Sunday’s series finale with the Yankees was not exactly a must-win for the Mets. But after dropping four of their last five games and on the verge of getting swept in the Subway Series, it was pretty darn close. Things were going just fine until the Mets two glaring weaknesses — defense and the bullpen — reared their ugly heads.
The Mets scored three runs in the second off Andy Pettitte — Scott Hairston led off the inning with a double and scored on a Vinny Rottino single. Rottino stole second, Omar Quintanilla walked, and then an error loaded the bases when Robinson Cano bobbled a Mike Nickeas grounder. Jordany Valdespin doubled to plate two more runs for the 3-0 lead. The Mets blew an opportunity to score even more — Andres Torres walked to load the bases again, but Jason Bay and David Wright struck out to end the threat.
The Mets shoddy defense began in the seventh. With two outs Wright fielded an easy grounder but threw in the dirt to first. Rottino, starting at first because Ike Davis was benched against the tough lefty Pettitte, couldn’t dig it out and the runner was safe on Wright’s error. Russell Martin then hit a ball to right — Scott Hairston leaped, his glove over the wall, but the ball sailed just past him. The ball actually hit the top of the padded wall and bounced straight up in the air. A fan caught it, but replays showed that the fan may have reached into the field of play. Collins did not argue and umpires did not review the play, so the lead was cut to 3-2.
Those two unearned runs were the only blemish for Jonathon Niese. He went seven innings, striking out six and walking one, baffling Yankees hitters all day.
Bobby Parnell came on in the eighth, and the defense victimized him, too. Derek Jeter led off the inning with a slow roller to short. Quintanilla charged, but the ball rolled under his glove and Jeter wound up at second. The play was ruled a single and an error for allowing Jeter to advance to second. Curtis Granderson singled to put runners on first and third. Mark Teixeira hit a single to tie the game at three. Alex Rodriguez then hit a bloop to right that no one could track down. Granderson scored to give the Yankees their first lead of the day, 4-3. Parnell was pulled without ever recording an out.
The Mets mounted a comeback in the ninth against Rafael Soriano (no Mariano Rivera anymore, of course). Lucas Duda led off with a rocket to dead center for a double. Davis, who entered the game earlier, finally came up clutch with a double of his own to tie the game at four. Davis was thrown out at third trying to advance on a Quintanilla grounder, but pinch hitter Daniel Murphy singled to put runners on first and third with one out. Joe Girardi then made the rare move and pulled his struggling closer, bringing on Boone Logan. He struck out pinch hitter Josh Thole and got Kirk Nieuwenhuis to ground out to keep the game tied.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jon Rauch served up Martin’s second home run on the day. Game over.
The Mets waste a great start by Niese and lose 5-4. Another disappointing loss — there have been too many of those recently.