“The attention, and perhaps the torch, shifted from Piazza to Wright yesterday…Standing in the same spot where Piazza talked about breaking the career record for home runs by a catcher this season, the unshaven, 21-year-old Wright looked and sounded more like a 15-year veteran, relying on the kind of baseball rhetoric Piazza could have taught him.”
–Lee Jenkins, New York Times, July 22, 2004
The 2004 New York Mets are trying to pacify a frustrated fanbase, who haven’t seen a winning season in 3 years. Sprinkled with underachieving veterans, the Mets and their fans are getting a breath of fresh air today, as prized 3rd base prospect David Wright will make his Major League debut against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium. Entering play tonight, the Mets stand at 46-47, but are still only 3 games back of the division leading Braves and Phillies.
On the mound for the Mets is Jae Weong Seo, the 27-year-old, 6’1” right-hander from Naebang High School in South Korea. Seo is having an uneven season, standing at 4-6 with a 4.59 ERA. Leading off for the Expos is left fielder Brad Wilkerson, who chops one down to 1st. Ty Wigginton, who had been the 3rd baseman but was ousted over to the right side of the infield with Wright’s arrival, makes a slick backhanded play, tossing the ball to the covering Seo for the 1st out of the ball game. The next 2 batters, center fielder Endy Chavez and 2nd baseman Jose Vidro, go down gently to end the inning. Wright gets to show off his stellar defense, ranging to his left to gather Vidro’s hard chopper, throwing across the diamond for his 1st Major League fielding play.
On the mound for the Expos is John Patterson, the 26-year-old, 6’6” right-hander. Leading off for the Mets is 2nd baseman Jose Reyes, the other 21-year-old the Mets are hoping will anchor the infield with Wright for years to come. The Mets moved Reyes from his natural position of shortstop to 2nd base to accommodate Japanese import, Kazuo Matsui (the move has had mixed results.) Reyes runs the count to 2-2, fouling off the 5th pitch. The 6th pitch is rocked to deep center field. Chavez, with great range, goes back on the ball and makes the catch. The aforementioned shortstop Matsui is up next, and he takes a walk to get things going for the Metsies. Up next is Wigginton, and he chops it down to 3rd baseman Tony Batista. Trying to start the double play, Batista throws it wide of 2nd, sending the ball into the outfield for the E6. Matsui, who was sliding, gets up and sprints to 3rd. Ty is safe at 1st. The Mets have something going at the corners with left fielder Cliff Floyd on his way up with 1 out. Patterson, however, buckles down to strike him out swinging on 5 pitches. Right fielder Richard Hidalgo strikes out swinging as well, and the Mets are done in the 1st.
The Expos smack 2 singles with 2 out in the top of the 2nd, but Seo gets catcher Brain Schneider to ground out to 1st to end the threat. After center fielder Mike Cameron strikes out swinging to lead off the bottom half, David Wright walks up to a thunderous ovation from the 30,227 fans. Wright has an admirable 1st at-bat, running the count to 2-2, fouling off a couple balls. On the 7th pitch, however, he pops it up to the left of home plate. Schneider throws off the mask and follows the ball as it drifts to the seats. It holds up, however, and Brian catches the ball as he tumbles into the visiting dugout. On a spectacular play, Wright is 0-1 to begin his career. Catcher Vance Wilson (Mike Piazza is out with a left wrist injury) and Sao both collect 2-out singles, but Reyes strikes out swinging to end the inning.
Things remain quiet until the bottom of the 3rd. Floyd and Wigginton both walk, and up comes Hidalgo looking to get things started for the Mets. He sends the 1st pitch he sees into the stands for a 3-run home run. David Wright gets his 2nd opportunity with 2 out, but unfortunately grounds out to 3rd.
The Mets tack on another run in the 4th when Seo, who doubled, is driven in by Matsui on a single. Patterson lasts only those 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks.
Seo is cruising as he enters the 7th, having given up only a solo shot to Wilkerson in the top of the 4th. Pinch hitter Henry Mateo singles to lead things off, and is sent to 3rd on a single by the aforementioned Wilkerson. That will do it for Seo, as manager Art Howe heads to the umpire to double-switch him out of the game. The southpaw, Mike Stanton, is brought in to face the lefty Chavez. Shane Spencer takes over for Cliff in left. The 1st pitch is off the plate. The 2nd pitch is over the plate, though it is not a good thing for the Mets and Stanton in this case. Chavez hits it to deep right-center, over the wall for a 3-run home run. The game is tied at 4. Stanton settles down to keep it knotted up going into the bottom half. Wright gets a chance for his 1st Major League hit to have an immediate impact on the action, but his long drive down the right field line settles into the fielder’s glove in the corner.
The Mets hold the Expos off in the top half of the 8th, getting a huge double play with a runner on to end the inning. In the bottom half, Montreal sends lefty reliever Joe Horgan to the mound. Reyes unfortunately pops out to 1st in foul territory to open the frame, and Matsui follows by grounding out to 2nd. Wigginton draw a 2-out walk, however, prompting manager Frank Robinson to bring in righty Luis Ayala to face pinch-hitter Todd Zeile. Alaya gets 2 strikes on Zeile, but unleashes a wild one on his 3rd pitch, sending Wigginton down to 2nd. With a runner now in scoring position, Zeile hits one down to 3rd. Ty runs on contact with 2 out as Batista throws across the diamond to 1st baseman Nick Johnson. Johnson, however, cannot finish the play and drops the ball. He fumbles around for it as Wigginton races to home plate, scoring the go-ahead 5th Metsie run. The Orange and Blue take the lead without the need of a hit. Hidalgo then offers Johnson another chance to play crisp baseball, sending a grounder to 3rd as well. This time, Nick holds onto the ball for the final out of the inning.
Reliever Braden Looper is sent to the mound to try and lock it down in the top of the 9th. He gets Wilkerson to ground out to 2nd for the 1st out, but then gives up singles to both Chavez and Vidro. Tony Batista is up to try and tie the game for the Expos, but Looper gets him to roll over one to short. Kaz tosses it to Reyes, who turns and throws to Wigginton at 1st. He digs it out nicely for the double play to seal the deal, and the Mets win, 5-4.
Jae Seo goes 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits, 3 walks and 1 strikeout. He does not factor into the decision, and escapes the day with a 4.58 ERA.
David Wright goes 0-4 in his Major League debut, but celebrates the win “as if he had blasted a game-winning grand slam.” (Lee Jenkins, New York Times)
”Everything played out like it did in my dreams…Now I’ll go back to my hotel room and soak it in, replay each at-bat and each ground ball…I felt overaggressive at the plate. I think it was just nerves. I was a little bit out of my element tonight. “
–David Wright, New York Times
The team exits the day at 47-47, still 3 games back of 1st. Wanting to appease the fanbase, General Manager Jim Duquette makes a couple of ill-advised trades at the deadline, receiving Kris Benson from the Pirates for Wigginton, minor league pitcher Matt Peterson and infielder Jose Bautista, and, more infamously, sending prized pitching prospect Scott Kazmir and Jose Diaz to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. Zambrano pitches only 14 innings before succumbing to an elbow injury. The Mets finish the year 71-91, good for 4th place in the NL East. Duquette is fired and replaced by Expos GM Omar Minaya, who replaces Art Howe with Willy Randolph.
The 2004 New York Mets.
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