Padres 8 Mets 6
This is the way it should have happened: Tony Clark looks at strike three to end the eighth inning, stranding two runners. Billy Wagner finishes off a four-out save by setting down the Padres in order in the ninth.
However, home plate umpire Laz Diaz called the pitch ball three instead of strike three, giving Clark a second life. Wagner came in with a pretty damn good pitch — a 96-MPH fastball at the knees — and Clark put the bat head on it. Next thing you know, the ball is flying over the centerfield fence, and the Padres had a two-run lead.
After losing three straight games 2-1 to the last-place Padres, it looked as though the Mets would finally pull out a win in San Diego. They led 3-0, then 4-3, then 5-4, then 6-4 — in other words, they controlled the game from the beginning to that fateful eighth.
Pedro Martinez was less than stellar, allowing 10 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings, but the Mets bullpen did a decent job of holding the fort for the next three innings. On offense, Carlos Delgado led the way, nearly hitting for the cycle. He had his second consecutive three-hit game, with a single, double, and triple, and drove in two runs. Damion Easley and Endy Chavez each had two hits and an RBI, and Luis Castillo drove in two runs with a single and a sac fly.
A little surprising to see Wagner attempt a four-out save, but the Mets were desperate after losing three straight to the lowly Friars.
Despite the fact that Delgado had six hits in two days, I still think he’s a dog and a poison. Case in point: in the seventh, while on third base and two out, Endy Chavez dragged a bunt to first, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had no chance at getting Chavez, but saw Delgado taking a slow jog from third and had a shot to throw him out at home. Gonzalez, however, bobbled the ball, and Delgado started running a little harder when he realized what Gonzalez was thinking. Oh, and how fitting that Delgado made the last out of the game in typical fashion: swinging at the first offering from Trevor Hoffman and popping up weakly to third base.
The last time the Padres swept the Mets in a four-game series was before Jose Reyes and David Wright were born: 1980. The Mets really stunk back then — but they had two excuses: 1) they were unskilled; and 2) half the team was on drugs. What is the excuse of the 2008 squad?
Shortsighted fans can piss and moan about Wagner blowing the game, but the real problem lies in the first three games. Wagner struck out Clark on the previous pitch, and Clark blasted the next one, which happened to be a good pitch in a good location. Things like that happen on occasion. However, flukes like that are easier to swallow when you’re winning games you’re supposed to win. On the other hand, when you’re rendered impotent by a last place club for three straight days, fluke losses are more glaring.
The Mets have a day off on Monday (thank goodness), then travel home to host the Arizona Diamondbacks. The FIRST-PLACE D’Backs, by the way. If the Mets can’t beat the last-place Padres, how can they beat the Diamondbacks? My theory is that the Mets play to the level of their competition, which means they’ll have a decent shot of winning against Arizona. We’ll see. John Maine goes against Micah Owings in a 7:10 pm start at Shea.