|Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters|
Six years ago today, the Mets were playing the finale of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. Because the Mets were about to play their crosstown rivals in the Subway Series the following night, manager Willie Randolph decided to keep most of his regular players on the bench for the Thursday matinee to keep them fresh for their weekend tilt against the Yankees.
Out were Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran. In were Ruben Gotay, Julio Franco and Endy Chavez.
By the sixth inning, the Cubs had a four-run lead on the Mets behind starting pitcher Juan Guzman. When the Mets came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, they were trailing 5-1 and closer Ryan Dempster was summoned by manager Lou Piniella in a non-save situation to record the final three outs. Dempster never even recorded out No. 2.
Randolph was content to let his big boppers stay on the bench in the ninth, but his replacement corps made him reconsider his original plan by reaching base against Dempster. First, David Newhan lined a single to center. Then Carlos Gomez stroked a one-out single of his own. A walk to pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran loaded the bases for Endy Chavez, who also took ball four. That made the score 5-2. With Dempster needing to throw strikes, Ruben Gotay lined an 0-2 pitch to left for an RBI single. Now the tying run was in scoring position and the winning run was on first. That was all for the Cubs' closer, as Lou Piniella removed a livid Dempster for the left-handed Scott Eyre.
With the bases loaded and the Mets now trailing 5-3, David Wright came off the bench to pinch-hit for the lefty-swinging Shawn Green. Prior to the at-bat, Wright had never appeared as a pinch-hitter in 1,776 career plate appearances. It took one pitch for Wright to have a 1.000 career batting average as a pinch-hitter. Wright’s RBI single off Eyre closed the deficit to 5-4 and kept the bases loaded for Carlos Delgado - one of the few everyday players who played all nine innings.
After a 2006 season in which Delgado produced 38 HR and 114 RBI, the first baseman underachieved during the first month and a half of 2007. Entering the day, Delgado was batting .217 with three homers and 19 RBI in 36 games. But he had always done well against Scott Eyre, collecting three hits and four walks against the southpaw in 11 career plate appearances for a gaudy .636 on-base percentage. After taking a first-pitch ball from Eyre, Delgado grounded a hard smash that found a hole between first and second, scoring Chavez from third base with the tying run and Gotay from second with the winning run.
|Photo by Kathy Willens/Associated Press|
Incredibly, the Mets scored five runs in the ninth inning, snatching an improbable 6-5 victory from Lou Piniella and the Cubs. The win allowed the Mets to go into the Subway Series on a high note, while the Cubs went back to Chicago wondering what went wrong.
This year, neither New York nor Chicago are doing particularly well. With the Astros now playing in the American League, the Cubs have spent most of the season in Houston’s customary spot - the basement of the National League Central - while the Mets are playing like a team determined to finish in fourth place for the fifth consecutive season.
Today, on the six-year anniversary of their thrilling come-from-behind win against Chicago, the Mets are opening up a three-game series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Only David Wright remains from the team that rallied from a four-run ninth inning deficit on May 17, 2007. But just because most of the names have changed doesn’t mean the Mets aren’t capable of giving their fans a reason to believe.
Anything can happen on the field on any given day. Six years ago today, something special did happen on the field at Shea Stadium. Through sheer willpower and their unwavering desire to win, the Mets pulled off an unlikely victory over the eventual Central division champion Cubs. It just goes to show that even when all appears lost, there is always a glimmer of hope that the day can end with a happy recap.