Mets Doomed By Bullpen And Braves

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The New York Sun

Another late lead and another bullpen meltdown for the Mets.

The Atlanta Braves rallied for four runs in the eighth inning and a 7-6 win yesterday that stalled New York’s playoff push.

The Mets fell 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. The Phillies beat Florida 5-2. New York’s edge in the wild-card race was cut to 1 1/2 games by Milwaukee, which beat Cincinnati 8-1.

Down 4-3, Atlanta struck in the eighth against Scott Schoeneweis (2-5) and three Mets relievers. It was the latest collapse for a beleaguered bullpen missing injured closer Billy Wagner. The relievers have a league-high 16 blown saves since the All-Star break, the worst in the NL. Schoeneweis has lost three games since August 26 and the relievers have a woeful 2-8 record since August 11.

“It’s kind of a shocking thing. No explanation. Our starting pitchers and offense have carried us,” Schoeneweis said. “If not for them, we would not be close to where we are. At some point, we’ve got to hope it turns around late in the game.”

Carlos Delgado hit a two-run homer, his 37th, in the Mets’ ninth off Mike Gonzalez. But the left-hander with the unusual rocking motion struck out the next two batters for his 13th save in 15 chances.

The Mets lost two of three in the series against their longtime nemesis, and now head back to Shea Stadium for their final seven games.

“We just weren’t able to execute pitches,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “We got to close the deal at home. Five or six straight wins is what we need.”

Atlanta once again got in the Mets’ way to reach the postseason. The Braves were 8-1 against New York this year at Turner Field; Philadelphia went 9-0 at the ballpark.

Schoeneweis retired the first batter in the eighth, then Omar Infante doubled. Casey Kotchman tied it with a checked-swing, bloop single.

“There’s nothing you can do about it,” said Schoeneweis. “It’s just tough to feel like you let down a lot of guys.”

Joe Smith relieved and Jeff Francoeur hit an RBI triple for a 5-4 lead. Pedro Feliciano pitched next, and got one out before issuing an intentional walk. That brought on Aaron Heilman and, after another intentional walk, Martin Prado delivered a two-run double.

“I got ahead of Francoeur 1-2 and he got me. I was trying to go off the plate and got a fast ball middle in,” said Smith, who said he felt good “until he hit it.”

Jorge Julio (3-0) got the win with a scoreless eighth.

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