Tonight opens the 2014 edition of the Subway Series, which makes it a great time to look back on the history of the annual series. The in-season rivalry between the Mets and Yankees doesn't date back all that long, to 1997 when interleague play was introduced in the Major Leagues. Since then, the clubs have matched up in 94 regular season contests and the Yankees lead the overall series 54-40. Not to be forgotten, the two clubs also faced off in the 2000 World Series, which saw the Yankees triumph 4 games to 1. While the Mets have unfortunately pulled the short straw more often than not against their crosstown foes, they have a number of memorable moments of their own from their matchups with the Bombers.
Dave Mlicki's shutout: June 16, 1997
In 1997, the Mets and Yankees squared off for the first time ever in a regular season game. The Mets tossed righty Dave Mlicki on the hill against lefty Andy Pettitte. Mlicki, who had a rather pedestrian career, had it going on that day and tossed a complete game, 9-hit shutout of the defending World Champions, striking out 8 batters. For Mlicki, he says it was "one of my great memories". For the Mets, it was a quick start to the annual Subway Series tradition and a fantastic memory (not to mention a great Ulti-Met Classic for SNY to show during rain delays and when the Mets have off days).
Matt Franco's walk-off hit against Mariano Rivera: July 10, 1999
An incredible back and forth affair between the two clubs in 1999 saw the Mets ultimately fall behind 8-7 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Yankees sent their stud closer Mariano Rivera out to shut down the Mets in the ninth and they had to have felt good about their chances after he retired Brian McRae for out number one. Rivera slipped a bit, however, walking Rickey Henderson to give the Mets faint life with Edgardo Alfonzo stepping to the plate. Fonzie delivered, ripping a ball to deep center field that clanged off of Bernie Williams' glove and got down for a double to put runners at second and third with one out. After John Olerud grounded out to first base for the inning's second out, Rivera intentionally walked Mike Piazza to set up a bases loaded, two out situation for Mets' pinch hitter extraordinaire Matt Franco:
Mr. Koo's Wild Ride: May 21, 2005
Dae-Sung Koo was a mostly nondescript left handed relief pitcher for the 2005 Mets. Signed to a minor league deal out of Japan at the age of 35, the Korean lefty was not a big name acquisition and he ultimately did not have much of an impact on the field with the Mets. He threw 23 decent innings out of the Mets bullpen that season and would head back to Korea, where he finished his career in 2010. The most memorable moment of Koo's big league stint was also one of the most improbable and it happened in the Subway Series when he stepped to the plate against Randy Johnson and somehow managed to do this:
Bonus points to Mr. Koo for making Tim McCarver immediately insert his foot into his mouth. As the legend goes, Koo had a weighted baseball in the pocket of his jacket, making his race around the basepaths all the more incredible. It should also be noted that the reliever had had his first career at bat just five days before in a game against the Reds and struck out looking without even taking the bat off his shoulder. Even if he had, he probably wouldn't have been able to make contact with the ball from where he was standing, in the back corner of the batter's box about as far away from the plate as legally possible.
David Wright's walk-off hit against Mariano Rivera: May 19, 2006
The 2006 Mets were an incredibly fun team to watch. They had offense, a deep bullpen, youth, star power. You name it, they had it. Except for steady starting pitching, of course. That was the 2006 team's weakness and particularly, their weakness on this night against the Yankees. The late Geremi Gonzalez got the start and was tattooed to the tune of 6 runs in 3 innings of work. Luckily, the Mets offense was adept at putting runs on the board themselves and countered the Yankees with 6 of their own against Randy Johnson. The game stayed tied at 6 from the 6th inning until the bottom of the ninth. With Mariano Rivera on to pitch, Paul Lo Duca doubled with one out and then Rivera intentionally walked Carlos Delgado after Carlos Beltran struck out for the second out. That left things up to David Wright, who parked one over the head of Johnny Damon in center field.
Lucas Duda's walk-off hit against Mariano Rivera: May 28, 2013
Clearly, the Mets have done a pretty good job of getting to Mariano Rivera late in games. This is not only the most recent moment on this list, but also one of the most satisfying Mets walk-off victories in recent memory. Hiroki Kuroda shut the Mets down all night and despite a dominant start from Matt Harvey, they found themselves down 1-0 headed into the 9th inning. Mariano Rivera had received plenty of fanfare regarding his pending retirement and even was allowed by the Mets to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game. Apparently, the Mets are fans of symmetry because they also made sure that he threw the last pitch that night. The Mets offense ambushed Rivera, as Daniel Murphy knocked a double down the line, David Wright singled him in and advanced to second on an error, and then Lucas Duda plated Wright with this game-winner. Three Mets hits, two Mets runs, one Yankees loss, and no outs recorded by Rivera. A sweet, sweet victory.
Mike Piazza's dominance of Roger Clemens and the Yankees
This isn't a specific moment, per se, but instead a series of moments. Mike Piazza was a fantastic hitter and he was especially lethal during interleague play. Piazza's career .308/.377/.545 line paled in comparison to the .340/.404/.601 mark he put up against American League foes and one of the pitchers he particularly owned was Roger Clemens. In just 25 plate appearances against the Rocket, Piazza managed 8 hits and four of those balls left the yard. Overall, he hit an astronomical .364/.440/.955 (that's right, a .955 slugging percentage) against him.
This piece would of course be incomplete without referencing those times when Clemens threw both a ball and a bat at Piazza in 2000. They're probably the two most memorable moments of all between these players. However, I much prefer to remember Piazza launching bombs like these.