Wait's over: Valentin homers twice as Mets clinch East

NEW YORK (AP) -- They soaked themselves in wine and beer, then

ran out of their clubhouse to go back on the field, jump up and

down some more and share the glee with their fans.

Ending nearly two decades of disappointment in their division

and days of delay, the New York Mets brought the NL East title back

to Shea Stadium for the first time since 1988 with a 4-0 victory

over the Florida Marlins on Monday night.

Clinch doesn't clinch
New York Mets
Since divisional play began in 1969, ten teams that were the first in baseball to clinch their division went on to win the World Series. World Series winners in bold.
'06 Mets '87 Twins
'05 Cardinals '87 Giants (same day)
'04 Cardinals '86 Mets
'03 Giants '85 Dodgers
'02 Braves '84 Tigers
'01 Mariners '83 White Sox
'00 Cardinals '82 Cardinals
'99 Indians '80 Royals
'98 Yankees '79 Orioles
'97 Braves '78 Dodgers
'97 Indians (same day) '77 Dodgers
'96 Indians '76 Reds
'95 Indians '75 Reds
'93 Blue Jays '74 Athletics
'93 White Sox (same day) '73 Orioles
'92 Pirates '72 Pirates
'91 Pirates '71 A's
'90 A's '70 Orioles
'89 Cubs '70 Reds
(same day)
'88 A's '69 Orioles
Note: '94 was strike year and '81 strike/split year.

Then they celebrated as if they had won the World Series.

"If this is what playoff baseball in New York is like, to me

it's the best," David Wright said before sticking a cigar in his

mouth and high-fiving fans in the first row during the 90-minute

postgame celebration.

Jose Valentin, one of their unexpected stars, homered twice.

Steve Trachsel, their longest-tenured player, combined with

Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner on a four-hitter.

Fireworks shot off from behind the center-field wall when Cliff Floyd caught Josh Willingham's fly ball to left for the final out.

The Mets rushed to the center of the diamond for a bouncing group

hug near shortstop.

"I got that ball in my back pocket. For a small fee, I might

give it up," Floyd said, laughing.

They are New York's "other team," often obscured by the

crosstown Yankees, whose 26 World Series titles' dwarf the Mets'

two. When the Yankees celebrate division titles -- they're closing

in on their ninth straight -- they resemble corporate executives

closing a deal with handshakes. For them, only World Series titles


When the Mets win anything, it's time to let loose.

"If we win the World Series this year, it's not going to erase

the Yankee mystique," Tom Glavine said. "They've done it year

after year, and they deserve all the attention they get. We're just

trying to play well and take some of that attention. But sure, we

want our piece of the pie."

The Mets had hoped to clinch last week during a trip to Florida

and Pittsburgh. But the 280 or so bottles of Freixenet Cordon Negro

Extra Dry sparkling wine that had been flown from city to city were

neatly arrayed in four trays outside the clubhouse before the game,

as if to tantalize passing players.

Elias Says

Steve Trachsel
Steve Trachsel improved his record to 15-7 and lowered his ERA to 4.96 in the Mets division-clinching win Monday. Only one pitcher in major league history has won more than two-thirds of his decisions while posting an ERA as high as Trachsel's (minimum: 20 decisions). Roxie Lawson went 18-7 for the 1937 Tigers despite a 5.27 ERA.

• For more Elias Says, click here

By the fifth inning, when the Mets were up 3-0, Pedro Martinez

was sitting on the edge of the dugout, wearing goggles -- perhaps in

anticipation of sprayed sting in the celebration ahead. Possibly

remembering the wild celebrations of 1969 and 1986, police deployed

four mounted officers on watch behind the right-field fence.

"We accomplished the first step," Martinez said. "Now we have

a big job to do and a great responsibility."

Led by the power of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, the

pitching of Martinez and Glavine, the spark of Jose Reyes and

Wright, and the closing of Wagner, the Mets took over the NL East

lead for good with a 2-1 record on April 6 and put together the

best record in the major leagues (91-58).

"It was a little bit frustrating because I wanted the guys to

experience it right away," said manager Willie Randolph, a veteran

of six World Series titles as a Yankees player and coach.

"It's that adrenaline that you get. It's that real euphoric

feeling you get knowing that you accomplished something. Having

said that, I've been through this many times. We have a lot to do,

man. We've just scratched the surface of how good this team can


Just two years removed from a 71-91 finish that led to the

hirings of Randolph and general manager Omar Minaya, the Mets ended

the reign of the Atlanta Braves, who had won 14 straight division

titles, including 11 in a row since their move to the NL East.

The Mets became the first team this season to clinch a playoff

berth and can prepare for their first postseason appearance since

2000, when they won the wild card for the second straight season

and lost to the Yankees in the World Series. The Mets are likely to

meet St. Louis, Los Angeles or San Diego in the first round,

starting in the first week of October.

A giddy crowd of 46,729 chanted, clapped and sang at festive

Shea -- about 10,000 tickets were sold after Sunday's loss completed

a three-game Pirates' sweep. Many arrived for batting practice, and

fans already were on their feet cheering during the first inning.

Trachsel felt the buzz when he drove into the parking lot.

"Security guards and construction workers were screaming

walking in: 'Get this thing done!'" he said.

Trachsel (15-7), who signed with the Mets in December 2000,

allowed three hits in 6 1/3 innings and joined Gary Gentry (1969),

Tom Seaver (1973), Dwight Gooden (1986) and Ron Darling (1988) as

the only pitchers to win division clinchers for the Mets. Darling

was on hand Monday night as a member of the team's broadcast crew.

Valentin, who took away the second-base job from Kaz Matsui

early in the season, hit a two-run homer in the third inning off

Brian Moehler (7-9), then earned his second curtain call of the

night with a solo shot in the fifth. Floyd added an RBI single in

the sixth.

"That was something," Valentin said, recalling the fan

reaction. "That was a great feeling."

For Florida, though, the playoff picture grows more dire by the

day. The Marlins fell 4½ games back in the wild-card


"We're in a tough position," manager Joe Girardi said. "We've

got 12 games to go, and we got to win most of them."Game notes
Delgado has the most games (1,703) among active players

without a postseason appearance. ... When the Mets clinched their

first division title in 1969, the game ended when the Cardinals'

Joe Torre grounded into a double play -- Randolph's former mentor on

the Yankees.