Tuesday, July 8, 2014

4,000 Wins: A Brief History of Mets Milestone Victories

Jacob deGrom's second major league win was the franchise's 4,000th victory. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It took the Mets 8,020 games to record their first no-hitter.  It took them a little longer to record their 4,000th regular season victory.  With tonight's 8-3 decision over the Atlanta Braves, the Mets have now won 4,000 times in 8,382 regular season games, becoming the ninth National League team to reach that milestone.  (Houston won 3,999 games as a National League franchise before moving to the AL West in 2013.)

In honor of this historic victory, let's look back at the other games in which the Mets clicked the thousands digit up by one.  Unlike tonight's victory, all three landmark wins came during seasons in which the Mets finished above .500 and all three occurred on the road.

Win No. 1,000:  May 22, 1976 @ Montreal

Under first-year manager Joe Frazier, the Mets got off to a quick start in 1976.  New York was 19-11 and in a first place tie with the Philadelphia Phillies through 30 games.  But the Phillies then reeled off 16 wins in their next 19 games and were well on their way to their first postseason appearance in 26 years.  During the Phillies' hot stretch in late May, the Mets struggled, embarking on four separate losing streaks of three games or more.  But on May 22, the Mets did manage to come from behind to post a rare victory at a time when wins were becoming scarce.

Trailing 1-0 at Parc Jarry in Montreal, the Mets appeared to have wasted a solid effort by Jerry Koosman.  The veteran southpaw pitched seven solid innings, scattering four hits, but left for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning down by a single run.  New York then tallied four runs in the eighth - all with two outs - to take a 4-1 lead.  Skip Lockwood tossed two perfect innings in relief of Koosman to give the lefty his 113th career win and the team its 1,000th regular season victory.

The all-time winningest lefty in Mets history led the team right to its 1,000th victory.  (Getty Images)

Win No. 2,000: May 2, 1989 @ Atlanta

In 1989, Davey Johnson's team was coming off its second division crown in three seasons.  But the Mets struggled early, losing eight of their first 12 games to find themselves in last place in the NL East after the season's first two weeks.  The team then embarked on its hottest streak of the season, winning 12 of their next 14 games.  The final win in that torrid stretch occurred on May 2, and it gave the Mets their 2,000 victory.

After defeating Zane Smith the night before, the Mets beat up on another Smith.  New York knocked Braves starter Pete Smith out of the game in the fourth inning, scoring six runs against him.  Darryl Strawberry kicked off the scoring party with a two-run homer in the first inning and Smith was sent to the showers after a single by Keith Hernandez in the fourth inning plated Mets starting pitcher Bob Ojeda, who had singled earlier in the inning.  Ojeda was brilliant for the Mets, allowing just one unearned run in eight innings.  The Mets claimed a 7-1 victory over the Braves, and in doing so, also claimed the 2,000th win in franchise history.

Before taking this winning photo, Bob Ojeda got a "W" in the Mets' 2,000th victory.  (Photo by Sharon Chapman)

Win No. 3,000: Sept. 3, 2001 @ Philadelphia

The Mets' resurgence during the final month of the 2001 season gave the city hope following the tragic events of 9/11, but New York actually began their charge back into contention two weeks before that horrific day.

On the morning of August 18, the Mets had a lowly 54-68 record and were 13½ games out of first place.  But New York won 10 of its next 14 games to cut the deficit to 8½ games as the team traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies on September 3.  The Mets looked as if they were going to drop the opener of the series, as they trailed the Phillies by two runs going into the ninth inning.  But before you could say "Ya Gotta Believe", the Mets exploded for five runs in the final frame, turning a 7-5 deficit into a 10-7 lead.  Armando Benitez pitched a scoreless inning in the bottom of the ninth to save what became the Mets' 3,000th victory.  Ironically, the pitcher who got credit for the team's 3,000th win, C.J. Nitkowski, was making his first appearance in a Mets uniform in that game.  It would be his only win as a New York Met.

Why isn't C.J. Nitkowski in a Mets uniform?  Because he only wore it for win No. 3,000 and four other games. (CNN photo)

The Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves tonight to secure their 4,000th regular season win.  But everything about this win was different from the team's three previous milestone wins.  The Mets won their 1,000th, 2,000th and 3,000th games on the road.  Win No. 4,000 came at home.  Also, the winning pitcher in all three historic wins was left-handed (Koosman, Ojeda, Nitkowski).  Tonight's lucky winner was Jacob deGrom, a righty.  Furthermore, all three milestone victories came in a season that ended with the Mets having more wins than losses.  This year's milestone?  Well, let's just say the Mets have some work to do to before they can reach the break-even point.

It's been a long and crazy ride for the Mets since their first season in 1962.  After a slow start (to say the least), it took the team until its 15th season to claim its 1,000th win.  Since then, the Mets have won 1,000 games every 12 or 13 seasons.  If the current trend continues, the team will be gunning for its 5,000th regular season win sometime around the year 2027.  (They will probably fall for the 5,000th time approximately four or five years before that.)

When and where will that 5,000th win occur?  And what will the circumstances be surrounding that milestone victory?  There's no way to know for sure.  But one thing is certain.  If you consider yourself to be a long-time Mets fan, you know there's bound to be an Amazin' story behind it. 

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