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Mets fans left fuming, again, as Yanks take two at Shea

On Sunday night, with the Mets desperately holding on to a 3-2 lead over the visiting Yankees in the top of the ninth, Shea Stadium was going wild.

Mets reliever Armando Benitez had loaded the bases on a series of two walks and a hit, and he now faced one of the most menacing Yankees batters, catcher Jorge Posada.

It seemed that every single person in the stadium was on his or her feet, though it was often hard to figure out just for whom they were rooting. It was pretty evenly split that night, with about half the crowd cheering for Posada to slam one out of the park and the other half ready to see Benitez pump his fist after recording a strikeout.

With a 3-2 count, the tension at Shea had reached a fever pitch. Along the first-base side of the field, George Rojas, a 17-year-old from Corona, was screaming for Benitez to throw a strike. Next to him, Eileen O’Malley yelled, “Just hit it where they ain’t!”

Neither of them got their wish, and Benitez threw a heater high and outside, sending Posada to first and walking in the tying run.

The chorus of screams was instantly cut in half, with part of the crowd yelling louder and the rest of the fans sighing, cursing Benitez’s name and hurling insults at the pitcher, Posada and the Yankees fans who had invaded their home territory.

From the beginning of the Subway Series at Shea, it was clear that the stadium was a house divided. The Mets lost in nine Friday, 5-0, and again on Sunday, 7-3, in the 11th inning.

The Saturday game was cut short by torrential rains, with the Mets holding on to a 4-3 lead.

That game will be played Saturday night when, after playing the second of a three-game set in the Bronx, both teams will return to Shea for the unusual doubleheader.

The two complete games played last weekend were the second and third sellouts at Shea this season, the first being opening day. With more than 55,000 attending each day, these games were the only ones since March 31 at which attendance went above 39,000.

That information may not come as a surprise to those who follow the Mets and see that they are in last place with a losing record at home.

The Mets have had a colorful season to date, with the hiring of Art Howe as the new skipper, the firing of Steve Phillips as general manager, the debilitating injuries to million-dollar stars Mo Vaughn, Mike Piazza and Pedro Astacio and the poor performance of other high-profile stars throughout the first half of the season.

But as disappointing as the season has been, and as heartbroken as some Mets fans seemed leaving Shea at 11:45 p.m. Sunday after the late-inning loss, they seem to have a way of keeping things in perspective.

“Ah, we’ll get ’em next time,” O’Malley said as she led her two kids back up the ramp toward the exit.

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