For many years while the Atlanta Braves had a chokehold on the rest of the National League East, Turner Field was a veritable house of horrors for the New York Mets. Since it opened in 1997, the Mets are 34-66 at Turner Field and have had numerous crushing defeats, including some of the season-ending variety (see 1999 season). Last year, the Mets were 1-8 in Atlanta, easily their worst record against any team on the road. Clearly, Atlanta was not one of the cities the Mets looked forward to visiting every season when the schedules were released.
It appears that Turner Field may not be the only ballpark that causes the mighty Mets to turn into the mini-Mets. Is it possible that PNC Park in Pittsburgh has become the new Turner Field in the mind of the Mets’ players?
Granted, the Mets have been playing shorthanded so far in their current series at PNC Park. However, the Mets were also short a few guys last week while they were winning five out of six games at Citi Field. If they could defeat the Nationals and Marlins a few players short of a full deck, surely they could defeat the lowly Pirates. Ah, but the aura of PNC Park has permeated through the Mets’ bats and gloves. How else can you explain squandering a 5-0 lead Monday night? Not even Johan Santana could fend off the PNC Park Monster Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss that saw him give up the first major league home run to Jason Jaramillo and back-to-back RBI doubles to Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche. This week’s games are just a small sample of the unfathomable defeats the Mets have suffered at PNC Park over the years. Do any of these other games bring back memories?
July 8, 2005: The Mets held a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning. It wasn’t even a save situation, so Willie Randolph brought in Aaron Heilman to start the ninth inning. Unfortunately, Heilman created a save situation for Braden Looper. The two of them combined to give up four runs in the ninth inning, followed by another run in the tenth. Pirates win 6-5.
September 15-17, 2006: Needing one win to secure their first division title in 18 years, the Mets proceeded to lose all three games in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, these losses did not have a negative effect on their season. However, it was now becoming obvious that the Mets were having difficulty playing at PNC Park.
August 18, 2008: The Mets were holding on to a slim lead in the National League East. The previous week, they had lost a heartbreaker to the Bucs at Shea Stadium when they couldn’t hold a 5-1 seventh inning lead. The bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh inning followed by three more in the ninth, leading to a 7-5 loss. The Mets needed the bullpen to recover from that bitter taste the Pirates had left in their collective mouths just a week earlier. Unfortunately, they wasted a beautiful shutout performance by John Maine by giving up five runs over the last three innings en route to a 5-2 defeat.
Is it any wonder the Mets have lost the first two games at PNC Park this year, losing in similar fashion to numerous previous losses there? The Mets are now 6-9 in Pittsburgh since they became perennial contenders in 2005. At least when the Mets were losing all those games at Turner Field, they were losing to a Braves team that was playing regularly in October. The Pirates haven’t had a winning record since 1992 and could set the all-time record for consecutive losing seasons this year. No Mets team, no matter how injury-depleted they are, should have that type of record against a team whose annual goal is to be mediocre. No matter how you slice it, it appears that PNC Park is becoming the new Turner Field, a ballpark where good things only happen to the team wearing the home whites. I’m just glad the Mets don’t have to make a return trip to Pittsburgh this season.