NEW YORK -- It was not the same, nor could it have been. So it was perhaps unsurprising that Sunday's game, following a stirring remembrance ceremony at Citi Field, did not match the dramatics of the Mets' first game in New York City following the attacks on the World Trade Center one decade ago.
The Mets finally cracked in the 11th, when Josh Stinson and Ryota Igarashi combined to give up six runs to send the Mets to a 10-6 loss to the Cubs.
"That's baseball," Mets outfielder Jason Bay said. "But it was a little bit different today."
Afterward, the Mets bemoaned nothing but their squandered opportunities. They nearly won the game in the bottom of the ninth, putting two men in scoring position with one out. But Cubs reliever Jeff Samardzija induced a fielder's-choice groundout from Bay and struck out Jason Pridie to end the threat. An inning later, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs, only to watch David Wright pop out against Ramon Ortiz to end the inning.
"You can't ask for better guys in your lineup to be up there, and we just didn't get it done," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We fought back, got back in the game, tied it, had several chances to win. One of the things, when we were really going good, we were leading the league in two-out hits, two-out RBIs, and right now we're just not getting them."
"You've just got to keep your head on, just make some pitches and understand you've got [eight] guys behind you that can help you out making plays," Samardzija said.
By the 11th, it was early Monday morning and the Mets had exhausted their supply of available, trusted relievers. So Collins turned to the rookie Stinson, who had been quite strong in his first five appearances with the club.
This time was different. Stinson opened the inning with six consecutive balls, walking Marlon Byrd to lead off the frame, served up Bryan LaHair's single on his seventh pitch, then threw another two balls to Carlos Pena before giving up a single which gave the Cubs the lead for good. Another walk brought on Igarashi, who allowed back-to-back doubles to Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney to put the game well out of reach.
"He was throwing so well," Collins said of Stinson. "Certainly, that's not the way he pitches."
Though Pridie hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, the Mets were too far behind to mount a second serious comeback.
At least in a modest sense, they had seemed a team of destiny when Samardzija's throwing error allowed them to tie the game in the eighth. The Mets had also plated two runs in the sixth and one in the first against Cubs starter Matt Garza, which for most of the game was not enough; Miguel Batista allowed three walks, four extra-base hits and four runs over five innings. He departed with his team trailing by three.
Then came the comeback and -- for a time -- the optimism. Because the emotions of the night were not quite as fresh as they were 10 years earlier, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, a Mets victory did not mean as much in the greater scope of the city and country. But with Mike Piazza and many of his 2001 teammates in attendance, the Mets certainly wanted to win.
It was Piazza who played a small part in the healing process on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first Major League game in New York City following the attacks. His home run gave the Mets a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Braves, allowing a grieving city, for the briefest moment, to consider something other than its troubles.
The Mets spoke pregame Sunday about that night and about how they have not forgotten the events of Sept. 11, then did their best to provide their own version of a spiritual victory. That it did not ultimately happen was no fault of effort; it was simply the continued struggle of a rebuilding team.
By the 11th, players such as Stinson and Pridie and Dale Thayer and Josh Satin were in the game, forming a team hardly representative of the Mets. Partially as a result of that, they absorbed a difficult loss. But they could not harp on that too much.
"It was actually fun because it was different," Bay said. "Obviously not fun losing, we had chances, but it was something that was pretty special to be a part of."