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Thursday, July 17
Armando Benitez top 10 meltdowns

By Mark Kelly
ESPN Research

1. World Series, 2000: Game 1 at Yankees
In a memorable Game 1 of the first Subway Series in 44 years, the Mets take a 3-2 lead into the ninth with Armando Benitez on the hill. After getting Jorge Posada to fly out to center, a half-crippled Paul O'Neill has the at-bat of the Series, fouling off multiple two-strike pitches before working out a walk. Benitez then allows back-to-back singles to Luis Polonia and Jose Vizcaino, before a Chuck Knoblauch sacrifice fly ties the game. Derek Jeter strikes out to end the inning, but the Mets lose 4-3 in 12 innings.


2. NLDS, 2000: Game 2 at San Francisco
After watching Al Leiter throw a masterful eight innings, Benitez is brought in to protect a 4-1 lead with Barry Bonds on second and none out in the ninth. After allowing a single to Jeff Kent and getting Ellis Burks to fly to right, J.T. Snow hits the first pinch-hit home run of his career, tying the game and sending Pac Bell park into a frenzy.

3. NLCS, 1999: Game 6 at Atlanta
After pitching a scoreless ninth and watching the Mets go-ahead in the top of the 10th, Benitez allows a game-tying single to Ozzie Guillen. The Braves go on to win the game and advance to the World Series the next inning, when Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run.

4. ALCS, 1996: Game 1 at Yankees
In a moment that made Jeffrey Maier a star, Benitez is summoned in the eighth inning to protect a 4-3 lead. Derek Jeter lofts a fly ball to right that appears to be playable. Just as right-fielder Tony Tarasco reaches up to make the catch, the 12-year-old boy from Old Tappan, N.J. reaches over the right-field wall, pulling the ball into the stands. Right-field umpire Rich Garcia immediately rules the ball a home run, tying the game. The Orioles eventually lose in the 11th inning on a Bernie Williams' homer.

5. ALCS, 1997: Game 2 vs. Cleveland
Coming on in the eighth inning with a 4-2 lead, the right-hander issues two walks, vigorously protesting the second one after it appears pinch-hitter Jim Thome went around on a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Marquis Grissom followed with a three-run shot over the center-field wall, handing Benitez just his second blown save of the season.

6. NLDS, 1999: Game 4 vs. Arizona
After arriving late to Shea Stadium minutes before the National Anthem, Benitez comes on with two out and two on in the eighth, trying to protect a 2-1 Mets' lead. Benitez allows a two-run go-ahead double by Jay Bell, and a single to Matt Williams, but is bailed out when Melvin Mora throws out Bell at the plate to end the inning.

7. Sept. 23, 2001 vs. Atlanta
After being 13 games back on Aug. 18, the Mets go 22-5 over the next 27 games to move within 3½ games with a chance to inch a closer as Benitez enters in the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead over first-place Atlanta. After allowing a lead-off walk, Benitez settles down to retire the next two batters. Brian Jordan's two-run homer cuts the lead to one, and after allowing a walk to pinch-hitter Dave Martinez and a single to Andruw Jones, B.J. Surhoff ties the game with a single. The Braves go on to win the game in 11th inning on Jordan's second home run of the game.

8. Sept. 29, 2001 at Atlanta
After surviving the meltdown of a week earlier, the Mets rally to win three of the next four games and have a chance to pull within three games. New York takes a 5-1 lead into the ninth. After a lead-off walk and a strikeout, Javy Lopez singled in Andruw Jones to cut the lead to 5-2. Benitez then gets Dave Martinez to ground out and was again one out from victory. Benitez then allowed a walk and a two-run double to Marcus Giles before being replaced by John Franco, who after walking two, allowed a game-winning grand slam to Brian Jordan.

9. June 22, 2003 vs. Yankees
Suffering through a miserable season, the Mets hope to provide a bright spot by defeating their crosstown rivals. Jason Phillips' two-out RBI single gives the Mets a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth inning. After allowing a lead-off walk to Jason Giambi, Benitez gets Raul Mondesi and Todd Zeile to fly out sandwiched around a Hideki Matsui walk. Benitez then walks pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra on four pitches to load the bases. The Mets closer then goes to a full count on pinch-hitter Jorge Posada before walking him to tie the game. The Mets would lose the game in 11 innings.

10. June 14, 2002 vs. Yankees
The Mets take a 2-1 lead into the ninth in a series-opening game against the Yankees. After striking out Shane Spencer, Benitez allows a ground-rule double to Marcus Thames. Benitez then gets Alfonso Soriano on a deep fly to left and needed one more out to preserve the win. Derek Jeter steps to the plate 0-for-7 with six strikeouts lifetime against Benitez, but singles to center to tie the game. Adding insult to injury, former Met Robin Ventura's two-run homer in the 10th gives the Yankees the win.

Mark Kelly is a ESPN researcher. He can be reached at

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