2009-04-15 / Front Page

Mets Greats Open Citi Field

BY DAN MILLER

Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver and future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza threw and caught the ceremonial first pitch to start the inaugural game at Citi Field April 13. Photo Dan Miller/DMD Images Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver and future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza threw and caught the ceremonial first pitch to start the inaugural game at Citi Field April 13. Photo Dan Miller/DMD Images Monday, April 13 was Opening Day at Citi Field and there was excitement in the air. Thousands of fans converged on the new ballpark in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, pausing at the vendors' stalls for souvenirs of the first professional regular season baseball game at Citi Field.

During batting practice, the players were introduced and some of the dignitaries in attendance were announced to the sellout crowd of 41,007 fans--Governor David Paterson, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. Even Donald Trump joined the party.

The cast of the Broadway revival of "West Side Story" performed the National Anthem as more than 200 veterans representing all five U.S. Armed Services --Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy--unveiled a football field size American flag. The Anthem concluded with a flyover by four U.S. Marine F-18 Hornets from VMFA 251 based in Beaufort, South Carolina.

As players from both teams were introduced and lined up along the foul lines adjacent to their respective dugouts, the largest fan applause was heard for Mets third baseman David Wright and for Padre and former New York Met Cliff Floyd, who did not play.

The Padres scored first in the first inning when the first batter of the game, Jody Gerut, hit a home run to give the Padres a 1-0 lead. It was the first time in Major League history that the first batter of the season in an inaugural game in a new ballpark hit a four-bagger.

The Padres scored again in the second inning, putting three more runs on the board before the Mets got one back in the bottom of the second on an RBI double by Luis Castillo, scoring Brian Schneider for the first Mets run in their new ball park.

At the start of the Mets' half of the fifth inning trailing 5-1, David Wright slammed a 390- foot bomb into the left field stands with two runners on base to bring his team back from a three-run deficit to tie the game at five.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel replaced Mike Pelfrey with right hand reliever Brian Stokes in the top of the sixth. Luis Rodriguez, the first batter in the sixth inning hit a high drive to deep right field that was booted by Ryan Church for a two -base error. Manuel returned to the mound with one out to bring in reliever Pedro Feliciano, who balked home Rodriguez from third base to give the Padres back the lead at 6-5.

Carlos Beltran led off the Mets' sixth with a single to center, extending his hitting streak to 12 games, dating back to last season. Church popped out to second while Brian Schneider followed with a foul out to third base. Castillo walked, moving Beltran to second. Pinch hitter Jeremy Reed walked to load the bases. With a

walked, moving Beltran to second. Pinch hitter Jeremy Reed walked to load the bases. With a chance to do some damage, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes lifted a fly ball to left that was caught to end the Mets threat and the sixth inning.

With the Mets trailing 6-5, Manuel sent JJ Putz to the mound to replace Sean Green to start the Padres eighth. Beltran fouled to the catcher. Church grounded out second to first for the second out of the inning. Schneider grounded out softly to shortstop to end the inning.

The Mets sent their closer, Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod), to pitch the ninth inning with the Mets trailing by one run. K-Rod set down the Padres, one-two-three, on 14 pitches in the ninth to set the stage for a Mets comefrom behind win.

The Padres sent former Met pitcher Heath Bell to the mound to extinguish any thoughts of a Mets rally. The final score was 6-5, with the Padres defeating the Mets in the very first regular season Major League Baseball game at their new home, Citi Field.

The winning pitcher for the Padres was Edward Mujica, the loser for the Mets, Brian Stokes, with the save credited to former Mets reliever Heath Bell. Wright hit the first double and the first home run at Citi Field by a New York Met.

Beltran's single in the bottom of the sixth inning extended to 12 games a streak that dates back to Sept. 24, 2008. Castillo drove in Schneider with an RBI double in the Met half of the second inning for the first RBI by a Met at Citi Field. The next game, on Wednesday, will see Oliver Perez pitching for the Mets.

"This is a team in transition," Manuel said after the game. "I think there are a lot of good things we are doing." Asked what Perez needs to turn things around, the manager replied, "consistency". With the Mets in fourth place with a 3-4 record, it appears that they need some consistency if they plan to make a run for the divisional title, a milestone that has eluded them for the last two seasons, in each case on the very last game of the season.

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