The Mets used the long ball to beat the Reds 9-2 on this date in 2006, increasing their lead over the second place Phillies to 9.5 games. Xavier Nady homered twice, and Carlos Delgado and Steve Trachsel (!) hit one each to account for six of the Mets' runs. Paul Lo Duca drove in the other three with a pair of doubles.
It wasn't quite the laugher the final score would imply, however. In the bottom of the seventh, with New York ahead 4-1, Cincinnati loaded the bases with nobody out. Manager Willie Randolph called on set-up man Duaner Sanchez for the 33rd time in 70 games. Sanchez notched his 12th hold, limiting the damage to one run on Javier Valentin's sac fly before inducing Rich Aurilia to bang into an inning-ending, rally-killing, 5-4-3 double play.
The game was an example of how well equipped this team was and why they ran away with the division so handily. In hindsight, it was also a reminder of what might have been. In Miami in late July, Sanchez separated his pitching shoulder in a taxi accident and would be lost for the rest of the year. Seeking to fill the void in the bullpen, Omar Minaya sacrificed Nady to acquire veteran reliever Roberto Hernandez and struggling starter Oliver Perez from the Pirates.
Meanwhile, Trachsel, one year removed from back surgery that had sidelined him for most of the 2005, was wearing down. Despite an ERA just under 5.00, his yeoman-like work earned him a club-best 15 wins — the last being the division clincher — but had nothing left in the tank for the postseason. Fellow starters Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez were hurt and would miss the playoffs. Perez and John Maine took up slack in the rotation admirably, but the absence of Nady and Sanchez compromised the offense and bullpen, respectively, as the Mets missed getting into the World Series by one game...one well-placed hit...one more scoreless inning of relief.
But on June 20, 2006, it was nothing but blue skies, into which the Mets launched four home runs.
No bona fide Mets players were born on this date, but Met-for-a-minute Dickie Thon is turning 55 today. In December 1979, infielder Thon and first baseman Willie Mays Aikens were traded by the Angels to the Mets for Craig Swan. It was a done deal. However, with the Mets up for sale, principal owner Lorinda de Roulet pulled it off the table, reasoning that the new owners should determine the makeup of the team they were going to inherit. Thon would have been an upgrade over Rafael Santana at shortstop, but the presence of slugger Aikens may have precluded the Mets from trading for Keith Hernandez in 1983. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On Sunday, June 20, 1948, the variety series "Toast of the Town" debuted on CBS-TV. It was soon renamed "The Ed Sullivan Show" after its host. On October 16, 1969, Sullivan's guests included virtually the entire squad of baseball's newly minted World Champions, the Miracle Mets. The team sang a credible rendition of "You Gotta Have Heart" from, somewhat ironically, "Damn Yankees."