09/25/2003 11:23 PM ET
Mets fall to Bucs in Murphy's finale
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Tom Glavine was sitting in the clubhouse nursing a pair of bruised knees and Mike Piazza was playing first base as the ninth inning began Thursday night.
If the whole scene seemed a little bizarre it was only fitting considering how this season has played out for the Mets. Life has been topsy-turvy in Queens since Opening Day with Thursday's 3-1 loss providing a fitting end to what should be the finale to New York's home schedule.
The Mets may have to play one more home game on Monday against San Francisco, but whether or not that game is played won't be determined until sometime this weekend. The image, however, of Glavine limping into the clubhouse and Piazza shedding the tools of ignorance will remain emblematic of what unfolded this year regardless of whether that game is played or not.
Glavine left the game after five innings, the victim of two hard-hit balls that found each knee in the first and third innings, respectively. Jack Wilson smacked a hard grounder back up the middle in the first inning that hit Glavine directly on the right knee. Jason Kendall's smash in the third found his left knee and proved to be the more devastating of the two.
The veteran southpaw, who had both knees heavily taped, had to have his left knee X-rayed. It began hurting so much that the pain altered his delivery and his left elbow began to ache. Not wanting to take any chances, Glavine left the game. The X-rays were negative but Glavine was clearly hurting afterwards.
"This is a fitting end for me, absolutely," Glavine said. "That was certainly going through my mind out there. It's bad enough to get one line drive but then to follow it up with another. Hopefully everything that can go wrong has gone wrong for me [this year].
"When the second hit, initially it didn't hurt as bad as the first. Over time, though, I couldn't push off. I tried to be smart. The first one, I didn't have to change my mechanics but after the second one, the last two innings I didn't feel that I was pushing off as well as I could and I felt soreness in my elbow."
Glavine, who allowed six hits and fanned two, finished with a 9-14 mark, the worst record he's had since going 7-17 during his first full season (1988) in the Major Leagues. He closed out the season winless in his final six starts. Glavine added that he would be concerned if he had to make another start in five days because he doesn't think his knees would hold up.
But he was only part of the story. Piazza's much-anticipated move to first base proved to be a highlight on Bob Murphy Appreciation Night. Manager Art Howe said he told Piazza that he would be playing first base sometime in the series finale when he was on the mound making a pitching change in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game.
"If I was going to do it, I figured I wanted to do it at home so our fans could see it," Howe said. "They deserve to see it after so much hoopla. It was a courtesy to our fans."
And the fans responded. When Piazza's position change was announced, the crowd erupted and began chanting Piazza's name. The applause and chanting only intensified when Piazza dropped to his knees while reaching up to spear a Carlos Rivera line drive for the inning's first out. In fact, Piazza registered all three putouts, easily handling throws from Pedro Feliciano and Ty Wigginton on a pair of grounders.
"I never really thought about it as an event," said Piazza, who played first base for the first time since July 26, 1993, when the Dodgers were at San Francisco. "It's just something we prepared for and talked about. It felt a little different but fortunately I was prepared. I don't remember much about that first ball. It was hit pretty hard and I was just trying to react. It was mostly self-preservation."
When asked if he heard the crowd chanting his name after the catch, Piazza deadpanned.
"I don't know," said Piazza, who extended his hitting streak to seven games but saw his career-high homerless streak stretch to 84 at-bats. "I was still breathing a little heavy."
The Pirates took the lead in the seventh on Abraham Nunez's sacrifice fly. New York had knotted the score at 1 on Wigginton's solo homer in the fifth, tacking on another run in the eighth. Grant Roberts (0-3) took the loss.
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.