As a public service to the Amazin' Avenue readers who are currently suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after having watched approximately one billion innings of bad baseball this weekend, let's look back on a pair of extra-long games that went the team's way.
Craig Swan was no Matt Harvey, but he was a highly touted prospect who, during Tom Seaver's Cincinnati interregnum, had the strongest claim to the title of best Mets starting pitcher. On June 10, 1983, Swan turned in his best performance of the year, holding the Expos to one run over seven innings. Unfortunately, former Met Ray Burris, making the start for Montreal, matched him frame for frame. Dave Kingman broke the tie with a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth, but the normally reliable Jesse Orosco, who hadn't blown a save to that point in the season, couldn't hold the lead. The two teams proceeded to swap zeros until the bottom of the 17th, when Kingman struck again. Facing Bryn Smith (oddly the only Expos pitcher used in the game who was neither a former Met, nor one who'd eventually wind up in Flushing), Kong blasted a long two-out, two-run homer to send whatever was left of the Shea Stadium crowd home happy.
Three years later, it was Tim Teufel's turn to play the walk-off hero. Bob Ojeda couldn't figure out the Phillies or home plate umpire Eric Gregg's strike zone on June 10, 1986, as he allowed seven hits, six walks and four runs in seven-plus innings. A game-tying homer from Gary Carter took him off the hook, though. Philadelphia mounted a threat with two out in the ninth, but manager Davey Johnson, in an old school example of bullpen usage, brought on his best reliever (Jesse Orosco) to face the Phillies best hitter (Mike Schmidt), handedness be damned. Current managers take note: the lefty retired the righty on a lazy fly to center. Ultimately, the game was decided by an instance where Johnson did play the platoon advantage. The Mets loaded the bases in the bottom of the eleventh and with the left-handed swinging Wally Backman scheduled to hit versus Phillies southpaw Randy Lerch, Davey pulled his starting second baseman in favor of Tim Teufel. Philadelphia skipper John Felske countered with righty Tom Hume, but the move backfired, as Teufel cranked one over the wall for a game-winning grand slam.
Ken Singleton turns 66. Nearly a local boy made good, the Mets took the native New Yorker and Hofstra University alum with the third pick of the 1967 amateur draft. Within three years' time, he made it to Triple-A Tidewater and forced a late season call up by posting a 1.216 OPS (backed by an insane .513 on-base percentage) against International League pitching. Given the starting job in 1971, Singleton got on base at a nice clip, but slugged under .400 due mainly to a flukey lack of doubles (just five in over 350 plate appearances). Were advanced metrics around back then, the Mets could have assumed the young outfielder's power outage was a byproduct of a career-low .268 BABIP, but they weren't and the team didn't. Citing a desire to add a run producer to the lineup, GM Bob Scheffing traded Singleton and others to Montreal for Rusty Staub. That's perhaps the sneakiest bad trade in Mets history. Great as Staub was for the Mets, Singleton developed into an elite offensive player. For the next decade, he racked up a wOBA of at least .350 every year, made three All-Star teams, and placed top-ten in MVP voting four times. Oh, and Bill James's wife called him one of the best looking players of the 1970's in the 1986 abstract.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Lindsay Nelson, who called Mets games with Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner from the team's inception until 1979, passed away on this date in 1995. Alex Nelson remembered the man in plaid at Mets Geek a few years back and I'll shamelessly steal a quote he dug up from an obituary that sportswriter Ben Byrd penned for Nelson:
The last time I saw him, he was served lunch at the assisted living facility where he was residing. The main dish was roast beef.
Lindsey had very little strength left, and using his hands was difficult because of the Parkinson's. He attacked the meat as vigorously as he could with knife and fork, but it remained intact. After two or three minutes he leaned back in his chair and said: "This looks like a tie game to me."
Be sure to read Alex's whole article and Byrd's obit, if you can find it. It seems to have disappeared from the internet. Both are great.
Game of Note
Of all the fantastic young pitchers who've broken into the league with the New York Mets, guess who turned in the most impressive MLB debut according to game score? Tom Seaver? He's 28th on the list. Dwight Gooden? Appropriately enough, he's 16th all-time. Matt Harvey? Close, but not quite. His first start against the Diamondbacks was only fourth-best in team history.
Per game score, no Met pitcher has burst onto the scene quite like Dick Rusteck. The left-hander made his debut on this date in 1966 years ago today and set the bar impossibly high for himself by tossing a four-hit shutout against Cincinnati. Rusteck pulled the plug on the Big Red Machine, striking out four, walking just one, and never letting a single baserunner advance past first base. Offensively, shortstop Ed Bressoud provided all the support the rookie would need, thumping a pair of homers and, in the process, tied Elio Chacon's single-season record for most homers by a shortstop.
Obviously, the soaring start to Rusteck's big league career was unsustainable, but it's almost certain the 24-year old lefty didn't expect it to crash to earth so quickly. Four days later against the Cardinals, he allowed five runs and got hooked before recording a out in the second. His third career start was a bit better, though he still didn't last long enough to qualify for a win and got sent back to the minors shortly thereafter. An arm injury ended his 1967 campaign just three Triple-A starts in and it effectively brought his MLB hopes to a close, too. Rusteck bounced around the bush leagues for ten more years, but never made another 25-man roster.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Speaking of the Reds and notable debuts, 15-year old pitcher Joe Nuxhall became the youngest person to play in a major league game on this date in 1944. Brought in to start the ninth inning of a 13-0 contest, Nuxhall retired just two batters while walking five and uncorking a wild pitch. The youngest person to ever take the mound for the Mets was 18-year old Jim Bethke, who tossed 40 innings of relief for the team during the 1965 season. While Bethke's first appearance went smoother than Nuxhall's (a 1-2-3- inning versus the Dodgers on Opening Day), the rest of his career did not. After an eight-year sojourn in high school and the minors, Nuxhall returned to the Reds and made two All-Star teams. Bethke, meanwhile, didn't pitch in the majors after his rookie year.