The Mets played a Monday matinee at Citi Field today and Bobby Parnell pitched well…to every hitter not named Ryan Howard.
Howard hit two home runs off Parnell to score the first five runs of the game for the Phillies. That was all the offense they needed as they were able to defeat the Mets by the final score of 6-2. The loss was the third straight for the Mets to the Phillies after winning the opener of the series on Friday night. They ended their longest homestand of the year by winning only four of the 11 games played at Citi Field.
The game wasn’t the only thing the Mets lost as an MRI on Jeff Francoeur’s left thumb revealed a torn ligament. In addition to Francoeur’s news, starting pitcher Johan Santana was scratched from tomorrow’s start due to discomfort in his elbow. His start will be taken by Nelson Figueroa.
Things began eerily similar to Sunday’s game, as Parnell’s wildness put two of the first three hitters on base. Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch to the delight of the handful of Mets fans in attendance and the dismay of the busloads of Phillies fans who seemed to have infested Citi Field all weekend. After Victorino reached third base on a steal and subsequent throwing error, Chase Utley drew a walk. Unfortunately, Parnell decided to find the strike zone with Ryan Howard at the plate. He’ll learn. He’s still young. Howard connected on a long opposite-field home run to give the Phillies an early 3-0 lead. It was the third three-run first-inning homer for the Phillies in the last two games. It was also the 77th home run hit by a Phillie with men on base. Compare that to the 74 HR the Mets have hit…period.
Oh, but Angel Pagan remembered yesterday very well. He led off the bottom of the first inning with a routine pop-up to Chase Utley. Recalling his inner Luis Castillo, Utley only used two hands instead of three and dropped the ball. In an effort to throw out a hustling Pagan at second base, Utley’s throw sailed past Eric Bruntlett and into foul territory. Someone must have yelled “free hot dogs and soda after the game” from the stands to bring back Little League memories for Angel Pagan. He scampered his way around the bases for the “little league home run” to cut the Phillies’ lead to 3-1. It was the second straight day Pagan had led off the game with a 120-yard dash around the bases.
The Mets added another run in the inning to make it a one-run game. Gary Sheffield was able to leg out a triple on a ball hit into the rightfield corner. Sheffield did a great job not re-injuring himself while debuting his “triples trot” around the bases. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Fernando Tatis.
Errors were aplenty at Citi Field today, as the two teams combined for five errors in the first three innings. In addition to Chase Utley’s two errors on the same play, Gary Sheffield also botched a fly ball. Apparently, his error was sponsored by the letter “D”, which stands for “doesn’t anybody here know how to catch the dang ball?” The triples trot is for use on offense, not when trying to catch a fly ball in left field. Fortunately for Sheffield and the Mets, the miscue did not lead to a run being scored. Ryan Howard took care of that in the third inning.
Howard assumed the position against Parnell in the top of the third inning. With Jayson Werth on base, Howard hit a towering fly ball to right that ultimately found its new home in the Pepsi Porch. No word was given whether the blast altered air traffic patterns around LaGuardia Airport. His second home run of the game (and 78th HR for the Phillies with men on base) gave the new Big Red Machine a 5-2 lead. That was all Cliff Lee needed to continue his mastery over the National League.
After Pagan singled and was thrown out trying to steal second base, Lee proceeded to retire the next ten batters he faced. Lee pitched seven brilliant innings, allowing two runs (both of which were unearned), six hits and no walks. He finished the game with five strikeouts. Relieving Lee in the eighth inning was former Met castoff Chan Ho Park, who thanked his former team by retiring them in order in his one inning of work.
The Phillies added an insurance run in the ninth inning off Pedro Feliciano to take away a save situation for Brad Lidge, but by then, the damage done by the masterful Cliff Lee was complete. Lee is now 17-2 in his career against National League teams. Since being traded to the Phillies, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is 5-0 with a miniscule 0.68 ERA.
There wasn’t much positive news coming out of Citi Field for the Mets today, with the loss to the Phillies and the Francoeur and Santana injury news. However, I did find two positives today. First, Billy Wagner made his second appearance for the Mets since coming off the disabled list last Thursday. Whereas most pitchers who have trade rumors distracting them pitch poorly, Wagner continued to be cool under the pressure. He pitched another scoreless inning and picked up two more strikeouts.
Also, I was impressed with the manner in which lefty reliever Ken Takahashi gave the ball to Jerry Manuel after he was removed from the game in the seventh inning. Whereas some relievers are upset when they are removed from a tight game at a critical juncture, Takahashi showed humility and poise. He did not show up his manager and did not embarrass the team.
Takahashi’s one and a third innings of work also spared Mets fans from having to see Pat Misch brought into a game to get walloped by the Phillies again. For his efforts, I give Ken Takahashi the game ball, although he’d probably just give it back.
The Mets will now fly to South Beach, where they will party the night away while Mets fans continue to wonder what went wrong with this season. In between parties, they will also take time out to play some baseball. The first game of the three-game series with the Marlins at recently renamed Land Shark Stadium (I’m telling you, that stadium has had more names than the Marlins have had fire sales) will be Tuesday at 7:10 PM. Expect Nelson Figueroa to take the mound for the Mets and expect a one-hour rain delay at some point in the game as well.