Welcome to The Happiest Recap, a solid gold slate of New York Mets games culled from every schedule the Mets have ever played en route to this, their fiftieth year in baseball. We’ve created a dream season consisting of the “best” 28th game in any Mets season, the “best” 29th game in any Mets season, the “best” 30th game in any Mets season…and we keep going from there until we have a completed schedule worthy of Bob Murphy coming back with the Happy Recap after this word from our sponsor on the WFAN Mets Radio Network.
GAME 028: May 1, 2011 — Mets 2 PHILLIES 1 (14)
Mets All-Time Game 028 Record: 23-28; Mets 2011 Record: 12-16)
Mets players had heard worse things shouted in their direction as they batted at Citizens Bank Park, but little in the Phillie fan verbal arsenal was as confusing as the chant that went up through the stands in the top of the ninth inning as they engaged the Phillies in a 1-1 tie. It wasn’t derogatory. It wasn’t about the game at all, but anyone tuned into ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball could be excused for making the connection.
The real world made an unannounced appearance at the park the locals call the Bank. Daniel Murphy was pinch-hitting for Justin Turner against reliever Ryan Madson when the chants went up:
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Murphy clearly didn’t know what was going on. Shots of both dugouts indicated similar cluelessness among the Mets and the Phillies. But across Citizens Bank Park, right around 11 o’clock, the word had gotten out: The USA — its military, at any rate — had killed Osama Bin Laden. ESPN viewers learned about it a couple of minutes earlier when play-by-play voice Dan Shulman broke the news of an impending White House announcement to sports-minded America. Fans in the stadium, armed as they tend to be with portable mobile devices, picked up on the story right around the same time. They broadcast to each other what was going on.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
No Mets fan couldn’t be taken back ten years, to September 11, 2001, to when the name Osama Bin Laden became regrettably familiar. Wrapped in the reluctant flashbacks, however, was a baseball-shaped beacon of hope. Ten days after the terrorist attack on New York, baseball resumed in the city, at Shea Stadium. It was the Mets who took the first step toward bringing New Yorkers back to something resembling normality. It was Mike Piazza who made many forget the horrors of two Tuesdays earlier when on Friday night, September 21, he hit a breath-taking home run against Atlanta. The Mets won that game that just about everybody instantly decided was more than a game.
Now, a decade later, coincidence or something had the Mets on a baseball field when the engineer of those evil attacks had been at last eliminated. They weren’t in New York, they weren’t aware of what was about to be announced in Washington, they had no idea what had taken place that day in Pakistan. But there they were anyway, them and the Phillies and the wired fans who were letting it be known that this was suddenly also, maybe, more than a game.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit,” David Wright would say eventually, “but they got this one right.”
Murphy went down swinging for the second out of the top of the ninth. Wright walked and stole second but was left there when Jason Bay flied out to center. David was the thirteenth Mets runner left on base through nine innings. Their limited offense, combined with Chris Young’s strong seven, was enough to build a 1-0 lead, but the bullpen gave that back in the bottom of the eighth when Ryan Howard went the other way on Tim Byrdak for the tying RBI. Frankie Rodriguez allowed a couple of Phillies to reach in the bottom of the ninth — the Mets’ closer’s modus operandi early that season tended to involve baserunners — but Philadelphia didn’t score.
Extra innings commenced as President Barack Obama stepped to an East Room podium and confirmed what had been reported. Bin Laden was indeed dead. It took a painstakingly planned, rigorously executed operation, but the ten-year mission to take out this global public enemy was at last successful. Crowds were now gathering outside the White House to celebrate. Same thing was happening at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center had stood until 9/11/01.
The Mets and Phillies played on. And on. They were the only game in baseball as Sunday night became Monday morning but hardly the only thing on anybody’s minds. One who had his thoughts divided was ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine. Valentine was the manager of the Mets in 2001. As those Mets threw themselves into lending their celebrity and their facility to recovery efforts (Shea’s parking lot served as a staging ground for rescue workers and Met players and coaches joined in loading supplies onto trucks when not quietly visiting firehouses and hospitals), nobody gave himself over to New York more forcefully than Valentine. Between directing logistics and comforting families of victims, he hardly slept during the middle of that September — and he still managed to lead the Mets to three consecutive wins in Pittsburgh before the game when Piazza homered and so many cheered so cathartically.
In the ESPN booth, Bobby V kept his emotions in check as best he could. He explained afterwards, “When I heard it was confirmed I got choked up.” The former manager conceded it was “an emotional couple of seconds there” before he “threw a little water on my face” and resumed analyzing.
As for the 2011 Mets, they went about business as usual. They kept leaving runners on base, sixteen through thirteen innings, not making the most of three shutout frames from rookie reliever Pedro Beato. But in the fourteenth, there was a breakthrough. Ronny Paulino, making his first start behind the plate for the Mets, notched his fifth hit of the long evening, a double to left that scored Wright to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. The Mets then left the bases loaded (nineteen through fourteen), but in the end, the LOBs proved as irrelevant as #OBL — Bin Laden in Twitterspeak — proved gone. Taylor Buchholz retired the Phils in order in the bottom of the inning to secure a 2-1 win for the Mets in fourteen.
Inside the victorious clubhouse, there was naturally enough talk about Paulino’s feat — and how the backstop, in a way, echoed Piazza’s accomplishment against Atlanta from 2001 — but mostly the questions for the Mets regarded what they were thinking when they heard the chants and what this all meant to them considering that their predecessors were such an enduring sidebar to the New York aftermath of 9/11. Young, a Princeton student that September, watched Obama’s speech in the clubhouse after his seven two-hit innings were done: “There are some things bigger than the game and our jobs.” Beato was a newly minted high school freshman in Brooklyn who went up to the roof and witnessed the smoke rising from the World Trade Center: “I couldn’t stay up there that long. We didn’t want to get in trouble.”
Manager Terry Collins admitted he had no idea why the fans were chanting in patriotic unison when they started but that bench coach Ken Oberkfell clued him in to what was going on far from Philadelphia, far from baseball. But baseball is never far from the minds of those paid to play it and guide it. Third base coach Chip Hale put the whole thing in perspective for Collins when the last out was recorded, telling the skipper, “That’s as big a night as we’ll have in a long time. We got Bin Laden and we won.”
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On May 4, 2007, age was paired with beauty when Julio Franco broke his own record as the oldest man to homer in major league history. Starting at first base as the Mets took on the Diamondbacks in Phoenix, Franco, 48, made his feat that much more one for the ages by launching his second-inning four-bagger — into the Chase Field pool — off fellow fortysomething (43) Randy Johnson, no easy mark for any demographic. Although both men had been playing big league ball since the 1980s, it was the first time Julio had ever gone deep versus the Big Unit. Most of Franco’s perceived value as a Met was as a clubhouse sage, but in this 5-3 win at Arizona, he proved he could still get around the bases…and not just via the trot. Franco set himself a second record before turning in that Friday night when he became the oldest man in major league history to homer in the same game that he stole a base: second, in the ninth. Julio didn’t last much longer as a Met, but nobody ever got more mileage out of his own maturity.
GAME 029: May 5, 2006 — METS 8 Braves 7 (14)
Mets All-Time Game 029 Record: 31-20; Mets 2006 Record: 20-9)
Maybe the cliché that attaches itself to managers making every last move in an unyielding battle of wills versus their opposite numbers should be, “They played that game like it was the 29th game of the regular season.” It would have been true the Friday night that Willie Randolph, Bobby Cox and their respective units wore each other down across fourteen messy innings in 2006.
The Mets hoped they’d eventually land somewhere in the vicinity of the actual cliché, the one that invokes seventh games of World Series. They were off to a hot enough start in 2006 (in first place from the third game of the season on) and they were stubborn about not cooling off. The Mets had already immersed themselves in a monthlong stretch in which they would play sixteen home games and win eight of them in their final at-bat. Of those eight “walkoff wins,” this Shea showdown may have been the most thrilling, grueling and absurd of them all.
Consider that it was against the Braves, still perceived as the Mets’ great threat after nearly a decade of chasing them, though for a change it was the Mets looking down at third-place Atlanta in the standings. As the Mets attempted to add a little more distance between them and their southern foes, they undertook a mini-marathon that would have fit comfortably alongside the Grand Slam Single game.
At various points, the Braves held one-run leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, but it was a 6-2 deficit that stared the Mets in the face as they batted in the bottom of the seventh. Steve Trachsel had lasted six characteristically (for 2006) mediocre innings, leaving the Mets in a 4-2 hole. The usually reliable submarine specialist Chad Bradford didn’t help matters by giving up two in the top of the seventh. The offense sputtered, too, as the Mets left seven runners on base between the second and the fifth. Braves starter Kyle Davies had held the Mets mostly at bay, save for a Carlos Beltran homer in the first and a bout of wildness in the third that included three walks, a wild pitch and a bases-loaded fourth ball to David Wright.
Davies seemed in command when the seventh began, but he didn’t come close to seeing its end. Jose Reyes led off with a single to center and Paul Lo Duca ground-rule doubled, keeping the speedy Reyes from scoring. Davies left in favor of Macay McBride, who induced a grounder to third from Beltran, but it was not handled by Shea favorite Larry “Chipper” Jones and Reyes came home on the error. A Carlos Delgado ground ball found a hole to score Lo Duca, and suddenly it was 6-4 after batters.
Out went McBride, in came Ken Ray to go after Wright. Ray was partially successful, limiting David to a fly ball to right, but it moved Beltran to third. Cliff Floyd singled to right, getting Beltran home from there. After a passed ball and an intentional walk to Xavier Nady (the first of four Cox was to order), Kaz Matsui singled in Delgado from third.
Now it was tied 6-6. Airtight Met relief was provided for the next three innings by Aaron Heilman (seven up, six down) and Billy Wagner (a spotless tenth). The Mets generated leadoff baserunners in the eighth — a Reyes triple — and ninth — a Nady walk — but couldn’t cash them in as Ken Ray gave way to Oscar Villarreal, Oscar Villarreal gave way to Mike Remlinger, Mike Remlinger gave way to Chuck James and Chuck James gave way to Peter Moylan. Moylan, the seventh Coxman to pitch that night, put down the Mets 1-2-3 in the tenth.
There was finally movement on the scoreboard in the eleventh when Wilson Betemit led off the visitors’ half with a home run off Wagner. Billy, in his first season as Met closer, was proving a double-edged sword, usually stabilizing ninth innings for Randolph but being susceptible to some badly timed bombs — one to Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman at Shea in the first week of April, another, more frightening shot to Barry Bonds toward the end of the month in San Francisco. The Bonds bomb forged a ninth-inning tie and the Mets came back to win at AT&T Park, so Billy could be forgiven that faux pas (and besides, it was Barry Bonds). But would Wilson Betemit sink the Mets on Cinco de Mayo?
To borrow the native tongue of so many Los Mets, “¡No!”
Oh, Wagner would make it fairly interesting, by allowing a single to the next batter, Marcus Giles, who would steal second with one out and take third on a Chipper groundout. Randolph instructed Wagner to intentionally walk Andruw Jones (one of two IBBs by Met pitchers) and Billy threw sand in the eyes of the Braves rally when he induced a lineout to center from Braves rightfielder Jeff Francoeur.
Still, with Sandman exited, the Braves had just crafted their fourth one-run lead of the increasingly late night. Chris Reitsma came on to close out the Mets in the bottom of the eleventh, but he must have picked up something from Wagner, for he, too, came down with a bad case of first-batter gopheritis. Cliff Floyd, who entered the game with an unsightly .185 batting average, ripped Reitsma’s second pitch of the inning deep to right and the Mets had knotted their fourth tie of the night at 7-7.
Reitsma righted himself and sent the game to the twelfth. Duaner Sanchez, who hadn’t been touched for a run yet in his first 14 appearances covering 19 innings, kept up the phenomenal work. The Mets tried to make a winning pitcher of Sanchez when, with two out in the bottom of the twelfth, Beltran doubled. Cox made with another intentional walk, to Delgado, but then saw the strategy go shaky when Reitsma walked Wright unintentionally. Back to the plate came Floyd, with a chance to duplicate what he did to start the eleventh. This time, though, Reitsma prevailed, striking out Cliff and making this at least a thirteen-inning game.
No problem for Sanchez. He set down the Braves 1-2-3. Cox had issues in the pen by now, for he’d used everybody at his disposal, so he went to a starter, Jorge Sosa, to serve as Atlanta’s ninth pitcher of the night. After a leadoff walk to Nady — one of nine not sanctioned by the Braves manager — Sosa stiffened and escaped trouble. Randolph had to go to a seventh hurler himself (sixteenth overall between the two teams), Jorge Julio. The reliever who came over from Baltimore with minor leaguer John Maine during the offseason in exchange for Kris Benson got himself in trouble to open the fourteenth when he gave up a single to Chipper/Larry. Jones would get as far as second, on a stolen base, but Julio popped up Francoeur and grounded out Adam LaRoche to leave him there. The Braves had gone 4-for-18 with runners in scoring position.
In the bottom of the fourteenth, as the clock neared midnight, it would be the Braves’ catcher who would open the door to Atlanta disaster. Sosa didn’t help by walking Beltran with one out, but he popped up Delgado to Chipper for the second out. Now facing David Wright, he threw a pitch that got by Brian McCann for a passed ball (his second). This was key because with Beltran on second instead of first, Carlos was able to score the winning run when David Wright’s ground-rule double — his third hit and sixth time on base — bounced over the left field fence.
The Mets took their first lead of the night, 8-7, at one minute before midnight. No better time to get in front than on the last swing of the evening.
It wasn’t close to easy to get there. The Mets ran through five pinch-hitters, each of them going 0-for-1. They left nineteen baserunners on and went a dismal 4-for-21 with runners in scoring position, grounding into three double plays along the way. Leadoff man Jose Reyes alone reached base six times in eight opportunities but was brought home only twice. The leadoff triple that didn’t become the go-ahead run in the eighth (the bases were left loaded when Floyd grounded to first) was particularly gnawing.
In the end, however, these 2006 Mets were, per the British, quite chuffed with their Churchillian determination. Wright: “We are not going to roll over.” Beltran: “We are never going to give in.” Randolph, in the role of prime minister, added, “We kept scrapping and clawing. It was a big character win for us.” It was left to Cox to concede: “We had it won twice. We gave it up twice.”
So the Mets didn’t have to pay for their sins…at least not immediately. They won the game but they’d be back at work in almost no time, with a matinee scheduled a little more than thirteen hours hence. All Willie Randolph could hope for at that point was a long and effective outing from Saturday’s starter.
He’d find out soon enough what he was in for.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On May 9, 1982, Rusty Staub did something he never did the first time he was a Met. Le Grand Orange came to Queens from Montreal at the start of the 1972 season and, before he was unceremoniously traded to Detroit by M. Donald Grant, slugged 62 home runs in four years. It was the sixth-most in franchise history at the time of his departure, but not one of those 62 ended a game. Then again, all 62 were hit when Staub was in the game as a right fielder. As a regular in Yogi Berra’s and Roy McMillan’s lineups, he was going to come up when he was going to come up. But when Rusty returned to New York prior to 1981, he was on the verge of adapting to a new role: pinch-hitter deluxe. Staub began ’81 as the club’s starting first baseman, but with the emergence of Mookie Wilson in center, the trade for Ellis Valentine to play right and the realization that Dave Kingman’s defense was best hidden at first, Staub, 37, gravitated to the bench where became the Mets’ main man in a pinch. By 1982, he was ensconced in that job, and few could do it better. Rusty’s brilliance as the guy you’d count on to come through in a tight spot never shone brighter than it did when George Bamberger sent him to pinch-hit for Craig Swan with two out in the bottom of the ninth of a 5-5 game versus the Giants. Rusty came through in that tight spot, all right, belting his first Met walkoff homer. The game-ending shot versus Greg Minton gave the Mets a 6-5 win and went down as the one of two walkoff home runs (both pinch) of Staub’s two Met tenures.
GAME 030: May 6, 2006 — METS 6 Braves 5
Mets All-Time Game 030 Record: 26-25; Mets 2006 Record: 21-9)
Length. In the modern baseball parlance, it’s a manager’s fondest dream when he is starting a pitcher who isn’t particularly consistent. On a Saturday afternoon at Shea Stadium, Willie Randolph had a real bad hankering for length out of the righty to whom he was handing the ball against Atlanta, Victor Zambrano.
Leaving aside Zambrano’s credentials for a moment — and all Mets fans really cared about where Victor was concerned was that he wasn’t Scott Kazmir, the top pitching prospect the Mets mysteriously gave up to get him two years earlier — the biggest factor facing Randolph’s club at 1:10 PM was that they were barely out of Shea before coming right back to the ballpark.
It was as if the Mets had played Friday night for all the marbles only to discover a fresh set of marbles had been placed before them about, oh, ten minutes later. The game the night before was an 8-7, 14-inniing thriller of a win, but the nearly five-hour festival of attrition, which ended at 11:59 PM, took plenty out of the Mets’ bullpen, particularly its big three of Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner. They’d each pitched two innings, and it would behoove Willie to not have to use any of them at all.
Thus, when Zambrano was given the marble, so to speak, it was imperative that he handle it for as long as he could.
That plan went out the window almost immediately.
Zambrano didn’t blow up in the first inning or anything like that. To the contrary, he looked fantastic, retiring Marcus Giles, Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones in order, striking out the first and third of them (Jones on a 3-2 count). The Mets got him a run in the bottom of the first and Victor appeared poised to protect the 1-0 margin. His seventh pitch to leadoff batter Andruw Jones in the second — his 23rd overall — was as beautiful a pitch as he ever threw as a Met. It was a breaking ball that made Andruw appear amateur. He swung, he missed, he was out…and so, somehow, was Victor Zambrano.
Seemingly without waiting for strike three to be officially registered, Zambrano took off for the Met dugout, his left hand grabbing his right arm. Something was terribly wrong in two senses of the word. Obviously the righthander experienced something painful. It turned out to be a torn flexor tendon in his elbow. Victor Zambrano, a quiet soul who received a lot of flak from a lot of fans for not being Kazmir (the kid who was blossoming into a star for Tampa Bay), would never throw another pitch as a Met. He’d only garner 23 more innings with Toronto and Baltimore the next year before fading from the majors altogether.
That would become the long-term story for Victor Zambrano, and it’s rather sad, but its only immediate consequence for the Mets on May 6, 2006, was his departure left Willie Randolph shorthanded for pitching in the second inning after using seven arms the night before.
What to do?
First thing Randolph did was signal the bullpen for Darren Oliver, the one regular reliever he didn’t use on Friday night. Oliver was generally Randolph’s long man, and his assignment Saturday afternoon was to go as long as he possibly could. Darren warmed up, retired his first batter, Adam LaRoche, on three pitches…and gave up a home run on his fourth pitch to his second batter, Jeff Francoeur.
It loomed as a long day. The Mets would have to piece together more than seven innings of pitching with a badly strapped staff, they were now in a tie game and facing them was the Braves’ co-ace, Tim Hudson.
What to do, indeed.
All the Mets could do was grind and hope. It wasn’t the worst strategy. Carlos Beltran reached Hudson for a two-out homer in the third, and Oliver had a lead. He made it stand up until the sixth when a Renteria double and a Chipper Jones single tied things back up. Hudson had grown annoyingly effective in the interim, so the Mets were again looking at quite the challenge after Oliver extended himself as far as he could. The Mets’ long man had filled in very nicely: 4 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk on no notice.
Willie removed Darren after Jones’s RBI and brought in Bartolome Fortunato, who hadn’t pitched for the Mets since the last game of the 2004 season. Fortunato — who accompanied Zambrano to New York in the Kazmir trade — was brought up from Norfolk following Friday night to give Randolph a fresh arm (the Mets placed rookie starter John Maine on the Disabled List at the same time, meaning the manager would have to fill two holes in his rotation, but that was for later). The right arm of Bartolome was fresh enough to tease a 6-4-3 DP out of Andruw Jones to get out of the sixth, but maybe a little stale thereafter. In the top of the seventh, Fortunato gave up a leadoff home run to LaRoche, and the Mets trailed 3-2.
Bobby Cox had to be more relaxed than Randolph. He, too, had plundered his bullpen Friday night, using every reliever in an Atlanta uniform, but Hudson was fairly cruising into the seventh. He gave up a leadoff single to Xavier Nady but struck out Ramon Castro. Jose Valentin then pinch-hit for Fortunato and singled. Suddenly Hudson’s cruise grew rocky: Jose Reyes singled home Nady and Kaz Matsui (about as popular in Flushing as Victor Zambrano) doubled deep to right to score the Joses. The put-upon Mets were ahead 5-3. Two Cox pitching moves later, it was 6-3, with Peter Moylan allowing a double-steal to Kaz and Beltran (who Hudson intentionally walked as his last batter), a walk to David Wright to load the bases and a walk to Cliff Floyd to score Matsui.
With two innings to go, this is where Willie would normally bring in Sanchez, but Duaner was being avoided because of those innings the night before (and an inning the night before that). With he and Heilman on mandatory rest, the Mets started the eighth with righty Chad Bradford. Chad got one out but then surrendered a single to Giles and a walk to Renteria. Exit Bradford, enter his bookend in specialization, lefty Pedro Feliciano. Pedro K’d switch-hitting Chipper, but ancient Met-killer Brian Jordan — a righty — was another matter. Feliciano gave up a run-scoring single to Jordan, which made it 6-4. But Pedro’s core competency was getting out lefties, of which the next batter, LaRoche, was one. And Pedro popped him up to escape the eighth.
Another run would have come in handy, but the Mets didn’t get one in the bottom of the eighth. Randolph was forced to turn to Jorge Julio as his closer of the moment. Wagner’s 30 pitches in two innings Friday night made him literally untouchable Saturday afternoon. When Julio was acquired from Baltimore, the comparison most often made was to another talented, hard-throwing righty the Mets once received from the Orioles, Armando Benitez.
Not a single Mets fan took that as a comforting scouting report. But these were desperate times, and Julio was clearly a desperate measure.
A leadoff strikeout of Jeff Francoeur was encouraging, but then it was Armando time for Jorge: a walk to Ryan Langerhans; a single to Brian McCann; a single to the eternally dangerous Matt Diaz. Now it was 6-5, runners were on first and second, there was only one out and…well, this guy was compared to Benitez for a reason.
You would haven’t have expected the reason to be Benitez got a lot of saves between those high-profile instances when he was blowing them. Giles launched a fly to deep right, but Endy Chavez caught it. McCann tagged up and represented the tying run at third. If doom was going to come to the Mets, it would come soon.
But it didn’t come at all. Julio teased a grounder to Reyes out of Renteria. Jose threw to Delgado at first and an unlikely 6-5 Mets win had been cobbled together. Five relievers combined to give Randolph 7⅔ innings. They felt desperate, but they weren’t bad, all things considered. The five pen men struck out ten Braves, six succumbing to Oliver alone. It took Julio 29 pitches to record his first (and only) Met save, but the point is the save was recorded. Julio — traded within three weeks for godsend starter Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez — and his mostly unsung relief mates had rescued their team and accounted for a second Met win in less than 24 hours.
Nice save, all around.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On May 8, 1992, a major leaguer most famous for what he did in the minors made the most of his lone Met batting opportunity. When Rodney McCray showed up in Port St. Lucie, he was as celebrated as any fringe outfielder whose career encompassed only 14 plate appearances in the bigs (all with the White Sox). But McCray transcended statistics. You might say he was baseball’s version of the human highlight film because the only thing anyone really knew him for was the fly ball he chased as a Triple-A Vancouver Canadian in the summer of 1991. Portland Beaver batter Chip Hale — a future Mets coach — sent a fly ball to deep right field, in the direction of McCray. McCray didn’t catch it, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Rodney’s effort took him, literally, through a wall. The kid sprinted straight through Portland’s wooden right field fence. The clip immediately became a sensation on SportsCenter, George Michael’s Sports Machine and videotape-going anchors’ sportscasts across North America. CNN declared the wallbuster its play of the year. It was fame, but it didn’t necessarily translate into what every ballplayer truly wants: playing time. As a Met in 1992, McCray wasn’t getting a whole lot of that. Manager Jeff Torborg used him for pinch-running and late-inning outfield defense exclusively. No fences were harmed during Rodney’s first month, but he did steal two bases and score three runs in sporadic action. On a rainy Friday night at Shea, Torborg had no choice but to ask Rodney McCray to do what he wasn’t famous for. In the bottom of the ninth inning of a 3-3 game, with the bases loaded and most of his bench spent, Torborg let McCray — who had come on as a pinch-runner for Eddie Murray in the eighth and then stayed in to play right as Bobby Bonilla moved to first — face Dodger reliever Tim Crews. Rodney picked up a bat for the first time all year, yet knew exactly what to do with it, slipping a single through a drawn-in L.A. infield. Junior Noboa scampered home from third to give the Mets a 4-3 win. And Rodney McCray had his first, last and only hit in his first, last and only Met at-bat. He’d play in only two more games with New York and never reach the majors again. To date, Rodney McCray is one of six Mets with a lifetime 1.000 batting average.