clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A look back at past Mets-Rays series

The Mets are 11-7 all-time against the (Devil) Rays.

J. Meric/Getty Images

After finishing the first half of their Florida road trip with a sweep of the Marlins, the Mets will begin a three-game series in Tampa tonight. Games between the Mets and Rays are rare, as the two teams have previously played just six three-game series.

The Mets have a .611 winning percentage in their 18 matchups, the team's sixth-best mark against any team. Although this small sample size is hardly indicative of any level of dominance—and roster turnover means it's just laundry vs. laundry—it is worth noting as we look back at past Mets-Rays battles.

These two teams played each other annually from 1998 to 2001, but have played just two head-to-head series since then. As a result, the Mets have only played the Rays in their current identity twice; the first four series came when the franchise was known as the Devil Rays.

The Mets' and Rays' first game against each other was on June 8, 1998, at Shea Stadium. The Mets won that game 3-0 behind a three-hit shutout by Rick Reed. The next day, Tampa rallied from a third-inning 4-0 deficit to force the game into extra innings, and they won in the eleventh on a Quinton McCracken sacrifice fly. Future Met Roberto Hernandez picked up the save. However, the Devil Rays got off to a tough start the next night, allowing two runs in the first, as Al Leiter allowed just one run in six innings to give the Mets an eventual 3-2 win.

In 1999, the Mets made their first visit to Tropicana Field. The first two games were classic late-nineties affairs: The Mets won by scores of 8-7 and 9-7, respectively. Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, and Mike Piazza combined for seven RBIs in these two games, but the tables were turned in the series's last game, which Tampa Bay won 3-2. Wilson Alvarez won the game for Tampa, allowing just one run and striking out seven in six innings.

The Mets were dominant for most of the 2000 season, and their June series with the Devil Rays at Shea was no exception. New York won the first two games of the series by scores of 5-3 and 1-0, respectively. Solid pitching performances from Glendon Rusch, who allowed three runs over six innings in the first game, and Al Leiter, who went 6.2 scoreless in the second, made these wins possible. Todd Zeile had the game-winning hit in both games, blasting a three-run home run in the sixth inning of the first game and driving in the second game's only run on a fourth-inning double to left field.

Tampa won the following day in a lopsided 15-5 win, in which Devil Rays pitcher Esteban Yan homered on the first major league pitch he ever saw. Aside from being name-dropped by Milhouse on an episode of The Simpsons, this could very well have been the biggest moment of Yan's otherwise undistinguished career.

Tampa Bay grabbed its first series win against the Mets in 2001, taking two out of three at the Trop. Greg Vaughn and Fred McGriff each hit home runs in the first game, a 7-5 Devil Rays win against Steve Trachsel. McGriff homered again the following night, while Greg Vaughn notched two RBI off of Al Leiter as Tampa won 5-2. The Mets flipped the script in the final game of the series, winning 10-0 behind a scoreless outing from Kevin Appier and home runs from Mark Johnson and Joe McEwing.

After that 2001 series, the Mets said goodbye to the rainbow-jerseyed Devil Rays for good, and would not play Tampa again until the 2009 season. A lot had changed for both teams in those eight years, especially for the Rays. They were no longer the lowly expansion team the Mets had beaten up on in years past: In fact, they were coming off of a surprising run to the World Series in 2008 and were in the midst of their second of six consecutive winning seasons. Conversely, the Mets were on their way to a 92-loss season marred by injuries to almost everyone. These conditions were reflected in the outcome of the teams' 2009 series at Citi Field.

The Mets won the first game by a score of 5-3. Brian Schneider hit a three-run homer and Fernando Nieve allowed just one run in six innings to power the Mets to a win. The next night was a duel between two of the game's best pitchers: Johan Santana and James Shields. Shields got the best of Santana, allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings in a 3-1 win. The following day, B.J. Upton finished a triple shy of the cycle, driving in four runs as the Rays took the game and the series with a 10-6 win.

The Mets swept the Rays for the first time when the two teams met for their most recent series at Tropicana Field in 2012. The series began with an 11-2 Mets win, in which four RBIs from Jordany Valdespin and a three-run home run from Ike Davis helped send Alex Cobb to the showers in the seventh. Cobb allowed six runs on seven hits in that forgettable outing.

The second game of the series was probably the most memorable of the 18 Mets-Rays matchups. This was the game in which R.A. Dickey allowed just one hit on an infield single to B.J. Upton in the first. After the Mets' 9-1 win, the team protested the scoring of Upton's hit, arguing that it should have been an error on David Wright, who was unable to field the grounder with his bare hand.

Although the Mets' push for a posthumous no-hitter failed, this was arguably Dickey's most dominant start as a Met. The knuckleballer retired the next 22 batters after Upton, and the only other Ray to reach base reached on an error. While an unearned run in the ninth inning ended Dickey's club-record streak of 32.2 consecutive scoreless innings, Dickey ultimately went 44.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. This was clearly the most impressive stretch of his incredible Cy Young season.

Speaking of 2012 Cy Young winners, the Mets scorched David Price for nine runs and seven hits in five innings in that game, making it arguably the worst start of his own Cy Young season. Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Omar Quintanilla each had a pair of RBIs.

Two weeks off of his no-hitter, Johan Santana started the final game of the series opposite Jeremy Hellickson. Santana was roughed up for four runs in five innings, but Hellickson was shelled for eight runs in 3.2 innings. Kirk Nieuwenhuis led the game off with a home run and the Mets never looked back. Hellickson was so bad that day that he even allowed a home run to Jason Bay.

Maybe the Mets-Rays rivalry is not quite as historically important as are Red Sox-Yankees or Dodgers-Giants. But this series will feature an abundance of great pitching matchups: Jacob deGrom will face Jake Odorizzi tonight, Noah Syndergaard will start opposite Nathan Karns tomorrow, and Bartolo Colon will go up against AL Cy Young contender Chris Archer on Sunday. Furthermore, the stakes will be high, as the Mets look to maintain their slim division lead over the Washington Nationals