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Queens Chronicle

Mets lose on Opening Day in extra innings

An ineffective bullpen dooms the Amazin's late in the game

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 5:26 pm

In an Opening Day filled with dramatic home runs, clutch strikeouts and a two out, ninth inning comeback, the second largest crowd in Citi Field history got its money's worth.

But even with a re-tooled roster and a rare sell out crowd cheering them on, they still looked like the same old Mets.

With the Amazin's clinging to a one-run lead, closer Bobby Parnell gave up a game-tying double with two outs in the ninth inning and reliever John Lannan, making his team debut, surrendered a mammoth three-run home run in the 10th inning, as the Mets fell to the Washington Nationals 9-7 on Monday afternoon in Flushing.

With Washington's Ian Desmond on first after a lead-off single, Parnell, who saved 22 games for the Metropolitans last season, was one strike away from nailing down the win in the ninth inning when he suddenly lost command of the strike zone and walked pinch hitter Danny Espinosa.

Nationals center fielder Denard Span doubled on the next pitch, scoring Desmond and sending the game into extra innings.

As Parnell walked off the mound at the end of the inning, he was serenaded with boos from the Mets crowd that was brimming with excitement just minutes earlier after center fielder Juan Lagares homered to give the Mets a 5-4 lead to lead off the eighth inning.

In the 10th inning, Lannan and Jeurys Familia, who was tagged with the loss, combined to surrender four runs, sending many of the Mets fans left in attendance to the exits in droves.

A David Wright two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning cut the lead to just 9-7, but new right fielder Curtis Granderson, who spent the last four seasons with the cross-town New York Yankees, struck out for the third time to end the game.

Washington reliever Aaron Barrett picked up the victory in his Major League debut for the Nationals after throwing a scoreless ninth inning.

"I thought he threw the ball fine," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Parnell's performance. "Span is a tough out with guys on. He's a tough out to get."

Lost in the late game drama was Mets pitcher Dillon Gee's impressive outing in his first career Opening Day start.

The 27-year-old righty gave up a monstrous two-run home run to Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche in the second inning, but Gee retired the next 15 Washington batters in a row before running into trouble in the seventh inning.

He exited the game with two outs in the seventh inning and was charged with four runs on just four hits while walking two and striking out five.

One of the runs charged to Gee was given up by reliever Carlos Torres after the Texas native was taken out of the contest.

After Torres and Scott Rice both walked the only batters they faced, former Tigers closer and new Mets middle reliever Jose Valverde struck out Ryan Zimmerman to escape the jam, firing up the Mets faithful.

"Dillon pitched very well and we're coming to expect it," Collins said. "I thought he pitched an outstanding game, kept us in it. I think Dillon is going to have a huge year."

Even though the Mets struck out a disappointing 18 times as a team, with 10 punch outs coming against Nationals superstar starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, they did find production from an unlikely source.

Much like Colin Cowgill, who whacked a grand slam on Opening Day last year, left fielder Andrew Brown gave Mets fans a reason to roar when he sent a Strasburg offering deep over the left field wall and into the seats for a three-run home run in the first inning.

Brown came close to a second home run in the seventh frame as well, when he hit a long fly ball to the warning track that Span chased down and caught.

The Mets were without second baseman Daniel Murphy and outfielder Chris Young on Monday. Murphy was in Florida to be with his wife as she gave birth to their child, while Young was nursing a minor leg injury.

Prior to the game, MLB Hall of Famer and longtime Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner, who died in February at the age of 91, was honored with a video tribute and an unveiling of a special logo featuring a microphone on the wall of the Party City Deck just beyond the left field wall. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, wearing a Mets cap and a customized jersey, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He was accompanied by six children from the East Harlem Tutorial Program who were impacted by the deadly Harlem building collapse three weeks ago.

The Mets are off Tuesday, but the three game series will resume on Wednesday when phenom Zack Wheeler takes the mound against the division rival Nationals.

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