Armando Benitez is more famous for his blown saves, than being one of most sucessful relievers in baseball.
Benítez was signed in 1990 by the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent. Coming up through the Orioles’ farm system, he made his debut in 1994. He started to show some of his future potential in 1998, earning a 3.82 ERA and 22 saves in 71 games.
Before the 1999 season, Benítez was traded to the New York Mets in a three-team deal. Benitez initially served as the setup man for longtime Mets closer John Franco ; however, when Franco went down with an injury mid-way through the 1999 season.
Benitez assumed the job and was named the full-time Mets closer even after Franco’s return. During his first four seasons in New York, he subsequently became one of the Major Leagues’ elite closers, saving 139 games in 157 save opportunities since joining the Mets in 1999. That is a 89% save percentage.
Benítez’s failures in clutch situations overshadowed most of the success he had in his career in New York. Regardless, several playoff contenders were interested in his services. Midway through 2003, as Benítez labored trying to convert saves through the year, he was traded to the New York Yankees, who intended to use him as a setup man for Mariano Rivera. Benítez had a 1.93 ERA in nine games before being traded again to the Seattle Mariners, where he finished the season.
Benítez started 2007 well, converting all of his first seven save opportunities. However, in May, Benítez picked up two blown saves and three losses, including a blown save and a loss against his former team, the Mets, where he committed two balks.
On October 29, 2007, Benitez officially filed for free agency, likely ending his second tenure with the Marlins.
During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Benitez signed with the Newark Bears, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays and Long Island Ducks. Armando never made the cut and was eventually released.
On June 24, 2010 Benitez signed a minor league deal with the Florida Marlins and was assigned to their triple-A affiliate, New Orleans Zephyrs. Benitez was released on July 15 and immediately signed to play his third stint with the Newark Bears.
1996 American League Division Series
In Game One of the A.L.D.S., October 9, 1996 at Yankee Stadium, in the bottom of the 8th inning with Baltimore Orioles leading 4-3, Orioles reliever Armando Benitez strikes out Jim Leyritz and surrrenders a home run to Derek Jeter on the first pitch.
The famous clutch home run that was snagged by 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reaches over the left field fence, over the head of Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco.
It is ruled a home run which ties the game, 4-4.
Benitez gave a single to Tim Raines and intentionally walked Bernie Williams.
Arthur Rhodes came in to face Tino Martinez to end the inning.
Bernie Williams’ 11th-inning home run gives the Yankees a 5-4 win over Baltimore in the opening game of the ALCS. The Yankees went on to win the series and the World Series.
1997 American League Division Series
Armando Benitez struggled egregiously during the post-season. He allowed three game-winning hits in the Orioles’ six-game loss to Cleveland in the 1997 ALDS.
In the top of the eighth inning of Game Two with the Indians behind 4-2. Benitez walked Sandy Alomar Jr. and pinch hitter Jim Thome with two outs. Marquis Grissom followed with a three-run home to give the Tribe a 5-4 lead and victory. Benitez threw 30 pitches, 15 for strikes. He did strikeout the side.
In Game Four, Benitez replaced Jesse Orosco in the bottom of the ninth of a tied game. Armando walked Matt Williams and Sandy Alomar Jr. followed with a game winning single to score Manny Ramirez from second to win 8-7.
In the top of the 11th of Game Six, Benitez allowed a pennant-winning home run by slap-hitting shortstop Tony Fernandez. Cleveland won the game 1-0 and the American League pennant.
In four games, Benitez went 0-2 with ERA of 12.00 allowing four runs in three innings pitched while walking four batters. He did fanned six batters.
1998 Orioles-Yankee Bench Clearing Brawl
Baltimore took a 5-1 advantage into the seventh inning, but the Yankees’ Bernie Williams slammed a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth against Armando Benitez, Baltimore’s hulking, hard-throwing reliever, to give the Yankees a 7-5 lead.
With his very next pitch, Benitez, whose fastball is consistently clocked around 100 miles per hour drilled Tino Martinez in the upper back, and Martinez bent over in pain. To the Yankees, and to Drew Coble, the home-plate umpire, the pitch was thrown with malice intended. Coble ejected Benitez with a wave of his arm.
There was history of bad blood between the Benitez and Martinez: Benitez hit Martinez in June 1995, when Martinez was with Seattle, after allowing a grand slam to one of Martinez’s Mariner teammates, inciting a bench-clearing shoving match. The Orioles were so disgusted with Benitez’s reaction that they demoted him to the minors.
1999 National League Division Series
After arriving late to Shea Stadium minutes before the National Anthem of game four against the Diamondbacks.
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.
2000 National League Division Series
On October 5, 2000, in Game Two of N.L.D.S., Met closer Armando Benitez surrenders to the Giants J.T. Snow’s pinch-hit 3-run home run ties the game in the bottom of the 9th.
The Mets even their series with the Giants at one game apiece by winning a 10-inning thriller, 5-4.
Jay Payton’s single drives home the winning run in the top of the 10th.
Armando Benitez gives up the tying homer, but gets the win in relief.
2000 World Series
In Game One of the 2000 World Series, The Mets lead, 3-2, going into the 9th, but Mets closer Armando Benitez couldn’t hold the lead.
In the ninth inning, allowing Chuck Knoblauch’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly to to drive in Paul O’Neill and send the game into extra innings.
The Yankees defeat the Mets, 4-3 in 12 innings in Game one of the World Series.
The longest game in World Series history (4 hours, 51 minutes) is ended on Jose Vizcaino’ single which drives home Tino Martinez.
2001 9/11 Comeback Run
On September 23, 2001, with the Mets just one out away from a three-game sweep, Brian Jordan hit a two-run homer that started a three-run ninth inning against Armando Benitez.
Jordan homered again in the 11th off Jerrod Riggan, and the Atlanta Braves escaped with a 5-4 victory Sunday that kept them in the NL East lead.
Benitez blew a save for the third time in 44 chances. Benitez gave up 3 hits, 3 runs, and walked two in 2/3 of an inning.
The Mets were about to close within 2 1/2 games of the Braves and two of the second-place Phillies, and the crowd of 41,168 stood and cheered, fans remaining on their feet.
The Mets, who have captured New York’s hearts by giving time, money and soothing words to the victims of the terrorist attacks, had gone 22-5 since Aug. 17, cutting 10 games from their deficit.
2001 Last Chance
On September 29, 2001, Brian Jordan did in the New York Mets for the second time in a week.
Atlanta trailed 5-1 before rallying off relievers Armando Benitez and John Franco.
Benitez gave up 3 hits, 5 runs, and walked two in 2/3 of an inning. Jordan swung at and missed Francos’ first two pitches in the dirt, a fastball and a changeup.
The third pitch was a fastball up and over the plate, and Jordan deposited it 395 feet over the left-field fence for the improbable win before a noisy crowd of 46,180.
2002 Subway Series
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.
2003 Subway Series
June 22, 2003, Benitez, who had converted 12 straight save chances, walked Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra to load the bases with two outs in the ninth.
The right-hander went to a 3-2 count on Jorge Posada and, with fans of both teams on their feet and roaring, missed high and outside with a fastball.
Benitez was booed loudly as he walked off the field, Mets fans in the sellout crowd of 55,031 no doubt recalling the ninth-inning lead he blew in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series against the Yankees.
The Double Balk Game At Shea
May 29, 2007, Jose Reyes’ frenetic footwork got the New York Mets’ rally going, and Carlos Delgado finished it off.
Moments after Reyes provoked Armando Benitez into his second balk of the 12th inning, Carlos Delgado hit his second homer of the game to lift the Mets to a 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night. “I just tried to put some pressure on him,” Reyes said, “and it worked.”
With the Giants up by one run, Reyes walked to start the inning. Reyes danced off first base, forcing Benitez to flinch.
After a Endy Chavez sacrifice bunt moved him to third, Benitez again stuttered with his foot on the rubber — another no-no, producing a blown save for the former New York closer. “I lost the game,” said Benitez, who has blown two saves in 11 opportunities.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Mike Jackson in 1998 was the only other pitcher in MLB history to balk twice in one inning in the ninth inning or later.
The Giants gave their angry fans what they wanted on May 31st, trading embattled closer Armando Benitez to the Florida Marlins for right-hander Randy Messenger.
Omar Vizquel has begun writing his new book and devoted a chapter to Armando Benitez. By the way, you can see this game on SNY’s Met Classic’s everyday now.