Padres spoil Citi Field fun for Mets
Relievers close out former team; Friars run win streak to five
NEW YORK -- They handed the ball and the lead over to two former exiles Monday, two pitchers who could just as easily could have been pitching for the Mets instead of against them on the night they opened their sparkling new stadium, Citi Field.
That Duaner Sanchez and Heath Bell were greeted with a chorus of boos from a sold-out crowd of 41,007 certainly wasn't anything new for the former Mets, witnessed what can be best called the fickle nature of fans here before, only at Shea Stadium.
"You couldn't script it any better," Bell said afterward, smiling.
Behind Sanchez and Bell, the Padres' bullpen locked down their fifth consecutive win, this one a real party crasher, a 6-5 victory over the Mets that included a little history for the Padres, who started fast and finished the very same way.
Leadoff hitter Jody Gerut hit a home run on the third pitch of the game, a line drive down the right-field line for an early lead. Better still, it was the first hit, home run, RBI and run scored at the new ballpark.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in Major League history that the first batter of the first regular-season game at a new ballpark has hit a home run. The bat that Gerut used will be sent to Cooperstown.
Gerut appeared unimpressed.
"That's probably the only place in the yard [right field] where I would have hit one," Gerut said of his first home run of the season.
That was just the beginning of the fireworks in the game for the Padres (6-2), who built a 5-1 lead only to watch the Mets (3-4) climb back into the game when David Wright hit a three-run home run off pitcher Walter Silva with two outs in the fifth inning.
"Once we got started, it turned into another game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "But when they climbed back into it ... I don't want to say we picked it back up again but we picked it back up again."
They did so with their bullpen, a source of strength, surprising strength at that, over the first eight games of the season.
Silva got through four innings fine but struggled in the fifth inning, walking two before he got two outs. That brought up Wright. With Silva at 84 pitches -- he threw 69 in his previous start -- Black stuck with him.
"He wobbled a little in that inning," Black said. "What concerned me the most, and something we will talk about, is the walks. I still thought he had enough to get one more out. He just didn't have that snap on the slider to Wright."
The Padres took the lead at 6-5 in the sixth inning as Luis Rodriguez sent a long fly ball to right field that Ryan Church allowed to glance off his glove, allowing Rodriguez to reach third base. After getting two outs, Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano balked in the go-ahead run with David Eckstein up.
"I saw his front shoulder come up ... you see that sometimes when the pitcher is waiting for the sign," Eckstein said.
The bullpen did the rest. After Edward Mujica (1-1) got the last out of the fifth inning, rookie reliever Edwin Moreno pitched two shutout innings, getting two strikeouts over that stretch as he used his nasty changeup on left-handed hitters.
"We had to get 4 1/3 [innings] ... but they responded. We felt that Moreno's second inning was our best matchup," Black said. "He was throwing the ball well and he had two days off."
Sanchez then worked a quiet 1-2-3 eighth inning before Bell did the same in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the season.
"For him to do what he did and for me to do what I did ... that was great," said Bell, who spent parts of three seasons (2004-06) with the Mets. "I do not think that it's a slap in the face. He wants to do his job and I want to do mine."
Sanchez called his return to New York, a team that released him in Spring Training, just "another road game" and refused to get caught up in all of the hoopla of pitching against his former teammates.
The Padres scored first, getting a run in the first inning on Gerut's home run followed by three more in the second inning when, with two outs, San Diego pieced together four hits in a row, including a two-run double by Eckstein, one of his three hits.
That might have been enough had Silva, who allowed five runs and three walks over his 4 2/3 innings, held his stuff just a little longer. That just meant that Black had to lean on his bullpen a little longer, something he doesn't mind as much these days.
How did Black like performance of his two former Mets?
"Better than the Citi Field fans did," he quipped.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.