he had injured sliding into first base several days earlier. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Edgar Renteria, and David Eckstein filled in Reyes' spot on the roster. Additionally, Tom Glavine was selected but declined to appear, as he had started 2 days earlier, and was replaced by Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano. Pedro Martinez was also selected to the All-Star Game, but he missed the game with a sore hip that landed him on the disabled list. Houston Astros ace Roy Oswalt took Martinez's place in the exhibition game, which was one by the American League.
As the month drew to a close, the Mets appeared to be in great shape. However, on July 30, setup man Duaner Sanchez was sidelined for the season in a bizarre taxicab accident that left him with a separated shoulder. Mets GM Omar Minaya, with only 1 day left before the end of the non-waiver trading period, quickly sprung into action. In an effort to bolster the now-thing bullpen, Minaya traded right fielder Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for reliever Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez. Hernandez was the main target of the Mets, and the erratic Perez was essentially a throw-in. However, Aaron Heilman would assume the 8th-inning role for the Mets, and Hernandez would appear in only 22 games the rest of the season. Perez, as it would turn out, would be a crucial member of the Mets' pitching staff before the season ended.
In August, the Mets ran roughshod over the rest of the league, ending the month with an amazing record of 19-9. This month was highlighted by two long winning streaks, a 5-game streak from August 5–10, and an even more impressive 7-game winning streak from August 17–24, which included 3-game sweeps over the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets put the division firmly out of reach during this month, as they closed August with a 15.5-game lead in the NL East (their biggest lead to that point).
August 14 brought a 13-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. More importantly, Mets' starting pitcher Pedro Martinez gave up 6 runs in the first inning and left with a calf injury and was put on the disabled list a few days later. He would not return until September 15.
On August 22, the Mets traded minor leaguer Evan MacLane to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right fielder Shawn Green. Green had to first pass through waivers, as it was past the July 31 trading deadline.
The Mets suffered a late-season scare when Tom Glavine was sidelined with coldness in his left ring finger after his August 16 start. Fortunately for Glavine and the Mets, the condition was not serious (in fact, it was treated with baby aspirin) and Glavine returned on September 1 to help the Mets finish out their season.
As the season drew to a close, the Mets had all but assured themselves both the NL East crown and the best record in the National League. The Mets slowed their torrid pace and finished the season with a record of 97-65, tying the Yankees for the best record in the majors. The Mets clinched the NL East crown on September 18, becoming the first team to clinch their division in the process. It was the first time since 1988 that the Mets had won their division.
Pedro Martinez returned to the mound on September 15 after a month-long stint on the disabled list. Instead of a triumphant return to the top of the Mets rotation, Pedro left after 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and striking out 4. After leaving the game, Pedro was spotted on the bench, near tears and virtually inconsolable, despite visits from manager Willie Randolph. Martinez would make two more ineffective starts before an MRI exam showed that he had a torn calf muscle. Several days later, it was revealed that Martinez had a more serious injury, a torn rotator cuff. The multitude of injuries forced Martinez to miss the entire postseason, and indeed he did not appear in another game until September 2008.
National League Division Series
In their first playoff game since the 2000 World Series, the Mets sent a rookie to the mound. John Maine was forced to start the series opener after Orlando Hernandez suffered a calf injury one day before he was scheduled to begin the series. Maine pitched 4 1/3 excellent innings, giving up only 1 run on six hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. The opposing starter, right-hander Derek Lowe, fared worse, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits in 5 1/3 innings, including a pair of home runs in the 4th inning to Carlos Delgado and Cliff Floyd.
The Mets were aided by a bizarre double play that saw two Dodgers thrown out at the plate. With Jeff Kent on second base and J.D. Drew on first, Russell Martin doubled into the right-field corner. Kent, who got a very bad read on the ball, was slow coming to the plate and was gunned down because of a perfect relay from Shawn Green to Jose Valentin to Paul Lo Duca. Drew was waved around by the Dodgers third-base coach, and he was halfway down the third-base line when Kent was tagged out. Rather than go back to third, Drew attempted to score. Although Lo Duca did not initially see Drew, he recovered quickly enough to tag out the second runner of the play.
Despite the strong effort by Maine, the Mets found themselves tied to the Dodgers in the top of the 7th. Guillermo Mota, coming back to pitch the 7th after a 1-2-3 6th inning, gave up an RBI single to Rafael Furcal and a 2-run double to Nomar Garciaparra to tie the game at 4. In the bottom of the inning, however, the Mets struck back. A leadoff walk and stolen base by Jose Reyes, as well as a walk to Carlos Beltran, left men on 1st and 2nd with one out. Delgado, in the first playoff game of his 14-year career, followed with an RBI single that scored Reyes, sent Beltran to third, and gave the Mets a 5-4 lead. David Wright made it 6-4 with an RBI double, which proved to be crucial.
After Aaron Heilman pitched a perfect 8th inning, Billy Wagner came in to close the game. After giving up a leadoff double that came around to score, Wagner was faced with a one-run lead with the tying run at second base. Wagner was able to strike out Garciaparra to end the game.
The second game of the best-of-five series between the Dodgers and Mets was controlled by the Mets. Tom Glavine pitched 6 innings of shutout ball, giving up only 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 2. The only run given up by the Mets was a solo home run that Aaron Heilman gave up to Wilson Betemit in the 8th inning. Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his second save in as many nights.
The Mets' first run came without a ball leaving the infield. Endy Chavez, starting in right field for the first time in the series, led off the bottom of the third with a bunt single. After a wild pitch and a sac bunt by Glavine, Chavez stood on third base with only one out. A groundout to the shortstop by Jose Reyes gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. The Mets tacked on another run when Jose Valentin scored on a Paul Lo Duca sac fly in the 5th. In the 6th inning, an error by Dodgers pitcher Brett Tomko led to 2 unearned runs, driven in via a groundout by pinch-hitter Julio Franco and a single by Reyes. This made the score 4-0 and effectively put the game out of reach.
Nomar Garciaparra was injured during the fourth inning as he was hustling to beat out an infield single. He was limited to only one pinch-hit at-bat in the third game of the series.
As the best-of-5 series shifted to Los Angeles, the Dodgers attempted to stay alive despite losing Nomar Garciaparra for the rest of the playoffs. The Mets, as they had done all year, got off to a quick start. After a Jose Reyes fly out, a Paul Lo Duca walk, and a Carlos Beltran single (Lo Duca was thrown out trying to go first to third), the Mets strung together 4 consecutive singles, scoring 3 runs in the process and putting the Dodgers in an early hole. The Mets would tack on another run in the top of the fourth on a Shawn Green single, making it 4-0 in favor of the Mets. The Dodgers struck back in a big way, scoring 2 runs in the 4th and 3 in the 5th to take a 5-4 lead.
The Mets wasted no time in reclaiming the lead. The top of the next inning, after a leadoff double by Green and a walk from pinch-hitter Michael Tucker, the Mets once again strung together 3 consecutive run-scoring singles to claim a 7-5 advantage. The Dodgers were unable to cut into this lead, leaving 6 men on base in the final 5 innings. The Mets managed to tack on 2 more runs, on a run-scoring single and an unearned run on a ground ball in the 8th, making the score 9-5.
The Mets headed into the bottom of the ninth with a three-run cushion and a chance to win their first playoff series since the 2000 NLCS. Closer Billy Wagner, who had finished the first two games in the NLDS for the Mets, came in to close the door. Wagner struck out Russell Martin and Wilson Betemit to begin the inning, and after giving up a single to James Loney, Ramon Martinez flew out to right field, putting the Mets into the National League Championship Series in a 3-0 sweep.
National League Championship Series
After sweeping the Dodgers in the divisional series, the Mets met with a more formidable opponent in the form of the St. Louis Cardinals. After a suspenseful, back-and-forth series, the Mets were finally defeated in heartbreaking fashion in Game 7, leaving the Mets one victory shy of the World Series.
Tom Glavine was the star of the first game between the Mets and St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. The 40-year-old lefthander threw 7 innings of shutout ball, giving up only 4 hits, striking out two and walking two.
The only runs in the game were scored via a 5th-inning, 2-run home run off the bat of Carlos Beltran. The tough luck loser in Game 1 was newly rejuvenated Jeff Weaver, whose only mistake in 5 2/3 innings was Beltran's homer. Guillermo Mota and Billy Wagner each pitched a perfect inning to preserve the 2-0 victory, giving the Mets a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
The Mets did lose left fielder Cliff Floyd in the second inning to an Achilles tendon injury. Floyd would only reappear for 2 pinch-hit at-bats later in the series. He was replaced in the outfield by Mets fan favorite and defensive stud Endy Chavez. Chavez would make a diving play on a Ronnie Belliard blooper in the top of the 5th, further endearing himself to the Mets faithful.
After a classic pitching matchup in the first game of the series, Game 2 was much more of an offensive game. The Mets scored first, striking for three runs in the bottom of the first on a 3-run shot by Carlos Delgado off of Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. An error by Delgado, however, helped the Cardinals quickly rebound for 2 runs (one earned) in the second, off the bat of Yadier Molina, making the score 3-2. A leadoff double by Endy Chavez followed by an RBI single from Jose Reyes in the bottom of the second gave the Mets a 4-2 lead. Mets rookie starter John Maine was unable to hold the lead, as he allowed a 2-run Jim Edmonds home run in the top of the next inning to tie the score.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Delgado mashed his second HR of the game, a solo shot that gave the Mets a 5-4 lead. A Paul Lo Duca RBI double increased the Mets' edge to 6-4. Once again, however, the Mets pitching staff was unable to hold the lead, as Guillermo Mota gave up a 2-run triple to Scott Spezio that knotted up the score at 6.
The score remained tied at 6 heading into the 9th inning, when the Mets sent veteran closer Billy Wagner to the mound. Wagner was extremely ineffective, giving up a leadoff HR to light-hitting So Taguchi, followed by a double to Albert Pujols, an RBI double to Spezio, and a run-scoring single to Juan Encarnacion before leaving after giving up 3 runs and only recording one out. The Mets were unable to make up the deficit in the bottom of the inning, as Tyler Johnson and closer Adam Wainwright closed out the game with a perfect ninth inning, and the Mets fell 9-6.
In Game 1, baseball fans were treated to a pitcher's duel. The same could not be said for Game 2, as neither team's pitching staff were particularly effective at getting the other's batters out. John Maine lasted only 4 innings in his second postseason start, giving up 4 runs (3 earned), striking out 3 and giving up 5 walks. Carpenter was arguably worse, lasting 5 innings, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks, and only striking out one. However, the bullpen of the Cardinals was clearly the reason for their victory. In 4 innings of relief, Cardinals pitchers gave up only 1 run on 3 hits. The Mets relief corps gave up 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings, which was the difference in the ballgame.
Due mostly to the superior performance of their relief pitching, the Cardinals managed to even the series at 1 game apiece as the NLCS moved to St. Louis.
The third game in the NLCS was decided by the starting pitchers. On one hand, there was the sterling performance delivered by Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan. The right-hander went 8 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 4. The only batter he allowed past first base was Jose Reyes, who hit a 2-out triple in the third. Reyes was stranded there, however, after Suppan struck out Paul Lo Duca to end the inning.
On the other hand, there was the walking train wreck that was Steve Trachsel. The Met pitcher, who somehow won 15 games during the regular season, was atrocious, lasting only 1+ innings, giving up all 5 runs the Mets allowed. In the bottom of the first inning, Trachsel gave up a 2-run triple to Scott Spezio, but managed to avoid further damage. However, in the second inning, Trachsel completely imploded, giving up 3 runs while failing to record an out. The second inning started with a leadoff home run by the opposing pitcher, followed in quick succession by a walk, a single, and a walk, at which point the bases were loaded and nobody was out. Trachsel was pulled and replaced by Darren Oliver, who promptly uncorked a wild pitch, which scored a run, and surrendered an RBI groundout, making the score 5-0. Oliver did manage to escape the rest of the inning unscathed. However, the damage had been done.
In spite of givng up two runs upon his entrance (which were charged to Trachsel), Oliver pitched extremely well in the long relief role, giving up no runs on 3 hits and one walk in 6 innings. Roberto Hernandez chipped in a perfect 8th inning, and overall, the Mets relief corps gave up no runs in 7 innings in an impressive performance.
The real star of the game was Suppan, who kept the powerful Mets' offense (3rd in the NL in 2006) in check for 8 strong innings. Because of Suppan's performance, the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the series.
In Game 4, the Mets regained their offensive swagger. After falling behind in the second inning via a Yadier Molina RBI single, the Mets bounced back in the top of the third. Carlos Beltran and David Wright each hit solo home runs, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Juan Encarnacion tripled home a run in the bottom of the inning. In the 5th inning, Carlos Delgado continued his dominance at the plate, hitting his 3rd HR of the series, a 3-run shot that gave the Mets a 5-2 lead. While the Cardinals did gain a run back in the bottom of the 5th on a leadoff solo shot from David Eckstein, the Mets put the game away with a monster 6th inning.
The Mets put on a hitting clinic in the 6th inning, sending 10 men to the plate and scoring six runs. Jose Reyes lead off the inning with a walk, Paul Lo Duca singled, and Beltran walked to load the bases with nobody out. Delgado once again came through with men on base, mashing a 2-run double that made the score 7-3. A walk to Wright led to the bases being loaded for Shawn Green, who singled to make it 8-3. Jose Valentin then came to the plate with the bases loaded. A double from Valentin cleared the bases, effectively putting the game out of reach at 11-3. The Cardinals managed to get out of the inning without any more runs being scored, but the damage was done. Even two solo home runs, one by Jim Edmonds and one by Molina, served only to make the score 11-5. Carlos Beltran added a solo shot in the 7th to reach the final score of 12-5.
The starting pitching for both teams, as it was in Game 2, was unimpressive. Oliver Perez, sporting a 3-13 regular season record, went 5 2/3 innings, giving up 5 runs on 9 hits, a walk, and three strikeouts. The opposing pitcher, rookie Anthony Reyes, went only 4 innings, giving up 2 runs while allowing 3 hits, 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts. As it was in Game 3, the Mets' bullpen was rock-solid, throwing 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, giving up only 2 hits in the process. The bullpen for the Cardinals was awful, as it gave up 10 runs in 5 innings. By virtue of their 12-5 victory, the Mets managed to even the series at 2 games apiece as the two teams headed toward a crucial Game 5 matchup.
The pitching matchup in Game 5 would be the same as in the series opener, as Tom Glavine would oppose Jeff Weaver. This time, however, Weaver had the better performance. Glavine lasted only 4 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 2. Weaver, meanwhile, went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 2.
The only offense for the Mets came in the 4th, when Jose Valentin doubled home Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. Glavine was unable to hold the lead, however, as in the bottom of the inning he gave up a solo HR to Albert Pujols and an RBI single to Ron Belliard to tie the game up at 2. After giving up a single, RBI double, and IBB to start the 5th, Glavine was pulled. His replacements, submariner Chad Bradford and lefthander Pedro Feliciano, escaped the inning without further damage, but the Cardinals had captured a 3-2 lead. A 6th-inning HR by Chris Duncan gave the Cardinals an insurance run and a 4-2 cushion. The Cardinals bullpen, unlike in Game 4, was spectacular, allowing only 2 hits in 3 shutout innings.
As the series shifted back to New York, the Mets found themselves in a 3-2 hole, and could only hope that rookie John Maine would pitch well enough in Game 6 to keep the Cardinals from clinching a World Series berth.
As the Mets faced elimination in Game 6, they turned to rookie John Maine to keep their season alive. Maine responded in fine form, turning in an excellent performance, pitching 5 1/3 shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits while walking 4 and striking out 5. The opposing starter, Chris Carpenter, while not quite as impressive as Maine, still went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits, no walks, and 4 strikeouts.
The Mets struck quickly in the bottom of the first, and were up 1-0 after Jose Reyes hit a HR to lead off the game for the Mets. There was no further scoring until the 4th inning, when Shawn Green singled home Carlos Beltran to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. The last two runs for the Mets came from a 2-run Paul Lo Duca single in the bottom of the 7th.
The Cardinals were down 4 runs heading into the 9th inning, and indeed had failed to score at all at that point. Facing closer Billy Wagner, the Cardinals mounted a rally. A leadoff single by Juan Encarnacion followed by a Scott Rolen double quickly put men at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. After Wagner dispatched the next two hitters, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pinch-hit So Taguchi, who had homered against Wagner to give the Cardinals the lead in the 9th inning of Game 2. Taguchi once again delivered against Wagner, smacking a double that scored both Encarnacion and Rolen, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Wagner settled down and got David Eckstein to ground out to end the game.
The Mets' Game 6 performance evened the series at 3-3, and so the stage was set for a dramatic Game 7 showdown.
As the dramatic showdown neared to what had so far been an exciting, back and forth series, Mets' manager Willie Randolph was faced with a difficult choice. With his starting rotation decimated due to injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, Randolph had limited options in naming a Game 7 starter. Randolph decided that Game 4 starter Oliver Perez gave the Mets the best chance to get to the World Series. He was, by virtue of his 6.55 ERA during the regular season, the worst Game 7 starter in playoff history. Opposing the Mets was Game 3 winner Jeff Suppan.
The Mets got on the board first, scoring a run in the bottom of the first on a David Wright RBI single. The Cardinals struck right back in the top of the second, with Jim Edmonds coming home on a Ronnie Belliard suicide squeeze to make the score 1-1. What followed could only be described as a pitching clinic put on by both teams. From the time that Edmonds scored to tie up the game in the second until the start of the ninth, no runs were scored. Suppan went 7 innings and gave up only the one run, striking out 2 while giving up 2 hits and 5 walks. Perez went 6 innings, also giving up one run, on 4 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.
Perez was greatly aided in the 6th inning by a tremendous play made by Endy Chavez. With one out in the 6th, Perez walked Jim Edmonds. The next batter, Scott Rolen, slammed a fly ball deep into left field. The ball was already over the wall when Chavez, at a run, turned and jumped high into the air, snagging the ball at the apex of his jump. The ball barely stayed in his glove, and when Chavez hit the ground, he threw back to first to double off a dumbfounded Edmonds. Shea Stadium exploded with cheers, and continued to applaud until Chavez came out for a rare defensive curtain call.
Despite Chavez's amazing play, the Mets were unable to capitalize in the bottom of the inning. A ground out, 2 walks and an error led to the Mets having the bases loaded with only one out. However, Suppan was able to get Jose Valentin to strike out and got the defensive hero Chavez to fly out, ending the inning without any damage done.
The 8th inning passed without incident, and so the Mets and Cardinals were tied and hurtling towards a climactic Game 7 finish. Aaron Heilman, in his second inning of work, struck out Jim Edmonds to start the inning. A single by Rolen put a man on first with one out as catcher Yadier Molina came to the plate. For the 2006 season, Molina hit .216 with only 6 home runs and a slugging percentage of .321. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Molina launched a pitch from Heilman over the left field wall, one that was out of the reach of Chavez, and the Mets suddenly found themselves down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Starting the bottom of the ninth, down by two runs, the Mets got off to an encouraging start. Valentin and Chavez both singled to lead off the inning against St. Louis closer Adam Wainwright. After striking out injured pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd and getting Jose Reyes to line out to center, Paul Lo Duca walked to load the bases with 2 outs. This brought Carlos Beltran to the plate with the chance to be a hero. Beltran, while a member of the Houston Astros in 2004, had destroyed the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS, to the tune of 4 HR, a .563 OBP and an amazing .958 slugging percentage. This time, however, Beltran was frozen for strike three by a Wainwright curve that caught the outside corner of the plate, sending the Cardinals to the World Series and leaving the devastated Mets one win short of the NL pennant.
Jeff Suppan, who started two games in the series, was named NLCS MVP. Suppan, in 15 innings pitched, gave up only 1 run, won Game 3 and pitched brilliantly in Game 7. The Cardinals would go on to defeat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
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