In 1969, the Phillies won just 63 times, finishing a whopping 37 games out of first place. They had finished first merely twice before in their century-spanning history, and they wouldn't sniff that spot again for another seven years. The Mets, meanwhile, were busy making miracles.
The odds that such magic might repeat itself in 2009, though, are growing slim -- slimmer still after Saturday evening's 4-1 Mets loss to the Phillies at Citi Field.
On this night, the Mets celebrated their 1969 ancestors. But they could not emulate them.
For five innings, Tim Redding channeled his inner Tom Seaver, allowing one hit and exceeding his prescribed limit by about a dozen pitches. And that took some doing.
Coming into the game, Redding had been throwing largely in relief, forcing pitching coach Dan Warthen to suggest a pitch count of 60 to 70. Bargaining his way up to 80, Redding finished his night after 81.
He was admittedly gassed, and he had a right to be. In what's been a rather disappointing season, Redding delivered five of his finest innings.
"It's funny how this game works out sometimes," he said. "The days you feel the best, and you're commanding all your pitches for the most part, are the days the leash is on you."
Redding struck out four and walked three, adding to his remarkable recent run of success against the Phillies. Dating back to last April, Redding is 3-1 with a 3.07 ERA against one of the most feared offenses in the game. Over that same span, he is 8-14 with a 5.71 mark against everyone else.
"I thought he was outstanding," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He gave us much more than we expected or anticipated. We would have loved to have went with him another inning."
The Mets, though, could not, and that's what caused their fall. Immediately upon entering in the sixth, reliever Pat Misch (0-1) walked Shane Victorino -- the game's key moment, according to Manuel. The next batter, Chase Utley, blasted a two-run homer around the right-field foul pole, and the Mets offense was not heard from again.
The Phillies added another run off Sean Green later that inning, then a fourth off Pedro Feliciano in the eighth.
More than anything, though, the Mets were flummoxed by rookie left-hander J.A. Happ. After Omir Santos singled home Jeff Francoeur in the second inning, the Mets proceeded quietly for the remainder of Happ's seven innings. And the Phillies bullpen remained stout.
The Mets (57-66), overmatched in this down season, lost for the sixth time in their past seven games against the Phillies (70-50).
"He's a legit pitcher," Manuel said of Happ, whose 10-2 record has him in prime contention for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. "He got accustomed to being in the big leagues and he's performed very well for them. He's a good pitcher."
Redding, too, was a fine pitcher for five innings -- and the Mets can do little at this point but concentrate on such positives. Earlier Saturday, Manuel thought that Billy Wagner might provide a similar spark -- but on second check, Wagner was unavailable. He thought Gary Sheffield might also provide a boost, but Sheffield has gone 1-for-9 with three strikeouts, two popups and two double plays since asking out of Thursday's lineup.
And so in a game that saw the Mets use seven pitchers and walk eight batters, Redding provided the brightest light. Plopped into the rotation after the team released Livan Hernandez earlier this week, Redding did his best to justify that decision. In future outings, his pitch count will not be so strict.
As it was, Redding and the Mets had to make due. Prior to the game, the right-hander admitted that four innings would be "realistic," five innings would constitute "a good job," and anything more than that would be "extraordinary." In retrospect, then, call it a job well done.
"I kept my team close," Redding said. "That was all I was really trying to do today."
It could have been good enough for a victory, but it was not. And so instead, Redding's Saturday highlight came earlier in the day, just after the 1969 Mets festivities, when he crossed paths with Nolan Ryan and Seaver on his way out of the bullpen.
Redding, who had grown friendly with Ryan while playing for the Double-A Round Rock team that the Hall of Famer owned, shook both hands. And then Seaver, who knows a thing or two about success, told the Mets starter to go out and "have one of those nights."
"And I almost did," Redding said. "I almost had one of those nights."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less