Gee impressive but Mets' offense stifled by Stults
NEW YORK -- David Wright finished Thursday's game 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Ike Davis was 0-for-3 with two punchouts and a double play. Marlon Byrd whiffed twice and grounded out once in three at-bats. Lucas Duda struck out in all three of his plate appearances.
It was that type of day for Dillon Gee and the Mets, who continued delivering strong pitching in their third game of the season, but somewhere along the way lost their offensive punch. The result was a 2-1 loss to the Padres that ensured, if there was any doubt, that the Mets would not go undefeated.
"We weren't going to win them all," Davis said. "But it would have been nice to get this last one today."
Over their first two games of the season, the Mets combined strong starting pitching with powerful offense to win a pair of blowouts. Thursday, one of those ingredients was missing from the start.
Padres lefty Eric Stults silenced the Mets over the first five innings, striking out seven batters and allowing three hits. Though the Mets put five runners on base over the first three frames, they could not come up with the sort of timely knocks that had been their trademark in two convincing wins to start the season.
"We had been doing that so well in the past," said catcher John Buck, who plated the Mets' only run with a solo homer off Huston Street in the ninth. "They just pitched well, and they hit their spots. Sometimes you don't want to, but you've got to tip your cap to them."
The Mets did have their chances, including a prime opportunity to tie the game with two men on base and one out in the sixth. But Byrd whiffed on three straight fastballs and Duda struck out looking, ending the threat. A similar opportunity surfaced three innings earlier, but Davis grounded into an inning-ending double play with two men on base.
Still another chance came with two outs in the eighth. Yet in his lone RBI opportunity of the day, Justin Turner grounded back to the pitcher.
It was Turner's only hiccup of the afternoon. Spelling Daniel Murphy in the starting lineup at second base, the utility man finished 3-for-4 with two singles and a double. But the Mets twice stranded Turner in scoring position, primarily because their third-through-sixth hitters finished 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts and a double play.
"These are the type of games that we play," Padres manager Bud Black said. "These are good ones to win, when you play hard and they're tight. Every pitch is critical."
The dearth of offense made a hard-luck loser out of Gee, who held the Padres to one run over 6 1/3 innings. After walking the first batter of the game, Gee set down 10 in a row. He wriggled out of his stickiest jam in the fourth inning, but not before Mark Kotsay blooped a single, Yonder Alonso singled him to second base and Jedd Gyorko doubled him home.
It should have been a positive experience for Gee, who had not pitched since undergoing emergency surgery to repair artery damage in his shoulder last July. But it was a loss. And that was what Gee took away from it.
"Some days are just better than others," he said.
If the Mets had any designs on a comeback, the Padres ratcheted up the difficulty with a critical insurance run in the eighth. Chris Denorfia drew a leadoff walk against Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, moved to second base on Alonso's single and scored on Familia's wild pitch.
That loomed large in the ninth inning, when Buck's homer drew the Mets back within one. But Buck, like Gee, Davis and so many others in the home clubhouse at Citi Field, was relatively upbeat after the loss. The Mets still won their season-opening series over the Padres, still boast a winning record and still feel positive about their pitching.
They know they cannot win every game. It's more important that they give themselves a chance to win most of them.
"When you've got them on the ropes, you'd like to finish the deal," Davis said. "But hopefully starting tomorrow, we win another series and keep it going."