Saturday, August 10, 2013

Some Trivia About Mets Walk-off Losses

On Friday night, the Mets dropped the opener of their four-city, 11-game road trip, losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-4.  They were defeated when MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt hit the schmidt out of a Scott Atchison offering, leading the Diamondbacks to the walk-off win.

Walk-offs are nothing new against the Mets.  Friday night's defeat was the Mets' tenth walk-off loss of the season and the 421st against the team in franchise history, which includes three postseason walk-off losses.  (For the record, the Mets have won 387 regular season and postseason games via the walk-off, including eight such wins in 2013.)

Game-ending hits, walks, errors, wild pitchers, balks, etc. are common against the Mets, but I'm willing to wager a Scott Atchison autographed sundial (he still uses them to tell time) that you don't know everything there is to know about walk-off losses against the Mets.  So sit back, pop open a Rheingold, and enjoy a little bit of Mets trivia - Studious Metsimus-style - on those dang blasted walk-off losses.

Another day, another walk-off loss.  (Photo by Matt York/AP)

The Mets' first walk-off loss occurred on May 26, 1962, when Willie Mays took Jay Hook deep at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, turning a 6-5 Mets lead into a 7-6, ten-inning defeat.  However, by that time, the Mets had already experienced four walk-off victories, all of which came in a span of five days between May 12 and May 16.  Of course, by the next time the Mets won a game via the walk-off on July 7, 1962, the team had dropped five more games in this fashion.

The most walk-off losses registered by the Mets in a single season is 14, first accomplished by the 1974 Mets and then matched by the 1978 squad.  The fewest regular season walk-off losses in a single year is one, accomplished by the 1999 Mets (Armando Benitez allowed a game-ending homer to the Marlins' Mark Kotsay on June 30, 1999).  Unfortunately, the Mets' season ended that year on a walk-off walk by Kenny Rogers to Andruw Jones in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

Many players have delivered game-ending hits (or other type plays) against the Mets over the years.  Several players have been a triple threat, beating the Mets three times via the walk-off.  Those players include Hall of Famers (Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, Tony Perez), former All-Stars (Dusty Baker, Cesar Cedeño, Ron Cey, Jim Davenport, Jim Edmonds, Dale Murphy), several active players (Dan Uggla, Ryan Zimmerman), a journeyman slugger (Bob Bailey), a former Rookie of the Year (Jerome Walton) and two guys named Manny (Manny Mota, Manny Trillo).  But only one player has delivered four walk-off hits against the Mets in team history.  That would be one Michael Jack Schmidt, who hit walk-off homers to defeat the Mets in 1974, 1975 and 1978, then kept it in the park for a game-ending RBI single against Roger McDowell in 1987.

Of their 418 regular season and three postseason walk-off losses, the most common way the Mets have lost via the walk-off has been on a single (194 losses).  That's followed by home runs (123, including ten grand slams), doubles (23), errors (21), walks (17) and sacrifice flies (17).  The Mets have also been victims of the walk-off loss through uncommon plays.  They've lost three games on walk-off balks and have been witnesses to two game-ending triples.  But the Mets have suffered only one walk-off loss because of a passed ball.  That occurred on July 27, 1967, when Tommie Reynolds could not handle a pitch by Jack Fisher, allowing Nate Oliver to score the winning run for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 11th.  Although Reynolds played for four teams from 1963 to 1972 (including 101 games for the Mets in 1967), it was his first and last appearance behind the plate in a big league game.

What don't you see in this photo of Tommie Reynolds?  Catching equipment.  That's because he wasn't a catcher.

Including last night's affair, the Mets have now lost 123 times on a game-ending home run.  Two pitchers share the team record for most walk-off homers surrendered, as both Jesse Orosco and Randy Myers allowed six game-ending home runs during their time with the Mets.  But Myers is alone when it comes to walk-off homers allowed in a single season.  In 1989, Myers gave up four such blasts, as he watched Rey Quiñones, Von Hayes, Mark Grace and Chris James circle the bases into the arms of smiling teammates.  Although he only pitched three full seasons in New York (he had cups of coffee with the Mets in 1985 and 1986), Myers was on the mound for ten walk-off losses, making it more palatable for the Mets to trade him to the Cincinnati Reds for John Franco (more on him later).  But those ten walk-off losses are not the most in Mets history.  In fact, they were eight short of the record at the time.

Neil Allen pitched for the Mets from 1979 until he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Keith Hernandez on June 15, 1983.  In his four-plus seasons with the Mets, Allen was victimized by the walk-off an incredible 18 times.  In 1980 alone, Allen walked off the mound six times while the opposing team celebrated their late victory.  Changing uniforms in 1983 did nothing to change Allen's penchant for the late-inning loss.  In the two seasons following the trade from the Mets to the Cardinals, Allen watched the Mets celebrate four walk-off victories against him, with the most memorable coming on Opening Day 1985, when Gary Carter took him deep in his first game as a Met.

Allen is no longer the team record-holder when it comes to being on the mound while the opponent is walking off with a win.  That distinction belongs to John Franco, who witnessed 25 walk-off celebrations from a distance of 60 feet, six inches.  Two players walked off against Franco twice.

Glenallen Hill hit a two-run homer off Franco on September 5, 1993 to give the Cubs a 2-1 victory over the Mets.  Hill then hit another game-ending homer off the longtime Met nearly two years later, giving the Giants a 6-5 win on September 1, 1995.

Steve Finley is the only other player to be at the plate against John Franco when Franco delivered the pitch that gave the opponent a victory.  However, one of those two walk-offs was made possible by an untimely error.  On September 7, 1993, just two days after he watched Glenallen Hill hit a game-ending two-run homer against him, Franco was on the mound for another walk-off celebration, although this one was created by poor defense.  A gaffe by Jeff Kent on a ball hit by Finley allowed the winning run to score in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Astros.  Nearly ten years later, Finley victimized Franco again, but this time the blame was all on Franco's shoulders.  On August 9, 2003, Finley became the first Diamondback to hit a walk-off home run against the Mets, connecting on a solo blast in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Arizona a 2-1 victory.

Steve Finley might have walked off against the Mets twice, but he couldn't prevent this walk-off from happening.

And that brings us back to last night and Paul Goldschmidt's game-ending homer.  Goldschmidt's bomb came on the ten-year anniversary of Finley's homer.  Those two homers are also the only times the Diamondbacks have defeated the Mets with a walk-off homer.  The only other time Arizona walked off with a victory against New York was on July 21, 2010, when Chris Snyder delivered an RBI single off Fernando Nieve to end a 14-inning marathon in the desert.

The Mets have lost thousands of games over their 50-plus years of existence.  But there is nothing more heartbreaking than a walk-off loss.  And the Mets have had their share of those.  Whether it be on a game-ending homer or a passed ball by a catcher who had never played the position before, it never gets easier to watch a team you don't root for celebrating a late victory against the team you do.  That's just baseball for you.

I hope you enjoyed this piece on game-ending trivia and related minutia.  By reading it, you will no longer be at a loss when you walk off to tell your friends about it.


metsilverman said...

This kind of info makes the long ago disappearance of the brilliant Mets Walkoffs blog easier to take. Why am I not suprised that the Mets have lost more often in this fashion than they've won--or that Mike Schmidt is chief torturor. And that does not even count all the ninth, 10th, and 11th innings he ruined at Shea.

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

Exactly. There are so many players who killed the Mets in their team's last at-bat, but many of these games were at Shea. (I can recall Andres Galarraga sticking it to the Mets in a number of games I attended at Shea in the late '80s and early '90s.) However, he never had a walk-off hit against the Mets.

And although I didn't include it in the post, six players named Gonzalez have walked off against the Mets (Tony in 1965 and 1966, Fernando in 1978, Julio in 1981, Jose in 1990, Luis in 1997, and Adrian in 2010). That's the most common surname for walk-off artists against the Mets.