Last Updated: 9:27 AM, May 22, 2012
Posted: 1:50 AM, May 22, 2012
PITTSBURGH — Just the absolute Pitts.
Between Johan Santana flushing a four-run lead to the punchless Pirates and his teammates failing to execute a fundamental — communication on a fly ball — the Mets’ 5-4 loss last night at PNC Park was an embarrassment.
The kick to the gut came in the eighth when center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and left fielder Mike Baxter converged on Neil Walker’s routine fly to left-center. With the two players about to collide, the ball kicked off Nieuwenhuis’ glove for a three-base error that led to the Pirates scoring the go-ahead run on Clint Barmes’ sacrifice fly.
“Totally on me,” said Baxter, who said he didn’t hear Nieuwenhuis call for the ball. “It’s a bad feeling. I hate the way that it turned out.
“I should have taken a look — 100 percent my fault. Kirk has the right of way on that ball, so I’ve got to get out of his way and that one hurts.”
Though the announced crowd was just 14,556, that didn’t stop noise from becoming a factor, according to Nieuwenhuis.
“It was pretty loud out there in the outfield by the stands a little bit,” Nieuwenhuis said. “But that’s part of the game, you’ve got to deal with it. It’s not an excuse. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make that play. It’s a routine play.”
Walker later eluded catcher Mike Nickeas’ tag attempt and slid across the plate on Barmes’ one-out fly to right against Jon Rauch (3-3). The loss was the Mets’ third in four games.
Michael McKenry’s two-run homer in the seventh against Santana sent the lefty’s chance at a victory down the Alleghany River. Barmes singled leading off the inning before the backup catcher McKenry — who entered batting .182 — homered into the left-field seats to make it 4-4.
“Every time it comes down to being one pitch, and that’s what happened there,” said Santana, who received his fifth no-decision in his past six starts.
The Mets (22-20) had a chance to take the lead in the eighth, but Nickeas struck out against Jared Hughes with the tying run on third base and one out before the pinch-hitter Baxter was intentionally walked and Andres Torres hit into a fielder’s choice.
Manager Terry Collins defended his decision not to use Daniel Murphy as a pinch-hitter for Nickeas with the pitcher’s spot up next in the order.
“Then I’m burning them all in the eighth inning of a tie game,” Collins said. “You’re out of players in a tie game.”
Santana lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. It was the first time in six starts Santana allowed as many as four earned runs.
A rocky fourth inning by Santana let the Pirates pull within 4-2 on successive doubles by Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
Justin Turner’s two-run single was the biggest hit of the Mets’ four-run second inning in which they sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs on four hits and two walks against Erik Bedard.
Ronny Cedeno, in a homecoming after spending 2 1/2 seasons with the Pirates, smashed an RBI double before Turner’s hit made it 3-0 and David Wright followed with an RBI single.
“We didn’t add on,” Collins said. “When [Pittsburgh] scored two, we had several opportunities to add on some runs, and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to add on. It would make it a lot easier for our pitching staff.”