Oct 21, 2012
Al Leiter- The Mets Years (1998-2004)
Al Leiter debuted with the Mets in the second game of the 1998 season, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. He won his next three starts closing out April at 3-1. On May 23rd he pitched a four hit shutout, beating the Milwaukee Brewers at Shea Stadium.
From that day to the end of June, Leiter won six straight games lowering his ERA to 1.60. After missing three weeks of action he returned to go 8-2 the rest of the year.
In his first season with the Mets Leiter had his best career season, becoming the ace of the staff winning a career high 17 games. He was 17-6 with the league’s third best ERA (2.47) and was second in the NL in hits allowed per nine innings. He pitched 193 innings struck out 174 batters & walked just 71.
In 1999 he was Bobby Valentines Opening Day pitcher, but was gone after five innings, as he took the loss in Florida against his old Marlins team mates. He had a rough start to the season finding himself at 2-5 by the end of May.
He turned it around in June going 5-0 in the month, never allowing more than three runs in a game & going at least into the seventh inning all but one time. On June 6th he beat the AL New York club allowing just one run in seven innings in the subway series held in the Bronx. That month he also beat the Boston Red Sox & the Marlins twice.
On AUgust 1st Leiter struck out a season high 15 batters at Wrigley Field in a 5-4 win over the Cubs. He pitched seven innings allowing just two runs on seven hits. As he entered September he was 10-9 and then he beat the Colorado Rockies pitching into the 9th inning on September 4th allowing just two runs in the 4-2 Mets win.
He then he lost his next three starts as the Mets were fighting for a wild card finish. During the last week of the season he beat the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium allowing just two runs pitching seven innings. Then he had his best outing of the year in the Mets biggest game of the year, after they ended the regular season tied for the wild card title.
Wild Card Playoff: Leiter was brilliant in the one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. He threw a two hit complete game shutout striking out seven Reds while walking four. He helped bring the Mets into their first post season in thirteen years.
In the Mets wild card winning season he went 13-12 with a 4.23 ERA, striking out 162 batters with 93 walks (6th in the league) pitching in 213 innings. At the plate his 11 sacrifice hits were 8th best in the league.
Post Season: In the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks he got the start in Game #4 at Shea Stadium. He went into the 8th inning with a 2-1 Mets lead but with two outs gave up a walk & a base hit. He exited the game giving the ball to Armando Benitez. Benitez allowed a two run double to Jay Bell blowing the chance for Leiter to earn a victory. The Mets came back & won it on Todd Pratt’s now famous walk off HR, winning the Series advancing to the NLCS.
In the NLCS Leiter faced off against Atlanta’s Tom Glavine In Game #3 at Shea Stadium. In the first inning the Braves scored on an unearned run after a Mike Piazza error, the run was the only one scored in the game & Leiter took a heartbreaking 1-0 loss. In the game he pitched seven strong innings allowing no earned runs on just three hits. He returned in Game #6 but never got past the 1st inning, as the Braves roughed him up scoring five times & he was relieved by Pat Mahomes.
In 2000 he took a step back becoming the number two starter behind newly acquired Mike Hampton. After playing the first two games of the year at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, the Mets had their official home opener on April 3rd. Leiter got the start beating the San Diego Padres after allowing just one run over eight innings. Leiter was sensational in the first part of the season; he was 5-0 by mid May pitching his first complete game at at Pittsburgh on May 11th, striking out eight Pirate batters.
On July 1st he struck out a season high 12 batters in a victory against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. He went into the All Star break with a 10-2 record posting a 2.99 ERA, making his second All Star team. He pitched the 4th inning of the Mid Summer Classic at Atlanta’s Turner Field allowing two runs & earning the National League loss.
His best outing during the second half of the season came against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium on August 12th when he struck out 12 batters matching his season high. He allowed no runs on two hits in eight innings pitched. On August 23rd he pitched eight innings in San Diego allowing just one run on three hits, matching his season high 12 strike outs for the third time.
He went 6-6 the rest of the season finishing off the year leading the Mets staff in wins with 16. He went 16-8 with a .667 winning percentage. He struck out 200 batters (5th in the NL) for the second time in his career, throwing 208 innings of work while posting a 3.20 ERA (6th best in the NL). Leiter led the league with a perfect .1000 fielding %, for the first of three seasons.
Post Season: Leiter started Game #2 of the NLDS in San Francisco against the Giants. He held the Giants down to one run on five hits pitching into the 9th inning, He allowed a leadoff double, giving way to Armando Benitez who blew the Mets 4-1 lead. Benitez allowing a three run HR to J.D. Drew, but the Mets came back to win it on Jay Payton’s single in the top of the 10th inning.
In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cards, Leiter started Game #2 at Busch Stadium. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, leaving the game tied at 3-3. The Mets went on to win the game after a Jay Payton RBI single in the top of the 9th inning.
He opened up the 2000 subway World Series in the Bronx, pitching another quality start. He left Game #1 with a 3-2 lead after seven innings pitched, and striking out seven batters. Armando Benitez blew that lead as the Mets lost a heart breaker in extra innings.
In the final Game #5 he pitched his heart once again at Shea Stadium. He pitched into the 9th inning allowing three runs on seven hits & three walks. He had struck out nine batters as well. After a walk & a single he served up an RBI base hit to Luis Sojo. Unfortunately the Mets offense couldn’t get anything going for him in the bottom of the inning once again. Leiter pitched two World Series games with 16 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched posting a 2.87 ERA.
On Opening Day 2001 he pitched a fine game seven innings, allowing two runs in Atlanta but earned no decision in the Mets 6-4 win over the Braves. He then struggled losing his next three games. He rebounded winning three straight beating the Los Angeles Dodgers at home & the Expos & Marlins at home. He then struggled & lost five of his next six starts finding himself at 4-8 at the break. He pitched his best at the end of August into early September winning four straight games pitching into the 7th inning or beyond three times.
On AUgust 26th he pitched eight innings against the Giants allowing just three runs in the 605 Mets win. He earned another victory in his next star when he pitched eight innings once again, this time against the Marlins. He allowed just one run & struck out seven for win number ten on the year. In September he made the start in the first game after the 911 attacks. He allowed just one run in seven innings but exited in a 1-1 tie. The Mets went on to win it as John Franco got the victory. He then had two good outings against the Braves, one at home & one in Atlanta.
He pitched eight innings each time, allowing just one run both times but earned no decisions due to lack of run support.
On the year he was 11-11 but pitched better than his record showed. He posted a 3.31 ERA (8TH in the league) as the Mets fell to 82-80 finishing in third place. Leiter struck out 142 batters, walked 46 in 187 innings pitched.
In 2002 he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day pitching six innings of one run baseball. On April 18th he pitched a two hit shutout in Montreal striking out eight Expos. He had a good start on the year going 5-2. By the All Star break he was 9-7 posting a 2.95 ERA. He was just like the team bouncing around at the .500 level the rest of the way.
On the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Leiter threw another complete game shutout, this time a five hitter against the Braves in Atlanta. On the year he went 13-13 with 172 strike outs & 69 walks, pitching in 204 innings while posting a 3.48 ERA.
For the 2003 season, he took a back seat to the newly acquired Tom Glavine as the ace of the staff. Leiter won his first three starts, beginning with a win against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season. He pitched well enough to be 10-5 at the end of July although his ERA was up at 4.81. He went on to go 15-9 on the season, second on the staff in wins to Steve Trachsel who won 16 games. Leiter was ninth in the NL in wins that season. He struck out 139 batters while walking 94 (5th most in the NL) pitching 180 innings and posting a 3.99 ERA.
2004 was his final Mets season as the 39 year Al Leiter’s career began to wind down. He started out 2-2 but then won six out of seven games over the next two months. He made his last Mets start on October 2nd, getting no decision in an outing against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium. He won ten games overall on the year, going 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA pitching in thirty games.
In his seven year Mets career he made 213 starts (6th on the all time Mets list) he won 95 games (95-67) which is also sixth on the Mets all time list. He is seventh in innings pitched (1360) & strike outs (1106) with a 3.42 ERA. He is tenth in winning % (.586) & losses (67). As a Met was in the league's top ten in ERA four times, wins three times, strikeouts twice and threw at least one shut out in four different seasons.
In 2005 he went to the Florida Marlins going 3-7 through mid July when he was sent to the A.L. New York club to finish out his career. Lifetime over nineteen seasons he was 162-132 (214th all time in wins) with 1974 strikeouts (74th all time), 1163 walks (61st all time), 16 complete games, 10 shutouts and a 3.80 ERA in 2391 innings pitched in 419 games.
Retirement: He began broadcasting games while still a player during the post season games on Fox. He angered a lot of Met fans working as an analyst on the YES network from 2006-2008.
In 2009 he signed on for MLB Networks inaugural season as an in studio reporter. Leiter has considered running for political office on the Republican ticket in the state of New Jersey. He was appointed as member to the NJ Sports, Gaming, and Entertainment Committee.
Leiter who was seen at many Bruce Springsteen concerts especially the ones at Shea Stadium in 2003. He was on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 & got a luke warm greeting due to his ties with the cross town rivals.