Eliminated from the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, owners of a 9-25 home record since the All-Star break (25-44 overall) and a midweek afternoon game left little reason for Mets fans to make the trek to Citi Field for the team’s home finale.
But a funny thing happened on the way to irrelevancy — the game mattered. For the first time since 1990, a Mets pitcher was looking to secure his 20th win. Near the end of a once-promising season that slipped away, fans had a reason to pass through the turnstiles.
“It feels good to have something to cheer for again,” said John Nunez, 46, who was with his son. “We actually bought these tickets when [the Mets] still had a winning record.”
Many of the 31,506 in attendance though came to Citi Field sans ticket with the hope of seeing history — a wish that was rewarded with a 6-5 victory earning R.A. Dickey his 20th win of the season.
Five other Mets pitchers accomplished the feat a total of eight times with the last being Frank Viola in 1990, but the home fans had not witnessed the accomplishment since David Cone won his 20th at Shea Stadium in 1988.
“This is only my third game this half,” Jeff Fuller said as he waited on line outside the ticket window. “But I wanted to come see Dickey win 20.”
A multitude of the fans in attendance returned after weeks staying away from the stadium as the team fell out of the playoff race and struggled to collect any wins — or paying customers.
“It’s not a lot of fun to come to an empty stadium,” Fuller said.
While officially it was only the third highest attended game this half, more fans’ fannies likely packed the seats than any Mets game since the All-Star break and they made sure they were heard.
Everything Dickey did — single, get forced out, talk to manager Terry Collins — drew thunderous applause, a fact that was not lost on Collins.
After the seventh inning Collins told an exhausted Dickey, “This ballpark is filled with energy, use it to your advantage. These people deserve to see you walk off the mound. They came to see you.”
“This day was as much about the fans as it was for me,” Dickey said after the game. “How can you not be motivated to go out there and give the fans, your teammates and yourself all that you have.”
The fans’ spirit was able to aid Dickey in his quest, something Collins hoped the other players noticed.
“I hope our players felt the energy today, because that’s what you want to have. That’s what you want to have this ballpark filled with,” Collins said.
Fans and players will have to wait until next April to feel that energy again since Citi Field will be dark again this October, but for some the bright spot of Dickey’s 20th shone through.
“That’s why you come,” said Nick Scardelli. “In a lost season, we got to end it on our feet cheering.”