I’m not a fan of the increased inter-league play happening throughout the 2013 season. However, I’ve always enjoyed watching the New York Mets and New York Yankees face each other in the Subway Series. This match-up is one I look for each year when the schedule is released. Despite the Mets owning an all-time record of 38-54 against the Bronx Bombers, it’s still exciting to watch.
Every couple of years, I get the opportunity to catch a Subway Series game in person. Before last night’s ball game at Citi Field, the last Mets-Yanks tilt I was in attendance for was their 3-2 victory on July 3rd, 2011. It was a meaningful game for us Mets fans because Ronny Paulino singled in the tying run in the 9th against Mariano Rivera, before Jason Bay (who?!) won it in the 10th inning with a walk-off single.
There haven’t been many times when the Mets actually beat Mariano Rivera. Before lats night, the Amazins had only accomplished that feat twice. In Rivera’s 19-year Hall of Fame career, teams have beaten him in a save situation 74 times, while succeeding on 626 occasions. That 89% success rate is pretty good.
Knowing how automatic Rivera has been throughout his career and in 2013 (18 saves in 18 opportunities entering the ballgame), the odds of seeing the Mets climb out of a 1-0 deficit in the ninth inning last night was slim.
I attended the game with a few friends, and enjoyed watching a very well-pitched game by Matt Harvey and Hiroki Kuroda in my seat up in section 533. Thankfully, the rain stopped before the first pitch was thrown, allowing us to enjoy the game from our actual seats, instead of finding ones that covered us from the elements.
With the two-three-four spots in the order due up in the bottom of the ninth, I felt somewhat optimistic about New York’s chances to give me something to cheer about. Daniel Murphy led off the frame with an opposite field double down the left field line, immediately putting the pressure on Mo. It was a wonderful piece of hitting; he didn’t try to do too much with what he was given, knowing all he had to do was get on base to give his team a chance.
All of a sudden, the few Mets fans left in Citi Field after a long night at the ballpark began to make some noise. Yes, Mariano Rivera was still on the mound, but our captain was at the plate. I immediately had an internal flashback to the Subway Series at Shea Stadium in 2006; David Wright walked off with the win by belting a Rivera pitch over Johnny Damon‘s head in center field.
A hit like that wouldn’t win the ballgame, but I’d take it nonetheless. Then, there it was: a liner up the middle that Murphy had to first side-step before racing toward home. Despite having to hold for a split second, I knew Murphy would try to score with the arm of Brett Gardner in center field. As he slid safely into home with the tying run, I started jumping up and down for joy, then saw Wright dart for second out of the corner of my eye.
Gardner’s throw trickled away from Yankees catcher Chris Stewart, just far enough for Wright to advance himself into scoring position with no outs. As I watched the captain pump his first with jubilation, I couldn’t help but think the game was going to end shortly. I didn’t want to jinx it, so I kept that thought to myself. Let’s be real; Mariano Rivera was still on the mound.
Lucas Duda strolled to the plate with the winning run on second base, and the Mets portion of the crowd got progressively louder. Without dragging the game out any longer, the left fielder muscled one of Rivera’s patented cutters out to right center field; it was just enough for Wright to come around and score the winning run, and put us in a frenzy.
One of the friends I was at the game with continually praised Duda the entire night, saying he would be a difference maker, and he couldn’t have been more right.
It was Mariano’s final game in Flushing, as he will be retiring at the end of the season. The Mets paid tribute to the greatest closer of all-time, giving him a gift, a small video montage, and the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. While some thought it was unnecessary, I thought it was a classy move to honor one of the greatest pitchers to grace a mound.
After he tossed out the first pitch to John Franco, I said:
“I hope that’s the last pitch he throws tonight.”
Believe me, he was the last person I wanted to see come out of the bullpen in the ninth inning; like everyone else in the ballpark, I knew his track record. While I would have preferred to not press my luck, I was elated to see Rivera throw his last pitch in Flushing last night, and see the result go in favor of the Mets.