Mets flop on final day again as Brewers clinch wild card berth

NEW YORK — Two seasons, same story. That's right, the New York Mets let it happen again.

Doomed by a dreadful bullpen that failed them one last time Sunday, the 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 that put the pesky Marlins ahead in the eighth inning, and New York (89-73) lost out to Milwaukee (90-72) for the NL wild card on the last day of the season.

"It burns. It's a bad feeling. And this is just the beginning," David Wright said. "We have a long way to let this soak in and to hit us. We need to get better. We need to get better individually. We need to get better as a team. All 25 guys need to really look at themselves in the mirror."

Call it Mets Collapse, the sequel. And 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 the season, squashing its 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 31/2; games with 17 remaining before going 7-10 the rest of the way.

Which feeling was worse?

"I'd rather not think about it," Carlos Delgado said. "We haven't been able to put it together, for whatever reason. We were a playoff-caliber ballclub that didn't get it done."

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 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."

New York wasted Beltran's tying homer in the sixth, a useful start by Oliver Perez on short rest and a 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 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' loss to Chicago.

But a day later, New York was done. 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."

Joe Nelson (3-1) struck out two in a perfect seventh and Lindstrom earned his fifth save. Florida players weren't shy in recent days about saying they wanted to wreck New York's season again.

"It is fun. I'm not going to lie to you," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Missing injured closer Billy Wagner for the final two months, the Mets' makeshift bullpen had a 6.23 ERA over the last 17 games. New York was 2-for-6 on save chances and opponents batted .335 against its relievers during that stretch, according to Stats, LLC.

"I'm still kind of in shock over it," a teary-eyed Schoeneweis said before cutting his comments short. "I can't describe it. If I could take it back I would, but I can't."

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

"It's tough to swallow," Jose Reyes said. "It's going to be a tough offseason for us."


The start was delayed 51 minutes by rain. ... All-Star SS Hanley Ramirez was out of Florida's lineup with a stiff left shoulder. ... Schoeneweis went 0-4 after Aug. 25.

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