NEW YORK -- Perhaps it should surprise no one that two of the winningest teams in Major League history, the 2001 Mariners and 1986 Mets, managed to advance all the way through the second iteration of the Dream Bracket to meet in the finals. Those Mariners won an MLB-record 116 games; the Mets won a not-too-shabby 108.
Of course, the 1986 Mets capped their historic run with a World Series title, while the 2001 Mariners lost to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. In that sense, history repeated itself this week in the virtual world, when New York toppled Seattle, 4-3, in the best-of-seven finals of Dream Bracket 2: Dream Seasons.
The simulated competition, featuring many of the greatest teams in baseball history, was produced by Out of the Park Baseball 21, MLB‘s most realistic strategy game (PC and Mac). The Dream Bracket included 64 entrants, including two from each active franchise plus the 1994 Expos and three Negro Leagues teams. Each round featured a best-of-seven matchup between clubs in a single-elimination format.
New York’s other entrant, the 1969 “Miracle Mets,” lost their opening-round series against the ’97 Marlins. But the ’86 team rolled through the bracket, downing teams from the 1970s through the present era.
For the Mets, that meant an opening-round rout of the 2018 Rockies in five games to set up a meeting with another National League pennant-winner, the 1998 Padres. In beating Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman twice, New York managed to advance from that series in six games.
Next up were two NL East rivals: the 1994 Expos, whom the Mets rallied to beat despite facing a 3-1 series deficit, and the ‘95 Braves. In the latter series, New York jumped all over Hall of Famer Tom Glavine and other Atlanta starters, beating the Braves despite not scoring a run in 22 1/3 innings against their bullpen. Finally, the Mets toppled a fellow 108-win World Series champion, the ’75 Reds, in five games to set up a meeting with the Mariners in the finals.
Here is how the Mets kept rolling against the winningest team in Major League history to become Dream Bracket champions:
Game 1: Mariners 3, Mets 2
Through solid, Dwight Gooden was not close to the Mets’ best starter through the Dream Bracket’s first five rounds. His imperfections continued in Game 1 of the finals, which saw Gooden serve up a game-tying RBI single to Mike Cameron in the sixth inning, then watch from afar as Dan Wilson drove home Cameron. Both runs went on Gooden’s line to stick him with a loss. The Mets had scored two early runs off Freddy Garcia on consecutive RBI singles by Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter in the third, but they could not rally for another after that.
Game 2: Mets 2, Mariners 1 (12 innings)
So good in extra innings earlier in Dream Bracket play (not to mention during the actual 1986 postseason), the Mets tied the best-of-seven finals, 1-1, on Kevin Mitchell’s walk-off homer against Ryan Franklin in the 12th. After scoring their first run on a Carter RBI single in the first inning, the Mets mustered little offense against Jamie Moyer and four Mariners relievers. But Ron Darling and the Mets’ bullpen proved even stouter. It was not until the 12th that Mitchell, who had replaced Rafael Santana at shortstop earlier in the game, unknotted the score.
Game 3: Mets 9, Mariners 0
The Mets’ most explosive offensive output of the entire Dream Bracket came largely at the expense of Aaron Sele, a pitcher who would go on to play for them in 2007. Effective enough to hold New York scoreless over the game’s first four innings, Sele served up five runs (four earned) in the fifth on a Santana RBI single, a Wally Backman two-run triple, a Darryl Strawberry RBI base knock and a David Bell fielding error. The Mets added four more against Seattle’s bullpen, scoring nine in total without the benefit of a homer. Their own starter, Bob Ojeda, was masterful, pitching into the eighth to lower his Dream Bracket ERA to 1.49.
Game 4: Mets 3, Mariners 0
The Mets took command of the finals in convincing fashion, moving within a win of the Dream Bracket title while running their shutout streak to 27 innings. Not to be outdone by his fellow lefty Ojeda, Sid Fernandez fired eight scoreless innings before handing the ball to Jesse Orosco for a 1-2-3 save. Strawberry’s first-inning RBI single off Joel Pineiro gave the Mets the only run they would need, but they scored two more for good measure on a Mitchell RBI double and a Strawberry homer -- his eighth in Dream Bracket play.
Game 5: Mariners 9, Mets 1
As comfortable as the Mets might have felt giving Gooden the ball with a chance to clinch the Dream Bracket, he struggled again, allowing five runs in 5 1/3 innings to force a Game 6. Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez’s two-run homer in the third inning was the most significant blow off Gooden, who also allowed runs in the second, fourth and sixth. His performance stood in stark contrast to that of the Mariners' Garcia, who struck out five over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
Game 6: Mariners 6, Mets 0
Fifteen runs in two games put the virtual momentum on Seattle’s side heading into a winner-take-all Game 7. To reach it, the Mariners leaned on 8 1/3 shutout innings from Moyer, who allowed just three hits in lowering his finals ERA to 0.59. Although Darling gave up only one earned run, he also cracked for two unearned ones on a fifth-inning double by Ichiro Suzuki. As a result, Darling took his first loss in Dream Bracket play, falling to 7-1. The good news for the Mets? They did not use their co-closers in Orosco and Roger McDowell in Game 6, making the pair -- and conceivably starters Fernandez or even Gooden -- available out of the bullpen in Game 7.
Game 7: Mets 3, Mariners 0
Turns out, the Mets didn’t need extra pitching help in Game 7 thanks to Ojeda, who fired eight shutout innings to bring another championship to the 1986 Mets. Dominant from the start, Ojeda allowed just four hits, two of them to cleanup hitter Bret Boone. A fourth-inning rally against Sele, including a Carter RBI single and a Mookie Wilson two-run homer, was all the Mets would need as Orosco -- just like in Game 7 of the ’86 Fall Classic -- nailed down the final three outs for the save. (No word on whether virtual Carter jumped joyously into his arms.)
If there were a series MVP, it probably would have gone to Ojeda, who went 2-0 with 15 2/3 scoreless innings in two starts. Overall, Ojeda finished 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA in Dream Bracket play; he, Darling and Fernandez combined to go 12-2 with a 1.66 ERA, making up for Gooden’s relatively uneven performances.
On the offensive side, the Mets featured a balanced finals performance with six players amassing double-digit total bases. Not among them? Carter and Strawberry, two of the Mets’ most productive players overall in the Dream Bracket. The two combined to slug 15 home runs with 51 RBIs in 72 games, while Backman and Hernandez set the table with a .324 average and a .391 on-base percentage, respectively.