'Different' atmosphereas Bucs fall
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he didn't feel the spirit of competition.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon struggled for words to explain how he felt after the first baseball game in more than a week.
"Different," said McClendon of the atmosphere at PNC Park Monday following Pittsburgh's 4-1 loss to the New York Mets. "I had an eerie feeling the entire game.
"The emotion never got to the point where either side was in a spirit of competition. I'm sure it will get better as we go on.
"The players were a little rusty, but excited to be out there," said McClendon of the game televised nationally by ESPN.
"I'm glad we got off to a competitive start," said McClendon of the game that was tied 1-1 until the Mets scored three times in the ninth inning to win, 4-1.
Honor: The game began following a pre-game ceremony honoring America that included performances of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America."
"It was absolutely emotional," Mets starter Al Leiter said of the ceremony. "It hit home for all of us."
A subdued crowd of perhaps 10,000 fans watched the game mostly in silence until the second inning when Mets base-runner Jay Payton was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.
But Pirate fans had little to cheer.
Leiter allowed just one base-runner over the first three innings when he walked Jason Kendall in the second inning.
Kevin Young hit into a double play to end the frame.
Spoils no-hitter: With a .100 batting average, Chad Hermansen broke up Leiter's no-hitter on the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning, singling up the middle.
Hermansen raced to third base on Jack Wilson's single, but was erased in a rundown when Brian Giles hit a fielder's choice to third baseman Robin Ventura.
Two fly-outs ended one of the few Pirates' threats.
Young said it felt like a "spring training atmosphere," adding that his focus "improved with every at-bat every pitch, every ground ball. That became second nature. It was good to get back out there."
Pittsburgh tied the game in the fifth inning with a walk, a fielder's choice, a book-rule double and a ground-out.
Caught in rundown: Young walked then was awarded second when Leiter balked. But when Gary Matthews Jr. hit the ball to shortstop Rey Ordonez, Young was caught in a rundown.
Warren Morris' line drive bounced into the left-centerfield bleachers and pinch hitter Craig Wilson's ground-out to Ventura brought in Matthews for a 1-1 tie.
McClendon said he felt "emotionally drained" after the week's events. "In a lot of ways, I'm glad this day is over. I'm going to go home tonight and try and not turn on the television.
"It was a serene atmosphere," McClendon said. "I'm certain that over time it will be better."