WHEN: September 27, 2008
WHERE: Shea Stadium
WHO: Johan Santana
When you think about the 2008 Mets, a few things come to mind.
It was the final season that baseball would be played at Shea Stadium.
2008 saw the Mets blow a 3.5 game lead in the NL East with 17 games left to play.
For a second straight year, a loss to the Marlins on the last game of the season sealed their fate.
Willie Randolph was fired in the middle of June, after midnight, following a win against the Angels in California.
The Mets bullpen was atrocious. If all the games played by the Mets ended after the 8th inning the team would have won the NL East by 12 games!
Prior to the season, the Mets made a few notable moves.
They finally closed the book on their prized prospect, Lastings Millege.
The Mets dealt Milledge to the Washington Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church.
(Trying not to go on a rant about the Mets sending Church on a flight to Colorado with a concussion.)
The Mets’ biggest trade of the offseason would come on January 29, when they agreed to a trade for two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins. Omar Minaya agreed to trade outfielder Carlos Gómez and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra to the Twins.
(I wonder if Carlos Gomez’s name will ever pop back up, setting off any wacky course of events for the Mets.)
The Santana signing was huge.
Biggest contract given to a pitcher in MLB history.
Santana was phenomenal in 2008.
He went 16-7 with a sparkling 2.53 ERA.
There was one game that particularly stuck out.
A legendary performance that gets forgotten because the team came out flat in Game 162.On Tuesday, September 23rd the Mets were in a complete tailspin.
They were now looking up at the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, and were hoping to beat out the Milwaukee Brewers for a wildcard berth.
Johan Santana took the mound at Shea Stadium, as the Mets took on the Chicago Cubs.
Santana was brilliant.
He struck out 10 Cubs, scattering 7 hits over 8 innings, as the Mets defeated the Cubs, 6-2.
Unfortunately, Santana couldn’t pitch every day.
The Mets lost 2 out of the next 3 games.
Johan Santana demanded to pitch Saturday.
On 3 days rest.
Oh, did I mention he threw a career high 125 pitches that Tuesday?
(He would eventually break that career high..we’ll save that for another day.)
In my opinion, Game 161 of the 2008 season was one of the best pitching performances in Met history.
In the Mets’ clubhouse, there was a small blackboard next to where the starting lineup was posted.
Johan wrote a message on that blackboard for his teammates to see.
“It’s time to be a man.”
The Marlins sent out Ricky Nolasco to face Johan Santana that day.
Nolasco was incredible.
Santana was otherworldly.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, Jose Reyes singled to lead off the game.
With Carlos Beltran hitting, Reyes stole 2nd.
Beltran singled to right, moving Reyes over to third.
Carlos Delgado flew out to deep center field.
Reyes scored on the sacrifice fly.
That was all Johan Santana needed that day.
Santana was brilliant.
Manager Jerry Manuel (who called Santana a “gangster” like 150 times that day) allowed Santana to pitch on short rest, but told him his limit was 105 pitches.
Johan recorded the final out of the 8th inning, and walked back to the dugout.
He was at 104 pitches for the day.
The pitch count went out the window.
This game was Santana’s to finish.
The 9th inning was a little bit dicey.
Jorge Cantu led off the inning and was struck out on 4 pitches.
Shea Stadium exploded and shook, like only Shea Stadium could.
Josh Willingham took the first pitch he saw from Santana in the left-center gap for a double.
Dan Uggla came up to the plate and the whole stadium held it’s breath.
He struck out on 3 pitches.
Cody Ross was next to bat and fouled a couple pitches off.
He smacked Santana’s 1-2 offering deep to left field.
Endy Chavez sprinted towards the wall.
A few steps before the warning track he began to slow his strides.
He was going to have room.
Chavez makes the catch.
Put it in the books.
Santana gave up 3 hits, 3 walks, and struck out 9 Marlins.
The next day, the Mets lost to the Marlins 6-2.
The Mets lost to the Marlins on the last day of the year, ending the season, and any playoff hopes they had.
Milwaukee took the National League wildcard from the Mets.
CC Sabathia pitched like every single game in the playoffs for the Brewers.
It was almost criminal how much they pitched him.
The Mets reign at the top of the National League was over before it started.
A loss to the Cardinals in 2006.
2 straight regular season collapses in 2007 and 2008.
The next 6 years were tough to endure as a Mets fan.
On September 27, 2008, though?
It was great to be a Mets fan.