While watching the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX, I couldn’t help but think back to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.
When Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks made a miraculous catch at the five yard line – the ball bouncing off of his leg, body and into his arms – I instantly thought of Endy Chavez, who ironically played for the Seattle Mariners last season. The Seahawks were on shaky ground, at midfield with time running out in their quest for a second straight title. When Kearse made his catch, you felt there was no way the Seahawks could lose. As a Mets fan, though, I had seen this before.
2006 seemed like it would be the Mets’ year, but injuries forced them to turn to Oliver Perez to start the biggest game of the season. Perez, acquired at the trade deadline in July, may have been the worst Game 7 starter in postseason history. Even if you somehow ignored his 3-13 regular season record, you couldn’t ignore that he was freaking Oliver Perez. To his credit, Perez did all the Mets could have asked of him, holding the Cardinals to just one run as he pitched into the sixth inning.
With one out in the sixth and the game tied at 1, Scott Rolen came up with a runner on first. Rolen hit a drive to left field that seemed like a sure goner. Endy Chavez, only starting himself due to an injury to Cliff Floyd, raced back to the wall, leaped, and somehow brought Rolen’s ball back into the yard. Instead of being down 3-1, Chavez’s catch started an inning-ending double play that had Shea Stadium rocking. When Endy “saved the day” (as Gary Cohen put it), most watching figured there was no way that the Mets could lose this game. The Mets would put a few runs on the board, Billy Wagner and the pen would nail down the final outs, and the Mets would be on their way to Detroit.
Except that didn’t happen.
The Mets left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, and didn’t threaten the next two innings. Aaron Heilman gave up a two run bomb to Yadier Molina, and the Mets went into the bottom of the ninth down 3-1. The Mets put the first two runners on base, and then loaded the bases with two outs for Carlos Beltran. We all know how that ended.
Why in the world did Pete Carroll and the Seahawks call a pass play? Why didn’t Beltran swing? These questions – and the catches that became footnotes in heartbreaking losses – will have Seahawks and Mets fans wondering what could have been, or what should have been, for years to come.