New York Mets: Shawn Estes

Best-pitched games: Mets vs. Yankees

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
9:30
AM ET
Getty ImagesKevin Appier and Dave Mlicki didn't have great Mets careers, but both were great vs. the Yankees.
In honor of Jonathon Niese’s fine work on Monday and Matt Harvey pitching on Tuesday, it seems like a good time to look back at the best pitching performances in the Mets-Yankees rivalry.

We’ll list the best statistically by Bill James Game Score, a stat that ranks starts on a scale that is usually from 1 to 100 (based on innings, runs, hits, strikeouts, and walks).

Kevin Appier, 2001 -- 79 Game Score (8 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 8 K, 3 BB
An oft-forgotten game in the Subway Series rivalry was Appier’s pitching duel with Mike Mussina in the Bronx, which went scoreless through nine innings. The Mets would score three in the 10th to beat Mariano Rivers.

Appier retired the first 15 hitters he faced, then halted Yankees scoring chances in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, twice ending those frames by retiring Derek Jeter.

Did You Know? Appier and Dave Mlicki (mentioned shortly) are the only two Mets to throw eight scoreless innings in a start against the Yankees.

Shawn Estes, 2002 -- 77 Game Score (7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 11 K, 1 BB
In terms of pitching-hitting combinations, this was the best against the Yankees in Mets history. In a game that was much hyped because it was viewed as potential vengeance against Roger Clemens (for his throwing both pitches and bats at Mike Piazza), Estes was viewed as wimping out for failing to drill him with a pitch.

But Estes got his revenge by drilling Clemens—hitting a home run against him. He also dominated the Yankees lineup with his 11-strikeout effort in an 8-0 win.

Did You Know? Estes is one of three Mets starting pitchers to homer in a game in which the Mets pitched a shutout. Pete Falcone (1981, Phillies) and Johan Santana (2010, Reds) are the other two.

Pedro Martinez, 2006 -- 76 Game Score (7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 8 K, 1 BB)
In a regular season in which so much went right, so much went wrong on this day, though none of it had to do with Martinez.

The Mets ace would leave with a 4-0 lead after seven terrific innings. The bullpen would blow the lead in the ninth inning and lose in extra innings.

Did You Know? Martinez has six regular-season starts and a postseason start with a Game Score of 75 or better against the Yankees, matching Chuck Finley for the most such starts against them in the last 25 seasons.

Oliver Perez, 2008 -- 75 Game Score (7 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 8 K, 0 BB)
The best pitcher for the Mets in the history of this rivalry was Perez, who rose to the challenge with four wins in four starts, all of which were very similar (seven innings or more, two runs or fewer allowed, five hits or fewer allowed).

The best one was his last one, in which he won 3-1, setting down the first 10 hitters of the game and never showing a sign of struggle.

Did You Know? Oliver Perez had a 1.50 ERA as a Met against the Yankees, the best of any of the 11 pitchers to make more than two starts against them.

Masato Yoshii, 1998 -- 75 Game Score (7 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 10 K, 4 BB)
If Mussina-Appier was the best pitcher’s duel in the rivalry, Yoshii- Orlando Hernandez on Sunday Night Baseball would be runner-up.

Yoshii had his best game as a Met, no-hitting the Yankees for 4 2/3 innings, allowing only a homer to Scott Brosius in the seventh.

The Mets would win 2-1 on a Luis Lopez game-ending sacrifice fly, though the conclusion was confusing as Brian McRae wandered off first base and was nearly thrown out trying to get back to the bag when it appeared the game was over.

Did You Know? This is the only game in the history of the rivalry in which each team had three hits or fewer.

Dave Mlicki, 1997 -- Game Score 75 (9 IP, 0 R, 9 H, 8 K, 2 BB)
The first game in the Mets-Yankees rivalry was supposed to be a day on which the Yankees' best young pitcher, Andy Pettitte, dominated. But Mlicki stole the show with a nine-hit shutout, one of only two shutouts he would throw in his major league career. It is still the only one thrown by a Mets pitcher against the Yankees.

Did You Know? Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi had the best day of any Yankee, going 3-for-4, but was stranded on the bases each time.

One-hit wonders

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
9:00
AM ET

Getty Images
Shawn Estes (left), Tom Seaver (middle), and R.A. Dickey (right) are among those in Mets history who have flirted with a no-hitter, but had to settle for the next-best thing, a one-hitter.


“A Single in First Spoils No-Hitter” read the New York Times headline on June 23, 1962, the day after Al Jackson pitched the Mets first one-hitter against the Colt 45’s (now known as the Astros), allowing nothing after Joe Amalfitano’s single in the first game of a doubleheader.

That headline writer must have known something was in the fates that deemed that we’d still be talking about how the Mets have never thrown a no-hitter, 48 years later.

R.A. Dickey, pitching tonight against the Astros, was the latest tease—throwing the Mets 35th one-hitter, a Cole Hamels single away from history, against the Phillies last Friday. Mets fans don’t have much to celebrate these days (fans of other teams have celebrated 125 no-hitters since 1962), so it seems worthwhile to enjoy what are the best of the near-bests at this time.

In our attempt to be the “Ulti’met” team historian, we’ve armed ourselves with newspaper reports and internet accounts of all 35 games, supplemented those with a few audio and video tape airings, and studied up on the subject, in an effort to offer the most comprehensive descriptions and accounts possible. Follow along carefully -- there’s a lot to detail.

First we must tell how the Mets would lose the second game of Jackson’s doubleheader, 16-3, and something would happen in that one that hasn’t happened in any game since. The baseball gods must have been laughing as Colts pitcher Jim Golden tripled twice in the rout (Golden was golden; he’d go 5-0 against the 120-loss Mets).

Since 1962 -- Pitcher multi-triple games: 1, Mets no-hitters: 0.

The no-no is still verboten in Metville to this day.

Speaking of pitcher’s hitting, four have been responsible for the only hit of a Mets one-hitter, most recently Hamels last Friday. The first of those moundsmen, Ray Sadecki would later pitch for the Mets. He’d bust Jack Hamilton’s bid with a third-inning 20-foot bunt single along the third base line, perhaps the shortest hit in all the Mets one-hitters.

Ah, the bunt hit, forbidden by the unwritten rules of some from busting no-hitters, but welcomed early in the game when the thought of a no-hitter is not on anyone’s mind, save for obsessive Mets fans like Dirk Lammers, who runs the website Nonohitters.com, which tracks Mets no-hit bids game-by game, sending alerts via Twitter when an opponent gets the first hit of the game.

Sometimes that doesn't take long. Trot Nixon of the Red Sox got a bunt hit in the first inning on July 15, 2001, the day of Bobby Valentine’s 1,000th major league managerial victory, a combined one-hitter for Glendon Rusch and Armando Benitez.

The lone hit was a push bunt between the mound and first base, one fielded by Lenny Harris, whose throw to covering second basemen Edgardo Alfonzo was late. It’s a history mystery what might have happened had Rusch fielded the ball (he said afterwards he should have), but alas this no-hit bid turned out to be the 22nd one-hitter in team annals.

“I loved Glendon because of the attitude he brought to the park,” Valentine said recently. “I wish he could have pitched for me every day. He was the perfect choice for my 1,000th win.”

Just not perfect enough for a no-hitter.

Nor was Bobby Jones one-hit shutout of the Giants in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS. Jones’ wife Kristi told Valentine that her husband would pitch “the game of his life” that day. He did, and were it not for a fifth-inning line drive from Jeff Kent that just got over the glove of leaping third baseman Robin Ventura, it could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been a no-hitter.

“I wish Robin was 7-foot-4, so he could have caught it,” Jones said a few years later. “But he saved me many a time.”

Joe Morgan, announcing the game for ESPN said after Jones got the final out : “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game pitched this well, other than a perfect game.”

Others might beg to differ.

The Mets pitcher to come closest to a perfect game was Tom Seaver, whose bid lasted 8 1/3 innings on July 9, 1969, broken by a clean single to center from Cubs centerfielder Jimmy Qualls. When Qualls reached first base, who was there to greet him but Cubs coach Joey Amalfitano -- the same guy who had the only hit in Al Jackson's one-hitter in 1962.

Seaver would describe Qualls in his post-game press conference as “a sticky little hitter.” That also seems an apt name for David Eckstein, who had the only hit in the first of two Steve Trachsel one-hitters as a Met, this one featuring the fewest strikeouts (one) against the Angels in 2003.

Trachsel's other Mets close call was broken up by someone with the fewest career hits of anyone to have the only hit in a Mets one-hitter: Rockies starter Chun-hui Tsao (the first of two career hits) in the sixth inning of a game in 2003.

Seaver’s five one-hitters are the most in Mets history. His second was a 15-strikeout effort against the Phillies on May 15, 1970 that scores highest in Bill James Game Score metric (a 98) of any of the 198 games Seaver won as a Met.

It was the second time in a month that the Phillies fell victim to a 15 strikeout one-hitter, part of a two-year streak in which the Mets shut them out five times in a row (the 2010 squad would be envious). Nolan Ryan had the other, his best performance as a Met prior to being traded, beating future Hall of Famer (and past perfect-game vs the Mets-tosser) Jim Bunning.

It was also the second time in three days that the Mets came that close to a no-hitter. Gary Gentry pitched a one-hitter against the Cubs two days prior.

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks lined an eighth-inning single to left field, which may have been caught by left fielder Dave Marshall had wet grass not caused him to slip in his initial pursuit.

“I thought it would be caught,” Banks, who’d hit his 500th homer the day before, told the media after the game, but Marshall was only able to nick the ball with his glove before it dropped in.

THAT one was close. So was Dwight Gooden’s against the Cubs at Shea on September 7, 1984. Gooden had told Valentine, then the club’s third base coach, that he’d no-hit the Cubs someday. Had third baseman Ray Knight been able to get Keith Moreland’s slow roller in the fifth inning out of his glove, he might’ve kept Gooden’s bid intact. Instead, there was no grip, no throw, and no no-no.

The glory days passed Gooden by, but for the Mets one-hitter, the best of times were the early 1970s, with the team netting eight of the 80 thrown in the majors from 1970 to 1974, and the 2000s, in which they had at least one one-hitter from 2000 to 2008.

Seaver and Gary Gentry each tossed one against the world-champion Pirates in 1971, the latter broken up by Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente’s sixth-inning triple. Seaver would throw another vs the Padres on July 4, 1972. Leron Lee, father of Derrek, snapped that one with San Diego's only hit with one out in the ninth inning.

Seaver also had the Mets longest no-hit bid, against the Cubs in 1975 (halted by a Joe Wallis single with two outs in the ninth) but that doesn’t make the list because the game would go extra-innings and the Mets would lose 1-0, the victims of four hits and a game-ending bases-loaded walk.

The last of Seaver's Mets one-hitters came against the Cubs on April 17, 1977. In the fifth inning, Mets catcher John Stearns thought Seaver had Cubs third baseman Steve Ontiveros struck out, but umpire Andy Olsen called the pitch a ball. On 3-2, Ontiveros hit a bloop to right field, for which Ed Kranepool dove, but missed by inches.

Seaver would get his no-hitter on June 16, 1978 -- a year and a day after being traded to the Reds. And we should note that in his last appearance for the Mets, he allowed no hits -- albeit in one inning pitched on the next-to-last day of the 1983 season.

Was one of Seaver’s games the best Mets-pitched one-hitter?

The combo from John Maine (7 2/3 innings), Willie Collazo and Carlos Muniz against the Marlins on September 29, 2007 (the day before Tom Glavine gakked up the season), featured 14 strikeouts from Maine, and only a dink infield hit from Marlins catcher Paul Hoover. That one makes the most reasonable case among the most recent efforts.

Dickey's wasn't even the best this season. Jonathon Niese joined Seaver with the only one-baserunner, one-hitter earlier in the year against the Padres.

Niese and Dickey both make the list of unlikely one-hitter throwers, joining submariner Terry Leach, who threw a 10-inning one-hitter against the Phillies (ex-Mets coach Luis Aguayo had the only hit) in his second major league start on October 1, 1982, and not-so-well-liked Aaron Heilman, whose no-no attempt against the 2005 Marlins was broken up by an infield hit by current not-so-liked Met, Luis Castillo.

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We break up this story on one-hitters to tell you that:

• The most Mets wins without a one-hitter: Jerry Koosman, 140

• The Mets have one-hit a soon-to-be World Series champ three times. We mentioned the two against the 1971 Pirates. The other -- a Jae Seo, David Weathers, Armando Benitez team effort against the 2003 Marlins, just before the beginning of a run in which the Marlins went 57-33 and won the wild card.

• Seven times, more than one pitcher has been required to complete a Mets one hitter. Current Mets analyst Ron Darling and Jesse Orosco paired on the first of those-- against the Pirates on April 17, 1985. The Mets enlisted the assistance of first baseman Keith Hernandez in that one-- his ninth-inning sac fly brought in the winning run.

• The Padres, who also have never thrown a no-hitter, have 24 one-hitters, including four against the Mets (one in each of four straight seasons from 1991 to 1994). The face of the Padres franchise, Tony Gwynn was the final out of a no-hitter by the Braves in 1991, but avoided any dubious distinction with a fourth-inning double, the only hit in a David Cone one-hitter for the Mets in 1988.

• This isn't the only thing the Mets haven't done. What's more likely to come first: A Mets no-hitter, or a Mets hitter homering three times in a game AT HOME? Neither has ever happened.

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Seaver and Ryan are the two Mets who have pitched a one-hitter who are in the Hall of Fame, likely to be joined eventually by Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, who gets partial credit for lasting four innings in a one-hitter against the Rockies on July 12, 2008 (four relievers finished the deal).

We’ll give an honorable mention to Shawn Estes, recently inducted into the Giants Wall of Fame. Estes threw a one-hitter for the Mets against the Brewers on April 26, 2002, beating the last Met to combine on one, Glendon Rusch, 1-0.

This bid was broken up by future ESPN baseball analyst Eric Young’s seventh-inning single. That’s not surprising given that Young hit .417 against Estes in the 36 at-bats in which they went head-to-head, though Estes got the last laugh by getting Young for the game’s final out.

Estes couldn’t win enough (his four wins as a Met are fewest among the one-hitter tossers), and the Mets don’t always win one-hitters. They’re 33-2 when they throw one, losing most recently to the Astros in 2006.

Cone and Jeff Innis lost their combined one-hitter to the Cardinals on September 14, 1991, but Cone would come back with a winning one-hitter against St. Louis in his next start (the only hit being a Felix Jose double to the warning track in left-center in the eighth inning).

“I wanted to treat these fans to something special,” Cone told reporters afterwards.

Those 1991 Mets would tease fans by throwing three one-hitters in an 11-day span near season's end (Pete Schourek had the other against the Expos, broken up by current White Sox GM Ken Williams), but couldn’t save the job of their skipper, Bud Harrelson, who would be fired a little more than a week later.

Harrelson held the Mets record for most one-hitters played in (of at least nine innings), with eight, until this year, when Jose Reyes surpassed him. Reyes also played in two rain-shortened one-hitters (by Glavine and John Maine) in 2007.

Reyes should remember the previously mentioned Trachsel one-hitter against the Angels well—it came the same day as his first big league grand slam.

That's a better memory than Mets legend Darryl Strawberry has of the one-hitter thrown against the Phillies by Sid Fernandez and Roger McDowell on May 11, 1985.

Strawberry tore ligaments in his thumb, preserving a then no-no with a third inning catch of a Juan Samuel fly ball, an injury that cost him 43 games, and may have made the difference in the Mets failing to beat out the Cardinals in the NL East race.

Strawberry came back from injury to help the Mets to the World Series title the next season. Jon Matlack came back from injury (a fractured skull suffered by being hit with a line drive) to nearly do so in 1973 (the Mets lost the World Series in seven games). But in lieu of a World Series, Matlack, who remembered throwing eight no-hitters in high school, threw one-hitters in both 1973 and 1974.

Matlack now works as the Tigers roving pitching instructor. Earlier this year, he tutored Armando Galarraga, not long before Galarraga threw his "imperfect game" against the Indians, so he can relate to what the Mets are going through in more ways than one.

"I think it's just bad luck," Matlack said, when asked for a former player's perspective on why we're celebrating Mets one-hitters instead of no-hitters. "The fates that go into it ... The baseball gods just haven't smiled on the Mets yet."

Maybe tonight.

The precedent for Takahashi

May, 21, 2010
5/21/10
11:58
AM ET
Going in to tonight's game against the Yankees, Mets' fan should not be nervous about Hisanori Takahashi making his first major league start against the Yankees tonight. Far from it. In fact, those who have followed the history of this Subway Series rivalry know that Takahashi could be just the right person to have a breakthrough effort in Flushing.

The Mets have had unlikely hitting heroes (Matt Franco’s two-run walk-off single vs Mariano Rivera at Shea in 1999 comes to mind), and baserunning stars (think Steve Bieser forcing a balk from David Cone in a key spot to tie a Yankees-Mets clash in 1997 at Yankee Stadium) in this rivalry. But starting pitching has been an area of high-volume and surprising performance.

Case in point the very first game of Mets-Yankees interleague play on June 16, 1997, when Dave Mlicki scattered nine hits in a 6-0 shutout win over Andy Pettitte and the defending World Series champions. Mlicki finished his career with Mets 24-30 and his major league career with a 66-80 mark. But he has earned a soft spot in the hearts of fans forever with that performance.

A year later (June 28, 1998), the Mets and Yankees engaged in perhaps their best pitchers duel among their 72 meetings. Orlando Hernandez would set the stage for some memorable performances in his Yankees career by striking out nine over eight innings of one-run, two-hit ball.

Hernandez was matched, and almost bettered by unheralded Japanese rookie Masato Yoshii, who whiffed 10 in seven innings and only gave up two hits. His shutout bid spoiled by a Scott Brosius home run. The Mets would win in bizarre fashion in the bottom of the ninth on Luis Lopez’s sacrifice fly, one nearly spoiled by Brian McRae aimlessly wandering off first base.

Put Baseball-Reference.com and the Bill James Game Score metric (which awards points based on innings, strikeouts, runs, hits, and walks allowed) to use, and you’ll discover the two best Mets' pitching performances belong not to Al Leiter, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine or Johan Santana (Santana and Glavine have three of the four-worst…Martinez does have the third-best), but to Kevin Appier and Shawn Estes.

Appier rates highest with a 79 for eight innings of scoreless baseball in Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2001. This was another great pitchers duel with Mike Mussina, though Appier scored higher for surrendering only four hits and striking out eight. The Mets would win, 3-0, in 10 innings when the unthinkable happened --five-straight batters reached base against Mariano Rivera, plating three runs to break the deadlock.

The James system doesn’t reward extra points for a pitchers offensive performance, but if it did, Estes would rank highest for his win on June 15, 2002. He finishes with a 77-point score for an 11-strikeout, five-hit , scoreless gem to beat Roger Clemens, 8-0.

This game is best remembered for Estes missing Clemens with an attempted brushback pitch (revenge for Clemens’ beaning of, and throwing the shard of a bat towards, Mike Piazza), though some forget that Estes also homered off Clemens in that contest. That made Estes both an unlikely pitching standout, and an unlikely offensive one as well. The only other pitcher who compares for what he did with his bat was reliever, Dae-Sung Koo (nicknamed “Mister”), for his double, and daring baserunning efforts to score a run against Yankees hurler Randy Johnson.

There’s one other unlikely star worth mentioning, though his victorious performance rates only 25th on the James scale. That would be current Mets reliever Fernando Nieve, who gave the Mets 6 2/3 innings of two-run, four-hit ball against the Yankees last June 13th.

That win came one day after the dropped popup by Luis Castillo that cost the Mets a win, a play that served as symbolic for a hopeless year. If we’re going to look for bonus points, Nieve should get many, for the emotional lift he provided the team and its fans in a season otherwise filled with dismal --memories.

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The most immediate concern for Takahashi today: How to pitch to Derek Jeter. The Yankees shortstop may be dealing with some offensive struggles, but the Mets southpaw may be just what’s needed to cure those.

No one has a better career batting average against the Mets (minimum 100 AB) than Jeter (.386 avg.), but dig a little deeper and the numbers get even more amazing.

Jeter made outs the first four times he faced a Mets lefty. That foreshadowed absolutely nothing. For his career, Jeter is 46-for-102 with five home runs and 11 walks against Mets' left-handed pitching. That’s a .451 batting average, a .504 on-base percentage, and a 1.151 OPS.

Jeter is 4-for-4 with a walk in his last five turns against Mets lefties. The last one to get him out? Oliver Perez in 2008.

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Three follow-ups to our David Wright piece from Thursday.

1- Regarding: the 0-for-46 since-the-beaning stat we presented regarding two-strike pitches out of the strike zone. Volume-wise, that’s almost entirely against right-handed pitchers (0-for-41), though it’s also worth noting that Wright was 5-for-11 from April to August of 2009 win at-bats against two-strike, out-of-the-zone pitches from lefties.

Since returning from being hit in the head, he’s 0-for-5 in those circumstances.

2- Wright’s bases-loaded double in the first inning statistically rectified another issue with which he’d been dealing. Wright, normally a devastating hitter with the bases loaded, was 1-for-7 with six strikeouts in his previous seven plate appearances vs right-handed pitchers before that hit against Luis Atilano.

3- We may have our next target for some video review analysis in Jose Reyes. Andrew Davis of ESPN Stats and Info pointed out last night that Reyes has had trouble all season in areas in which he’s previously been stellar: with two strikes (a .147 batting average, a more than 100-point drop from the well above-average .252 mark he posted in 2006 and 2007) and against offspeed/breaking pitches (.159 in 2010, after he hit .275 against them as recently as 2008). We’ll look closer as the sample-size accumulates.

Our leftover note of the night from Thursday’s win, via some Baseball-Reference investigation: Raul Valdes became the third Mets reliever to throw at least five innings AND earn a win, after entering the game in the first inning. The other two: Bill Wakefield in 1964 and Cal Koonce in 1969, which happened to be a pretty good season.

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BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.289 9 57 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187