Mets fans should not have been surprised by yesterday’s wild card-clinching victory. By my review, here are the seasons for which the Mets second-to-last regular season game mattered*:
*The outcome, at least heading into the day, could affect whether the Mets made the playoffs or their place within the playoff bracket. (It’s kind of sad it hasn’t mattered more often.)
They’ve won them all but one (6-1). In ’73, the Mets took the second game of a double-header from the Cubs to stay one game ahead of St. Louis in their divisional race. In ’99, they won Game 161 to remain tied with the Reds for the wild card; they won again the next day and beat the Reds in a one-game playoff. They won their penultimate regular season game again the next season, though Atlanta did as well, making the final game inconsequential as they finished one game back. In all three cases, the Mets reached the postseason.
The same could not be said about the 2007 and 2008 seasons, but not for a lack of success in Game 161. Still very much in the hunt for the division and wild card both years, the Mets got dominant pitching performances and won: 13-0 behind John Maine (7.1 innings, 1 hit) in ’07 and 2-0 the next year thanks to Johan Santana’s complete-game three-hitter.
The only time the Mets lost such a game was in 1998, part of a five-game losing streak to end the season that left them one win shy of forcing a three-team playoff for the lone wild card spot.
Yesterday, the Mets clinched the top wild card spot with a win. They’ve had plenty of duds in their next-to-last regular season game, even in seasons when they’ve had postseason success — just last year they were on the wrong side of a no-hitter. But when it’s mattered, they’ve delivered.