PHILADELPHIA -- The final game of the 2016 season will be infinitely more memorable for Ryan Howard than for the Mets, who used it solely as a tuneup for postseason play.
During and after a pregame celebration in his honor on Sunday, Howard received multiple ovations from one of the Phillies' largest home crowds of the season: 36,935 strong on a chilly autumn day at Citizens Bank Park. Howard finished 0-for-4 in the final game of his 13-year career in Philadelphia, a 5-2 win over the Mets.
"It was a roller coaster, man," Howard said. "I'm not going to lie. It was crazy. I really didn't know what to expect, what the organization was going to do, how I was going to feel. But getting out there, seeing the people, seeing the different videos, everything just all kind of came in and hit me all at once. It was great. It was great today. It's still ... I'm still trying to register it. You know, it was crazy. It was crazy."
A day after clinching a postseason berth and home-field advantage for the National League Wild Card Game, the Mets were mostly interested in resting key players. Pitching in place of Noah Syndergaard, who will start the Wild Card Game on Wednesday against San Francisco, Gabriel Ynoa held the Phillies to one run over 4 2/3 innings. His counterpart, righty Jerad Eickhoff, struck out eight over six innings.
The Phillies took the lead for good on Cesar Hernandez's RBI single in the seventh inning, part of a three-run rally. That gave Philadelphia a final record of 71-91, good for fourth place in the NL East. The Mets finished second in the division, at 87-75.
"We didn't win as many as we wanted, but we still competed," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We're really excited. It's great for our fans. Guys are all pumped up. It's a great, great battle. They fought all summer long, and we're real excited to be a part of the postseason."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Winning rally: Entering the seventh training by a run, the Phillies tied the score when Andres Blanco scored on a Lucas Duda error. The next batter, Hernandez, singled home the go-ahead run off Erik Goeddel before Jimmy Paredes greeted Josh Edgin with a sacrifice fly.
Howard saluted one final time: Howard popped out in his final at-bat, in the eighth inning, but the fans had one more opportunity to salute him in the top of the ninth. He grabbed his glove and took the field, but Tommy Joseph came out to replace him before the inning started. The men hugged, and Howard tipped his cap to the crowd as he left the field. His teammates then congratulated him in the dugout before he emerged one final time to acknowledge the crowd. The Big Piece was the last remaining member of the 2008 World Series championship team.
"It has been real," Howard said. "Seeing the other guys -- from Shane [Victorino] to Jayson Werth to Chase [Utley] to Jimmy [Rollins], Cole [Hamels] -- going off to other places, it's been cool. These types of things come to an end, and those guys in the clubhouse now can start their own legacy. They don't have to be under that umbrella of people talking about 2008. They can create their own path. That's what I told a couple of the guys." More >
Chipping in: Given a rare start behind the plate, Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki doubled home Kelly Johnson in the seventh inning to give the Mets a short-lived lead. It was Plawecki's first RBI since June 9.
Phillies like Eick: Eickhoff capped a successful sophomore season, allowing four hits, one run and one walk and striking out eight in six innings. He made 33 starts and finished with a 3.65 ERA. Only five other Phillies starters since 1996 have made 33-plus starts with a 3.75 ERA or better: Cole Hamels (2008, 2010 and 2013), Roy Halladay (2010), Jamie Moyer (2008), Brett Myers (2005) and Curt Schilling (1997 and 1998).
"The biggest thing is making every start and making sure I kept these guys in the game the best I could each and every time," Eickhoff said. "Was I able to do it every game? No. But a majority of the time, I was leading the game, and I was giving us a chance to win or be in the ballgame. That's all I do and all I prepare in the offseason for -- to be healthy from start to finish." More >
"He deserves it. Ryan Howard is a great player -- not just a great player, but a great guy. What he's done in the city of Philadelphia is tremendous, the things that he's done. He's got a great track record. You go back, and maybe if it wasn't for that terrible injury that he had, this guy would have put up huge, huge numbers here." -- Collins
"I must admit, I had a little tear welling up in my eye. It's a pretty different kind of day." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on the emotional season finale
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Howard averaged a home run every 10 at-bats in the second half of the season, which ranked second only to the Yankees' Gary Sanchez (9.85 at-bats per home run).
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: Following a well-deserved off-day on Monday, the Mets will return to Citi Field for a team workout on Tuesday before hosting the Giants in the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA) is scheduled to start opposite San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner.