NEW YORK – Nelson Figueroa on the mound for the New York Mets made it that more difficult Monday evening for his team to get one step closer to shaving their facial hair. Last week the Mets made a pact, shave when they reach the .500 mark. But Figueroa, called up from Buffalo to make the start, helped move the Mets further away from their goal and from the NL Wildcard Race.
It wasn’t there for Figueroa from the beginning as the Arizona Diamondbacks scored three runs in the first and second innings, good enough, for a 6-5 win taking three of four games from the Mets at Citi Field. Figueroa would face 15 batters, lifted after an inning and a third giving up the six runs on 10 hits.
“Hopefully I will be a better pitcher from this,” commented Figueroa afterwards in a quiet Mets clubhouse. The Mets have lost four of their last five, and at 50-55 moved further from the wildcard pact of seven other teams, now eight games from the top. More and more, as this current home stand progresses, it appears the Mets may have to focus on next year.
There were some good things though coming out of another loss. The Mets fought back, this after Mark Reynolds hit two more home runs, his 31st and 32nd of the season off Figueroa in the first and second innings. They managed to get to Arizona starter and winner Dan Haren (11-6) for their five runs in Haren’s seven innings of pitching. Daniel Murphy hit his seventh home run of the season off Haren in the sixth.
Reynolds was 5-for 12 in the series and all of his hits went for extra bases. His trip to Citi Field included four home runs and five runs batted in. “It’s a big park but I just happened to hit four of the longest ones I’ve hit here,” said Reynolds about his home runs.
The Mets bullpen was superb, about the only good coming out of another bad pitching performance from Figueroa. After he was lifted, Tim Redding, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes pitched seven innings of scoreless ball on three hits. So even with another loss, and seeing his team moving further away from contention, Mets manager Jerry Manuel looked at some of the positives.
“You continue to fight and you’re going to win a game like that,” said Manuel when asked if this loss was more satisfying than losing an 8-0 game. In other words, Manuel saw the resiliency that has been a part of this Mets season with the bulk of his lineup out with injuries.
Even at this juncture, the imminent returns of Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran to the lineup will have to be played with caution. The Mets made no moves prior to the trading deadline last week, and with the dog days of August here, there may not be any reason to worry about another September collapse this time.
Figueroa had nothing from the beginning. The Diamondbacks, who are almost next to last in every offensive category, and next to last in the NL West, hit everything that came their way in that first inning.
“It’s unfortunate,” explained Figueroa about his brief outing. “The timing, it’s not April coming here and not giving them what they wanted.” The timing for the Mets to shave that facial hair is slipping away, so is any immediate possibility of offering some type of pennant race for their fans. St. Louis comes to town Tuesday evening for a brief two game series that concludes Wednesday afternoon.
Johan Santana (12-5) opens the series and will try and once again to give the Mets a win after another loss. The Cardinals will throw Joel Pineiro (9-9), who threw a complete game shutout against the Mets at Citi Field back on June 23rd.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]