New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses # 9

New York Mets

Every fan base has those games that rip you apart emotionally. Some fan bases have many more to choose from than others. In my years as a New York Mets fan, there are many games and moments that have ripped me apart. I have rounded this down to the Ugly Eleven All-Time Met losses in my lifetime. As a 45-year-old fan, I am going to limit the pain to games starting in the ’80s going up until now. This list is sure to bring back many bad memories for every Mets fan.

Please look back at the first three installments of the 12 part series.

Fantastic Four New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses: Four brutal losses from the 2019 season.

# 11 New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses: Mets lose the season finale in 2008 marking the second straight season-ending collapse.

# 10 New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses: Mets lose two home games to the 62-94 Montreal Expos to start off the collapse of 1998.

UGLY ELEVEN # 9: Benitez Blows Save vs the Braves in 2001

September 23rd, 2001 vs the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium

Terrorist Attacks

This was a tough time for America. Just 12 days earlier the United States of America suffered it’s the worst attack on American soil in history. Everyone knows the story so there is no reason to repeat the details. The sports world stopped as did many other aspects of life in America. New York City was called ground zero as the World Trade Center area was the hardest hit spot in the country.

As the country was trying to put the pieces back together both Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium were used as hubs for collecting supplies donated from various groups and people all over the country. It was common to see many Mets and Yankees players working in their stadium parking lots loading and packing up supplies. To say it mildly playing baseball was the furthest thing from their minds.

Throughout that faithful week, one of the biggest topics was when do we bring back baseball and even further should the Mets and Yankees play home games again. The games did eventually return and the Mets played their arch-rival Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event in New York City after the terrorist attacks.

The Return of Baseball

In 2000 the Mets lost the World Series to their cross-town rival New York Yankees in five games. It was the Yankees third consecutive World Championship and they were primed for a fourth one. All of New York was emotional after September 11th especially both New York baseball teams.

MLB halted the season for a week. The Mets were 71-73 at the time of the stoppage but were on a hot streak winning 17 out of their last 22 games. In a season that saw the Mets mostly struggle they were finally showing signs of life but had a lot of ground to make up. Prior to the hot streak, the Mets were in fourth place 10.5 games behind the first-place Braves. When the MLB season was halted the Mets cut the Braves lead to eight games.

Once the season restarted the Mets stayed hot by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series. Up next was a home series against the hated Braves. Since this was the first professional baseball game to be held in New York since 9/11 the Mets turned the game into a celebration and a welcomed distraction from reality. Even the rivalry between the teams was put on the back burner as a pre-game bonding session was in full display. Braves Hall of Famer Chipper Jones puts this game into perspective in this 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated.

Jones said: “Once we came out for batting practice, everyone took it upon themselves to take a little time out to just interact with the fans. Normally, it’s a couple of autographs here and there. There were a bunch of fans that came up to me and said, ‘You know what Larry, we love to hate you but tonight thanks for coming out here and playing.’ What do you say to that? [Laughs.] Fifteen years later, I still get chills talking about that night.”

Piazza’s Iconic Moment

However, it was time to play the game. With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning Mike Piazza stepped to the plate with one runner on. Piazza then hit one of the most epic home runs in the history of the sport which ended up winning the game for the Mets.

Piazza’s home run did not win a playoff game or series or put the Mets into the playoffs. It did under the circumstances lift an entire city and maybe even the whole country. More importantly, it cut the Braves lead to 4.5 games. The Mets were hot and riding an incredible wave of emotion. The next day Braves ace Greg Maddux faces only two batters before being removed from the game with an elbow injury and the Mets outlast Atlanta 7-3.

 

Benitez Blows A Big One

Then came the series finale and the next UGLY Mets loss. Jay Payton had an RBI single in the second inning that started the scoring off. Joe McEwing followed with a solo home run in the third inning as the Mets had the early 2-0 lead. Ken Caminiti‘s RBI double in the 7th inning cut the lead in half 2-1. Todd Zeile provided an insurance run with an RBI single in the eighth inning. Piazza would score on a wild pitch as the Mets would add another run to their cushion. Mets starter Al Leiter was masterful pitching eight innings giving up one run on three hits and two walks.

With the Mets leading 4-1 in the top of the ninth inning out came the closer Armando Benitez. Benitez would walk leadoff batter Marcus Giles but retire the next two batters. The Mets were one out away from sweeping the Braves and putting the Philadelphia Phillies in first place by a half-game.

Brian Jordan hits an HR on an 0-1 pitch to left. The score is now 4-3 but the Mets can still hold on and win this game. Ahh but Met fans know this ending all too well. Benitez would walk pinch hitter Dave Martinez. Andruw Jones would single to left. Up next is pinch hitter B.J. Surhoff who singles to center tying the score. Jordan would homer in the 11th inning off Jerrod Riggan dealing the Mets a devastating loss.

This one hurt a lot. It appeared the stars were lining up for the Mets. Mets fans were starting to believe this team can stay hot and surge right past the Braves and Phillies into the playoffs. But Benitez strikes again. This is just another time where Benitez can’t hold onto the lead in a big game. We saw it in the 2000 World Series. We saw it in the 1999 NLCS and we will see it one week later putting the final nail in the Met coffin.

Mets Rebound

Amazingly the Mets recovered and swept the Montreal Expos in a three-game series to get right back on track. Going into a weekend series in Atlanta the Mets were back to three games behind the Braves. The Phillies were one game back and in a very unusual spot needing the Mets to win to get into first place. But that also means the Mets would remain very much in the hunt.

The Braves won the opener and coupled with a Phillies loss Atlanta’s lead stretched to two and four games respectively. Down four games with eight left the Mets were hanging on by a string. With two teams ahead of them their chances were very slim. If the Mets could win the next two games they would be no worse then two games out of first place no matter what the Phillies would do.

Benitez and Franco Blow Another One

Mike Piazza’s three-run double in the 4th inning gave the Mets a 3-1 lead. Piazza would score on a wild pitch that extended the Met lead to 4-1 after four innings. After Leiter’s bunt single scored Jay Payton the Mets would carry a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. It was now time for more Benitez magic.

Javy Lopez had an RBI single cutting the lead to 5-2. After a Dave Martinez groundout, Benitez and the Mets are one out away from once again beating the Braves. Benitez walks Keith Lockhart. Then Marcus Giles hits a two-run double to bring the Braves within one run 5-4. After an intentional walk to Julio Franco, Mets manager Bobby Valentine finally replaces Benitez with John Franco.

Franco would walk Wes Helms then Brian Jordan hits a walk-off grand slam. This is the second time in a week that Jordan hits a game-winning HR against the Mets. Despite the Mets winning the next day this loss effectively ends the Mets season. The Mets would end the season six games behind the Braves. The Phillies finished two games behind the Braves and had Benitez held onto those two leads maybe Philadelphia gets into the playoffs.

Outcome

As for me, I found myself emotionally drained. The first Benitez blown save game took the heart right out of me and every Mets fan in the world. After all, we felt the Mets were a team of destiny. The Mets kept fighting and managed to shake off that bad loss only to see Benitez do it again.

The Bobby Ball era would end after the 2002 season where the Mets went 75-86. This would be the only full season where Valentine’s Mets finished with a losing record. Valentine managed the Mets to back to back playoff appearances and one World Series appearance. But he was fired after his only losing season.

Valentine made the Mets relevant again despite not always having the best roster. Still, his tenure was littered with heartbreaking losses in addition to losing the World Series to the Yankees. Art Howe was brought in for two brutal seasons before former Yankees player and coach Willie Randolph was hired and added a couple more chapters to Mets misery.

 

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