The New York Mets got to play the role of spoiler to begin the week. Now they conclude their disappointing regular season aiming for pride.
The Mets begin a four-game series on Thursday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, who showed plenty of fight themselves last time out.
New York has won nine of its last 13 and returns home following a 5-1 road trip. That included taking two of three from playoff-bound Cincinnati, capturing the series with Wednesday's 1-0 win.
Daisuke Matsuzaka continued his push for a 2014 role in the Major Leagues with 7 2/3 scoreless innings, winning his third straight start after holding the Reds to four hits while striking out six.
"If this is my last start, I ... have definitely pitched well," Matsuzaka told the Mets' website through an interpreter. "My intention is to stay over here in the U.S. I want to continue pitching over here in the Major Leagues. And if my previous few starts have impressed anyone, hopefully it has impressed someone enough to make me an offer (for) next season."
The Brewers opened a seven-game road trip to end the season in Atlanta and won two of three over the NL East-champion Braves. They secured their third victory in four games and ninth in the last 14 with a 4-0 victory on Wednesday, though Kyle Lohse's two-hit shutout was overshadowed by Carlos Gomez's antics in the first inning.
Gomez, still harboring ill will towards Atlanta starter Paul Maholm after he hit the outfielder with a pitch back in June, launched his team-leading 23rd homer of the season and decided to admire his blast for a bit before rounding the bases. He chirped at Maholm and a few other Braves while going around the bases and was confronted by catcher Brian McCann well in front of home plate.
That cleared the benches and several players threw punches. Gomez appeared to take a shot to the head from an Atlanta player and Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez was hit in the face by a forearm.
Gomez and a pair of Braves players were ejected from the game and Gomez was apologetic afterwards.
"I did a little bit more (than I should have done) and I apologize for it. But just take the payback," Gomez said. "You see the replay, they hit me for no reason (back in Milwaukee). I just tried to get them back today. It was the only opportunity I had. Nothing against the organization, the Braves. I respect everyone. I'd do the same thing if I was on the other side if a guy did like I did today."
Gomez may owe Ramirez a little more than an apology. In addition to the blow to his face, Ramirez re-injured his left knee, an injury that has nagged him for most of the season, and he could sit out the final four games of the season.
With Gomez possibly facing discipline from the league, the Brewers lineup could be minus a few starters today against Mets hurler Dillon Gee, who aims for his career-high 13th victory of the season.
Gee, who previously won 13 games in 2011, picked up a victory last time out in Philadelphia on Saturday, though he gave up four runs over six innings of a 5-4 decision. He still improved to 12-10 with a 3.54 earned run average in 31 outings this season.
"For the most part I felt like I executed my pitches well," said Gee. "It was a rough six innings, but I got some good run support from the rest of the guys."
The 27-year-old righty has lost both of his previous career meetings with the Brewers, giving up nine earned runs over 11 1/3 innings.
Milwaukee sends out rookie Johnny Hellweg, who has gone 1-4 with a 7.43 ERA in seven games this season, all but one of those starts.
Walks have been an issue for the 24-year-old. He has issued 22 over 26 2/3 innings with three outings in which he walked five batters. Hellweg did so in a loss to the Mets on July 5 in his second career start, giving up seven runs (3 earned) over 3 2/3 innings, and again walked five in a no-decision against St. Louis on Friday.
The righty did only give up two runs versus the Cardinals, a season low for a start, over five innings, but needed 97 pitches.
The Mets won two of three in Milwaukee from July 5-7.