Bobby Parnell made his first major league start at Petco Park on Saturday night, replacing fellow rookie Jonathon Niese in the rotation. Unfortunately, it was not a start to remember as the Mets could not reward him with a victory. New York dropped the third game of the four-game series in San Diego by the final score of 3-1 as their offense sputtered again. The defeat was their eighth consecutive loss at Petco Park, dating back to 2007.
Parnell was on a pitch count of 60-75 pitches, so it was unlikely that he was going to pitch the minimum five innings to qualify for a victory. That became more apparent when he needed 29 pitches to get through the first inning, an inning in which the Padres tied the game at 1 after the Mets had taken the lead in the top of the first on Alex Cora’s first home run in his last 415 at-bats.
After loading the bases with one out in the third inning, Parnell’s evening was done (68 pitches, two runs, four hits, three walks, one strikeout) and Nelson Figueroa was brought in to try to keep the game tied. Figueroa struck out Eliezer Alfonzo for the second out, but then walked last night’s slam dancer, Everth Cabrera to force in the go-ahead run. It was the fifteenth time this season a Mets pitcher had issued a bases-loaded walk.
The bullpen did a fine job keeping the game close, giving up only an unearned run in the eighth inning. Tim Redding in particular did well, pitching three scoreless innings. However, for the second straight game, the Mets were able to score in the first inning and then hit the snooze button for the remaining eight innings. This was epitomized by the 5-4-3 double play hit into by Jeff Francoeur in the ninth inning after Daniel Murphy led off the frame with an infield hit.
For the Padres, rookie Mat Latos picked up his fourth consecutive victory, holding the Mets to one run in his six innings of work. Ex-Met Heath Bell pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 28th save in 29 chances.
The Mets have now lost eight consecutive games at Petco Park and are 1-9 in the ten games played there since the beginning of the 2007 season. They have scored two runs or less in six of those nine defeats. With tonight’s loss, the Mets have fallen to a season-high eight games under .500 (51-59) and are now a full 10 games behind the Wild Card-leading Giants. The Phillies are now light years ahead of the Mets in the National League East standings.
Tomorrow’s series finale will feature Johan Santana against Tim Stauffer. Santana will be looking for his 13th win after being denied the victory in his last start when Francisco Rodriguez allowed the Cardinals to tie the game in the ninth inning in a game they eventually won in ten innings. If the Mets are going to avoid a ninth consecutive loss in San Diego and their second straight four-game sweep there, Santana will have to be at his finest since the Mets are having difficulty finding ways to score runs at Petco Park. Game time will be at 4:05 PM. Should the Mets lose, the eulogy will be delivered shortly after the final pitch is thrown.