CINCINNATI -- Perhaps, there is no explanation. Even Mets manager Terry Collins, who admits he has a few private theories, stops short of believing he has an absolute answer. But one indisputable fact has lingered throughout this marathon season.
Get the Mets out of Citi Field -- free them from their home-field disadvantage -- and they are a different team. And Wednesday, they proved it once more, beating the Reds, 1-0, to throw a wrench in their postseason plans.
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By taking two of three here, the Mets extinguished the Reds' chances of winning the NL Central and decreased the likelihood of hosting the NL wild-card game. Meanwhile, the Mets ended the season with a 41-40 mark on the road.
It began with Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose impressive run to end the season may bode well in his bid to remain in the big leagues next season, perhaps with the Mets. The righthander tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings. It ended with Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins, who recorded the last four outs.
In the middle, Juan Centeno became the first catcher to throw out base-stealing sensation Billy Hamilton, who began his big league career 13-for-13. "On Tuesday I was joking with guys in the bullpen," said Centeno, a September call-up with a sterling defensive reputation. "I'm going to get that guy tomorrow. And I got him."
In the long term, the Mets (73-85) might benefit from simply fading away. By rule, the teams who finish with the 10 worst records in baseball have their first-round draft picks protected from being used as free- agent compensation. It's a particularly impactful consideration for the Mets, who are expected to be active in free agency.
Matsuzaka, the 33-year-old who signed with the Mets to revive his career, then posted a 10.95 ERA in his first three starts, has since rebounded with a 1.38 ERA in his last four outings.
Collins said the Mets would "absolutely" be interested in keeping the righthander to help bolster his rotation's depth next season. The pitcher called such a possibility an "honor."
"My intentions are to stay here in the U.S. I want to continue pitching over here in the major leagues," he said through a translator. "And if my previous few starts have impressed anyone, then we'll just have to see."
The Mets scored in the third. Wilfredo Tovar took a pitch off his forearm, moved to second on a sacrifice and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Eric Young Jr.'s single knocked in the run.
Matsuzaka made it stand up, scattering just four hits and striking out six, all while pushing through back stiffness that flared while taking an awkward swing in the fourth.
He believes he has proved that he can still pitch in the big leagues. Said Matsuzaka: "I'm hopeful that it has impressed someone enough to make me an offer next season."
Notes and quotes:With Hawkins still battling fatigue, reliever Vic Black will be expected to close if the opportunity arises in the next few days, Collins said. The Mets have identified Black as a potential replacement if closer Bobby Parnell is slow to recover from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.