In 1998, southpaw Al Leiter finished his year with a 17-6 record and a superb 2.47 ERA in 193 innings. With the highest ERA+ (170) ever for a Mets left-hander (and the fourth-highest mark in franchise history), Leiter finished his first year with the Mets with a sixth-place finish in National League Cy Young Award voting. Against this backdrop, his '99 effort looks disappointing: a drop to a 13-12 record, a ballooning 4.23 ERA (and a corresponding 105 ERA+), not a single vote in Cy Young balloting.
But if the work looks dim in comparison to the numbers from '98, it's also redeemed by Leiter's effort on Oct. 4. With he and his Mets in Cincinnati for a single game that would determine the NL Wild Card, Leiter didn't allow a runner past first base until the ninth inning. And in that frame -- armed with a 5-0 lead -- the 33-year-old southpaw worked around a leadoff double and a two-out walk before retiring Dmitri Young to complete a magnificent two-hit shutout and send his Mets to the NL Division Series. Baseball wouldn't see another complete-game effort in a regular-season tiebreaker scenario for more than a decade, but when it did come around, that ancillary narrative -- of a pitcher finishing off a comparatively disappointing (relative to the previous) season with a superb final effort -- also came along for the ride.
The Rays defeated the Rangers, 5-2, in the AL Wild Card tiebreaker game on Monday. With the victory, Tampa Bay secured the second Wild Card spot and will play the Indians in Cleveland on Wednesday for the right to meet the Red Sox in the ALDS.
While this contest marked the sixth overall tiebreaker in the AL, it also stood as the fourth of its kind to determine a Wild Card entry. The previous three had all taken place in the NL.
• 1948: The Indians defeat the Red Sox, 8-3, to capture the AL pennant
• 1978: The Yankees defeat the Red Sox, 5-4, for the AL East title
• 1995: The Mariners defeat the Angels, 9-1, to capture the AL West crown
• 2008: The White Sox defeat the Twins, 1-0, to clinch the AL Central crown
• 2009: The Twins defeat the Tigers, 6-5, for the AL Central title
• 2013: The Rays defeat the Rangers, 5-2, to clinch the second AL Wild Card slot
Tiebreakers for a Wild Card entry
• 1998: The Cubs defeat the Giants, 5-3
• 1999: The Mets beat the Reds, 5-0
• 2007: The Rockies top the Padres, 9-8
• 2013: The Rays defeat the Rangers, 5-2
Looking at the nine games referenced specifically (the six AL tiebreakers and the Wild Card tiebreakers), the visiting team -- with Monday's Rays win -- is now 4-5. For all of the regular-season tiebreakers (in addition to the nine specifically referenced, the other one was played in 1980 between the Astros and Dodgers for the NL West title), the visiting team is 5-5.
The Rays are the first visiting team to win a one-game tiebreaker since the Mets defeated the Reds, 5-0, in 1999. That game was also the last -- before Monday's night's tilt -- to feature a complete-game effort from the pitcher.
David Price -- who entered Monday night's game with a career mark of 1-4 and a 5.98 ERA in eight starts against the Rangers, allowed two runs and seven hits in his complete-game effort. He is the fifth pitcher (and curiously, the fourth left-hander, with Joe Niekro being the sole righty) to go the distance in a one-game tiebreaker to reach the postseason.
Pitchers to go the distance in a tiebreaker
3 (1 ER)
1 (0 ER)
• The Rays will be making their fourth postseason appearance, and second as a Wild Card entry. They captured the AL East in 2008 and '10, and in 2011, entered as the Wild Card. They haven't won a postseason series since defeating the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS.
• Since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays own the second-most wins (550) in baseball, behind the Yankees' 564 and ahead of the Cardinals' and Phillies' 538.
Longoria's bat bigger in Texas
Evan Longoria contributed two extra-base hits (and fell a triple shy of the cycle) and two RBIs for the Rays, giving him -- among other things -- 200 doubles and 373 extra-base hits in his career.
This season, Longoria collected 74 extra-base hits -- the third-highest total in the AL. It marked the third time in his career he has compiled at least 70, as he had 77 in 2009 and 73 in '10. Longoria makes up part of a quartet of third basemen to have -- through six seasons -- at least three years with 70-plus extra-base hits. Mike Schmidt and David Wright each had four, while Ryan Zimmerman also had three.
Longoria is the fourth third baseman to have at least 200 doubles through his first six seasons, joining Wright (222), Wade Boggs (218), and Pinky Whitney (209). His 373 extra-base hits are also the third most for a third baseman through his first six seasons. Eddie Mathews had 402 and Wright had 375.
Beltre earns share of hit title in defeat
For Texas -- which will miss the postseason for the first time since it went 87-75 and finished second in the AL West in 2009 -- Adrian Beltre collected his 199th hit of the season: a second-inning double.
The 199 hits tied Beltre with Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter for the Major League lead.
2013 is the first (full) season since 1990 to not feature any 200-hit players. In '90, Willie McGee led the Majors with 199 hits, while Brett Butler and Lenny Dykstra tied for second, with 192 apiece.
Beltre is the eighth third baseman since 1901 to lead the Majors in hits. The others:
• Red Rolfe, 213 in 1939
• George Kell, 218 in 1950
• Joe Torre, 230 in 1971
• George Brett, 215 in 1976
• Pete Rose, 215 in 1976
• Brett, 212 in 1979
• Boggs, 240 in 1985
• Beltre, 199 in 2013
With his age-34 season now complete, a final look at Beltre's standing among all players in the modern era, through all players' age-34 seasons:
Beltre's 2,426 hits are 25th most, one behind Frank Robinson; his 901 extra-base hits are tied -- with Mathews* and Sammy Sosa -- for 15th most; his 495 doubles are 10th most, one behind Ty Cobb; his 1,307 RBIs are 33rd most, two behind Jose Canseco; his 4,109 total bases are 18th most, 12 bases behind Sosa. Among third sackers through this age-season, Beltre is first in hits, first in doubles, third (behind Mathews and Ron Santo) in RBIs, and second (behind Mathews) in total bases.
*Beltre and Mathews are tied for the most extra-base hits for a third baseman through his age-34 season.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.