NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran embraced a couple of teammates and said goodbye. David Wright shook hands and dashed off for a shower. Francisco Rodriguez sliced athletic tape off his ankles with scissors, then started to empty his locker.
A painful season finally over, the New York Mets packed up and cleared out of their clubhouse Sunday, headed home for the winter with frustrating thoughts of what might have been.If only their stars had stayed healthy.Nelson Figueroa pitched a four-hitter for his first major league complete game, Angel Pagan keyed the offense and New York wrapped up a lost season by completing a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 4-0 victory."For us, it was very meaningful," Figueroa said. "We kind of put it all together and went out with a bang."Figueroa retired 13 of his final 14 batters, and Pagan went 4 for 4 with a triple and two doubles from the leadoff spot. He also scored twice.New York was a National League favorite back in April and led the NL East with a 27-20 record on the morning of May 30. But long-term injuries to stars such as Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Beltran and Johan Santana decimated the roster and sent the team into a tailspin.Many of the replacements got hurt, too, and the fourth-place Mets played mistake-filled baseball in sliding from 89-73 last year to a 70-92 record -- their worst since finishing 66-95 in 2003.Mets players spent more than 1,480 days on the disabled list, more than any other major league team, according to STATS LLC. Among them were eight former All-Stars.Wright, often the lone slugger in the lineup, hit .307 but his home run total dropped from 33 last year to a career-low 10."Tough year for us. We weren't expecting this coming out of spring training," Beltran said. "Next year will be a different year."Also beset by injuries, Houston slogged to a disappointing finish as well. One game out of first place after games of July 22, the Astros then lost two of three at home to the Mets and soon fell out of the race.Houston (74-88) came in fifth in the six-team NL Central, losing five of its final six to drop to 4-9 under interim manager Dave Clark, who took over when Cecil Cooper was fired Sept. 21."I managed 13 games with guys who wanted to play and who gave me an effort," Clark said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more."The Mets went 41-40 in the first season at their spacious new home, Citi Field. With a crowd of 38,135 on Sunday, they drew 3,154,262 for the season.The finale was much different from the previous two years, when the Mets completed September collapses with home losses to Florida on the final day that knocked them out of playoff contention each time.Figueroa (3-8) snapped a five-start losing streak, though he had pitched pretty well in four of those outings. He struck out seven and walked none.It was a nice moment for the 35-year-old journeyman, who grew up in Brooklyn rooting for the Mets. He said he had at least 20 friends and family members in attendance -- but wasn't able to put them in Santana's luxury suite this time because it was already in use."Maybe I'll get that in my next deal," Figueroa said with a smile.The right-hander threw 76 of 113 pitches for strikes in the first complete-game shutout by a Mets pitcher at Citi Field."A lot of us were playing for jobs for next year," Figueroa said. "I feel like I've earned the right to be a major leaguer somewhere next year."Rookie catcher Josh Thole had three hits, including an RBI single off rookie starter Wilton Lopez (0-2) in a two-run fourth. The other run scored on a throwing error by shortstop Miguel Tejada.Luis Castillo and Wright each hit a sacrifice fly that drove in Pagan."We were just trying to finish strong. Just trying to forget about all the negativity and all the injuries and turn the page and look to next year. We had a very nice finish," said Pagan, who got regular playing time and hit .306 in 343 at-bats. "This year really showed me a lot -- things that I didn't know I could do. Hopefully I keep becoming a better player."Tejada doubled to extend his hitting streak to 21 games, the longest by an Astros player since Willy Taveras set a club record with a 30-game run in 2006.Aaron Boone played third base for Houston and went 0 for 3 in his second start since returning from open-heart surgery. The other came Sept. 2 at Wrigley Field in Chicago."I feel real blessed to have gotten back to this point," Boone said. "I was glad to spend the last month with my teammates. It was very rewarding."
Mets manager Jerry Manuel sat it on personnel meetings in the morning that he called very productive. He said the team could have an announcement Monday about its 2010 coaching staff. ... Tejada finished one hit shy of his fourth 200-hit season. ... It was New York's first sweep since taking three straight at home May 25-27 against Washington. ... The Mets finished the season with a major league-low 95 homers, their fewest since hitting 93 in 1992.