By Ernie Palladino
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New York, NY (WFAN) - Every once in a great while, everything falls into place like it did Sunday for the Mets.
They had two Banner Days in one.
The one that took priority, of course, was the one R.A. Dickey put together by shutting down the Padres 2-0 to run the Mets’ shutout string to 26 innings and rise — for the first time since July 18, 2010, by the way — to six games over .500.
Dickey, the 37-year-old knuckleball-ing right hander, danced his butterfly for 7 1/3 innings, limiting the punchless Padres to three hits while striking out 10. He’s 7-1 now, and who would have figured that at the beginning of the season?
Under any other circumstances, that would have been plenty to send Mets fans’ hearts soaring. But this Memorial Day weekend had the added attraction of the resurrection of one of New York baseball’s quaintest traditions — Banner Day.
In recognition of the franchise’s 50-year anniversary, the Mets brought back the fan favorite the team started at the Polo Grounds 1963 and ended at Shea Stadium in 1996. Maybe it’s here for just a year, a little gimmick designed to spice up what was supposed to be an uneventful season that has turned anything but at this point. But still, it was there, and it brought back old memories when thousands would march through the center field gates at Shea.
Oh, this one was a bit different. They did it before the single game yesterday. For most of Banner Day’s history, it was held in an age where you didn’t need a rainout to create a doubleheader, where few owners were so overtaken by greed that a one-ticket admission for two games would become a dirty concept, Banner Day was held between games of a regularly-scheduled doubleheader.
Who remembers those? Mom might pack sandwiches — yeah, you could bring your own food into the ballpark back then, too — and off you’d go for six or seven hours of baseball. Two games for a buck and a half general admission. Sit in the upper deck, behind the plate.
Those days are gone. Gone forever. But Sunday wasn’t so bad given the current way the baseball bosses regard their fans. There was a representative showing of banners, though the announced crowd of 28,361 probably could have arrived slightly earlier to enjoy the scene.
And the players did their part, too.
Dickey, was superlative as he finished his second straight double-digit strikeout game, having fanned 11 Pirates last Tuesday. That’s the first time he’s done that on the major league level in a 15-year pro career in which he has started more games in the minors (296) than the majors (214). And he became the first Mets pitcher to do that since Pedro Martinez in 2006.
With Johan Santana throwing shutout ball in a 9-0 cakewalk Saturday, the two became the Mets’ first pair to go back-to-back since the duo did it in 2010.
The Mets needed that powerful performance, since the offense fell flat and had to take advantage of a wild pitch and passed ball after Mike Baxter’s fifth-inning double to score a second run.
Still, they put themselves in good position for their next stretch — 25 games over eight series against teams that headed into yesterday over .500. Included in the string are six games of interleague play against the Yankees. They’ll also face three current division leaders in Baltimore, Washington, and Cincinnati.
They’ll surely be tested. But at least for one day, they gave their fans what they wanted; two Banner Days in one.
You just don’t see that anymore.