NEW YORK – There were perhaps less than 1,000 fans in the seats at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon when New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathan Niese threw the first pitch to Milwaukee Brewers leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks at 4:10pm. It was a rare twin bill of baseball in New York City courtesy of a Monday evening rain out that required two games.
Even if the games meant nothing towards post season implications, they had to be played. The Mets are finishing up another dismal campaign, third in the NL east, and the Brewers sitting fourth in the NL central also playing out the string and ready to pack their bags for the winter
Because net receipts from the gate and concessions are so important to the teams, the schedule must be played out. Even if there is a rain out the makeup game gets on the schedule if agreed by the teams this late in the season. With concession stands closed in the upper decks at Citi Field, and the noticeable empty seats it was time to play ball.
When the first pitch was thrown, and for a good part of the first game, fans in the stands and media in the press box could hear sounds of the game. A crack of the bat, fastball in the catcher’s mitt, and even players on the field heard saying “got it” or “go to first.”
“Rather play one game because as a player you are used to preparing for one,” said the Mets Chris Carter. He would single and drive in two runs in the Mets two-run third inning of the first game. Those in the slim crowd could be heard, as the Mets started to cut the deficit after Niese surrendered six runs in the Milwaukee top of the inning.
That was one perspective of a long afternoon that went into the late evening in Flushing Queens. The Mets would lose the first game of the double dip, 8-7. Niese (9-10) would throw 2.2 innings, on 10 hits and six runs, The Mets would battle back scoring five more runs in the fourth.
So what about those loyal fans who have once again witnessed another losing season at Citi Field? Carter, a first year Met loves their loyalty. “I love New York fans,” he said. “They’re tough, they know what to expect. I really appreciate the fans. As a player you block out the fact that there is nobody in the stands,” he said.
David Wright would hit a two-run homer in that fourth, his 28th and third game in a row with a homer, done four other times in his career and now the fifth time he has 100 or more ruins batted in, But he failed to connect in the nightcap when the Mets could not score runs, could only get 5 hits in a 3-1 second game loss.
It was not the 13 hits they had in the first game. Starter R.A. Dickey concluded a successful first season in New York. A surprise who was signed after spring training, Dickey (11-8) was talking about coming back next season. The 35-year old right hander has earned a role to start with a knuckleball that has revived his career.
“Feel I have a lot to offer and age is no consequence,” commented Dickey who gave up six hits in seven innings. “Priority number one was the ability and consistency to throw strikes.” The fans saw what Dickey offered and many times showed their appreciation.
It was a storybook season for a pitcher who got a role when Oliver Perez and John Maine left the rotation, “I feel this is what I can offer over the next five or six years of my career,” said Dickey who certainly can hang around more with a knuckleball that has consistency.
“What impressed me the most was his consistency,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel who may not be making a decision about Dickey’s role with every expectation that Sunday will be his last game at the helm. “Every time he took the ball, he gave us a chance to win.”
When the first game was over, about 7:40pm, Manuel had used eight pitchers which tied a franchise record for a nine inning game. The supposed 28,284 in attendance, more about tickets sold, than who showed, made as much noise as they could as the Mets staged another comeback in the eighth inning that once again failed short.
And when the second game began, a half hour later at 8:16PM, many of those empty seats were still visible and another Mets player Carlos Beltran was shut down for the final four games. Beltran would say the mild inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee would require what the doctor ordered,
“I’m happy, actually the knee’s better, I’m happy for that part” said Beltran who was having a strong September which provided optimism for next season, that is, if the Mets don’t decide to trade him in what would be the final year of a $119 million dollar contract.
“The part that I’m not happy about is just that I wanted to finish the season playing but by the recommendation by the doctor they don’t want me to play.”
Ninth inning of game two and the Mets have one last chance to make this worthwhile in another meaningless game. The “Cowbell Man” Ed Bison was doing his usual thing in a now almost desolate Citi Field, urging fans for one last push. You would think those doing the chanting were in a late season pennant race with their team.
They did cheer for Pedro Feliciano who pitched in both ends of the doubleheader. The lefthander has 91 appearances this season which extended his franchise record that he established the night before. And they gave Angel Pagan his usual applause when he swiped his 37th base of the season in the first inning of game two, becoming the first Mets outfielder with that many since Rickey Henderson and Roger Cedeno in 1999.
Trevor Hoffman the career saves leader got number 601 for the Brewers and Mets fans went home seeing a double dip loss. New York, (77-81) needs to win their last four games to avoid their second consecutive losing season. Count four, when including the collapses of 2007, 2008, and of course the injury plagued Mets of 2009.
A long day at the ballpark and there are those loyal Mets fans who are willing to be patient about winning again. And the good thing about it, they have a team that knows they are around to give them support even when ballgames mean nothing in late September.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]