So much for the Great Weeklong Debate as to whether Willie Randolph should have pitched Johan Santana on normal rest against the last-place Washington Nationals or give him an extra day so he could showcase his wares once more for Hank Steinbrenner by opening the Subway Series at the Stadium Friday night against the Yankees.
Certainly, the Mets could have batted just as ineptly and run themselves out of a ballgame just as easily for their $137 million meal ticket as they did yesterday for poor Mike Pelfrey. And indeed, isn't this a fine way to tune up for the first momentous "bragging rights" series of the season against their Bronx rivals - three out of four losses to the lowly Nats, yesterday's finale being a five-hit shutout, culminated by Billy Wagner's pointed clubhouse explosion at the empty lockers of Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran?
"Someone tell me why the ---- you're talking to the closer," Wagner raged as the inquiring media minds gravitated to his locker in the solemn postgame clubhouse. "I didn't even play!"
Then, glaring directly across the room at the lockers of Beltran, who had talked briefly to the media before departing, and Delgado, who dressed and split immediately, Wagner added: "They're over there now being interviewed. Oh, I get it. They're gone. ----ing shocker!"
Sadly, that was about the most sound and fury the Mets showed all day.
But for two baserunning blunders, another bad-break game-ending baserunning snafu and a sensational catch in left field by Nats whippet Willie Harris, it coulda shoulda been a different outcome - although as Randolph said with a shrug afterward: "We didn't get many breaks and we didn't make any breaks."
He'll get no argument on that. Aside from Pelfrey, who was brilliant, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning, this was a team performance that merely exacerbated all the frustration and lingering anger of the Shea fandom, not to mention the ever-volatile and outspoken Wagner. At first, the fans were probably delighted to see the return to the lineup of the oft-injured Luis Castillo - he of the four-year, $25 million contract - after a three-day absence with a sore quad. But after Nats right fielder Austin Kearns dropped David Wright's lazy, routine fly ball with two out in the third, and Castillo (who'd just singled to right) was only able to make it to third base, the crowd was less than enthralled.
From his standpoint, Randolph said he didn't think Castillo coulda shoulda scored on the play, but he was probably the only person in the ballpark to publicly take that stance. (Nobody got a chance to ask Wagner his opinion.) Actually, Randolph said, he was more upset at Wright for not winding up on second on the muff.