| NEW YORK
NEW YORK The New York Mets completed a stunning September collapse when they fell 8-1 to last-placed Florida Marlins on Sunday in a defeat that ruled them out of a playoffs berth on the final day of the season.
The Mets, who until Friday had led the National League East since mid-May, became the first major league team to squander a seven-game lead with 17 games left to play when they were overtaken by the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East crown.
"It's just a tough life lesson in baseball," Mets manager Willie Randolph told reporters. "When you have the opportunity to seal the deal and you don't capitalize, it can come back to haunt you.
"It's going to be a tough winter."
The Mets and Phils entered Sunday's game in a dead heat.
Philadelphia beat the visiting Washington Nationals 6-1 in their regular season finale to finish with a 89-73 record and win the East Division.
The Mets dropped to 88-74 after a dismal defeat set in motion by a disastrous first inning from 303-game winner Tom Glavine, who recorded only one out and was charged with seven runs in the worst opening frame of his 20-year career.
Glavine gave up five hits and walked two, forced a run in by hitting pitcher Dontrelle Willis and made a throwing error that allowed a run to score.
New York had chances to come back but failed to get the clutch hit, leaving eight men on base the first three innings.
Adding injury to insult, slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado was lost after suffering a fractured left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Florida's Willis in the first inning.
"It's very frustrating and disappointing the fact that we played so good until the time we needed to play good," Delgado said.
"We blew a huge lead and we didn't come through when we needed to."
Glavine echoed manager Randolph about moving on.
"I've been playing for 20 years and won only one World Series," Glavine said, referring to the ring World Series MVP award he won in 1995 with the Atlanta Braves. "So 19 years didn't end the way I wanted it to.
"You try and learn from it. I guarantee it's something every player in this room is going to remember."
Mets general manager Omar Minaya said: "This game will break your heart and it will humble you.
"But let's give credit to the Phillies. As much as you hated to watch them, a part of you said, 'man these guys are really coming after us.'"