Mets Insider: It's always the unlikely

Watching So Taguchi's ninth inning home run off Billy Wagner to give the Cardinals the go-head run en route to their dramatic 9-6 victory over the Mets in Game Two of the NLCS, one couldn't help but be reminded of the likes of the many unlikely heroes whose names are etched into post-season baseball history.

A speedy, slick-fielding outfielder generally utilized as a late game defensive replacement, Taguchi appeared in 134 games during the regular season, during which he batted 316 times, and hit all of two home runs--the first one in late May and the second one in late June.

And yet within one week in the post-season, and in precisely two at-bats, Taguchi equalled his entire regular season total. He homered in his only plate appearance against the Padres during the NLDS, and his round-tripper against Wagner came in his first trip to the plate in the NLCS.

In the interview room after Game Two, even Taguchi seemed astonished by his accomplishment. Asked if he could explain his sudden power surge, the 37-year-old veteran with 15 years of pro ball (ten in Japan, five in the U.S.) under his slender belt just shrugged his shoulders and laughed.

"I can't explain [it]; it's unbelievable. I never had a hit against Wagner before," he said, in full knowledge of his prior 0-5 career mark against the flamethrowing Mets reliever. "I strike out, pop up, ground out. Who expected that I would hit a home run? Maybe nobody, even me."

In a game, then, in which many of the big names and big bats in both lineups -- from New York's Carlos Delgado (two HR, four RBI) and Jose Reyes (three hits, two runs) to St. Louis' Albert Pujols (two hits, three runs) and Jim Edmonds (a homer, two RBI, three runs) -- supplied the expected, it was a little name, and a little bat, that provided the unexpected; the unanticipated turn of events that makes baseball such a unique, unpredictable game.

Tony La Russa was managing Oakland when his heavily favored A's were swept by Lou Piniella's Cincinnati Reds in the 1990 World Series.

In Game Two of that fall classic, with the score tied 4-4 in extra innings, it was a little-used bench player named Billy Bates who beat out an infield hit off future Hall of Fame A's closer Dennis Eckersley to start the bottom of the tenth and wound up scoring the game-winning run.

And as it turned out, it was Bates' lone appearance in the entire Series -- and he never played in another major league game.

Ironically, LaRussa's second baseman that year was Willie Randolph -- who, as most fans know, grew up rooting for the Mets as a youngster growing up in New York in the 1960s.

Like any good Mets fan, Randolph could probably tell you all about the '69 Championship Mets, and specifically about the utterly unexpected hitting contributions during that year's World Series by that team's platooning second baseman Al Weis.

For it was Weis -- he of the .219 lifetime batting average and the grand sum of seven career homers in over 1500 at-bats -- who not only went 5-for-11 in the Series, but tied up the final game in the bottom of the seventh inning with about as unlikely a home run as was ever hit at Shea Stadium.

Until maybe Game Two of the 2006 NLCS, that is.

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