This article was written by Thomas J. Brown Jr.
The Dodgers faced elimination in the National League Division series after losing the first two games of the series in New York. When the series continued in Los Angeles, they hoped to turn things around in the third game.
Greg Maddux started for the Dodgers. Maddux had beaten the Mets more than any other team in his long career. Of his 333 wins, 35 of the wins came against the Mets. Dodger manager Grady Little expressed confidence in Maddux when he said, “Greg Maddux is good all the time. He’s an artist out there, and he always paints a good picture.”1 Maddux joined the team in a midseason trade designed to bring a veteran pitcher to the Dodgers. After joining the Dodgers, he went 6-3 and had a 3.30 ERA. Before the game, Maddux said “When you get traded, you want to make the people that traded for you look good. [Plus i]t’s easier to go out and do the things on the other four days when you’re not pitching when your team’s in a pennant race.”2
Willie Randolph, the Mets manager, picked Steve Trachsel to take the mound. It had been a turbulent season for Trachsel. After returning from back surgery at the end of last season, he pitched a two-hitter over six innings in his first start of the 2006 season. Then he was bumped from the starting rotation and the Mets considered trading him. But he persisted, earning his way back into the rotation and eventually finished the season with a 15-8 and a 4.97 ERA. record. “I’m looking forward to him going out there and pitching a gem for us,” Randolph said. Trachsel said that he had “waited a long time for this [opportunity]. I’m trying not to approach it and make it a bigger event . . . it’s still another ballgame.”3
The Mets jumped out to the lead in in the first. After Maddux got Jose Reyes to fly out to center field, he walked Paul Lo Duca, one of four former Dodgers playing for the Mets. Maddux then gave up five consecutive singles, the last one to another former Dodger Shawn Green. By the time that he got Jose Valentin, another former Dodger, to line out to the first baseman for the final out, the score was 3-0.
In the third inning, Maddux gave up a single to Cliff Floyd. Green then hit a double for his second hit of the night and Floyd scored to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. Randolph said earlier that he was counting on Green to be an offensive factor on his return to southern California and Green did not disappoint him. Two years ago, Green was playing for the Dodgers and thinking of the postseason. Now he was playing against them. “I’d be lying if I said this didn’t mean more,” Green said later.4
Floyd had been playing well for the Mets in the postseason. He homered in the first game of the series to give the Mets their first lead. When Green’s hit bounced off the top of the left-field fence, Marlon Anderson fell as he chased the ball. Floyd saw what happened and realized that he had an opportunity to score. But as he rounded third, Floyd rolled his ankle, straining his Achilles tendon, and hobbled the rest of the way before half-sliding to score. He spent the rest of the game in the clubhouse.
The Dodger bats finally came alive in the fourth inning. Trachsel gave up a single to leadoff batter Jeff Kent. After J.D. Drew flew out to center field, the Dodgers hit three consecutive singles. Randolph had seen enough and quickly called in Darren Oliver from the bullpen. Oliver got Andre Ethier to hit a line drive for a double play but the Dodgers had gotten two runs and were only trailing by two runs.
Oliver stayed on the mound in the fifth inning. After he got the first two outs, he gave up a single to Anderson. Kent stepped to the plate and hit Oliver’s first pitch for a home run. The Mets lead vanished as the ball sailed over the outfield fence. Suddenly the game was tied. After Oliver gave up a single to Drew, Randolph went to his bullpen again, bringing in Chad Bradford.
Bradford struggled, giving up a single to Russell Martin and walking Wilson Betemit to load the bases. Randolph wasted no time in pulling him for Pedro Feliciano who walked James Loney to bring home the go-ahead run. Feliciano got pinch hitter Nomar Garciaparra to ground out for the final out of the inning. The Dodgers had been counting on Garciaparra’s presence in the lineup for the series but he had been forced to sit out the game after injuring himself two nights earlier. The Dodgers were now ahead 5-4, just the second time in the series that they had the lead.
The Dodgers had little time to celebrate. In the top of the sixth, Jonathan Broxton was pitching for the Dodgers. Green hit a leadoff double for his third hit of the game. Broxton got Valentin to fly out but then walked pinch hitter Michael Tucker. The Mets bats came alive once again and they hit three consecutive singles to score three runs. Although Broxton struck out the next two batters, the Mets reclaimed the lead 7-5.
Randolph now called on Guillermo Mota, the fourth time that he went to the bullpen in the game. Mota played for the Dodgers in 2004 and had come to the Mets in August to help bolster their bullpen. He kept the Dodgers from scoring for the next two innings before he was replaced by Aaron Heilman who pitched a scoreless eighth.
While the Mets bullpen kept the Dodgers bats in check, their offense continued to produce runs. In the seventh, Brett Tomko gave up a double to pinch hitter Chris Woodward. After getting Reyes to line out, Lo Duca singled to score Woodward. When Tomko walked Carlos Beltran, Little brought in Takashi Saito. Delgado hit a sharp line drive that the third baseman could not handle and Lo Duca scored. The Mets now lead 9-5.
“It’s a little ironic. I got a broken-bat hit, Mota throws two scoreless innings, and Shawn catches the final out of the game. If you believe in stuff like that, it’s a pretty good thing,” said Lo Duca later.5 Lo Duca, who had also played for the Dodgers in 2004, was talking about the contributions of the former Dodgers to the Mets victory.
Billy Wagner pitched the ninth. He struck out the first two batters before giving up a single to Loney. After pinch hitter Ramon Martinez hit a foul ball to Green for the final out, the Mets stormed out of the dugout to celebrate. When the team retired to the clubhouse, champagne flows as the players shout their excitement. In the midst of the party, a group of Mets players and coaches gathered together and began singing “Meet the Mets, meet the Mets,” the teams theme song.6
The Mets were a different team from the one that had finished with the best record in the National League. They had lost veteran starting pitchers Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez. The team was forced to rely on their bullpen who pitched 13 1/3 innings of the series. “We’ve been talking about our resilience all year. We don’t know any other way,” said Wagner.7
Floyd was in the clubhouse when the game ended and could not take part in the on-field celebrations. “That was sad but then they came in and gave me a big hug, and that made it all better,” he told reporters later.8
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also used the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites for box score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Brian Lewis, “Maddux Gives Dodgers a Shot in the Arm,” New York Post, October 7, 2006.
3 Brian Costello, “Steve Gets Back on Trach This Year,” New York Post, October 7, 2006.
4 Ben Shpigel, “Mettle, More Than Muscle, Fueled Mets’ Series Sweep,” New York Times, October 9, 2006.
5 Ben Shpigel, “In a bullpen battle, Mets finish off L.A.,” New York Times, October 8, 2006.
6 Ben Shpigel, “Mettle, More than Muscle.”
8 Ben Shpigel, “In a bullpen battle.”