K-Rod allows walk-off to spoil Mets' efforts
Closer blows save, then game on Padres' grand slam
SAN DIEGO -- The laptop was out. Brian Schneider was navigating right there in the clubhouse. Frankie Rodriguez was on his shoulder, his expression blank, his eyes fixed on the screen. K-Rod was concentrating as he would have if the score were tied and the bases were loaded in the bottom of the ninth. He saw the replay of the 2-2 pitch he had thrown to Everth Cabrera 15 minutes earlier. And, exasperated as he was, all he said ever so softly was "strike."
Plate umpire Marvin Hudson had a different view, one that made the final pitch of the Mets' game against the Padres a full-count offering to a rookie shortstop. It was Cabrera, a Rule 5 Draft selection with modest power, who made that final pitch a grand slam and another entry in the Mets' thick book of unhappy endings. With one swing at K-Rod's final fastball, he offset all the good the Mets had done for 8 1/2 innings Friday and changed a tie game to a 6-2 defeat that the Mets will remember until the next time it all blows up on them.
This team nearly is to the point of learned indifference, the point at which pain no longer registers. But this loss renewed the Mets' sensitivity.
"Do we ever get a break?" Schneider asked as he fled the clubhouse.
The answer is: No, not recently.
For the second time in a week, the Mets were kicked in the stomach by a grand slam in their opponent's final turn at bat. For the fifth time in eight games they were beaten by one of the five National League teams with winning percentages lower than their own. For the seventh time in nine games, they were beaten, period.
"What can you say when happens like this?" Rodriguez said.
The 2-2 pitch hardly was the only call by Hudson the Mets reviewed and lamented. A 3-1 pitch to Kyle Blanks, apparently a strike on the replay, instead became the pitch that afforded the Padres a leadoff runner in the ninth. And -- more damaging -- Hudson called Blanks safe at the plate a moment later following a double into the right-field corner by Will Venable. The run tied the score and prompted unsuccessful debate.
The replay of that play prompted a gasp and smirks from those who had gathered around the laptop. It showed Schneider, on the first-base side of the plate, extending his glove to far side of the plate and seemingly blocking Blanks' hand.
"I'm not going to critique where [Hudson] was," Schneider said. "But [Blanks] was out. I don't think his hand ever touched the plate ... even after the play."
"We've got to get that call," Rodriguez said. "But [Hudson] couldn't see the play."
And now it's all done and said. And the Mets' resolve may become the next assignee to their disabled list.
They needed only for K-Rod to provide what he has done 24 times this season -- the finishing touches. Instead, their closer retired none of five batters in the ninth and for the fifth time could not convert a save opportunity. After the double by Venable had tied the score -- he took third on the throw to the plate -- K-Rod (2-3) walked Henry Blanco and then intentionally walked pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar to load the bases.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel then had center fielder Angel Pagan serve as a fifth infielder before Cabrera hit the 3-2 pitch into the right-field stands for his second home run.
The Mets' 12-7 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday had developed a similar scenario -- the winning run scored on a bases-loaded hit batsman before Albert Pujols hit a grand slam.
That late meltdown denied Johan Santana a victory. This one cost Oliver Perez. The game's most pendulumic pitcher buried the offensively challenged Padres for six innings and ultimately allowed one run. Until the seventh, he was everything the club hoped he would be when it bestowed a $36 million, three-year contract on him in February. Before he departed four batters into the seventh, he had morphed back into the other Ollie.
But in the end, his performance was essentially meaningless. The Mets had scored two unearned runs in the first inning against Kevin Correia, and Perez and Brian Stokes protected it. K-Rod then turned a victory into the Mets' seventh straight loss in PETCO Park.
Perez had allowed two baserunners -- he hit David Eckstein and surrendered a double to Chase Headley -- before he walked Eckstein and Adrian Gonzalez with none out in the seventh. After Perez retired Kevin Kouzmanoff, Headley doubled to the warning track in left-center to score Eckstein. Stokes replaced Perez, struck out Blanks, walked Venable intentionally and retired Blanco on a nubber in front of the plate. Stokes pitched into and out of another bases-loaded situation in the eighth.
Perez, winless in five starts since he won his return from the disabled list July 8, struck out seven and threw merely 93 pitches. The 6 1/3-inning workday was his longest this season. His velocity was good. His command was better, not to mention uncharacteristic. Schneider called him "the Ollie we know."
Left unsaid was "the one we seldom see."
And none of what Perez did was seen on the laptop.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.