NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Jose Reyes heard the boos when he was lifted for a pinch runner. Mets fans wanted to see more.
At least another at-bat or two. At least another season or two.
It was an afternoon of mixed emotions for the effervescent shortstop in what could have been his last game in a Mets uniform, a 3-0 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday.
After a bunt single in the first inning, Reyes was finished.
Applause for Reyes’ hit turned into a stunned hum — and then the boos rained down as Justin Turner came made his way in.
“The whole day was built around Reyes,” Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen said on SNY. “To have him leave the game so precipitously certainly comes to a shock to everyone watching.”
But the strategy paid off: Reyes won the National League batting title late Wednesday when Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun went 0 for 4.
“It was kind of tough,” Reyes said. “I want to stay in the game. They have to understand, too, what’s going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the battling title.”
The hit elevated Reyes’ average to .337057 and gave him a 2½-point lead over Braun. The Brewers star needed to go 3 for 4 to overtake Reyes, but went hitless in four at-at-bats against Pittsburgh and dropped to .332.
And that gave the Mets their first batting champion.
“I’m humbled and honored,” Reyes said in a statement issued by the Mets. “It means so much to my family and my country, the Dominican Republic. I have been through a lot over the past few years, so this really means a lot to me. It’s also very special to be the first Mets player to win a batting title. There have been so many great players throughout our history.”
The dynamic All-Star with a broad grin and bouncy dreadlocks bunted Edinson Volquez’s second pitch down the third base line, and a charging Juan Francisco couldn’t pick up the ball.
Fans booed again when Reyes’ replacement at shortstop was introduced by the public address announcer, and on the SNY telecast former Mets star Keith Hernandez called the move “disappointing.”
Preparing for his game in Milwaukee, Braun didn’t fault Reyes for leaving after just one at-bat.
“I’m not going to judge him,” Braun said. “I respect whatever decision he decided to make and ultimately, he left the door open for me. It’s not impossible. I’ve gotten three hits in a game plenty of times. So, it’s still attainable, it’s still a possibility.”
Reyes told manager Terry Collins that he would bunt and wanted to be taken out if he got a hit in his first at-bat.
Collins, finishing up his first year as Mets manager, had to fight back tears as he explained why he took out Reyes so early.
“I understand. I heard some comments in the stands. I don’t blame them. People pay a good price to come to these games. You’ve got to understand that I ask these players to do a lot,” Collins said before taking a long pause. “We worked hard to get their respect this year, and they deserve ours.”
Signed by the Mets as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Reyes can become a free agent after the World Series. In a season interrupted by leg injuries that caused two stints on the disabled list, he scored 101 runs and led the majors with 16 triples.
Fans chanted “Please stay, Jose!” throughout the ninth inning, and he gave a salute to the crowd as he walked off the field. Chants of “Jose Reyes!” continued after he threw his hat into the stands as he disappeared into the home dugout at Citi Field for perhaps the last time.
“I always say, I want to stay here,” Reyes said. “We’re going to see what happens in a few weeks. I just need to sit down with my agent and make a plan.”
Reyes planned to host 15 to 20 friends at his home to watch Braun’s progress. Reyes could be in for some more fun. His friends in the Dominican Republic had said if he won they intend to hold a parade for him in his hometown.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Reyes said.
Were you miffed about Reyes’ early exit? Be heard in the comments below…
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