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The Happiest Recap: 010-012

Welcome to The Happiest Recap [1], 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” tenth game in any Mets season, the “best” eleventh game in any Mets season, the “best” twelfth 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 010: April 23, 1962 [2] — Mets 9 PIRATES 1
(Mets All-Time Game 010 Record: 24-27; Mets 1962 Record: 1-9)

It had to happen sooner or later, right? No franchise goes through its life never winning. Even the Cleveland Spiders of 1899 infamy went 20-134. The Spiders’ web was all but spun out by the beginning of the 20th century, but even they got off the schneid faster than the 1962 Mets. The Spiders lost their first four contests prior to defeating the Louisville Colonels in their fifth game. (The Colonels, like the Spiders, were rewarded with imminent contraction — the National League didn’t screw around in 1899.)

Anyway, nobody, no matter how abysmal, loses ’em all, and the 1962 Mets were rapidly indicating they’d be taking abysmal to new depths. First game ever, at St. Louis: a loss. Six-game homestand at the Polo Grounds followed, as did a half-dozen defeats. Hitting the road again, the road hit Casey Stengel’s inaugural squad right back, with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking the first two games of a three-game series. That second loss dropped the Mets’ record — 1962 and all-time — to 0-9. Meanwhile, the Bucs had blazed their way to a 10-0 start, meaning the Mets were already 9½ games out of first place…or by a margin greater than the total amount of games they had ever played.

No, it couldn’t go on forever, and twelve days after the Mets were born, they learned to crawl.

At Forbes Field, on a Monday night literally like no other that had come before it, the Mets won. Sparked by three sacrifice flies in the first two innings, the Mets lunged to a 6-0 lead and handed their fate to starter Jay Hook. Hook’s legend, courtesy of Stengel, was that as the holder of an engineering degree, the righty could tell you why a curveball curved, but he couldn’t throw a decent curveball.

The hook worked fine for Hook, however. His entire arsenal did. Jay went the distance, stopping the Pirates’ winning streak at ten and, of more cosmic significance, introducing the Mets to the sensation of not losing. They won 9-1. Their record was 1-9. For the 1962 Mets, it was the spiritual equivalent of going .500…and, mathematically speaking, it was one of the last times their all-time record was within fewer than nine games of .500.

Sure the bad start buried the franchise in a statistical hole from which they will likely never fully dig out (they entered the 2011 season 330 games shy of the break-even point), but look at it this way — the New York Mets have won a whole lot more than the Cleveland Spiders have since 1962.

ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On April 15, 2005 [3], there was little reason to believe the Mets could compete in that night’s Shea Stadium pitching matchup. The Florida Marlins were sending their ace and recent World Series hero Josh Beckett to the hill. The Mets were countering with stopgap starter Aaron Heilman, added to the roster after Opening Day only because Kris Benson was injured late in Spring Training. But that, as they say, is why the play the game. While the Mets drove Beckett from the mound after five innings, Heilman used this tax deadline day to file a gem: a complete game, one-hit, 4-0 shutout. The only Marlin batter exempt from Heilman’s outstanding accounting of himself? Second baseman Luis Castillo, who scratched out an infield hit in the top of the fourth.

GAME 011: April 17, 2010 [4] — Mets 2 CARDINALS 1 (20)
(Mets All-Time Game 011 Record: 24-27; Mets 2010 Record: 4-7)

This was one for the ages, in that anybody watching it had to have marked at least two birthdays while it ensued. On the clock, the game lasted nearly seven hours, though a calendar would have been a more appropriate timekeeping device. It was the fourth time the Mets had ever seen a 20th inning, and the only a time a Mets win occurred that deep into a scorecard.

Longest win in Mets history sums up what transpired on a Saturday afternoon, evening and night in St. Louis not only accurately but conceptually. On and on the festivities unfurled from Busch Stadium, from a duel in the sun between two sharp southpaw starters — Johan Santana for the Mets, rookie Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals — to a twilight struggle between obstinate bullpens to, as the shadows gave way to utter darkness, desperation farce. That a first run of the game crossed the plate in the top of the 19th, seemed almost incidental. When a second run materialized in the bottom of the inning to tie the game and continue it presumably indefinitely, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. This Saturday Fox Game of the Week surely was destined to be spun off into a prime time series. The Mets and Cardinals pre-empted Cops. They pre-empted America’s Most Wanted. It appeared certain they’d pre-empt The Simpsons, even if The Simpsons wasn’t due up until Sunday night at 8.

For 18 innings, both offenses were underachievers and proud of it for all the television viewer at home could detect. Santana was his usual acelike self, striking out nine Redbirds over seven innings while allowing just four hits. Garcia, making only his third major league start, stymied the Mets just as effectively, maybe more so: seven innings pitched, two walks, only one hit, and that one, an Angel Pagan single, didn’t come until the sixth. No Met baserunner went beyond second while Garcia was on the mound.

In fact, no baserunner from either side got within 90 feet of scoring until the bottom of the 10th when, with two out, Pedro Feliciano, who had taken over for Ryota Igarashi, walked  second baseman Skip Schumaker and gave up a ground ball single to right fielder Ryan Ludwick. Mets manager Jerry Manuel made a double-switch, replacing Feliciano with Fernando Nieve and first baseman Fernando Tatis with Alex Cora — a utility infielder who had previously played first exactly twice in his 14-season big league career.

Naturally enough, after Nieve walked Albert Pujols to load the bases, Cardinal left fielder Matt Holliday lifted a foul pop down the first base line that drifted toward the stands. Cora followed the ball, diving in after it and catching it for the third out. The fill-in first baseman was a hero for a moment, but his moment lapsed in the top of the eleventh when Manuel pinch-hit Gary Matthews, Jr., for him after St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa brought on lefty Trever Miller — his fourth pitcher of the day — to face the lefty Cora with Pagan on first and one down. Matthews struck out and Pagan, with Jose Reyes up, was picked off first by Miller.

The game continued. And continued some more. Its next credible threat arose in the bottom of the 12th when, again with two out, Nieve allowed a single to Schumaker; Ludwick reached when catcher’s interference was called on Rod Barajas; and the ever dangerous Pujols was intentionally walked. Holliday could have conceivably made up for that foul ball Cora caught with the bases loaded two innings earlier, but La Russa had removed him to start the twelfth in order to insert reliever Jason Motte into the game. Thus, Motte, making his second plate appearance ever, was serving as cleanup hitter.

He struck out swinging. And on it went.

The Mets’ rallies were short and forlorn. Barajas singled with two out in the top of the 13th. Manuel removed the lead-footed catcher in favor of pinch-runner John Maine. But Maine, a pitcher, was stranded on first when Pagan flied to center. An inning later, the Mets waited through another two outs to generate something/anything. Luis Castillo reached on a grounder to third base and David Wright walked. But they died on the basepaths when Jason Bay grounded to second.

The Cardinals’ rallies continued to produce drama if not results. With Hisanori Takahashi on in relief of Nieve in the bottom of the 14th, center fielder Joe Mather doubled. Takahashi committed an error on shortstop Brendan Ryan’s sacrifice bunt attempt, putting runners on first and third. Ryan took second on defensive indifference. Takahashi reared back and struck out Schumaker and Ludwick, yet again bringing up Pujols, who was yet again intentionally walked. La Russa’s latest cleanup hitter, pitcher Blake Hawksworth, struck out to leave the bases loaded, the third time in five innings the Cardinals couldn’t bring the winning run home despite every sack being filled.

Attrition was wearing down the rosters by now. Manuel had to send pitcher Jon Niese up to pinch-hit in the 15th; he struck out. Jenrry Mejia entered as Manuel’s sixth hurler in the bottom of the inning. A two-out walk put Cardinal third baseman Felipe Lopez on first and a Mather single moved him to third, but once more, 90 feet from home proved too great a distance for St. Louis, as Ryan grounded to second.

Pagan became the first Mets baserunner to reach third after leading off the 16th by singling. First baseman Mike Jacobs (who had taken over for Cora) bunted him to second and a Reyes grounder to the right side got him as close as possible to scoring. Alas, Castillo struck out — the 16th K by Cardinal pitching to that point — and the game remained scoreless.

But it wasn’t nearly as weird as it was soon to get. Mejia gave up one-out singles to Ludwick and Pujols in the bottom of the 16th. Rookie catcher Bryan Anderson, in his second plate appearance ever, grounded to second, forcing Pujols, on a toss from Castillo to Reyes. Ludwick, however, kept running, figuring stopping at third wasn’t working for the Cardinals. Reyes threw home and Henry Blanco (who had replaced Barajas after he was removed for pinch-runner Maine) tagged him for the third out. The Mets took some hope out of that escape and looked to forge it into genuine momentum. With Cardinal closer Ryan Franklin pitching — it wasn’t like anybody had any idea when things were going to literally close, and there’d be no save situation for the home team in any case — Wright led off the top of the 17th by beating out an infield grounder.

Momentum gasped almost immediately, however. Bay lined out and Jeff Francoeur — who had started the game batting .457 and would end it hitting 74 points lower — fouled out to third. As Blanco worked a count to one-and-one, Wright took off for second. Longtime Cardinal villain Yadier Molina gunned him down stealing. It was onto the bottom of the 17th.

Jerry Manuel had two relievers left: his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, and recently recalled 32-year-old rookie Raul Valdes. Rodriguez had been warming up every inning of late just in case there was a Met lead to protect. Since there wasn’t, Manuel turned to Valdes, who had pitched the night before…and surrendered a game-turning grand slam to Felipe Lopez. This time, Valdes was a much better bet, retiring the Cards 1-2-3, surviving a second encounter with Lopez when the infielder lined out to Pagan in deep center.

It wouldn’t, however, be the last time Valdes would see Lopez, for Tony La Russa decided overtime was going to be where he really earned his managerial money. Having burned through eight pitchers, including every member of his bullpen — though not at-liberty starters Kyle Lohse or Brad Penny — La Russa handed the ball to Lopez and told him to pitch. Felipe had never done so in the majors before, but 18th innings don’t come along every day (or night), either.

The Mets had collected six hits through 17 innings. You might think they’d be licking their chops at the prospect of facing a position player, yet they politely kept their offensive appetite in check. Blanco, who had been batting when Wright was thrown in the last Mets turn, popped up. Valdes, in his second plate appearance ever…against the hitter who reached him for a four-run, four-bagger approximately 24 hours earlier…crossed everybody up by a) making contact and b) reaching first base when whoever was playing third by now — Joe Mather, third guy on the Cardinals to do so — couldn’t throw him out. Even better for the Mets, Mather’s throw sailed wide of first. Valdes, ascertaining the unfolding scenario, decided to stretch his first big league single into something more.

It was indeed a stretch. Pujols tracked down the ball and threw it to Mather, covering second, and Valdes was out. With the bases clear, Pagan walked on four pitches, but Jacobs saw fit to swing at the second pitch infielder Lopez threw him. On a one-oh count, he flied to right.

Felipe Lopez had just pitched a scoreless inning.

Valdes, no worse for wear from his baserunning misadventure, resumed pitching in the bottom of the 18th and hung in there, aided by a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. When the Mets came up to commence the 19th inning, they were no longer facing utility player Felipe Lopez.

They were facing utility player Joe Mather.

La Russa switched Mather and Lopez, sending Felipe to third and Joe to the mound. He must have liked the matchups. Or something. Whatever the widely admired managerial legend was thinking, Mather walked Reyes on five pitches to start off his first-ever pitching assignment. With a spare outfielder on the hill having immediately encountered a fairly predictable bout of wildness, Jerry Manuel opted to not instruct his hitters to just keep taking pitches. Instead, he had Castillo sacrifice Reyes to second. Mission (as it were) accomplished. Wright was walked intentionally. Bay was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

It was the first bases-loaded opportunity the Mets enjoyed all day, and it was against Joe Mather who, it bears repeating, was not a pitcher. So how did they take advantage of this sudden bounty of riches that had all but landed in their laps?

Francoeur swung at the second pitch he saw from Mather and drove it to deep left, where it was caught by Kyle Lohse…the pitcher who La Russa didn’t use to pitch but inserted for what one would have to call defense in the 18th when Lopez moved from third to the mound; Mather went from center to third; Ludwick shifted from right to center and Allen Craig went from left to right. Anyway, Lohse caught Francoeur’s fly ball, but Reyes raced home from third to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the top of the 19th.

Lest the floodgates show any sign of completely opening, La Russa ordered Mather to walk Blanco and fill the bases for Valdes. This time Valdes grounded out to end the inning. The Mets had taken the first lead either team had taken, but it’s worth noting that after Reyes walked to lead off the 19th — putting aside the two intentional bases on balls — four Mets batters saw a total of eight Cardinal pitches.

From a Cardinal outfielder.

Well, a shred of normalcy could finally return to this acid trip of a ballgame because for the bottom of the 19th, Manuel was able, at last, to deploy his remaining legitimate reliever, his star closer, Frankie Rodriguez. Rodriguez couldn’t have been more ready. As had become commonplace in the modern era, Manuel saved his save stud for a save situation, even if the contest had moved into marathon territory long ago. Tight a game as it was, of course, Manuel had to be prepared to call on Rodriguez should a Met lead develop. That meant warming the righty up every extra inning there was.

That was more or less the equivalent of a full game, which probably isn’t advisable for anybody, let alone your high-priced closer. So when K-Rod entered in the 19th, he wasn’t bound to be tangibly more effective than, say, Joe Mather. Sure enough, Rodriguez walked Ludwick on a three-two pitch. This brought up Pujols, who had earlier accepted four distinct sets of four balls (three of them intentional passes) but simply couldn’t be walked strategically here. Pujols was universally considered the best hitter in the game, and La Russa couldn’t have had a greater gift than Prince Albert striding to the plate with a runner on first and nobody out.

The only thing La Russa didn’t have going for him was a “hold” sign transmitted to Ludwick at first. The second baseman who ran the Cardinals out of the 16th when he tried to score from second now tried to steal second — with Albert Pujols batting…on the first pitch, no less.

Blanco gunned him down (assisted by a fine, perhaps phantom tag by Castillo), emptying the bases for Pujols, allowing Rodriguez to relax and concentrate fully on the task at hand. He needed only two outs to end the game. But first he had to permit Pujols a double to left-center, putting the tying run on second base. Lohse (pitcher playing left, if you were scoring at home…or even if you were alone) tapped a grounder to short that was slow enough to move Albert to third base. Still, two out, and all that stood between the Mets and victory was…

…Yadier Molina. The same Yadier Molina who hit the ninth-inning home run at Shea Stadium that proved the difference in the seventh game of the 2006 National League Championship Series. It was four seasons later, Rodriguez hadn’t been a Met in 2006, but Molina was still Molina, and he singled to right to tie the game at 1-1

Of course he did.

Rodriguez struck out Allen Craig for the third out, ensuring the Mets would play their first 20th inning in 36 years. The last time the Mets dared to extend themselves this far into a baseball game, they took it to 25 and lost, to these very same Cardinals (or, technically speaking, their progenitors), 4-3 at Shea. Six years earlier, the Mets and Astros matched zeroes into the 24th when Houston came away victorious at the Astrodome, 1-0. And four years before that, in the second game of a Memorial Day doubleheader, no less, the Mets expended 23 innings in succumbing to the Giants, 8-6.

Each of those games was woven into the fabric of Met legend: Ed Sudol was the home plate ump for all three; Willie Mays had to play shortstop in 1964; Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda went 0-for-10 in 1968; Bake McBride scampered home from first with the ultimate go-ahead run on an errant Hank Webb pickoff attempt in 1974. Three games that oozed into the twenties in terms of innings in Mets history, three losses.

Yet by some small miracle, not a fourth. Joe Mather was still pitching for the Cardinals in the top of the 20th. The Mets were still swinging, but at last they had gotten a good read on his stuff. Pagan led off with an infield single past the pitcher (Mather; it can’t be reiterated enough). Jacobs lined one to right field, sending Angel to third. With two on and one out, Reyes flied to deep enough center to bring home Pagan for a 2-1 lead. Mather retired Castillo and Wright on two pitches apiece, but the Mets had managed to sneak ahead for the second consecutive inning. They had a lead, and all they needed was three outs from…

…who? Good question.

Rodriguez had thrown 24 pitches in the bottom of the 19th on top of untold dozens in the bullpen. Valuable closer he was perceived to be, Manuel was reluctant to stretch him out any further. After Jerry had used eight of his own pitchers to pitch, one to pinch-hit and one to pinch-run, he was down to two active Mets in uniform: Oliver Perez, the previous night’s starter, and Mike Pelfrey, who had started the afternoon before Perez in Colorado. Pelfrey, despite not having thrown in relief since 2007, made himself available, and Manuel took the kindly Kansan up on his offer. (Students of Met lore nodded knowingly at all this, recalling Ron Darling slipped out of his traditional starter’s role to end a similarly absurd 19-inning affair a quarter-century earlier.)

The 24th Met of the day went about attempting to save the win for the only Met pitcher in eight who had given up a run. Pelfrey’s first two batters were his honorary fellow moundsmen. He induced a grounder to short from Lopez and a fly ball to right from Mather. Lest anything appear too easy as this game careened toward its 413th minute, Brendan Ryan singled past Wright and Skip Schumaker walked on four pitches. Up stepped baserunning antihero Ryan Ludwick, searching for redemption. And behind him loomed Albert Pujols.

Later Pelfrey admitted, “I thought it was never going to end.” But it did. On the 652nd pitch of this 6:53 minute affair, Schumaker grounded to Castillo, who tossed to Jacobs, who registered the 120th defensive out of the game.

It was, finally, a final: 2-1, Mets. It was the longest win in Mets history, yet quite possibly the most homely win in Mets history. Think about it — nine hits in twenty innings, all of them singles; fewer than half as many hits gathered as strikeouts incurred (19); nothing-nothing through seventeen, then three innings pitched by Cardinal position players and only two Met runs scored…both of them on sacrifice flies. Although Fox employed Kenny Albert and Tim McCarver as its announcers that endless Saturday, perhaps a more fitting voice behind the microphone would have been Marge Simpson’s, specifically from when she summed up her family’s horrifying eventful visit to Itchy & Scratchy Land:

“Come to think of it, this was the best vacation ever! Now let us never speak of it again.”

ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On April 24, 1986 [5], with the Mets and Cardinals picking up roughly where they left off at the bitter end of the 1985 season, St. Louis closer Todd Worrell is one inning away from finishing off the so-called “pond scum” from New York, delighting a red-clad crowd luxuriating in their Redbirds’ 4-2 lead. There’s one out and one on when Worrell brings the heat once more. The flamethrowing righty, however, can’t get a third strike past fastball-loving shortstop Howard Johnson, who belts Worrell’s 2-2 pitch well over the right field fence. The Mets tie the Cardinals at four, and in the tenth, George Foster singles Wally Backman home from second base for a 5-4 lead that Roger McDowell holds in the bottom of the inning. The Mets increase their divisional lead to a game-and-a-half at the outset of this four-game series at Busch. By the time it’s done, so will be the Cardinals’ 1986 hopes. En route to an overall club record-tying eleven-game winning streak, the Mets will sweep away their archrivals as well as the remnants of the bad taste the unsuccessful conclusion of the ’85 pennant race left in their collective mouth.

GAME 012: April 17, 2006 [6] — METS 4 Braves 3
(Mets All-Time Game 012 Record: 23-28; Mets 2010 Record: 10-2)

The Atlanta Braves had been so formidable for so long that their reign atop the National League East transcended several Mets eras. Already hot stuff when they were realigned from the N.L. West in the strike-curtailed 1994 campaign, the Braves won the 1995 East title with ease. The same could be said of their performance in 1996. Truthfully, this wasn’t much cause for Met concern, as they were nowhere near contention in those years.

The Braves kept winning mini-flags in 1997 and 1998. The Mets could now be said to be somewhat concerned with what was going on in Atlanta because they had ascended from also-rans to Wild Card contenders. The Braves were a league above that status, but still — the Mets were a good club and trying to make their bones in full. They weren’t necessarily chasing the Braves, but the games between them mattered more, particularly in ’98 when the Mets’ chance for their first at-large playoff berth depended on how they came through at Turner Field in the final three games of the season.

The Mets came through in tatters, with Atlanta — which was merely tuning up for the postseason — taking all three games at the Ted, all six for the season in Atlanta and eight consecutive in the state of Georgia dating back to September 1997 (when the Mets were barely hanging on to slim October hopes). Still climbing, still persevering, the Mets broke through as an indisputably serious playoff contender in 1999. They were good enough to take a run at the division title, but late in the season, as had been the case for the entire latter half of the ’90s, those frustratingly consistent Braves would not budge from the top of the East. The Mets finished second and had to scramble for the Wild Card. (A bonus meeting in Atlanta, in the NLCS, wouldn’t go all that well, either).

A new decade found the Mets still clawing and the Braves still swatting them away. The Mets finished a game back in 2000 (and didn’t mind Atlanta falling in the first round of the playoffs as they themselves, for once, moved on toward a pennant). In 2001, there was an incredible late run emanating out of Queens, but that last-minute stab at the division found the Braves as unyielding as ever. The Mets missed the playoffs entirely. Then they spiraled completely out of contention in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 while the Braves won the National League East in 2002 and 2003 and 2004. The Mets returned to legitimacy in 2005, hanging on in a Wild Card tussle until the dawn of September. No matter to the Braves, who won their eleventh straight division crown that season, remaining unwelcoming hosts at Turner Field whenever the Mets were obligated to drop by.

Given all that Atlanta hegemony, it had become the fondest of Metsopotamian dreams to put Atlanta in a place other than first. And with the 2006 season underway in the most encouraging fashion possible, the Mets were poised to do just that when the Braves made their first trip of the year to Shea Stadium.

This time, it was the Mets looking down from first place. This time, it was the Braves trying to get untracked. This time, it was the Mets pitching an All-Star — Pedro Martinez, who had not just a rivalry at stake, but a personal milestone. He was going for his 200th career victory, and he was going for it hard, striking out eight Braves in 6⅔ innings. Atlanta proved its usual fussy self, scoring a run in the first on an Andruw Jones sac fly, but the Mets answered back in the second on Xavier Nady’s fourth home run of the year. The Braves recaptured the lead in the third when Ryan Langerhans drove home Marcus Giles, but once more the Mets would not be deterred. In the bottom of the inning, Paul Lo Duca doubled with two out and Carlos Delgado launched his fifth homer of the season. Nady added an RBI single in the fourth to make it 4-2.

Jones (Andruw; Chipper wasn’t playing) reached Martinez for a solo homer of his own in the sixth, but that was where Pedro battened down all hatches, striking out Adam LaRoche and Jeff Francoeur, and getting Brian McCann to fly to center. When Pedro left in the seventh with two out and one on, Duaner Sanchez bailed him out by fanning Marcus Giles. Sanchez pitched a perfect eighth, handing the 4-3 lead to Billy Wagner. The decorated closer obtained the game’s final out by striking out former Met playoff icon Todd Pratt. When Lo Duca picked up dropped strike three and flung it to Delgado, the Monday night crowd of nearly 37,000 applauded several distinct happenings:

• They had just witnessed Pedro Martinez’s 200th win; Pedro was 3-0 on the season, a big factor in the Mets themselves starting 10-2, the best twelve-game mark in franchise history.

• They had just seen the Mets establish a five-game lead over the second-place Braves. Elias had let it be known that no team in the divisional era — not even impenetrable Atlanta — had ever built that large a margin over its closest competitor so quickly in a season.

• They had just watched a fistful of new-for-2006 Mets contribute to a critical win…and given all the Braves had done to the Mets for so long, it wasn’t too early to deem this game critical. Nady, Delgado, Lo Duca, Sanchez, Wagner: all acquired by GM Omar Minaya in the preceding offseason, none a participant in past Met humiliations at the hands of the Braves.

• They could sense that on some level the 2006 divisional dynamic had been settled. You can’t clinch the N.L. East with 150 games remaining, but you can sure make a statement, and with this 4-3 win, the Mets did. They stated that a certain southern squad’s dominance of their division was about to come to an overdue end.

ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On April 21, 1963 [7], the Mets completed a doubleheader sweep of the Milwaukee Braves at the Polo Grounds. Winning two games in one day was a notable achievement for the second-year Mets; taking all four games of this series from the Braves was even better. But what made it historic was the 9-2 romp marked the longest winning streak the Mets had ever strung together: four games in a row. The 1962 Mets never made it past more than three consecutive victories, and the ’63 version had started the season a sorry 0-8. Now, however, thanks to Galen Cisco and Ken MacKenzie teaming on a seven-hitter, and Jim Hickman, Duke Snider and Al Moran each driving in a pair of runs, the Mets were a more presentable 4-8 and ended the day out of the National League cellar, rocketing, at last, all the way to ninth place. They led the Houston Colt .45s by a half-game — or one in the loss column.