The rare double-header for the Mets and Diamondbacks

Rich Mancuso

A rarity at Citi Field Sunday, two games for the price of one on a Memorial Day weekend.  Baseball used to have the routine double-header on the schedule but with new television contracts, and postponements due to rain, fans will get a marathon day at the ballpark.

There was no other alternative but to play two Sunday after the first game of three was postponed Friday night.  The Diamondbacks don’t return to New York and Saturday was a Fox Network day

And for New York baseball fans, this was two consecutive weeks of a twin- bill single admission baseball. Last Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees played two against the Pittsburgh Pirates under one admission under similar circumstances.

However, those in the hierarchies of both teams would rather have two separate games, the new and customized day-night doubleheader because a separate admission means more revenue at the ballpark.  Either way, two games in one day, at any ballpark is a long day. The ballplayers, managers, coaches, media, and stadium personnel will all agree it is a long and tedious day.

But years ago, when this was the norm, double-headers at the ballpark were routine. What made matters worse Sunday, the Mets and Diamondbacks are not in the category to be classified as two of the most exciting and thrilling teams to watch for over seven hours.

And years ago, when the traditional twin-bill was on the schedule, games would be played under two hours. There were few pitching changes and the starters could go a full nine-innings. Oh, one challenge by the Diamondbacks at second base in the fourth inning went over four minutes.

The Mets last traditional Sunday doubleheader in New York was on June 15, 2009 against the Texas Rangers and it was the Mets’ first at Citi Field. It was the third twin-bill played between the two teams.

 “Anytime you come into a game with 18-innings of baseball you’re always a little weary of your bullpen and we got two good starts,” the Mets’ Daniel Murphy said. Rafael Montero did his best in his third start in the Diamondbacks first game win.  But with these rare double-headers pitching does become a commodity.

That’s when manager Terry Collins opted to use the baseball term of a “Spot Starter” for game two that commenced 25-mintes after the last pitch of game one. Daisuke Matsuzaka, regulated to the bullpen came out of the gate for a day. He did the job, tossing 6.0 innings, allowing two runs, three hits and struck out six.

The bullpen for the Mets was saved from being taxed, a concern of any manager during a double-header.

“He knows we needed help, he knows our bullpens a little thin after what we’ve gone through this week, and he gave us a tremendous outing,” Collins commented about Matsuzaka.  It is always the hope a manager will get that type of spot start for the rare twin-bill.  Does that mean Matsuzaka gets back in the rotation?

“I wanted to go and pitch as deep into the game as could, “Matsuzaka said. “That was the least I could have done and I’m glad I was able to help out the team.”

Collins has that luxury of having his right-hander available out of the pen for long work also. That also comes into play in the event another doubleheader, either day-night or a single admission situation has to unexpectedly be scheduled because of inclement weather.

Either way, fans become the winner, that is, if they have no late afternoon or evening plans on a holiday weekend Sunday. It is a long day at the ballpark and many of the announced crowd of 30,875 filtered out of the ballpark after the Mets lost the first one.

For the Diamondbacks, they packed and left for their long journey back to Arizona.  A split is better than a sweep and makes for a better plane ride to the valley of the sun. They also used an emergency starter for the second game and brought up a rookie to not disrupt their rotation. Right-hander Zeke Spruill, from Triple-A Reno, was their 26th man for the day and tossed 5.1 innings, giving up 10-hits and three runs.

“It’s part of the game you have to deal with it, go home and get fresh,” commented the Diamondbacks Miguel Montero about the long day of baseball.”

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