Just in time for the holiday season, Mets 101's Seven in Seven series returns as our gift to you. Each week, the Mets 101 staff will begin a countdown of topics related to the New York Mets (i.e. best third baseman, worst defeat, etc.). We will begin our countdowns with the number seven and work all the way to number one. This week's Seven in Seven list takes a look at the most memorable moments in the history of our beloved Mets. We will begin the countdown today with the seventh greatest moment in Mets history, Endy Chavez's remarkable catch in Game Seven of the 2006 National League Championship Series.
7. Endy Chavez's Catch
Date: October 19, 2006
The Buildup: The 2006 National League Championship Series between the Mets and St. Louis Cardinals had been a much closer affair than expected. The Mets, who had won 97 games in the regular season, won the first game 2-0 and held a ninth inning lead in Game Two before closer Billy Wagner surrendered the lead and let the 83 win Cardinals back in the series. After the Cards won two of three in St. Louis, the Mets won Game Six at Shea as John Maine out-dueled Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter to tie the series at three. The victory forced a winner take all Game Seven at Shea on October 19 and the Mets were forced to send Oliver Perez to the mound against veteran righty Jeff Suppan.
The Moment: The game started out as a tight affair with both sides picking up a run early to knot the game at one. The score remained that way into the top of the sixth inning, when it appeared as if Perez had run out of gas. With one out and one on in the top of the sixth, Perez faced Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen. Perez hung a slider and Rolen crushed it for what appeared to be a home run to everyone in the park except left fielder Endy Chavez. Chavez, who had been playing left after Cliff Floyd aggravated an injury in the series' first game, leapt and brought the ball back into the park to rob Rolen of a go-ahead home run. Chavez then had the presence of mind to immediately fire the ball back to the infield to double up Edmonds, ending the inning and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Chavez's leap re-ignited the crowd and, fittingly, occurred right in front of an insurance ad that featured the phrase "The Strength to be There".
The Aftermath: The momentum of the catch carried over into the bottom of the frame as the Mets loaded the bases against Suppan with one out. The Mets failed to capitalize as Jose Valentin struck out and Chavez flew out to center to leave the bases loaded. The game remained tied until the top of the ninth inning, when Yadier Molina homered off of Aaron Heilman to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. The Mets would end up loading the bases again in the bottom of the ninth, but Carlos Beltran infamously took a wicked curveball from Adam Wainwright to strike out looking and end the Mets' remarkable season on a sour note.
In Hindsight: In many ways, Endy Chavez's catch was the peak of the ride for the mid 2000's Mets. The game proved to be the last playoff game in the history of Shea Stadium. The Mets themselves have not made the playoffs since 2006, notoriously choking late September leads in both 2007 and 2008. Carlos Beltran also was never perceived the same again after this game, as many Mets fans would never forgive him for not lifting the bat off his shoulders on that curveball from Wainwright. Two often overlooked failures in that game would prove to cost the Mets dearly: Jose Valentin's strikeout in the bottom of the sixth (he would have driven in a run as long as he put the ball in play) and Willie Randolph's decision to pinch hit a clearly gimpy Cliff Floyd with no one out in the ninth inning. Floyd hadn't played since Game One, but Randolph sent him to the plate in hopes of having Floyd do his best Kirk Gibson impression and win the series with a home run. Floyd ended up striking out looking, leaving runners at first and second instead of having someone move the runners over to second and third.
In retrospect, the moment (while memorable) is tarnished by the fact that the Mets did not win the game. If the Mets had gone on to the World Series, they would have likely beaten a Detroit Tigers squad that looked overmatched by the Cardinals. A World Series victory in 2006 would have elevated Chavez's play in postseason lore to a similar stature as Willie Mays' over the shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series. Chavez's catch would also be a lot higher on this list (possibly even number one) if the Mets had gone on to win their third championship. Unfortunately for Mets fans, the catch serves as a bittersweet reminder of how far the Mets have fallen.
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