If there is one aspect of the New York Mets franchise that has endured over the majority of the Mets' half-century of existence, it is the star pitcher.
The ace of the Mets staff is often worthy of that name. He is a player who Mets fans and coaches know is capable of something special every time he steps on the mound.
And as this slideshow portrays, there have been plenty of those special moments.
Here are the top 10 greatest pitching performances in Mets history:
This is the quintessential Nolan Ryan outing.
The man who owns the career record for most strikeouts and most walks allowed amassed 15 strikeouts and six walks in a complete game one-hitter against the rival Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies were in the midst of a six-game losing streak before the game, and Ryan took advantage.
Ryan gave up a leadoff single to Denny Doyle to begin the game, and then promptly went 27 straight outs without a hit. Six players finished the game with multiple strikeouts, and the 3-4-5 hitters combined for eight of the 15 strikeouts.
At just 23-years-old, Ryan showed off the powerful command that would lead him to become one of the best pitchers of all-time.
The high walk total lowers his rank on this list, but Ryan still had an incredible game.
Tom Seaver is arguably the best Mets pitcher of all time, and this is not his only appearance on this list.
Once again, the Mets took advantage of a Phillies team in the middle of a big losing streak (seven games).
Aside from a single by Mike Compton in the 3rd inning, Seaver was perfect.
Seaver was brilliant from the first pitch to the last. He struck out a batter in every single inning, as well as four strikeouts against Deron Johnson. Of the 11 players who got an at-bat this game, only two of them did not record a strikeout.
This victory brought the Mets to a modest 17-16 on the season. Seaver, though, was already an incredible 7-1 after this victory.
This is not even Seaver’s best outing as a Met, but 15 strikeouts against a bitter division rival is an astonishing feat.
Pitching in his first career post-season appearance that year, Bobby Jones gave the performance of a lifetime.
The 30-year-old was mediocre that season, despite a solid 11-6 record. He finished with a 5.06 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 25 home runs allowed. Jones also recorded only 85 strikeouts that year.
In Game 4 against the San Francisco Giants, Jones had a complete game shutout in front of 56,000 Shea Stadium fans. Jones recorded five strikeouts and just two walks, and the only hit was a 5th-inning double by Jeff Kent.
In fact, Jones issued both of those walks in the 5th inning, but managed to get Mark Gardner to pop out to get out of the jam.
Robin Ventura had a two-run home run and Edgardo Alfonzo hit a two-run double. That was more than enough cushion for Jones, and the Mets won 4-0.
Although the Mets eventually lost this game 2-1 in 14 innings, Bret Saberhagen’s performance against the San Diego Padres should not be forgotten.
He finished his 10.0 innings allowing just five hits, no walks and 11 strikeouts.
Two of those five hits allowed were to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Saberhagen threw 131 pitches and 98 strikes, showing excellent command all game. But with only seven hits and no runs themselves, the Mets unfortunately handed Saberhagen a no-decision.
In fact, the Padres’ starting pitcher, Andy Benes, also pitched a no-decision gem. He went eight innings, allowing just two hits, one walk and 14 strikeouts.
The Mets struggled offensively all year in 1994, and Saberhagen’s no-decision is symbolic of that ineptitude.
Four days after Nolan Ryan’s one-hitter, Tom Seaver threw a two-hitter with a whopping 19 strikeouts.
The only reason this does not rank higher is because Seaver gave up two hits and a solo home run in this outing.
Regardless, Seaver’s 19 strikeouts in this game cannot be ignored. The only players to strike out more than 19 in a game are Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens (twice).
Once again, though, a mediocre player found a way to produce against Seaver in one of Seaver’s best outings. Al Ferrera hit one of his 51 career home runs in the 2nd inning off of Seaver.
Seaver was dominant this game, and the 19 strikeouts are a testament to his command.
David Cone finished his 1991 season with a bang.
Against the rival Phillies, Cone had a complete game 3-hitter, letting up one walk with an amazing 19 strikeouts.
Cone absolutely dominated the Phillies all night. Six batters ended the game with multiple strikeouts, and leadoff hitter Kim Batiste earned a golden sombrero with four strikeouts.
Cone finished the outing with 141 pitches and a tremendous 38 swinging strikes.
Before this performance, Cone had lost four of his last five decisions. The lone victory, though, was a brilliant 11-strikeout, one-hit shutout.
Cone had a superb career with the Mets, and this 19-strikeout game is just one of many great moments for him.
If you throw the only no-hitter in team history, you make a fairly strong case for one of the greatest pitching performances in that team’s history.
That is exactly what Johan Santana accomplished.
Santana’s no-hitter is one of those iconic moments where every Mets fan knows exactly where they were when they saw it live. I myself almost bought tickets to the game before I remembered about my brother’s college graduation and watched it in his dorm. I’ll never forgive him.
Santana’s backstory is almost as good as the game itself.
He recovered from very arduous reconstructive shoulder surgery to become the surprise Opening Day starter. Even more, Santana was superb all season, culminating in the spectacular no-hitter. Santana ended the game with a 2.38 ERA on the season.
However, Santana’s no-hitter is not the best performance on this list due to his lack of command. He allowed five walks while needing 134 pitches to finish the game.
Santana also threw a first-pitch strike to only 18 of the 32 batters he faced. He needed grit, strong fielding and a little bit of luck to finish the no-hitter.
Regrettably, Santana’s arm was never the same after the no-hitter, and the 134 pitches arguably had a huge impact. After winning two Cy Young awards with the Minnesota Twins, Santana has now won two reconstructive shoulder surgeries with the Mets.
Santana’s downfall is certainly a sad story, but his no-hitter will forever live in Mets history.
Although Tom Seaver had fewer strikeouts than his previously listed outing, this shutout was much more impressive.
Seaver shut down a talented Chicago Cubs lineup that includes Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. Those three stars combined to go 0-for-9 with four strikeouts.
On the day, Seaver let up just one hit and zero walks to go along with the 11 strikeouts.
Seaver had a perfect game through 8.1 innings before Jimmy Qualls singled to center field. Seaver shut down the three big Cubs bats, but somehow he was not able to get out a man with 144 career at-bats.
Regardless, the Mets were in a pennant race for the first time in their history. They faced a superb Cubs team, and their ace made a statement.
The Miracle Mets eventually won the first World Series in Mets history, thanks to monster performances like this one from Seaver.
As if this outing needed more hype.
Against an underachieving Chicago White Sox lineup, Matt Harvey was the definition of dominant. Were it not for a cheap, 7th-inning infield single, Harvey could have had one of the best outings of all time in just his 17th career start.
With just 105 pitches in 9.0 innings of work, Harvey finished with one hit, no walks and 12 strikeouts. He deserved more than a no-decision, as the Mets won by the score of 1-0 in 10 innings.
The 24-year-old has been unbelievable this season. Not even a bloody nose could phase him in this remarkable outing.
He threw all four of his pitches (fastball, changeup, slider and curveball) for strikes, and he made the White Sox hitters look utterly baffled.
Harvey is not eligible for Rookie of the Year, but at this point that award should be an afterthought; he is making a strong case for a Cy Young award. And based on his monster start to 2013, this may not be the last time Harvey flirts with a perfect game.
This gem is just the beginning for Harvey. The sky is the limit for him.
R.A. Dickey had many moments during his Cy Young campaign that could be considered No. 1 on this list.
But Dickey’s consecutive one-hitters stand out most.
The last National League pitcher to accomplish that feat? Jim Tobin of the 1944 Boston Braves.
On June 13, Dickey threw a commanding one-hitter against a strong Tampa Bay Rays lineup. He finished with one hit, no walks and 12 strikeouts on the night as the Mets roughed up David Price for seven earned runs. Dickey threw a first-pitch strike to an incredible 24 of 29 batters faced.
In the first inning, B.J. Upton beat out a high bouncer to David Wright for an infield single. Since that was the lone hit, manager Terry Collins decided to appeal after the game for an error on Wright.
Unfortunately, the appeal was turned down, but the Mets and Collins expected that outcome.
That does not take away from the amazing performance.
Dickey followed up that 12-strikeout performance with 13 strikeouts five days later. Although Dickey allowed two walks, he was just as commanding with an 11/3 groundball-to-flyball ratio to another strong lineup in the Baltimore Orioles. Dickey even chipped in a single before scoring on a grand slam by Ike Davis.
Ironically, a 9th-inning unearned run in the first one-hitter ended another one of Dickey’s greatest pitching performances: 32.2 consecutive scoreless innings.
That streak is arguably just as impressive as the two consecutive one-hitters.
No matter which performance you pick, both of them put Dickey on the top of this list for the greatest pitching performances in Mets history.
Stats and info via: ESPN.com, baseball-reference.com, mlb.com