Shea goodbye on a sour note

September 28, 2008 5:32:52 PM PDT
The Mets ended their days at Shea Stadium on a sour note Sunday, losing to the Florida Marlins and missing the playoffs for the second straight year in dramatic fashion.Call it Mets collapse, the sequel.

Doomed by a dreadful bullpen that failed them again Sunday, the New York Mets completed their second consecutive September slide with a 4-2 loss to Florida that knocked them out of playoff contention in the final game at Shea Stadium.

Scott Schoeneweis and Luis Ayala served up back-to-back homers in the eighth inning that put the pesky Marlins ahead, and New York (89-73) lost out to Milwaukee (90-72) for the NL wild card on the last day of the season.

"We failed. We failed as a team," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "There's no pointing fingers. There's no excuses. We as a unit didn't get the job done."

Next up, a gloomy scene at Shea.

The Mets brought in former greats from Tom Seaver to Dwight Gooden for closing ceremonies after the game that were sure to feel much more like a funeral than a party.

As the Mets played Florida, the Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1, earning the league's last postseason spot. The Mets went home for the winter, another bitter offseason ahead.

It was an eerily similar scenario to last year, when New York lost at home to Florida on the final day of season, ending their playoff hopes.

That defeat finished one of baseball's biggest meltdowns - the Mets had led the NL East by seven games with 17 to play before they went 5-12 down the stretch. This time, they held first place by a season-high 3½ games with 17 remaining before going 7-10 the rest of the way.

Excluding the 1981 split season, the Mets became the first team in major league history to hold 3 1/2-game division leads in consecutive Septembers and fail to make the postseason both times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"We're all aware what happened last year," first baseman Carlos Delgado said.

New York wasted Carlos Beltran's tying, two-run homer in the sixth, a useful start by Oliver Perez on short rest and another clutch catch by Endy Chavez. Delgado flied out to deep left with two on to end the eighth, and former Mets prospect Matt Lindstrom retired Ryan Church on a flyout to the edge of the center-field warning track with a runner on to close it out.

Pinch-hitter Wes Helms homered off Schoeneweis (2-6) to start the eighth, snapping a 2-all tie. Dan Uggla connected against Ayala.

The Mets pulled into a tie with Milwaukee for the wild card on Saturday, thanks to Johan Santana's three-hit shutout on three days' rest and the Brewers' 7-3 loss to Chicago.

But a day later, New York was out. The Mets finished 1,859-1,713 at Shea, according to Elias.

Joe Nelson (3-1) struck out two in a perfect seventh and Lindstrom earned his fifth save.

Missing injured closer Billy Wagner for the final two months, the Mets finished with 29 blown saves, including 16 since the All-Star break - most in the National League.

But the offense fizzled, too. Playing its most important games of the year, New York scored only five runs against Florida over the weekend.

Soon after New York fell behind Sunday, the crowd groaned again when Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead over Chicago.

With the Mets trailing 2-0, pinch-hitter Robinson Cancel drew a leadoff walk from starter Scott Olsen in the sixth. One out later, Beltran hit his 27th homer and sent the sellout crowd of 56,059 into a frenzy.

In the seventh, Chavez made a good play to hold Cameron Maybin to a single on a drive off the base of the left-field wall. With two outs and Maybin on second, Jorge Cantu hit a shot that appeared to be headed over Chavez's head until he raced back and reached up to make a difficult catch on the run.

New York reliever Brian Stokes put both arms over his head and then bowed gratefully to Chavez, who had just entered as a defensive replacement before the inning. He jogged off the field with the crowd chanting his name.

When he made the grab, Chavez was only steps from the spot where he leaped above the fence for an incredible catch that saved the Mets - momentarily - in Game 7 of the NL championship series against St. Louis.

The Cardinals wound up winning anyway, and the Mets have flopped over and over again in big games since.

Revved up fans were lined up outside the gates three hours before the scheduled first pitch, hoping to celebrate Shea Stadium's regular-season finale in style.

After the start was delayed 51 minutes by rain, Perez took a two-hit shutout into the sixth. But he gave up a leadoff double to Cameron Maybin on a 1-2 pitch and a soft RBI single to John Baker.

Perez was pulled with the bases loaded and one out for Joe Smith, who walked Josh Willingham to force in a run. Smith, a submarine specialist, escaped further damage.