Mets blow another chance

September 24, 2008 8:38:08 PM PDT
With another brutal loss, the New York Mets kept tumbling toward another September collapse. Derrek Lee blooped a go-ahead double in the 10th inning off Luis Ayala, Aramis Ramirez followed with a two-run homer and the Chicago Cubs rallied from a four-run deficit to defeat the Mets 9-6 Wednesday night.

New York, which wasted Carlos Delgado's third-inning grand slam off Carlos Zambrano and a 5-1 lead, dropped into a tie with Milwaukee for the NL wild-card lead and remained 1½ games behind NL East-leading Philadelphia. The Mets, who have four games remaining, failed to win after taking a four-run lead for the eighth time this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Last year, the Mets imploded in one of baseball's greatest folds, failing to make the playoffs after leading their division by seven games with 17 to play. They lost to Florida on the final day to finish the collapse - at this rate, they won't even be in it by the time they finish against the Marlins on Sunday.

It's hard to conceive of a more demoralizing defeat. Many in the booing crowd of 54,416 quickly filed out following Ramirez's homer.

New York starter Oliver Perez was chased after 4 1-3 innings and 105 pitches. The Cubs tied the score 5-5 off Duaner Sanchez, with the help of an error by left fielder Daniel Murphy, then went ahead on Alfonso Soriano's RBI double in the seventh against Brian Stokes.

New York stranded seven runners in the seventh through ninth innings. The Mets failed to score after putting runners at the corners with no outs in the seventh, then got only one run - on Jeff Samardzija's bases-loaded walk to Ramon Martinez - after putting runners at the corners with no outs in the eighth.

Murphy tripled against Bob Howry (7-4) leading off the ninth, but the Mets' offense fizzled again. David Wright struck out and, after intentional walks to Delgado and Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church grounded to second baseman Ronny Cedeno, who was playing in and threw home for the forceout. Ramon Castro struck out meekly.

Ryan Theriot singled with two outs in the 10th off Ayala (2-10) and stole second. Lee then dumped a double down the right-field line to bring up Ramirez.

Kerry Wood pitched the 10th for his 34th save in 40 chances, giving the Cubs 96 wins for the first time since 1984.

Since pitching a no-hitter against Houston on Sept. 14 in his return from a sore rotator cuff, Zambrano has allowed 13 runs, nine hits and seven walks in six innings. He muttered and glared at plate umpire Jim Wolf in the third inning after his 3-2 pitch to Wright with the bases loaded was called low and outside.

Given a 1-0 lead on Mark DeRosa's second-inning homer, Zambrano lost his control and composure in the third, when New York loaded the bases on a single and a pair of two-out walks. Wright walked on the ninth pitch of his at-bat and Delgado sent a high 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his second slam this season and the 13th of his career. Following a dismal start, Delgado has 27 homers and 79 RBIs since June 27.

Perez, 1-0 with seven no-decisions since Aug. 14, gave up a two-run double to DeRosa in the fifth. Sanchez relieved and allowed an RBI single to Reed Johnson. When Murphy overran the ball for an error, pinch-runner Kosuke Fukudome came home with the tying run.

Notes: The Mets moved Monday into their new offices at Citi Field, where the team starts play on April 14. It was sunny Wednesday and clear that right fielders will have a difficult time contending with afternoon sun. ... DeRosa left in the fifth inning because of a strained left calf. He is day to day.