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The last time the Mets played a winner-take-all game

New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter, right, places

New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter, right, places a hat filled with champagne on the head of manager Bobby Valentine, left, in the locker room after the Mets defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, Monday, Oct. 4, 1999, in Cincinnati. Photo Credit: AP / DAVID KOHL

In their most hopeful dreams, the Mets can envision themselves having the same kind of night on Wednesday as they had in their only other stand-alone, winner-take-all game. It was Oct. 4, 1999, and the Mets thoroughly handled the Reds, 5-0.

That was not a playoff game, as the one against the Giants at Citi Field will be. The contest in Cincinnati 17 years ago was technically a regular-season game held to break a tie and determine which of the two 96-66 teams would advance to the postseason. But the stakes and intensity were the same as they will be in the wild card game. Someone will be as happy as the Mets were back then.

Whether either of the two ace starting pitchers can top what Al Leiter did 17 years ago Tuesday is another matter. The Mets lefthander pitched a complete-game two-hitter, receiving all the support he needed in the top of the first on Edgardo Alfonzo’s two-run home run.

Aaron Boone, who is here in Queens to work the playoff game for ESPN, was the Reds’ third baseman then and jokingly said on Tuesday that he didn’t want to think about that night. But he instantly remembered everything about it, including the score.

“One of my memories of that game was, I remember going to the park that day and just knowing we were going to win. To have it go that way, early and often…” Boone said during workout day Tuesday. “I didn’t like facing Al Leiter any night. He was definitely on that night. Obviously when he was great his cutter was a great pitch. He had it going that night. Alfonzo got them off on a good note. It was just one of those nights.”

The Mets went on to beat the Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series, then lost to the Braves in a memorable National League Championship Series (featuring Robin Ventura’s “grand single”). A year later, the Mets made it to the World Series against the Yankees.

Boone, of course, had a much better experience in a decisive game in 2003, when his walk-off home run in Game 7 against the Red Sox won a pennant for the Yankees.


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