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Opener at Citi Field plagued by vintage Met performance

Opener at Citi Field plagued by vintage Met performance

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 5:28 pm
By: By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — The Mets opened Citi Field with a vintage performance — vintage 1962 or ’64.

They gave up the first leadoff home run to open a major league ballpark, a third-pitch drive by Jody Gerut off Mike Pelfrey. Then in the second inning, Pelfrey toppled to the mound in mid-delivery to pitcher Walter Silva, keeling over when he caught a cleat on the mound.

After David Wright tied the score 5-all with a three-run homer in the fifth, San Diego scored the tiebreaking run in appropriately goofy fashion: Ryan Church allowed Luis Rodriguez’s leadoff fly to right field in the sixth to glance off his glove for a three-base error, and Rodriguez came home when Pedro Feliciano balked with two outs, bringing more boos from the opening crowd of 41,007.

So Citi Field began its run in the same manner the Mets started play at the Polo Grounds in 1962 and at Shea Stadium two years later — with a defeat.

The Mets just hope the Padres’ 6-5 win Monday night wasn’t the start of a trend.

“It’s a lot of fun. Obviously, we would have liked to have gotten the win, but we’re going to play some good baseball here, and we’re going to have fun doing it,” Wright said. “I’m looking forward to Wednesday already. I can’t wait to get back out here because it’s a lot of fun coming to this ballpark and to have these amenities.”

When the Mets began life at Manhattan’s Polo Grounds in 1962, they opened with a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who scored what turned out to be the decisive run on an eighth-inning wild pitch by Ray Daviault.

The Pirates won Shea Stadium’s debut 4-3 two years later as Willie Stargell homered leading off the second to drive in the first run, then scored on Bill Mazeroski’s eighth-inning single to break a 3-all tie.

The Mets have won just a pair of World Series titles, in 1969 and 1986, and remain overshadowed by the Yankees, who have a record 26 championships. Even in ballparks there’s one-upmanship — on Thursday, the new $1.5 billion granite-and-limestone Yankee Stadium hosts its first regular-season game, just three days after $800 million Citi Field, with its red brick exterior and 160-foot wide Jackie Robinson Rotunda evokes Brooklyn’s old Ebbets Field.

Following September collapses in Shea Stadium’s final two seasons, the Mets want to change the team’s image.

“Winning will do a lot more than the park,” Wright said, referring to a “certain reputation” that’s stuck to the Mets following their consecutive late-season fades.

“We need to prove those guys wrong and go out there and prove we can play good baseball start to finish,” he said.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wearing a Mets jacket, watched from the first row behind the plate, a $695 Delta Club Platinum seat.

New York Gov. Gov. David Paterson also was on hand, as was comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver threw out the ceremonial first pitch to retired catcher Mike Piazza.

Former Mets Darryl Strawberry and John Franco also attended.

In the eighth row in section 11, near the Mets dugout, were a father and son in $525 Delta Club Gold seats. The father, who identified himself as 47-year-old Kurt, paid $7,500 in an eBay auction to acquire the pair of tickets sold in the liquidation of assets of disgraced investor Bernard Madoff.

While Madoff sits in jail following the collapse of a $64.8 billion Ponzi scheme, the father used the tickets to fulfill a promise he made to 16-year-old son Mike..

Cubs 4, Rockies 0

At Chicago, Ted Lilly (2-0) held Colorado hitless for 62⁄3 innings on a raw day at Wrigley Field and the Cubs won their home opener by holding the Rockies to one hit.

Garrett Atkins grounded a single between shortstop and third on a 1-0 pitch in the seventh to end Lilly’s no-hit bid. Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman and Kevin Gregg completed the one-hitter.

Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1) was wild, walking six and hitting a batter.

Cardinals 2, D’backs 1

At Phoenix, Brian Barden broke a tie with his first career home run off Doug Davis (0-2), Albert Pujols also homered and St. Louis won its fifth straight.

Todd Wellemeyer (1-1) went seven sharp innings.

Ryan Franklin pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.

Phillies 9, Nationals 8

At Washington, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino homered to lead the mourning Phillies to the victory.

Longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas, whose signature “Outta here!” home run calls provided the soundtrack to Philadelphia baseball for nearly four decades, died after collapsing in the broadcast booth before the game.

He was 73.

Howard’s first homer of 2009, a three-run shot off reliever Saul Rivera (0-1), broke a 4-all tie in the seventh inning. Jamie Moyer (1-1) got the win and Brad Lidge earned his third save.

Dodgers 11, Giants 1

At Los Angeles, Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle and Andre Ethier drove in four runs with a pair of homers for the Dodgers.

Randy Johnson lost at Dodger Stadium for the first time in his 22-year career, falling to 7-1 in just his second start in Los Angeles since 2004. The 45-year-old left-hander earned his 4,800th strikeout in the third inning against James Loney.

Chad Billingsley (2-0) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings for Los Angeles. The right-hander struck out 11 and walked none.

Johnson (0-2) gave up seven runs and eight hits in 32⁄3 innings.

Pirates 7, Astros 0

At Pittsburgh, Zach Duke limited the struggling Astros to four hits in his third career shutout and Adam LaRoche homered during a five-run third inning.

Duke (2-0) struck out five and walked two while throwing 120 pitches.