Pirates, Mets go back to work
The Mets topped the Bucs, 4-1, one of the first games played in seven days.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
PITTSBURGH -- In a Major League Baseball game that meant nothing to the pennant races but everything to the country's wounded psyche, the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates went back to work playing America's Pastime.
In one of the first games played in seven days, Rey Ordonez's ninth-inning smash off Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez's glove brought home Mets rookie Tsuyoshi Shinjo with the winning run in New York's 4-1 victory Monday at PNC Park.
"We played a pretty good game and hopefully we made a lot of people rooting for the Mets a little happier," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.
Crowd: After 143 games, the Pirates finally faced the defending National League champions before approximately 10,000 mostly-subdued fans on a calm, warm September evening.
"This absolutely was the right thing for us to do," said Mets starter Al Leiter of baseball's return after a break spurred by the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
"I think we provided a great diversion from watching the horrible events on CNN," Leiter said. "That's important, but so was this.
"This is what we do for a living and this is our job," said Leiter, who limited the Pirates to one run on four hits over the first seven innings.
Their business: "The president said everybody go back to work and try to [make it] business as usual. This is our business."
Winning pitcher John Franco agreed. "We've got a job to do, whether you agree with it or not," said Franco, who turned 41 Monday. "We're not only playing for ourselves, we're playing for the whole city of New York."
Losing pitcher Mike Fetters struck Shinjo with a 3-2 pitch to lead off the ninth inning. After Shinjo stole second base, Fetters retired two players before walking Jay Payton and giving up the Ordonez hit.
Shinjo raced home just ahead of Brian Giles' throw to the plate.
Mets pinch-hitter and former Pirate Mark Johnson then delivered a two-run double.
No excuses: "I'm not going to make excuses," Fetters said. "I didn't get the job done tonight and it had nothing to do with what's going on in the country. I just pitched bad."
Pirates starter Todd Ritchie didn't, limiting the Mets to one run in his five innings.
"Todd was very poised out there," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Unfortunately, his pitch count was up."
Ritchie remained 8-0 in his past 10 starts at PNC Park with an earned run average of just under 1.99.
Control lacking: Ritchie struggled with his control in the third inning, which led to the Mets' first run. Ordonez led off with a single, took second base on Leiter's ground-out and moved to third on a wild pitch.
Struck by a pitch, Matt Lawton stole second base, setting up a two-out intentional walk to Mike Piazza. Shinjo walked on a full-count pitch to score Ordonez.
With one out and a runners at second and third base in scoring position, McClendon lifted Ritchie for pinch-hitter Craig Wilson in the bottom of the fifth inning with one out and runners at second and third base.
Bucs' only run: Wilson grounded out to Mets third baseman Robin Ventura to score Gary Matthews Jr. with the Bucs' only run.
Leiter, Franco and Armando Benitez shut down the Pirates' three-through-six hitters, giving up just one hit in 13 at-bats.
Despite the loss, Pirates first baseman Kevin Young, who walked twice, struck out and hit into a double play, said, "It was enjoyable to be back out there.
"[The tragedy] hit home for a lot of us, but those guys were there. They [know] a lot of people, maybe friends [who were involved], so you felt for them as a team."