Living on the edge
Mets learning to deal with must-wins -- every day
Posted: Tuesday October 19, 1999 08:07 PM
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
ATLANTA -- If any team ever has learned how to deal with the big game -- backs-against-the-wall, no-tomorrow, must-have, do-or-die big games -- it's these New York Mets.
The question now, as they ready for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves, is if all the comebacks and all the dramatics that the Mets trade on have become even too much for the Amazin's to handle.
"I don't know if it's any easier," first baseman John Olerud admitted as he stood around the batting cage warming up before Game 6, another win-or-go-home game for the Mets. "You just go out there and play and do the best you can. But every play's a big play, every at-bat a big at-bat. There's not really any time to relax."
The Mets haven't had time to kick back since late September, when they had a chance to move into first place in the NL East and instead got swept by the Braves in Atlanta.
That started a late-season free fall that forced them to get some help to even get into a wild-card playoff. They won that game, beating the Cincinnati Reds, and now have staved off elimination twice with wins in Games 4 and 5 of the NLCS after the Braves took a 3-0 lead.
The Mets are doing their best to keep things loose before the games. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, sporting a Mets cap, walked around Turner Field on Tuesday night shaking hands. Veteran Bobby Bonilla kept things loose, joking with teammate Shawon Dunston and former Cub Andre Dawson. Even super-intense manager Bobby Valentine tried to crack a few jokes with general manager Steve Phillips and Tuesday's starting pitcher, Al Leiter.
Jerry Seinfeld shares a light moment with New York pitcher John Franco before the start of Game 6. AP
But there have been rumblings out of the clubhouse about players butting heads with the iron-fisted Valentine, and outfielder Rickey Henderson and reliever Turk Wendell trading barbs in the New York papers over Henderson's effort, or lack of it.
Is the pressure of six weeks of critical games getting to the Mets? Or is this becoming simply "a way of life" for the Mets, as former St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith, now an analyst for the CNN/Sports Illustrated television network, says it is?
"That's just the way the playoffs are," Olerud said.
If there is a Game 7 -- and no team down 0-3 in the postseason ever has forced a seventh game -- the Mets will send Rick Reed to the mound to face Atlanta's Tom Glavine. Before Game 6, Reed talked to a small group of reporters on the field about a game that may never happen.
"I'm going to approach it the same way -- like there is a tomorrow," Reed said. "You can't take the attitude that there isn't. And I think there is a tomorrow.
"And I think they'll be more after that."
With that bit of bravado, Reed was off to join his teammates. For at least one more game.
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