08/14/09 11:36 PM ET
Parnell dominates Giants in opener
Rookie reliever-turned-starter throws six shutout innings
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
But most important, Bobby Parnell, in his second Major League start, was nothing short of an ace, carrying the Mets to a 3-0 victory over the Giants at Citi Field.
The reliever-turned-starter contributed what is arguably the best performance by a Mets pitcher this season, as he allowed just three hits over six innings. He walked none, struck out seven and didn't allow a runner past first base all night.
It was also a stark contrast to Parnell's first start, in San Diego last Saturday, when he allowed eight baserunners in 2 1/3 innings in a 3-1 loss.
"I just had a better rhythm. I had a routine behind me," Parnell said. "I had to go out there and keep the same game plan, just for longer."
That game plan was simple: throw strikes. He was able to throw both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs over the plate, as well as his slider. When he found his groove and retired 11 consecutive Giants in the middle innings, eight of those at-bats began with first-pitch strikes. His two-seamer to lefties clocked in at 92 mph, and his standard four-seamer reached as high as 97 and routinely hit 96 during the night.
Parnell threw his slider rarely but effectively, getting three of his seven strikeouts on the pitch. Fastballs early and the slider late was the pattern all night, established when he struck out Eugenio Velez looking with a slider to start the game.
"He was throwing 97 with a hard slider," said Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand, who struck out three times on the night, twice versus Parnell. "You get on his fastball because he throws hard, and he'd break out the slider. You'd sit back a little bit, and he'd throw the fastball by you."
"It makes the game easier when you can control the batters forward and back by changing speeds. That helped a lot tonight," Parnell said.
In all, 61 of Parnell's 86 pitches were for strikes, including the last three. After surrendering a two-out single to Freddy Sanchez in the sixth, Parnell fell behind the Giants' leading hitter, Pablo Sandoval, 3-0. A visit from pitching coach Dan Warthen helped straighten him out.
"He told me it's my last batter," Parnell said. "I didn't want to walk him. I just wanted to finish the inning, so I went right after him."
Parnell threw two fastballs to get to a full count before Sandoval popped up a 96-mph fastball to left field to end the inning.
"He knows the kind of stuff he has; he has electric stuff," David Wright said. "It seemed like he got stronger as the game goes on. He was throwing hard at the end."
With Parnell in total control, the Mets got all they needed offensively from their first batter of the night. Angel Pagan turned on a 1-2 Barry Zito fastball and deposited it into the left-field stands for his third homer of the season and the first leadoff long ball of his career. It was also the Mets' first leadoff homer this season.
The Mets added two runs, both scored by Luis Castillo. Castillo singled to lead off the fourth and crossed the plate on Jeff Francoeur's two-out double. Two innings later, Castillo led off with a walk, moved to third on Wright's double and scored on a Gary Sheffield sacrifice fly.
The Mets had just five hits on the night, but three went for extra bases. They stranded only three runners.
The result of a pitcher in cruise control and an efficient offense was a time of game as throwback as the Mets' uniforms: a swift two hours and 19 minutes.
"That's how baseball's supposed to be," Francoeur said. "Two hours, 19 minutes, a 3-0 win, and get out of here."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.