As a Met, reliever Billy Wagner established himself as “Fear Factor” for fans when they heard Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” play over the Shea Stadium sound system. But “Fear Factor” proved to be “Rollercoaster Reliever.”
Wagner finished 2006 with 40 saves and a 2.24 ERA. His performance contributed to the Mets’ first division title in 18 years. However, Wagner did not have a great post-season – he recorded 3 saves but lost one game and allowed 6 runs over 5.2 innings for a 10.38 ERA.
Wagner had a very good first half in 2007. He converted 17 of 18 save opportunities with a 1.94 ERA. In July, he recorded 8 saves in 8 chances and did not allow a run all month. His first-half performance earned him a spot on the All-Star team. His second half, however, was not as successful. Overall, he was 13-4 in save opportunities and had a 3.90 ERA. His last two months were the worst.
On September 2nd, Wagner blew a pivotal save in the fourth game of a four-game series between the Phillies and Mets, resulting in a critical four-game sweep by the Phillies that proved to be the difference, as they finished one game ahead of the Mets on the final day of the season. He had a 6.23 ERA in August and was plagued with back spasms during September.
When Wagner is summoned from the bullpen has proven to be key. Since the start of 2007, Wagner has entered games 84 times at the start of an inning, but only seven times in the middle. He is 44-for-50 in save opportunities when starting an inning, according to STATS, Inc. His ERA in those situations is 2.05 ERA, and he has allowed six homers in 88 innings. When entering in the middle of an inning, Wagner is 3-for-6 in save chances. His ERA is 7.11, and he has allowed three homers in 6 1/3 innings.
In September 2008, the Mets announced that Wagner tore the medial collateral ligament in his left elbow and his flexor pronator, would require Tommy John surgery, and he would be out for a year. The closer, who had a guaranteed contract, would be paid $10.5 million in 2009. For 2010, the Mets had a $8 million option with a $1 million buyout option.
Wagner was expected to miss the 2009 season following Tommy John surgery, but “Enter Sandman” was heard once again at Citi Field. The reliever returned in late 2009 to pitch for the Mets – making just two appearances before being shipped off to Boston Red Sox.
Wagner signed with the Atlanta Braves after the 2009 season and posted a 1.63 ERA with fanning 104 batters in 69.1 innings with 37 saves. He recorded five saves and one win against the Mets. Wagner retired from baseball after the season.
Here’s a list of some memorable pitching performances.
Wagner allows homer in ninth to rookie
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 2006
Billy Wagner allowed a game-tying homer in the ninth off the bat of rookie Ryan Zimmerman. The home run was the first of his career and the blown save was Wagner’s first as a Met.
A year and a day after two ninth-inning home runs did in Braden Looper in an Opening Day loss to the Reds, the Mets produced an unwanted variation on that theme, temporarily turning Shea Stadium into a mausoleum and its left-field wall into a wailing wall.
Jorge Julio allowed five runs in the 10th to give the Nationals a 9-5 win. Mets starter Brian Bannister allowed no hits for 5 1/3 innings, then three runs in the sixth in his MLB debut. Bannister was the pitcher of record to win before Wagner was taken deep.
Wagner allows bomb to Bonds in ninth
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26, 2006
Barry Bonds had hit the 711th home run of his career, a two-run, pinch-hit home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth against Billy Wagner, one of the premier closers in the game, to tie the score.
Wagner entered the game with 7-4 lead. Wagner allowed a single to Omar Vizquel, then fanned Jose Vizcaino and Randy Winn. Moises Alou reached second base and Vizquel scored on Mets 3B throwing error to open up the flood gates. Bonds home run tied the game. Lance Niekro struck out to end the inning.
Ramon Castro led off the 11th inning with his third hit, a single to center field against losing pitcher Scott Munter. Endy Chavez, playing too regularly now with Carlos Beltran unavailable to qualify for stealth status, advanced the plodding catcher to second with a sacrifice bunt.
Chris Woodward doubled and Castro scored all the way from second. A single by Jose Reyes drove in Woodward to take 9-7 lead. Darren Oliver shut the Giants down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 11th for the win.
Mets win in extra frames after Wagner erases Pedro’s performance
WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2006
Wagner failed, for the third time, to convert a save opportunity against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
Wagner walked his first batter, Jack Wilson. After he retired Freddy Sanchez, he walked Jason Bay. Pinch-hitter Craig Wilson struck out.
But Jose Hernandez and Ronny Paulino brought back unwanted memories of the 6-5, 10-inning, come-from-behind victory to Pirates inflicted on the Mets in Pittsburgh last July 8: each singled for a run. After a third out, Wagner’s walk to the dugout prompted sounds reminiscent of the days of Mel Rojas.
Carlos Delgado hit a home in the 12th inning to secure a 4-3 victory, to save Wagner’s face. Starter Pedro Martinez allowed 9 strikeouts over 6 innings allowing 3 hits.
Wagner loses first game with Mets
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2006
Billy Wagner was unable to convert a save opportunity for the fourth time this season and took his first loss as Met. He hadn’t allowed a run in 12 appearances (13 1/3 innings).
Wagner got the first two outs in the inning and then walked Austin Kearns and David Ross. Pinch hitter Rich Aurilia reached first on a infield single to load the bases.
Brandon Phillips hit an 0-2 pitch from Wagner into center field with two outs to score two and take 6-5 lead. Wagner finished the inning by striking out Javier Valentin.
Reds reliever Todd Coffey faced three Met batters to get the save.
Wagner blows save and loses
TUESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2006
Pinch-hitter Josh Willingham hit a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth against closer Billy Wagner in a 6-5 loss to the Marlins Tuesday night at Dolphin Stadium.
Holding a 5-4 lead, Wagner gave up a leadoff single to Miguel Olivo to open the inning. He got pinch-hitter Wes Helms on a sacrifice bunt, but he gave up the blast to Willingham on the next pitch. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Mets.
Wagner, who took his fifth blown save of the season, said that it was a pitch that just got away from him and missed its mark.
Non-save opportunity and Wagner folds
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2006
After Scott Spiezio saved the Cardinals in the seventh with a two-run triple that was nearly a home run, Taguchi hit a tiebreaking homer off closer Billy Wagner leading off a three-run ninth inning that lifted St. Louis to a 9-6 victory over New York in game 2 of NLCS.
Wagner entered with the score 6-all in the ninth. Taguchi, 0-for-5 against him in his career, fell behind in the count 0-2, fouled off a pitch, took three balls, fouled off two more and then drove a fastball from the hard-throwing Wagner over the left-field wall.
Scott Spiezio added an RBI double and scored on Juan Encarnacion’s run-scoring single off Wagner, who had earned the save in New York’s opening 2-0 win Thursday night but was booed when he walked back to the dugout after being removed with two outs.
Wagner makes game six interesting
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2006
With the Mets leading 4-0 in the 9th inning of game 6 of NLCS, Willie Randolph turned to Billy Wagner to close the door.
Wagner gave up a two-run, two-out double to So Taguchi in the ninth before retiring David Eckstein on a game-ending grounder for 4-2 win before a formerly loud crowd of 56,334 to exhale.
Burrell burns old buddy Billy
THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 2007
Pat Burrell hit a game-tying home run in the ninth off New York closer Billy Wagner, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins combined for the go-ahead run in the 10th and the Philadelphia Phillies completed a three-game sweep with a 6-3 win.
Philadelphia swept a three-game set from the Mets for the first time since September 2004.
But Burrell hit his 37th career homer against the Mets leading off the ninth against Wagner, his former teammate, to tie it at 3.
For Wagner, it snapped a string of 31 consecutive successful save opportunities. For Burrell, who’s average had fallen below .220, it was his 17th homer at Shea Stadium.
Dodgers sweep series with Mets
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2007
“Not right now. We should be very happy being where we’re at,” said Mets closer Billy Wagner, who gave up a two-run homer to James Loney in the eighth.
“I’m sure Omar (Minaya) didn’t put this team together expecting this type of play, and Fred Wilpon didn’t shell out this type of money for us to go out there and play like this.
Getting some work in a mop up role against the Dodgers, Wagner gives up 2 runs and three hits helping put the game totally out of reach at 9-1.
Wagner doesn’t escape this jam
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2007
Hanley Ramirez hit a go-ahead two-run double off Wagner in the ninth inning and the Florida Marlins rallied past the New York Mets 4-3.
Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer in his return from the disabled list, giving the Mets the 3-2 lead they handed to Wagner (1-1) in the ninth. After entering with a streak of 21 scoreless innings, he couldn’t hold it.
It was Wagner’s second blown save in 28 chances this season. The left-hander escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam to save a 4-3 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday night. He hadn’t allowed a run in 20 outings since June 15.
Billy and bullpen gives game away
THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 2007
The Mets led 7-6 in the ninth and handed the ball to Wagner, who was trying for his 30th save.
But he allowed back-to-back doubles to Khalil Greene and pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge, and Josh Bard followed with an RBI single that gave San Diego an 8-7 lead.
It was the third blown save this year for Wagner.
Adrian Gonzalez smashed a solo homer off Aaron Heilman in the 10th inning as the Padres wasted a five-run lead before beating the Mets 9-8 to take two of three from the NL East leaders.
Phillies sweep Mets
THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, 2007
Chase Utley hit an RBI single off Billy Wagner in the ninth inning and Philadelphia completed a huge sweep of first-place New York by rallying for an 11-10 victory in a back-and-forth struggle that lasted 4 hours.
Looking for his first six-out save in eight years, Wagner (2-2) gave up Burrell’s solo shot in the eighth to cut the Mets lead to 10-9.
Then immediately ran into trouble in the ninth. Jayson Werth singled, steals second, then third and scores on Tai Iguchi’s base hit to tie the game. Iguchi steals second base and then scores on Chase Utley’s single to the game 11-10.
Wright delivers in 11th after bullpen stinks it up
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2007
After the Mets took a 6-3 lead in the top of the eighth, Aaron Heilman allowed two Marlins runs in the bottom of the inning and Billy Wagner allowed Dan Uggla’s tying home run to lead off the ninth. Billy Wagner who had pitched only once since Sept. 14, because of back spasms was summoned in the ninth to protect the one-run lead.
Dan Uggla’s long leadoff homer against Wagner in the ninth tied it at 6, the latest late-season flop for New York’s overworked and ineffective bullpen.
David Wright bailed bullpen out with an RBI single in the 11th to give the Mets a 7-6 win.
Reyes throws it, Wagner Blows it
TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2008
After the Mets’ bullpen had blown a 4-2 lead for Johan Santana, who allowed just two home runs in 5 2/3 innings, the Mets rallied against Van Benschoten, Pittsburgh’s sixth pitcher, in the 11th.
The Pirates tied it in the ninth against Billy Wagner with an assist from Reyes’ throwing error. It was Wagner’s first blown save of the season — his first run, too, albeit unearned.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit led off with a grounder to Reyes, whose throw bounced in the dirt. Pinch-runner Brian Bixler advanced on a wild pitch. He went to third on Chris Gomez’s groundout and scored on Freddy Sanchez’s single to center that fell just beyond the reach of a diving Carlos Beltran.
Colorado no Holliday for Wagner
FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2008
Matt Holliday hit a tying homer in the ninth inning off Billy Wagner, then singled home the winning run in the 13th to rally the Colorado Rockies past the struggling Mets 6-5.
“I made a terrible pitch to him,” Wagner said. “I was going to throw a fastball away and cut it, it ran middle down. It was really just an awful pitch. He shouldn’t have even hit the pitch, it was that bad. He should have took it.”
It was Wagner’s second blown save in 11 chances and first since April 29 against Pittsburgh.
Padres sweep Mets, Clark hits moon shot off Wagner
SUNDAY, JUNE 8, 2008
Former Met Tony Clark connected for a pinch-hit, three-run homer off Billy Wagner with two outs in the eighth inning, sending the San Diego Padres to an 8-6 victory and a four-game sweep of the New York Mets.
The 6-foot-7 Clark drove a 96 mph fastball over the center-field fence to help San Diego extend its season-high winning streak to five games.
It was Wagner’s third blown save in 16 chances. When he entered the game, Wagner (0-1) had allowed only one earned run all season.
Wagner relieved Duaner Sanchez with two outs in the eighth and runners on first and second. The left-hander gave up an RBI single to Jody Gerut that cut New York’s lead to 6-5. Gerut, who had three hits, also drove in a run with a single in the fourth.
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Beltran Bails Billy
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 2008
Billy Wagner replaces Mike Pelfrey in the 9th inning with a runner on and holding a 3-0 lead. Wagner strikes out Orlando Hudson, gives up a double to Conor Jackson to put runners on second and third.
Wagner then got Chad Tracy to strikeout swinging before Mark Reynolds blasted a 3-2 pitch to tie the game.
Carlos Beltran would hit a game winning two run home run in the bottom of 13th to win it 5-3.
Wagner blows 3rd straight save in Mets’ loss
THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 2008
Billy Wagner blew another one for the struggling New York Mets.
The All-Star closer coughed up his third consecutive save chance, this time wasting a splendid pitching performance by Johan Santana and allowing the Arizona Diamondbacks to rally past New York 5-4 in 10 innings Thursday.
Justin Upton doubled leading off the 10th against Aaron Heilman (0-3) and scored on Miguel Montero’s sacrifice fly to help the Diamondbacks take two of three in the series.
Wagner was ahead 1-2 on Montero in the ninth before issuing a leadoff walk. Drew reached on a pinch-hit infield single and Young’s RBI double cut it to 4-3.
Ojeda walked, loading the bases, and Randolph huddled with his players on the mound. Orlando Hudson grounded into a force play at the plate and Castro could have had a double play at third, but he only looked toward first before deciding to hang onto the ball.
“I was going to throw to first. It’s kind of hard to turn and throw to third,” Castro said. After Santana struck out 10 in seven shutout innings, Wagner squandered a two-run lead in the ninth and screamed at himself several times while walking back to the dugout.
All-Star Billy gives up bomb and blows another game
SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2008
Jayson Werth hit a two-run shot off Mets closer Billy Wagner with two outs in the ninth to send the game into extra innings after it was delayed 2 hours, 50 minutes because of heavy rain in the bottom of the eighth.
New York was one strike away from winning when Werth drove a 1-2 pitch from Wagner into the left-center field seats to tie it at 2. Wagner, named to the All-Star team for the sixth time in his career earlier in the day, has six blown saves in 25 chances.
“I’ve blown enough of them and been an All-Star,” Wagner said. “The biggest part to me is we came back, the guys picked me up and we won. That’s going to happen. I’d like to bounce that slider, but I hung it, Jayson hit it, but we came back and won.”
Wagner was the only Mets player picked for the All-Star team earlier in the day.
Billy is a big Ass-tro
SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 2008
New York was leading 4-2 when Houston loaded the bases with one out against Billy Wagner, who had converted 13 of his previous 14 save chances. Pinch-hitter Geoff Blum then lined a single to left and Pence raced around third, right on Loretta’s heels.
In an image reminiscent of a scene in the baseball movie “Major League,” both players slid in safely in a three-player collision with catcher Ramon Castro. Loretta crashed into Castro first and the force of the blow jarred the ball loose.
“I felt like a fullback going in there,” Loretta said. “It was like a car wreck.” Like a tailback sneaking across the goal line, Pence scored an instant later.
A dazed Castro, meanwhile, sprained his right ankle and left the game.
The Mets lost the game in the 10th inning thanks to Aaron Heilman. It was a costly loss for New York, which has dropped five of six to fall into third in the NL East. The Mets are two games back of Philadelphia and trail Florida by a half-game.