Major Leagues: Marlins 4, Mets 2
By Mike Fitzpatrick
NEW YORK ó 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,” David Wright said. “There’s no pointing fingers. There’s no excuses. We as a unit didn’t get the job done.”
What followed was an awkward scene at Shea.
The Mets brought in former greats from Tom Seaver and Willie Mays to Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry for closing festivities that felt more like a funeral than a party.
Still, a vast majority of fans stayed in their seats and cheered their old favorites during a ceremony that lasted nearly an hour.
“It would have been better if we would have won today, but I don’t think it spoils the celebration,” general manager Omar Minaya said. “What’s going on out there, it’s about the history of this building, the history of the players, the history of this organization.”
As New York played Florida, the Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1, earning the league’s last postseason spot. After filing into the clubhouse, several Mets started cleaning out lockers and saying goodbyes, another bitter winter 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 its playoff hopes.
That defeat finished one of baseball’s biggest meltdowns ó 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 31/2 games with 17 remaining before going 7-10 the rest of the way.
“I have to believe it, because it’s happening,” Carlos Beltran said. “It’s a bad group for you to be there, as a player. I have no more words.”
Excluding the 1981 split season, the Mets became the first team in major league history to hold 31/2-game division leads in consecutive Septembers and fail to make the postseason both times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I’d rather not think about it,” Carlos Delgado said.
New York wasted 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.
“You feel heartbroken,” Church said.
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 finished 1,859-1,713 at Shea, according to Elias.
“I feel it’s unfortunate for the fans,” said interim manager Jerry Manuel, who took over when Willie Randolph was fired June 17. “They were good for me. I just wish I could have led them further.”