That was a brutal way to lose a baseball game. I’m referring to Wednesday afternoon against Roger Bernadina and the Nationals, though I could be referring to Monday night against the Nationals, Sunday afternoon against the Giants, last Wednesday against the Reds or last Monday against the Reds. Actually, the same could apply to the previous Sunday night and Saturday afternoon against the Phillies. Those two were blowouts and not nailbiters, but brutal is brutal.
That means we’ve experienced seven defeats in our last eleven games. Within that time frame, we’ve also enjoyed four exhilarating wins, each of them attained in the last inning the Mets batted — the ninth against the Reds, the ninth against the Giants, the eleventh against the Giants and the eighth against the Nats. There has been glory interspersed with the brutality, but it’s been more brutal than glorious these last eleven games.
And before that? Practically uninterrupted glory. That was when, if you can remember back that far, we were all but unbeatable. We won two games against the Cubs pretty easily, then absorbed a loss, then reeled off eight only partially contested wins versus Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Those were the days and nights of the 9-1 homestand, topped off by our first game at Philadelphia. That added up to 10-1, a solid shield that has protected us to a certain extent against the harmful effects of the 4-7 stretch that has followed.
You didn’t think we’d ten of every eleven for five months now, did you? No, you didn’t think that. Maybe you didn’t know what to think of your Metsies when they surged from a hopeless 4-8 to a triumphant 14-9. Most of that was the now legendary 9-1 homestand, which we were told a few dozen times was unmatched in Mets history, save for 1969 and 1988. In both of those seasons, we were National League East champs, winning 100 games on the nose.
We wouldn’t mind locking that in as precedent, eh?
I don’t know that there was anything specifically magical about playing a homestand of exactly ten games and winning nine of them. It was uplifting as hell, of course, but the Mets play homestands of various lengths across a given season. They also play spans of ten games that take place partly at home and partly on the road. Sometimes they’re all road games. There was probably more to going 9-1 at home two weeks ago than simply matching a rather incidental record.
I did a little checking and found that Mets had played ten or more consecutive games on 38 discrete occasions in the life of the franchise without losing more than once. I was curious to see if there was a pattern to going 9-1 or better vis-à-vis the seasons in when the Mets did it. We knew about the 9-1 homestands of ’69 and ’88 and that those seasons begat postseasons. But do 9-1 stretches necessarily mean playoffs?
No, but they sure do help.
It’s not so much that you’re a good team because you go 9-1 a lot; you go 9-1 a lot because you’re a good team. Good teams tend to win much more often than they lose, you might have heard. That’s probably why the Mets, notorious for not being good prior to 1969, never enjoyed a 9-1 stretch before 1969. In 1969, however, they went, at various intervals, 11-0, 12-1, 13-1 and 9-1. That right there is 45-3. That’s quite a leg up on going 100-62, which was the final regular-season record of 1969.
A similarly delightful situation arose and kept arising through 1986. There was the 18-1 run that defined April and May, a pair of 9-1 stretches in June and July, an 11-1 to wind down August and another 9-1 to finish off the schedule. The Mets went 56-5 in five distinct periods that constituted almost 38% of their season. Breathtaking, ain’t it? Maybe even more remarkable is that when they weren’t at their absolute hottest — a.k.a. the rest of the season — there were still a winning club, posting a record of 52-49 to finish 108-54.
If you’re curious to know just how good our two world championship clubs were, this provides you with some evidence. They were both about as outstanding a baseball team could be.
We remember 1988 today for its shortcomings in the NLCS, but the business about 9-1 homestands remind us that was a sensational team, too. Those Mets went 10-1 between April 26 and May 8. Come September, they’d overlap a couple of similar stretches, 13-1 and 11-1, equaling a 16-2 mark at one point. The Mets were hot early and scorching late.
The 2000 Mets maintained similar stretches of momentum. They were 11-1 at one point in April, 9-1 at the end of June and the beginning of July and 10-1 about a month after that. Quietly and efficiently, the Mets banked a 30-3 mark, which helps explain why their 2000 Wild Card was achieved without the terrible angst we tend to associate with the ends of Mets seasons. In more recent memory, the 2006 Mets made their bones on a 9-1 run in April, a 9-1 road trip in June and an 11-1 victory lap in August. The rest of the year, which varied from fine to dandy, was essentially gravy.
Win a lot of games at once often is an almost foolproof formula for making the playoffs. Do it a little less often and you’re on your own. The 2008 Mets had a 10-1 and a 10-0 but they still fell a game shy. The 2007 Mets, it’s easy to forget (if you can forget 2007), went 9-1 between August 31 and September 10. They split their next two and then, all too memorably, lost twelve of seventeen. Thud!
The 1999 Mets went 9-1 once and barely made the playoffs. The 1998 Mets went 11-1 once and just missed the playoffs. From June 12 to July 6, 1990, the Mets ran off overlapping 16-1 and 15-1 skeins, adding up to an imposing 20-2 stretch. The rest of the year, however, they were just a wisp over .500. They finished a wisp behind the Pirates for first.
Two other Mets teams put up a pair of non-overlapping 9-1 or better stretches without getting postseason bang for their buck. In 1985 there was a 13-1 record and a 12-1 record a few weeks apart. In those pre-Wild Card days, it wasn’t enough. In 1976, the Mets enjoyed two 9-1s; they weren’t nearly enough. Four years earlier, the 14-1 sunburst of May 1972 was completely obscured by a barrage of injuries and resulting mediocrity.
If you’re looking for some reasonably encouraging sign, it may be that if a Mets team wins nine of ten at some point, it’s probably going to give us a minimally good show. The only Mets teams that posted a stretch of ten or more games with no more than one loss and didn’t enjoy a winning record for the season were the 1974 Mets and the 1991 Mets. The ’74 edition was dead and buried when it unspooled its 10-1 in late August. The ’91ers seemed to be gathering steam when they won ten in a row in the first half of July. Alas, it was just a prelude to disaster.
Otherwise, in sixteen of the eighteen seasons in question prior to this one, you at least get a team that finishes over .500. You may not get a pennant or even a pennant race, but after 2009 (when there was no 9-1) and after the beginning of 2010 (when we were 4-8), I personally would be pretty happy to maintain a few threads of hope and feel there’s a chance for success well into summer.
In that sense, it’s already a pretty good season. But you know the old adage: you have to take baseball eleven games at a time.
Here is the entire list of discrete stretches when the Mets played at least ten games and lost no more than once. I also threw in some home record data in deference to the 9-1 homestand that helped inspire this train of thought.
We’re using stretches here where momentum was at its peak, leaving out overlapping duplicates (taking the last nine wins of a ten-game winning streak and slapping on the loss that follows, for example). All stretches began with a win.
• 10-1 from April 19 to April 30, 2010, encompassing a 9-1 homestand.
• 10-1 from August 12 to August 22, 2008 encompassing 4 consecutive home wins.
• 10-0 from July 5 to July 17, 2008, encompassing a 6-0 homestand.
• 9-1 from August 31 to September 10, 2007, encompassing 4 consecutive home wins.
• 11-1 from August 17 to August 30, 2006, encompassing an 8-1 homestand.
• 9-1 from June 5 to June 15, 2006, all on the road.
• 9-1 from April 6 to April 17, 2006, encompassing 6 non-consecutive home wins.
• 11-1 from September 3 to September 22, 2001, encompassing 2 consecutive home wins.
• 10-1 from August 29 to September 8, 2001, encompassing 4 consecutive home wins.
(All relevant overlapping considered, the Mets went 15-2 from August 29 to September 22, 2001, encompassing a home record of 6-1.)
• 10-1 from July 25 to August 5, 2000, encompassing an 8-1 homestand.
• 9-1 from June 22 to July 1, 2000, all wins at home (part of a 9-4 homestand).
• 11-1 from April 13 to April 25, 2000, encompassing 8 consecutive home wins.
• 9-1 from June 15 to June 25, 1999, encompassing a 3-0 homestand.
• 11-1 from May 19 to May 31, 1998, encompassing a 6-1 homestand.
• 10-0 from July 1 to July 13, 1991, encompassing 3 consecutive home wins.
• 16-1 from June 17 to July 6, 1990, encompassing homestands of 5-0 and 5-1.
• 15-1 from June 12 to June 29, 1990, encompassing 7 non-consecutive home wins, including a 5-0 homestand.
(All relevant overlapping considered, the Mets went 20-2 from June 12 to July 6, 1990, encompassing a home record of 11-1.)
• 11-1 from September 14 to September 26, 1988, encompassing 8 consecutive home wins.
• 13-1 from September 8 to September 22, 1988, encompassing a 9-1 homestand.
(All relevant overlapping considered, the Mets went 16-2 from September 8 to September 26, 1988, encompassing a home record of 9-1.)
• 10-1 from April 26 to May 8, 1988, encompassing 5 consecutive home wins.
• 10-1 from July 28 to August 7, 1987, encompassing 5 consecutive home wins.
• 9-1 from September 25 to October 5, 1986, encompassing 3 consecutive home wins.
• 11-1 from August 17 to August 30, 1986, encompassing 3 home wins.
• 9-1 from June 25 to July 6, 1986, encompassing 4 home wins.
• 9-1 from June 6 to June 16, 1986, encompassing a 6-1 homestand.
• 18-1 from April 18 to May 10, 1986, encompassing 10 home wins.
• 12-1 from July 29 to August 13, 1985, encompassing 8 home wins.
• 13-1 from July 2 to July 18, 1985, encompassing 3 home wins.
• 12-1 from July 1 to July 14, 1984, encompassing 9 home wins.
• 9-1 from June 23 to July 4, 1976, encompassing 6 consecutive home wins.
• 9-1 from April 24 to May 4, 1976, encompassing a home record of 7-1.
• 10-1 from August 25 to September 4, 1974, encompassing a 6-1 homestand.
• 14-1 from May 7 to May 21, 1972, encompassing a home record of 10-1.
• 9-1 from September 21 to October 1, 1969, encompassing 5 consecutive home wins.
• 13-1 from September 6 to September 18, 1969, encompassing 7 consecutive home wins.
• 12-1 from August 16 to August 27, 1969, encompassing a 9-1 homestand.
• 11-0 from May 28 to June 10, 1969, encompassing 7 consecutive home wins.
Thanks to my compatriots at the Crane Pool Forum for facilitating the thought process on this topic.
Speaking of trains of thought, AMAZIN’ TUESDAY makes its Grand Central Terminal debut at the Two Boots in the Lower Dining Concourse. Read about our Mets reading series here.