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Padres spoil Mets' Citi Field opener

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NEW YORK (AP)

Their new home was gorgeous. The Mets looked lost in it. Jody Gerut christened Citi Field with a leadoff homer - the only time that's happened in major league history - and the San Diego Padres spoiled New York's first regular-season game in its glittering ballpark with a 6-5 victory Monday night. Pedro Feliciano balked in the go-ahead run and the Mets made several costly mistakes, opening Citi Field the same way they closed Shea Stadium: with a dud. Gerut's shot off Mike Pelfrey marked the first time that the first batter homered in a regular-season opener at a big league ballpark, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. "Very cool," Gerut said. "Maybe at the end of the season when I look back on this, I'll have a greater sense of what happened here. But at the time, all I'm thinking is that it put us ahead." David Wright rallied New York from an early four-run hole with a tying three-run homer, but it wasn't enough. Duaner Sanchez and Heath Bell, both former Mets relievers, closed out the fifth straight win for surprising San Diego, expected to be one of baseball's worst teams this year. Adrian Gonzalez also connected for the Padres, who improved to 6-2. The Mets are looking for more success at $800 million Citi Field than they had at big Shea, where they spent 45 seasons that produced two World Series championships - and consecutive September collapses the past two years. The Mets lost to Florida in the Shea finale last season, eliminating them from playoff contention. They haven't been any better in their stadium openers, either - New York dropped its first game at the old Polo Grounds (1962) and at Shea Stadium (1964), both by 4-3 scores to Pittsburgh. Wide-eyed fans filed in Monday through the stately Jackie Robinson Rotunda, many snapping photos and searching for souvenirs. Thousands strolled through the spacious concourses during the game, trying out new places to eat, drink and watch the action. Pregame ceremonies included Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and former New York catcher Mike Piazza walking in together from the bullpen, both wearing Mets jerseys. Seaver threw out the first pitch to Piazza, a strike, and pumped his fist. Both players autographed the ball, which is headed to the Hall of Fame. With its intricate brickwork and charming archways, Citi Field was designed to invoke the warmth of Ebbets Field, beloved home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913-57. The Mets tested out the cozy ballpark with two exhibition games April 3-4 against Boston. But this was the real thing, and it certainly didn't go as planned. Gerut pulled Pelfrey's third pitch down the right-field line, stunning a peppy, sold-out crowd of 41,007 right at the start. The first hit at Shea Stadium also was a home run, by Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell off "Fat Jack" Fisher on April 17, 1964. "That's probably the only place in the yard where I can get it out. This park plays pretty big," Gerut said. Indeed, Wright and Carlos Beltran hammered long drives to center that Gerut caught near the fence, balls that probably would have left Shea Stadium and most other big league parks. Pelfrey looked out of sorts all night in his team's new digs. He caught a cleat on the mound in mid-delivery, sending the 6-foot-7 right-hander tumbling awkwardly to the turf in the second inning with opposing starter Walter Silva at the plate. Pelfrey wasn't hurt, so he tried to waive off manager Jerry Manuel and a team trainer. They came out to check on him anyway. "I asked them if the game was on TV. It was pretty embarrassing," Pelfrey said. Silva then hit a two-out single, sparking a three-run rally that included David Eckstein's two-run double and Brian Giles' soft RBI single. Gonzalez gave San Diego a 5-1 cushion with a leadoff homer in the fifth off Pelfrey that caromed off the screen attached to the right-field foul pole. "We just haven't seen the life in those pitches," Manuel said. "We'll have to really sit down and see if there'e anything wrong with him." The Mets finally revved up their fans in the fifth. Daniel Murphy hit an RBI single with two outs and Wright reached down to yank a full-count pitch over the retired numbers above the 364-foot sign on the left-field fence. The three-run homer tied it at 5 and chased Silva, a 32-year-old rookie who squandered a great opportunity for his first major league win. The right-hander was invited to Padres camp in February from the Monterrey Sultans after spending his entire career in the Triple-A Mexican League. The Mets gave away the go-ahead run in the sixth. With Brian Stokes (0-1) pitching, Luis Rodriguez opened the inning with a long fly to right that glanced off Ryan Church's glove for a three-base error. Two outs later, Feliciano balked in a run that put the Padres up 6-5. Murphy dropped a deep fly to left on Sunday in Florida, leading to two runs in a 2-1 loss. "Right now it just seems like we're a little off. We're not playing a complete game," Wright said. "I can't wait to get back out here because it's a lot of fun coming to this ballpark and to have these amenities." Edward Mujica (1-1) retired his only batter for his first major league victory. Sanchez worked a perfect eighth and Bell pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save.

Notes

Gary Sheffield is slated to get his first Mets start Wednesday night in right field. New York manager Jerry Manuel also said that when Sheffield and Church play together in the outfield, Sheffield will be in left while Church stays in right. ... One home run shy of 500, Sheffield pinch hit for Pelfrey in the fifth and grounded into a fielder's choice. ... Mets ace Johan Santana was in Florida with his pregnant wife, who was to have labor induced Tuesday. Santana is expected back in time to take his turn in the rotation Saturday against Milwaukee. ... Padres OF Cliff Floyd, on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, is expected to take batting practice on the field Wednesday and could begin a minor league rehab assignment this week, manager Bud Black said. ... The Mets placed OF Marlon Anderson on release waivers.
Tagged: Mets, Padres

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