2004 NEWS

2004 News > 5/24/04

WITH SHEA ROCKING, IT'S THROWBACK DAY

By Mike Lupica, NY Daily News

By the time Tom Glavine was through the fifth inning, by the time it was 15 up and 15 down for the Rockies, it wasn't the last few years at Shea Stadium anymore. It wasn't all the bad times. There were 37,000 in the house on Cap Day and now it sounded like much more, which meant Shea was the way it used to be on a Sunday afternoon like this.

They were cheering every strike from Glavine. On a day when the Mets were trying to get to .500, everybody in the house, the Mets and their fans, were riding the arm of Glavine. They were riding Glavine the way they used to ride Seaver here, and Koosman, and Ryan, and Gooden and David Cone, the last Met to chase the first no-hitter in the history of the team as far as Glavine chased it yesterday.

They dreamed. Glavine kept working his angles, working the corners, getting the Rockies to pop the ball up when he tired a little and stopped getting all his ground balls.

"I've got a better chance at going 4-for-4 than pitching a no-hitter," Glavine would say.

And up in the broadcast booth, reading glasses at the end of his nose, Tom Seaver was charting Glavine's pitches against the Rockies at Shea, as he watched Glavine try to pitch the no-hitter for the Mets that Seaver never did. It is coming up on 25 years since Seaver went one out into the ninth with a perfect game against the Cubs before a rookie named Jimmy Qualls singled to break it up.

After the third inning, Seaver looked up from the big scorebook he keeps and said, "Only 36 pitches. You better pay attention to what you're watching today."

Better than anyone else at Shea, any player or coach, two people knew how good Glavine was pitching against the Rockies, even a depleted Rockies team that did not have Larry Walker or Preston Wilson or Todd Helton: Glavine knew and Seaver knew. Once before, 15 years ago, Glavine had gone into the seventh with a no-hit shot against the Padres. And there was the magnificent night of his career, the eight one-hit innings he threw against the Indians in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, the one World Series the Braves of the '90s won.

He was a Met now, coming off a 9-14 season. He hadn't even pitched a complete game here. But he was back on his game this season, you saw that before yesterday. He was one of the best pitchers in the National League again. Had beaten Randy Johnson 1-0 right before Johnson threw his perfect game.

Even after Denny Hocking worked him for a walk in the seventh - after the Rockies' dugout had worked home plate umpire Larry Vanover into a slightly reduced strike zone - Tom Glavine had it going on at Shea. A quiet professional rocking the house a little more, an out at a time.

The place was loud again and happy again. By the time he finished off the Rockies in the top of the seventh, you couldn't buy a Glavine replica jersey anywhere at Shea.

"The crowd kept getting louder and louder," Glavine said. "How could you not feed off that?"

The Mets would win this game 4-0, making it three in a row against the Rockies, after being written off, again, after losing two games to the Cardinals. They are 8-3 in their last 11 games, and three games out of first place. They get ready now to play two straight weeks of games against the teams ahead of them in the NL East, the Marlins and the Phillies. In a wide-open year in baseball, one where the Rangers have the same record as the Yankees, and only five games separate the Angels, with the best record, and the Padres at No. 14, we will have a much better idea in two weeks how much in play the Mets really are.

"Last year, a bad inning would become a bad game, and then a bad series of games," GM Jim Duquette said. "We're better now. Just how much better? We're going to find out."

He went back to his box to watch Glavine try to finish his no-hitter, with the perfect game gone. Two innings to go now. Then Kit Pellow, who'd hit a long foul-ball home run off Glavine earlier in the game, got one over Shane Spencer's head and off the wall in the right-field corner. Glavine's no-hitter was gone, just like that. The noise for Glavine only got bigger at Shea. No shrill demands for these Mets to instantly be transformed into the Yankees. Nobody telling Mets fans to give up on the season already.

In the broadcast booth, 25 years after Jimmy Qualls, Tom Seaver pointed to Pellow's place in the Rockies' order, showed you where he'd written the number "100" in the margin.

"One hundred pitches," he said, counting to the end. "It's not where you are in the batting order, it's how many pitches you've thrown."

Glavine only needed a handful of pitches after that. The last was strike three to Royce Clayton to end it. The Mets lined up to shake his hand then. When Glavine crossed the first-base line the crowd gave him one more rousing cheer. Maybe he smiled as he waved his cap at them. For these last few bright moments, all the Sunday afternoon you could have wanted here, you didn't know what year it was for Glavine. You didn't know what year it was for the Mets.