After a resoundingly successful road trip, the Dodgers return to Elysian Park to square off against the New York Mets. With the Amazins currently at .500 and in the middle of the NL East standings, the series doesn’t necessarily carry any urgency. But since we’ll be hosting the orange and blue for four games, it’s a perfect time to dive into the history these teams share via the regular season, postseason and player trades.
Regular Season Head-to-Head
Since the Mets are an expansion franchise, commencing operation in 1962 (the year Dodger Stadium opened no less), they don’t have a terribly long history squaring off. Going into tonight’s game, they’ve met 612 times, the Dodgers winning 341 of them and the Mets taking 270. That translates to a .558 winning percentage for L.A., with winning records both at Dodger Stadium and on the road at Shea Stadium and Citi Field. This isn’t too surprising, given the many lean periods the Mets have endured between their periodic years of playoff and World Series relevance.
Perhaps the most memorable regular season games were in May 2016. Chase Utley’s first appearance at Citi Field after the 2015 NLDS (detailed below) was met with hostility from the fans and even the Mets themselves, with Noah Syndergaard throwing a pitch behind him in the first game.
Unfazed by the boos, Utley launched a grand slam in the second game to continue his torment of the Mets and their fans.
The franchises have an extensive history of trading with one another, going back to the Mets’ first years. In April 1963, New York purchased Duke Snider’s contract from Los Angeles, adding to the team’s image as a spiritual successor to the recently departed Brooklyn Dodgers. Indeed, for many years, exiled fans of Dem Bums could be found in the stands at Shea Stadium.
In December 1987, the Oakland Athletics joined in for a three-team trade that would ultimately shape the entire 1988 postseason. The A’s received Bob Welch and Matt Young from Los Angeles, while the Dodgers also sent Jack Young to the Mets. Oakland shipped Alfredo Griffin and Jay Howell to L.A., and Kevin Tapani and Wally Whitehurst to New York. Finally, Jesse Orosco was flipped from NYM to LAD. Of course, the Dodgers would win the trade by beating the other two in October 1988 (detailed later in this piece).
A lion’s share of their most noteworthy trades occurred in 1998. The first was on June 4, when Los Angeles sent their eminent pitcher of the era, Hideo Nomo, to toe the rubber at Shea Stadium (along with Brad Clontz) in exchange for Greg McMichael and Dave Mlicki. However, McMichael would be flipped back to the Mets in July for Brian Bohanon. The most fateful ‘98 deal was when the Mets flipped Mel Rojas to Los Angeles for Bobby Bonilla, a move they ultimately are still paying for.
As of this writing, their most recent trade was in August 2017, when the Mets sent outfielder Curtis Granderson and cash to Los Angeles to provide a veteran depth piece for the playoffs. However, Granderson was unable to replicate his 2015 Mets postseason heroics, being perhaps the biggest non-factor on the Dodgers roster the rest of the season and in October.
The biggest move that links the Mets and Dodgers, though, wasn’t a direct trade. That was also in 1998, when the Dodgers controversially traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins. Just a week after that, he was dealt to the Mets, where he spent most of the rest of his Hall of Fame career. Just two years later in 2000, he played in the World Series that eluded him in Los Angeles. When he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, he chose to sport the interlocking NY on his plaque.
Without a doubt, the most unforgettable moments between these two clubs have come in October. The first was the 1988 NLCS, a white-knuckle seven-game battle that likely shaped the course of baseball history as we know it.
Going into the series, no one would expect anything that superlative. The Mets, two years removed from their rowdy 1986 championship, had won 100 games and were a sound bet to match the AL’s powerhouse, the Oakland Athletics, in the World Series. The Dodgers, winners of 94 games, boasted an overwhelmingly mediocre roster. Predictably, the Mets had destroyed them in the regular season, winning 10 of 11 meetings and outscoring L.A. 49-18.
Game one at Dodger Stadium seemed a harbinger of more of the same, with the Mets rallying for 3 runs in the ninth for a 3-2 victory. The Dodgers took game 2, but game 3 at Shea Stadium was another come-from-behind win for the Mets.
It was game 4 when this series morphed into a classic for the ages. Dwight Gooden stifled the Dodgers all game long, and was 3 outs away from securing a 4-2 win and 3-1 series lead in the ninth. After an uncharacteristic leadoff walk to John Shelby, catcher Mike Scioscia stepped up to face Gooden. He promptly deposited the first pitch over the right field wall to tie the game.
Yet that was just the beginning. The game went on into extras, with Kirk Gibson jacking a solo shot off Roger McDowell for a 5-4 L.A. lead in the 12th. However, Dodgers closer Jay Howell had been suspended for 3 games for pine tar use, leading to a shaky bottom half. Jesse Orosco loaded the bases with one out, only to get the second out after a profane lashing from Tommy Lasorda. It would fall to Orel Hershiser, one day removed from a 7-inning start, to secure the final out and tie the series 2-2.
The Dodgers wrapped up the series at home on a complete game shutout by Hershiser in game 7, and went on to beat the Athletics for the sixth championship in franchise history. The Mets, meanwhile, never lived up to their dynasty promise, and wouldn’t taste the postseason again until 1999. Were it not for Scioscia’s home run, it’s reasonable to wonder how things might have turned out instead.
The two clubs wouldn’t meet again on the big stage until the 2006 NLDS. Similar to ‘88, the Mets were the undisputed behemoth of the National League, while the Dodgers were plucky underdogs. One hope Los Angeles had was that New York’s lineup was lefty-heavy, thus maximizing use of their southpaw relief ace, Joe Beimel. One problem: Beimel, in violation of manager Grady Little’s curfew, sliced his pitching hand while trying to catch a broken beer bottle at a bar. Thus, he sat out the entire series.
Still, the Dodgers had a chance to win game one, and threatened in the top of the second. Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew led off with back-to-back singles, and Russell Martin roped a double to right. However, right fielder Shawn Green played it perfectly and fired a laser to Jose Valentin, who quickly relayed it to Paul Lo Duca at home. Kent was tagged for the first out, but then Lo Duca wheeled around to also tag out Drew, who had inexplicably blown past third base coach Rich Donnelly.
While early, those two missed runs proved the difference in the game. The Mets ultimately won 6-5, tagging reliever Brad Penny with the deciding runs in the seventh. The worst part? Every single Mets fielder involved in the infamous relay was an ex-Dodger. Because of course they were.
After that, it wasn’t even a series. The Mets made easy work in game two 4-1, then finished the sweep in Los Angeles by tagging Jonathan Broxton for a 9-5 comeback win. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last (or most painful) time Dodger fans would have to endure Jonathan Broxton coming up short in October. But we’ll get to that later this week.
The trilogy bout came in the 2015 NLDS, a much more taut and evenly matched affair than the ‘06 one. It was a battle of aces, with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw head and shoulders above the rest of the league (save for Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta). But the Mets’ rotation was deeper, with Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz considered better than the ‘90s Braves rotation by John Smoltz himself.
Appropriately, it was starting pitching that decided each game. DeGrom out-dueled Clayton Kershaw in game one, striking out 13 while Daniel Murphy clubbed a solo home run (soon to be a painfully familiar sight) to key a 3-0 victory. Game two was an equally intense battle between Greinke and Syndergaard, with L.A. ultimately prevailing in a 5-2 comeback win. But that comeback was mired in controversy, as it hinged on Chase Utley’s ruthless slide into shortstop Ruben Tejada to break up a double play in the seventh. It worked, but Tejada’s right fibula was broken in the process.
The series now had an emotional angle heading back to Flushing, the Mets inspired to win for their fallen shortstop. After Utley was heartily booed at Citi Field during pregame intros, the Mets’ bats exposed the thin back end of the Dodgers rotation. Brett Anderson was torched for 6 runs, lasting just three innings. Scheduled #4 starter Alex Wood came on in relief and surrendered a 3-run blast by Yoenis Cespedes that could have collapsed the upper deck harder than Thanos.
The Mets won easily 13-7, and now led the series 2-1. With Wood burned in relief, there was no choice but to throw out Kershaw on short rest in game 4. The ghosts of his short rest demise at the hands of Matt Adams one year prior still looming large, Kershaw responded with a redemptive gem. He managed to purge his seventh inning jinx with eight strikeouts and just 3 hits and a run allowed in 7 IP. His lone run allowed was, of course, a Daniel Murphy solo blast in a season-saving 3-1 win.
Unfortunately, Kershaw’s gem was the last win of the season. In game 5 back in Los Angeles, Murphy’s Law reached its most literal incarnation. It was the top of the fourth, the Dodgers ahead 2-1, when Daniel Murphy led off with a single. The infield shifted for Lucas Duda, who walked and advanced Murphy to second. However, nobody was covering third, and Murphy took the unguarded base. He would cross the plate immediately after on a Travis d’Arnaud sac fly, tying the game 2-2.
Then, in the sixth inning, Greinke pitched from the stretch against Murphy. The slugger cleanly laced an arching flyball down the right field line for yet another home run, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead. After Jacob DeGrom finished the bottom half of the inning, Syndergaard mowed the Dodgers down in the seventh, and it was up to closer Jeurys Familia for a 6-out save. He did just that, ending the series on a flailing strikeout of Howie Kendrick. It proved to be Don Mattingly’s last playoff series as Dodgers manager.
Source confirms: Don Mattingly out as #Dodgers manager.
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) October 22, 2015
While the Dodgers’ triumph in 1988 resulted in a championship, the Mets were unable to reach that summit in 2006 and 2015. Still, New York still holds the playoff head-to-head 2-1, chiefly by taking advantage of two of the most embarrassing mistakes. At least the Dodgers can add to their sizable regular season advantage starting today!