New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses # 7

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 five 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.

9 New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses: Armando Benitez blows a save as the Mets were on the verge of sweeping the Atlanta Braves after 9/11.

8 New York Mets Ugly Eleven Losses: The 1985 Injury to Darryl Strawberry

UGLY ELEVEN # 7: Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS

October 19th, 1999 Braves 10 Mets 9

Classic Series

Game 6 was a real classic. It is forever known as the Kenny Rogers game because of how it ended but along the way, there were plenty of culprits to point out. This would be the second straight year where the Mets season ended at the hands of the hated Atlanta Braves in Turner Field. But before we get to the heartbreak of Game 6 let’s take a brief look back at the first five games of the series.

In what started out as a laugher of a series by the time Game 6 rolled around it was on the verge of becoming epic. Greg Maddux was brilliant in Game 1 tossing seven innings of one-run ball. Gerald Williams RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning gave the Braves a 2-1 lead. Eddie Perez added a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Braves had a typical Braves win 4-2.

Five Straight One Run Games

From this point on every game was a one-run game at least by how officially MLB scores the game. More on that later on. In Game 2 Roger Cedeno had an RBI single in the top of the second inning and Melvin Mora added a solo home run in the fifth as the Mets built a 2-0 lead. Rogers could not hold onto the lead as he allowed two two-run homers to both Brian Jordan and Perez in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Mets would ultimately lose the game 4-3 as the series shifted to Shea Stadium.

Game 3 was a heartbreak of a loss as Al Leiter and Tom Glavine dueled with the Braves winning 1-0 via an unearned run in the first inning. Both Leiter and Mike Piazza had errors which lead to the lone run scoring. With the Mets facing a sweep, they needed to rally against a pitcher who has not only been a thorn in their side but also was public enemy number one.

Mets Heat Up

John Smoltz was facing Rick Reed and the game was scoreless into the bottom of the sixth inning. John Olerud hit a solo homerun giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. But in the top of the eighth inning, the Braves broke through with back to back home runs by Jordan(his name has appeared a lot in this series) and Ryan Klesko. Smoltz was lifted in the eighth inning with one out and one on. Mike Remlinger entered the game and after a strikeout and a Cedeno stolen base, Mora walked.

Remlinger was replaced by John Rocker who owned the Mets. But the Mets had speed on the bases and their most consistent hitter at the plate in Olerud. After a double steal, Olerud hit a two-run single giving the Mets a 3-2 lead and Armando Benitez had a rare clean inning save and the Mets avoided the sweep.

 

Grand Single

Game 5 was epic for many reasons. Firstly it rained all day long in New York. Secondly, this game lasted 15 innings and became another classic postseason game for the Mets. The Mets seem to have a lot of these for a franchise that has not had many postseason appearances.

The Mets scored two first-inning runs off the great Maddux after Olerud hit a two-run home run. The Braves would draw even in the top of the fourth inning after Chipper Jones, another Met killer had an RBI double, and Jordan once again with another big hit had an RBI single knotting the game at two. The score would remain tied at two until the 15th inning.

The Mets went through nine pitchers which is important to remember. Keith Lockhart had an RBI triple scoring Walt Weiss to give the Braves a 3-2 lead. The Mets did not give up and managed to load the bases against Braves pitcher Kevin McGlinchy. Shawon Dunston singled in a 12 pitch at-bat to get things started.

 

Costas’ Famous Call

The Mets would load the bases with one out. Todd Pratt walked tying the game at three. Robin Ventura steps up to the plate as the rain was coming down in buckets only needing a flyball to extend the series. Ventura hits what should be a Grand Slam. Pratt who was on first base mobbed Ventura before he could round the bases.

Soon after the Mets dugout emptied and swarmed all over Ventura preventing him from reaching second base. As a result, Ventura does not get credit for hitting a walk-off grand slam but only gets credit for an RBI single for a play known as the Grand Single. Bob Costas spoke the memorable lines as Ventura’s batted ball sailed over the rightfield fence. Costas said: “A Drive to right. Back to Georgia. Gone a Grand Slam.” The Mets are now back in the thick of this series and have the Braves on their heels.

 

Game 6

That brings us to Game 6. Although the Mets were riding a huge wave of momentum they were banged up and possibly outgunned. Star catcher Mike Piazza was playing through pain. His defensive position of catcher did not help his cause much. But still, the Mets were two games away from completing a historic comeback. These next two games would be played in the Mets own house or horrors Turner Field.

Mets ace Al Leiter started Game 6 so you would expect a good outing from him. This was to be the game where Kenny Rogers would start but the Mets did use him in relief inGame 5. Additionally, Leiter was pitching on three days rest. Leiter struggled with his control by hitting two batters and walking a third one in the first inning. Piazza’s defense was exploited once again by the Braves and his throwing error allowed the first run to score. In fact, Leiter failed to record an out and was pulled from the game after only facing 6 hitters. Pat Mahomes replaced Leiter and the Braves had a 5-0 lead after one inning of play. The normally reliable Leiter picked the worst time to lay an egg.

Not That Pat Mahomes

Mahomes threw blanks for the next three innings but Braves starter Kevin Millwood was doing the same. In the top of the sixth inning, the Mets broke through scoring three runs via a Piazza sacrifice fly and a two-run single by Darryl Hamilton. Terry Mulholland replaced Millwood and the Braves got out of the inning.

Turk Wendell in his second inning of work loads the bases with two outs. Dennis Cook replaces Wendell and gives up a two-run single to Jose Hernandez. The Braves now lead the Mets 7-3 after six innings. The next five innings were epic. Smoltz heads to the mound to start the seventh inning and the Mets battered him around. Rickey Henderson had an RBI double and Olerud drove him in with a single. Piazza then followed with a two-run home run tying the game at seven and chasing Smoltz. Orel Hershiser pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning for the Mets.

 

Two Blown Saves

In the top of the eighth inning, Mora’s single drives in Benny Agbayani as the Mets now had an 8-7 lead. The Mets were just six outs away from forcing a Game 7. Longtime Mets closer John Franco enters the game in the bottom of the inning. The Brooklyn born Franco was pitching in arguably his biggest game as a Met. Perez singles with one out. Otis Nixon pinch runs and steals second. Brian Hunter hits a run-scoring single and the game was tied once again 8-8.

After both teams had scoreless ninth innings the Mets broke through in the top of the 10th inning. Rocker now pitching in his second inning walked Agbayani leading off the inning. The Bobby Ball Mets moved him base by base until Pratt’s sacrifice fly gave the Mets a 10-9 lead. The Mets are now three outs away from Game 7.

But the Mets bullpen was tired. Just two days ago the Mets played in a 15 inning marathon and Leiter had to be removed in the first inning further taxing the pitching staff. As a result Mets closer Benitez was pitching in his second inning. Andruw Jones leads off the inning with a single. Klesko walked with one out. Ozzie Guillen knocks in Jones with the tying run and once again the Mets bullpen blows a lead.

A Valiant Effort

The Mets failed to score in the top of the 11th inning. In the bottom of the inning, Kenny Rogers was entered into the game. Williams led off the inning with a double. Bret Boone sacrificed Williams to third. Both Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan were intentionally walked. Next up was Andruw Jones. With one out and the bases loaded the Mets needed Rogers to bear down.

Jones has great speed so the odds of turning two on him were slim. The Mets needed a strikeout or the old atom ground ball so the Mets could cut down Williams at home. Rogers walked Jones on a 3-2 pitch and just like that the Braves ended the Mets season for the second straight year.

 

In Conclusion

There is a lot to digest here. Kenny Rogers gets the brunt of this game but there are a lot of culprits. Al Leiter not retiring a batter is one. Both John Franco and Armando Benitez blowing saves are two others. The fact that the Masato Yoshii pitched four and two-thirds innings in Game 1 and three innings in Game 5 also contributed to the overuse of the Mets bullpen.

Mike Piazza had three errors in the series. Now Piazza was one of the biggest stars in all of baseball. His defense particularly his arm was always in question and the Braves exploited it. In no way am I blaming this series on Piazza. But his defense especially his throwing arm were a liability. Piazza did not even finish Game 6. He had to be removed because he was so banged up.

Rogers was just not liked by the Met fan base. During that faithful 11th inning Octavio Dotel was seen warming up. Met fans would rather have Dotel start the 11th inning despite being a rookie. Dotel actually pitched three innings in Game 5 while Rogers pitched two. The only other option might have been Rick Reed who pitched Game 4 and was penciled in as the Game 7 starter.

If you are a believer of only winning the game you are playing then it is possible Reed could have started the 11th inning on two days rest. Reed was not a hard thrower and could have given the Mets a few innings. But then who would have pitched in Game 7. Could Leiter have come back for a few innings in Game 7? After all Leiter did not throw more than 20 pitches in Game 6.

Bobby Ball

The Bobby Valentine era record-wise was very successful. However, for three straight seasons, the Mets suffered bitter defeats. In both 1998 and 1999, the Mets had their season ended by the hands of the Braves. In 2000 the New York Yankees defeated the Mets in the World Series.

Valentine gets heat for losing Game 6 probably because of how bad Rogers pitched. Rogers was acquired via a trade with the Oakland Athletics earlier in the year. He made 12 starts for the Mets going 5-1 with a 4.03 ERA. In the playoffs Rogers was bad. In two starts Rogers went 0-2 and gave up eight runs in nine-plus innings. But in Game 5 Rogers did pitch two scoreless innings.

Dotel had only two appearances both in relief. He gave up two runs in one-third of an inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. In Game 5 vs the Braves Dotel pitched three innings and was responsible for the run the Braves scored in the top of the 15th inning.

Pitching Dotel was not a clear cut choice. Because of Valentine’s managerial style the Mets would go through their bullpen quick in games. As noted Yoshii’s bad starts did not help the bullpen. Neither did having a 15 inning Game 5. Valentine could deserve the blame for the decision to use Leiter on three days rest instead of Rogers despite his appearance in Game 5. If you listen to Met fans they wanted Leiter pitching Game 6.

To this day I still wonder how the Mets lost this game.

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