Always a good day when it's Mets-Yanks
The first installment of the 2006 Subway Series had a little bit of everything. The opener on Friday night had the Yankees blowing a four to zero lead. The following afternoon, it was the Mets' turn. By the time the Sunday night 'rubber' game rolled around, fans of both clubs were looking for a well played game in addition to a 'W.'
The opening pitching match-up favored the Yankees on paper, with the 'Big Unit' Randy Johnson going against Jeremi Gonzalez, who is a replacement for a replacement due to injuries. The first inning was exactly what the Shea faithful didn't want to see, with the visiting Bronx Bombers teeing off on the Mets starter for four runs. Chipping away at the Yanks' lead made for a tie game. Back and forth we go until the Mets finally won it in the ninth inning on a David Wright laser over Johnny Damon's head in centerfield to score Paul Lo Duca. What made this more impressive was defeating the Yankees' elite closer, Mariano Rivera.
The Mets had to feel confident going into the Saturday matinee after getting by with Gonzalez' start. They also smacked around Johnson for six runs. The marquee meeting of the mound was upon us with Pedro Martinez facing Mike Mussina.
Exorcising many ghosts of his Red Sox past, Pedro was brilliant with seven shutout innings. The Mets played long ball again and had a 4-0 lead heading into the top of the ninth. That is where the questions started. Mets manager Willie Randolph elected to bring in his closer in a non-save situation. What made this even more puzzling is that Billy Wagner pitched one inning on Friday and should have been held for a possible appearance on Sunday. Whatever the case may be, Wagner obviously didn't have it and the game started to slip away. Maybe Randolph's bigger mistake was sticking with Wagner after he walked in a run to make it a two run game. Why there was no one warming up in the bullpen until things got ugly is another Met mystery.
Randolph had seen enough after Wagner hit Bernie Williams with his next pitch to cut it to 4-3. Johnny Damon then beat out a potential game ending double play grounder off of Pedro Feliciano that tied the score. What looked like a sure win turned into a defeat when Andy Phillips drove in Miguel Cairo in the 11th inning. The tough pill to swallow was even tougher considering that Cairo was at third base after stealing two bases without a throw. Lou Brock he is not, but on a strange day, strange things happen.
On to the last game and bragging rights at stake until next month at the Stadium. The Yankees picked up two runs in the top of the fourth inning off of Tom Glavine. The Mets responded by blasting back-to-back home runs to take the lead after Aaron Small had held them to one hit prior to that. By the time the smoke cleared with the tape measure shots by Carlos Delgado and David Wright, the home team was up 4-2.
What kind of Mets-Yankees meeting would this be without a little drama? Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez came out of the bullpen and although they didn't have their best, were able to hand the ball to Wagner with a one run lead. Atoning for his bad outing the day before, the Mets closer made it interesting but was able to retire the Yankees and earn a much needed save.
The two teams have a little more than one month before the second half of the Subway Series takes place at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully both can maintain their success until then and make it another special weekend for New York baseball fans.