Mets Bullpen Blows Another One
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
A dreadful bullpen is making it awfully difficult for the Mets to avoid another September meltdown.
Fill-in closer Luis Ayala gave up a go-ahead homer to pinch-hitter Greg Norton, and the Atlanta Braves rallied for five runs in the ninth inning Sunday and a 7-4 victory that trimmed New York’s tenuous NL East lead to 1.5 games.
Wasting two homers by David Wright and a strong start from Oliver Perez, the Mets lost for the ninth time in 30 games. Their lead could be cut to one game — two in the loss column — if second-place Philadelphia beats Milwaukee in the second game of a day-night doubleheader Sunday. The Phillies won the opener 7-3.
The Mets squandered a seven-game cushion with 17 to play last year, letting Philadelphia charge past them for the division title in one of the worst collapses in baseball history.
Desperately trying to erase those painful memories, New York had 17 games remaining coming into this series and dropped two of three to the fourth-place Braves (67-83).
Missing injured closer Billy Wagner for the rest of the season, the bullpen failed to hold an eighth-inning lead for Johan Santana in the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader and flopped again Sunday.
Ayala (2-9) began the ninth with a 4-2 lead and allowed consecutive singles to Casey Kotchman and pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson. Norton then drove a full-count delivery into the Mets’ right-field bullpen — appropriately — for a 5-4 Atlanta edge.
It was Norton’s third pinch-hit homer this season.
After Ayala was lifted, the Braves tacked on two more. Gregor Blanco hit an RBI double off Pedro Feliciano, and Corky Miller’s sacrifice fly against Brian Stokes made it 7-4.
Yankees 8, Rays 4 Derek Jeter collected three hits for the third straight game, Alex Rodriguez belted a grand slam and New York beat Tampa Bay to win the weekend series against the AL East leaders.
Jeter moved into a tie with Lou Gehrig for most career hits at Yankee Stadium and Jason Giambi hit a two-run homer for New York.
Mariano Rivera entered with two on in the ninth and struck out Erick Aybar for his 35th save in 36 opportunities. The All-Star closer also moved into a tie with Lee Smith for second on the career list with 478 saves.
Oft-injured Yankees pitcher Carl Pavano (3-1) allowed three earned runs and five hits before he was booed off the mound in the sixth inning following a visit by the trainer and manager Joe Girardi.