The Mets have had their share of notable wins against baseball's greats, including Juan Marichal, Curt Schilling, and Roger Clemens.
Each Thursday, Mark Simon will commemorate the Mets 50th season with stories and notes related to the history of the team.
Three pitchers have had seasons in which they’ve gone 4-0 against the Mets as part of a Cy Young Award winning campaign.
Sandy Koufax was 4-0 with an 0.29 ERA against the Mets in 1963.
Bob Gibson was 4-0 with a 1.18 ERA against the Mets in 1968 (The Year of the Pitcher)
And Roy Halladay was 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA against the Mets in 2010.
While you wouldn’t put Halladay in Koufax’s or Gibson’s class, he’s making his way towards great-of-the-game status with his two Cy Young Awards and this three-year stretch from 2008 to 2010 in which he went 58-31 with a 2.67 ERA, including a perfect game in the regular season and a no-hitter in the playoffs.
Beating Halladay will be a challenge, but it’s one to which the Mets have a long and storied history of rising. Yes, they’ve had issues with some of the game’s all-time best, most notably Koufax (21-2 vs them) and Greg Maddux (35 wins, the most by any pitcher vs the Mets), but we’re here to celebrate victory rather than wallow in defeat. With that in mind, we ask the question: What is the Mets best win against an all-time great pitcher?
Here are the first nine candidates that came to mind for me. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section.
The Mets first win against a future Hall of Famer was also their first walk-off win, a 3-2 victory over the Braves on May 12, 1962. The game ended on Hobie Landrith’s two-run home run off Warren Spahn in the bottom of the ninth inning. Spahn would finish his career with 363 wins, including four for the Mets in 1965, his final season in the major leagues.
A dandy versus Sandy
One of the most notable wins of the early days was the one in which they beat Sandy Koufax for the first time. Koufax went 13-0 in his first 14 appearances against the Mets and didn’t lose until August 26, 1965, when a young starter named Tug McGraw (who would become famous later in his Mets career) edged him out, 5-2.
Juan and Done
Hall of Famer Juan Marichal has come to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters on a few occasions, and on one, I asked him if he remembered when the Mets beat him 1-0 in 14 innings on August 19, 1969.
“Tommie Agee,” he said wistfully, recalling the game-winning home run in that contest. “I can still see that ball going over the fence.”
19 K … and a loss
On September 15, 1969, Cardinals pitcher Steve Carlton (who would go on to greatness with the Phillies) struck out 19 Mets, but got beat, 4-3, by a pair of Ron Swoboda home runs. Carlton would win 329 games in his Hall of Fame career, but the Mets beat him on 36 occasions, more than they’ve beaten any other pitcher.
The Mets found themselves in a must-win situation in Game 2 of the 1986 NLCS against the fireballing (and ageless) Nolan Ryan. Much like he would do in Game 5 of the series, Ryan overpowered the Mets early, before an offensive onslaught led to five runs. Keith Hernandez had the key hit, a two-run triple that got the ball rolling in the right direction and helped even the series.
Curt Schilling would go on to win two World Series with the Red Sox, but in his Phillies days, he had a few intriguing matchups with the Mets. The most notable of those came on May 23, 1999, when Schilling took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Mets rallied in a fashion resemblant of some of their best wins in 1986, scoring five runs. John Olerud got the winning hit, a walk-off single with two outs.
Mariano Rivera has only one blown save against the Mets, but in came in an amazing game. On July 10, 1999, the Mets beat the Yankees, 9-8 on Matt Franco’s two-run two-out single in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets persevered in a gutty effort, surviving six Yankees home runs to win.
Measuring up to the Big Unit
Randy Johnson had a losing regular season against only one National League team. He finished 6-7 against the Mets, but it’s a postseason loss for which he’s best known. In Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS, after the Mets had just won four straight games (including a one-game playoff in Cincinnati) just to make the postseason, the Mets hammered Johnson for seven runs in an 8-4 victory. Attach a bit of an asterisk here because the Mets got the game-winning hit (Edgardo Alfonzo’s grand slam)off reliever Bobby Chouinard, but Johnson took the defeat nonetheless.
Rocking the Rocket
Mets fans have taken great satisfaction in their success against Roger Clemens, primarily because it’s viewed as payback for both his beaning of Mike Piazza and his throwing a bat shard at Piazza during Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.
Take your pick among Clemens’ six losses to the Mets for the best one. We like two in particular, a 12-2 drubbing on June 9, 2000, and an 8-0 win on June 15, 2002. The former featured a Piazza grand slam. The latter was highlighted by Shawn Estes, missing on his attempt to hit Clemens with a ball, but clobbering a Clemens pitch for a home run later in the game.
There are those who say Clemens got what he deserved for another reason. Next time you watch a replay of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, check out the shot of Clemens celebrating in the Red Sox bullpen, which was defaced with a huge “RC” in red spray paint.