NEW YORK - Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Doink.
That's how Chase Utley will remember the final Shea Stadium home opener. The Phillies' second baseman got hit for the cycle: He was hit three times by Mets pitchers (tying a major-league record) and once by first baseman Carlos Delgado.
"I felt like maybe I had a magnet on me," Utley said after his human-target routine helped the Phillies to a 5-2 win yesterday. "None of them hurt too bad today."
When it comes to the Mets, the Phillies are where the Buddy Ryan Eagles were with the Dallas Cowboys. "They know we're going to beat them," Buddy used to boast. "They just don't know how."
That's nine in a row, if you're keeping count. You can bet the Mets are. The previous eight played a large part in New York's epic and, judging by the Shea crowd, still painful 2007 collapse.
The Phillies tiptoed around the topic after extending the streak into 2008. After all, they will play here today and tomorrow, then face the Mets 15 more times during the long season ahead. No reason to give their rivals any more motivation than they already have.
"This was just one game," centerfielder Shane Victorino said. "We have to come out and play nine [innings] tomorrow."
The crowd at Shea is one of the few in baseball as tough and demanding as the Phillies' home crowd. So playing here is a rare opportunity to turn a crowd against an opponent over the course of a game. The Shea fans were on their feet and cheering in the first inning. They were on their heels and jeering as the Phillies came from behind and took control of the game.
"We all enjoy coming here," Utley said. "There's a buzz in the atmosphere. It was pretty intense today."
Another come-from-behind win for the Phillies left the Mets wondering exactly what hit them. Or, in this case, what hit Utley.
The Phillies' offense was silent until Jimmy Rollins and Victorino hit back-to-back singles in the seventh. Utley, who was hit by Oliver Perez breaking balls in the first and the fourth, came up against lefthander Scott Schoeneweis. Utley took a fastball off his back and then trotted to first, loading the bases.
"I've never been hit three times in a game before," Utley said. "They definitely weren't on purpose. But it was a little bit of a funny feeling."
Utley was hit by pitches 25 times last season, most in the major leagues. One of those pitches, a fastball from Washington lefthander John Lannan, broke Utley's right hand and caused him to miss 28 games. It says something about Utley's toughness that he came back so quickly. It says even more that he went right back to standing close to the plate and risking further beanballs - especially against lefthanders.
"That was not in my mind whatsoever," Utley said of the injury. "It's part of baseball. If you can get on base, you take it, especially when you're down two runs. If I can get on base for the big boys, Ryan [Howard] and Pat [Burrell], I'll take it."
Thanks to Utley's third welt, Howard came up with the bases loaded. He slapped a sharp grounder right at Delgado, who scooped it up and went for the inning-ending double play. But Delgado's throw to second hit Utley in the back and rolled into shallow center.
Rollins and Victorino scored, tying the game at 2. That's one run for each baseball that hit Utley in the back. This time wasn't an accident, though. Utley knew where the ball was hit and where Delgado's throwing lane would be.
"You're just trying to break up the double play there," Utley said. "If the ball hits you, that's even better."
Utley scored from second on Jayson Werth's RBI single. In the eighth, Utley actually got to swing his bat at a pitch. It landed in right field for an RBI double.
By now, the Shea crowd had turned. The rival Mets, who built a slim 2-0 lead against Jamie Moyer, were down, 5-2. When Tom Gordon came in for the ninth, the Mets went down in order.
They know we're going to beat them. They just don't know how.
The last time the Mets played here, they were blown out by the Florida Marlins while the Phillies were home clinching the division. That humiliating loss left the Mets stunned and reeling, questioning their own mental toughness and will.
A win against the Phillies in their home opener would have given the Mets a nice clean slate for 2008. Instead, they were served notice that the Phillies still have their number.
It must have felt - plunk! - like a fastball in the back.