Are you ready for the ride of your life? Here we go Mets’ faithful, Game 7 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium! I’m sure if George Gershwin were alive to see this fateful game he would change the lyrics to his famous tune, "I Got Rhythm" into a fine baseball diddy,
I got rhythm,
I got music,
I got my Mets–
Who could ask for anything more?
One certainly couldn’t have asked for anything more than what rookie pitcher John Maine gave Mets’ fans last night— an inspired, gritty, fruitful night of well placed fastballs mixed with some of the best sliders of his young career. Maine’s 5 1/3 shutout innings was the perfect antedote for a beleaguered starting staff trying to recover from the disheartening failure of their "Ace", Tom Glavine, the day before. On a night when he outpitched reigning NL Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter, on a night that can best be described as "Do or Die!", Maine was tremendous as he danced in and out of danger, making big pitch after big pitch
In the first inning, with men on second and third and one out, Maine struck out Jim Edmonds, showing a new found confidence in a slider that would bail him out time and time again. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, he whipped a fastball hard and high to get Scott Rolen to pop out to lrightfield.
Thanks to sparkplug Jose Reyes’ leadoff boomerang over the rightfield wall in the bottom of the first, the Mets had a lead Maine and the bullpen would never relinquish. After racing through the second, Maine had to dodge trouble again in the third inning. With two men on and one out, he fooled Jim Edmonds with a changeup and got him to fly to right. And then with two out, and men on first and third, he blew a high heater by Juan Encarnacion.
In the fourth inning, Maine worked around a walk while the Mets tacked on another run, thanks to a Shawn Green one-out single and Cardinals’ manager Tony Larussa’s defensive overshift.
Time and time again in this series the Cardinals had immediately answered the Mets scoring with runs of their own in the next inning, so it was crucial for Maine to shut them down in the fifth, especially with the top of the order coming up. And that’s exactly what he did. After getting David Eckstein on a tapper back to the mound, and Scott Spiezio on a pop up to center, up came the great Albert Pujols with the Mets clinging to a 2-0 lead. In the defining at bat of the night for Maine, he quickly got ahead in the count. With the Shea faithful on their feet doing their best impression of a blood thirsty crowd in the Roman Coliseum, Maine reared back and threw the best slider he’s thrown all season. All Pujols could do was wave his bat meekly over it for strike three as the crowd erupted.
A game but tiring Maine came out for the sixth. After issuing a leadoff walk to Jim Edmonds, he let loose with everything he had left in a battle with Juan Encarnacion that resulted in a fly out to left. That would be his final batter, as Willie Randolph strolled slowly to the mound. The infield surrounded Maine, the crowd roared and rose in honor of their conquering hero, and as Chad Bradford jogged in from the bullpen, Maine gave a humble wave of his hand and waltzed back to the dugout to the thunderous applause. John Maine had done his job. In fact, he had exceeded expectations. Coming into the game, even the most optimistic Mets’ fan was just hoping Maine could hold the Cards in check. But he did more than that, he shut them down. His final line— 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K’s and the Mets go on to win 4-2.
So, now the Mets live! The main event is tonight, winner takes all. Each team has played for over six months and 170 plus games to reach this climax, this lyrical one game that will decide the NL Pennant. Wherever you are Mr. Gershwin, I hope you’re watching for "Who could ask for anything