The Mets’ 2016 season was an unexpected ride. For a long time, it seemed like they were going to struggle to defend their National League pennant, and it took a late charge at the end to simply reach the Wild Card game. Although it was ultimately step back from 2015, it certainly had its share of unforgettable highlights and tremendously entertaining games.
I took the data from all 163 of the Mets’ games, put it into the Mearntron Personal Opinion Machine, and produced this 100 percent accurate ranking of the best Mets games–not necessarily moments–from 2016. The science was foolproof, so trust it.
April 5: Thor’s thesis statement
May 7: Bartolo dong
June 21: Bullpen picks up Bart against KC
August 29: Yo goes yard to beat the Fish
April 29: Offense explodes in record 12-run inning
In the 54-year history of the Mets, there had never been an inning quite like the bottom of the third on April 29 against the Giants. The 10-run frame in 2000 finished off by Mike Piazza’s blast remained the pinnacle of scoring.
It all started innocently enough, as it was a scoreless game, and Jake Peavy had issued back-to-back walks. That obviously was not good, but it hardly portended an enormous inning. Michael Conforto doubled home the first run. Then Yoenis Cespedes brought the two runners home with a single up the middle. Lucas Duda walked, and on a 1-2 count, Neil Walker lifted an RBI double down the right field line to make it 4-0.
Now it was ugly, so Bruce Bochy called on Mike Broadway to make what would unsurprisingly be his last MLB appearance of the season. Asdrubal Cabrera greeted him by roping his second pitch into the left-center field gap for a two-run double. It briefly calmed down when Kevin Plawecki merely walked and Steven Matz struck out on a bunt attempt. Then it turned to chaos again with three straight singles and finally a grand slam by Cespedes to set the franchise record. Like the previous record with Piazza, it was fitting that the Mets’ biggest star capped the inning.
12 runs. One out. Broadway was dark that night—a little bit weaker than he used to be.
- September 17: The Curtis Granderson Show
It should not be a secret that I love Curtis Granderson. He is just a productive, kind, level-headed dude (outside of moon landing theories) who has very quietly produced a near-300 homer, 41 WARP career in essentially 12 seasons. The four-year, $60 million contract he signed prior to 2014 did seem a bit higher than expected at the time despite the back-to-back 40-homer seasons in pinstripes, but it’s hard to say that he hasn’t been worth it.
When Granderson was a Yankee, he watched in the 2012 ALDS as, down to their final outs in Game 3, Raul Ibanez tied the game with a solo shot and then walked it off with another dinger in the bottom of the 11th. Four years later, Granderson pulled off another Ibanez act.
The Mets held a Wild Card spot at the time, but they were still in a tight race with the Giants and Cardinals. They had a cushy schedule and needed to take advantage of every opportunity. September 17 offered that, as they faced the worst team in baseball, the Twins. Inexplicably, Minnesota’s pitching shut them down through seven, and they needed an RBI single by Cespedes in the eighth to simply force extra innings.
Then in the 11th, the Twins took the lead on a solo homer by surging rookie Byron Buxton off Hansel Robles. Leading off the home half, Granderson answered it against closer Brandon Kintzler with one of his own, knotting the game again at 2-2. One inning later, Granderson had another opportunity, this time with southpaw Ryan O’Rourke fresh in the game to face him with two outs. It didn’t matter. Granderson took him deep down the right field line for the walk-off winner. Without him that night, the Mets would have had another loss.
- July 17: Jacob deGrom’s one-hit masterpiece
There is not too much to say about this game, even though it ranks third here. Jacob deGrom was just phenomenal. The Phillies had no chance.
In the bottom of the third, opposing pitcher Zach Eflin singled just past deGrom’s reaching attempt to his side. In the top of the eighth, Ryan Howard worked a walk. Both outcomes were unlikely, but so it goes. Regardless, those were the only two baserunners to reach against deGrom on this absurdly good night.
deGrom dazzled with his two-seamer and changeup, striking out seven and inducing 11 ground balls. When he fanned Odubel Herrera to end it, it marked his first career complete game and shutout, and the Mets’ first since R.A. Dickey in June 2012. It’s just a shame that deGrom was unable to finish his season due to injury.
- September 13: The hero is … T.J. Rivera?
At the end of the MLB Draft in 2011, Troy University’s T.J. Rivera did not have a team. Over 1,500 players were selected in the 50 rounds of drafting beforehand, ranging from Travious Relaford to Kash Kalkowski. Yet nobody wanted the rights to Rivera. He had a connection though, as former coach Mackey Sasser recommended Rivera to a Mets scout, saying he was worth a flier. So they signed him as an undrafted free agent.
Five years later, this low-risk signing improbably paid off, as Walker’s injury opened the door for the 27-year-old Rivera, who worked his way through the system and finally made his MLB debut in August. He played on and off for about a month until getting the start in a crucial game against the NL East-leading Nationals on September 13.
It was shaping up to be an agonizing night for the Mets faithful, as a brilliant 10-strikeout outing over seven innings by Syndergaard was wasted when Jeurys Familia coughed up the 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth. An error by Jose Reyes at third base and a flurry of singles led to two runs, and with Anthony Rendon in scoring position and none out, it took everything Familia had to work through Ryan Zimmerman and Clint Robinson. He got a lineout from Zimmerman and then a line drive double play off the bat of Robinson.
Having survived the close call, the Mets came to bat again in the 10th. In came Nationals closer Mark Melancon, a smart trade deadline acquisition who vastly improved the back of the bullpen from the likes of Jonathan Papelbon. This was not someone who typically faltered. With one out, Rivera was down 0-2. After pumping two fastballs in, Melancon tried a cutter, but it dipped over the heart of the plate. Rivera destroyed it for his first career homer.
The Nationals Park fans were stunned. The inning ended shortly thereafter, but Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins combined to shut Washington down in the home half of the 10th. A Daniel Murphy strikeout iced it, and the Mets won 4-3. T.J. Rivera, man.
- September 22: Asdrubal Cabrera to the rescue
This is indisputable. September 22, 2016 will go down as one of the best Mets games of all time.
Once again, this was the heat of the Wild Card chase with the pressure on to win just about every game. It was another good matchup for the Mets, as the Phillies weren’t exactly intimidating.
Unfortunately, this was still a back-and-forth affair. Granderson crushed an Adam Morgan pitch for a two-run homer in the second. The Phillies got a run back, and then Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp went back-to-back off Seth Lugo. Cespedes tied it back up with an RBI single, and two innings later, gave the Mets a 4-3 lead in the seventh with an RBI double.
Terry Collins felt comfortable handing that advantage to setup man Addison Reed. Two runners reached on infield grounders though, and Maikel Franco unloaded on a full count pitch to right-center field, a three-run bomb to put the Phillies up, 6-4. It seemed bleak until the struggling Jeanmar Gomez faced Reyes with two outs to go in the ninth. A two-run bomb tied it up once more!
Familia threw a perfect 10th and tried to get through a second inning unscathed to no avail. An RBI single and then a bases-loaded walk off Jim Henderson put the Phillies back in front by two, sapping the energy at Citi Field. On the bright side, the Phillies’ 2016 nature kicked in, as they had no one else to turn to in the bullpen to close it out except for rookie Edubray Ramos—a decent arm, but no Ken Giles.
With one out, Conforto pinch-hit for Henderson and walked on four pitches. Reyes followed with a smash to left just out of the reach of shortstop Freddy Galvis. That set the stage for Cabrera. On a 1-0 pitch, Cabrera demolished Ramos’ pitch for a three-run homer, chucked the bat in joy, and threw his hands in the air. It was an iconic image, one for the ages.
Photo Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports