NEW YORK — We talked yesterday and this morning about how dire a thing it is to be down 0-2 and, heaven forbid, 0-3 in a World Series. And, to be sure, most Mets fans are walking around with a knot in their stomach over how bad things have started out for them.
But rather than dwell on the negatives of that predicament, let’s think positively. For, as many have noted, teams have come back from being down 0-2 before. Indeed, the last two teams to do it called New York their home.
1986: From Snoozer to Thriller
The 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and Mets started out a decent bit like this one. Game 1 was close and Game 2 a six-run blowout. It wasn’t exactly the same, of course. Boston’s Bruce Hurst absolutely dominated the Mets in the opener so they never had the chances this year’s club had in Game 1. Whether that makes you feel better or worse about the current club’s lot is probably a matter of taste. Personally, I think the 1986 team had a much bigger reason to feel demoralized after the first game. That team had a hell of an offensive attack — they lead the NL in offense that year — and it was totally neutralized.
That year’s Game 2 had at least a little in common with Game 2 on Wednesday, at least if you squinted a little. Johnny Cueto is no 1986 Roger Clemens so his facing off versus Jacob deGrom was not billed as a matchup for the ages, but deGrom can fill the Dwight Gooden role well enough, at least insofar as he is the best of the Mets’ young aces. But, as was the case in 1986, the young ace was not on his game and the opposition took advantage. The Mets left New York and headed for Boston that year having to have thought that they had fired their best shots but missed.
Everything changed in Game 3, however, when the Mets were jump-started by Lenny Dykstra’s leadoff homer, after which they put up three more in the first inning. Yordano Ventura is a demonstrative, colorful and arguably excitable guy. Can this year’s Mets team get to him early like the 1986 edition did against the demonstrative, colorful and excitable Oil Can Boyd? If they do, we’re back to a competitive World Series by 9pm this evening, just as we were back in 1986. The gloom of the past two days lifted.
1996: The Birth of the Yankees Dynsasty
Ten years later the other New York team found themselves in the same boat, down 0-2 to the Braves. We think of the late 90s Yankees as some inevitable juggernaut and the 1990s Braves as the team that couldn’t win the big one, but at the time the Derek Jeter Yankees hadn’t won anything yet and the Braves were the reigning World Series champions. Having been utterly blown out in a 12-1 Game 1 and then shut out 4-0 by Greg Maddux and Mark Wohlers in Game 2, there was every reason in the world to write off the Yankees. And those of us who are old enough to remember that Series vividly remember the Yankees being written off by many, many people.
Everyone remembers Jim Leyritz hitting his dramatic homer in Game 4 which totally broke the Braves’ back, but Game 3 is what Mets fans should be thinking about today. There David Cone put up a gutsy, solid performance and the Yankees’ then-moribund offense manufactured a couple of early runs — one by taking advantage of a Braves’ error — to get to Tom Glavine. Mariano Rivera wasn’t yet MARIANO RIVERA and he gave up a run in the setup role, but the Yankees held on. It wasn’t a terribly dramatic game. It had little excitement to it, really. But it was baseball survival at its best. Doing little things, getting a little good luck and simply not folding. The next night Leyritz would jump on that Mark Wohlers slider (A slider?! Why a slider?! ARRGH!) and the dynasty would be born, but Game 4 would arguably have been academic if the Yankees didn’t hang tough in Game 3.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but as the 1986 Mets and 1996 Yankees showed, it doesn’t take much to change the momentum in the third game of a seven game series. One big inning. A few balls bouncing in your direction. Just some ordinary plays in what, all of the pomp and circumstance of the World Series notwithstanding, is still an ordinary baseball game.