As Yogi Berra would say – it was deja vu all over again.
On the penultimate day of the season, the Mets get their best pitching performance of the season to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win over the Marlins.
In 2007, it was John Maine, who allowed just one hit and two walks over 7.2 shutout innings to lift the Mets to a 13-0 win. Maine also had 14 strikeouts in the dominating performance. Maine had scuffled in the second half after opening the season 10-4. But he battled back from allowing 18 runs in his previous 19.2 innings to keep the Mets’ season alive.
Flash forward to 2008 and Johan Santana. The Mets came into game number 161 having lost five of their last seven games. Santana, who was slated to pitch the final game of the season on Sunday, instead has his start pushed up a day. He was pitching on three days rest after throwing a season-high 125 pitches in his last outing.
But Santana threw a complete-game shutout. That didn’t seem likely after it took 20 pitches to get out of the first inning. But Santana became economical after the opening frame and he needed just 117 pitches to strike out nine batters in the route-going performance.
Santana finishes his first season with the Mets with a 16-7 record and a 2.53 ERA. He’ll likely lead the National League with 234.1 innings pitched. The Mets bullpen, which blew seven leads Santana handed to it, is the only thing keeping him from winning his third Cy Young Award. While Mets fans spent a good part of the second half chanting M-V-P whenever Carlos Delgado came to the plate, they should have been saving their award chant for Santana, who is a more deserving candidate.
Now let’s go back to the eerie similarities.
On the final day of the 2007 season, the Mets threw a lefty pitcher who was an impending free agent to the mound. Tom Glavine drew that start. In 2008, the Mets are also throwing a lefty ready for free agency for game 162 with Oliver Perez.
Let’s hope the similarities end there.
Glavine could not even make it out of the first inning in 2007, as he gave up seven runs in 0.1 innings pitched and helped seal the team’s fate. Glavine ended his Mets career allowing 17 runs in 10.1 innings, which prompted Mets fans to tell Glavine not to let the door hit him in the back on the way out.
The Glavine story had a small silver lining, as the Braves signed him before the Mets had to offer arbitration, meaning the Mets received two draft picks in return. They used those extra picks to sign Ike Davis and Brad Holt in this year’s draft. Davis got off to a slow start but after the All-Star break he hit .310 in his final 58 at-bats. Holt pitched even better than expected, as he fanned 96 batters in 72.1 innings while going 5-3 with a 1.87 ERA.
In 2008, Oliver Perez will pitch game 162 for the Mets. Perez has won four of his last five decisions but has earned a decision just once in his last eight appearances. He has five quality starts in that time frame but could not hold a 5-1 lead in his last outing.
Perez had great stuff in his outing versus the Cubs but was done in by walks. He issued five walks in 4.1 innings, including two, two-out walks in the fifth. Those two walks led to an early hook by manager Jerry Manuel, a decision that might have been a bit hasty. Manuel brought the hook after Perez gave up an RBI double to Mark DeRosa, the only batter to get good swings off Perez all night. The next batter, Reed Johnson, had fanned twice in two at-bats versus Perez. He delivered a two-run single versus Duaner Sanchez.
Perez has a 3-0 record versus the Marlins this season and is 4-2 in games at Shea Stadium this year. It would have been nice to have had Santana going in the final game of the year, but the Mets had no choice after the tough losses the last week of the season. As ridiculous as it sounds, Perez can earn himself a bigger payday in free agency with a big game Sunday.
But back to Santana, even not having him on the mound Sunday has a silver lining for the Mets. If the team makes the NLDS, Santana will be able to pitch in two games on regular rest. Santana would take the mound for Game 2 on October 2nd and would be the Game 5 starter on October 7th if the series lasts that long.
Epilogue: Perez pitched okay. He hurled five shutout innings before losing it with no warning in the sixth. He left with one out, a run in and the bases loaded, holding a 2-1 lead. The Marlins tied it that inning and then scored the go-ahead runs in the eighth, when relievers Schoeneweis and Ayala gave up back-to-back solo HRs for the 4-2 final.