Diamondbacks finally put away Mets in 15th inning

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The handwritten sign on the dry erase board in the Arizona Diamondbacks' locker room provided a perfect summation of a wild Independence Day afternoon game that threatened to spill over into July 5:

"Bus ... if game ends

"8:00"

The game finally did end, and the Diamondbacks' bus was surely a festive place after Cliff Pennington's RBI single in the top of the 15th inning gave Arizona a lead it would finally hang onto in a 5-4 win over the New York Mets.

The Diamondbacks also took the lead in the 13th and 14th before allowing the Mets to tie it on solo homers by Anthony Recker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the bottom of each inning.

"Of course you get disappointed when you get the lead and then they hit the home run," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. "Then they hit the second one on you. You've just got to tell yourself you can take it. You learn a lot about yourself in series like this and days like this."

The Mets could not do it again in the 15th against the Diamondbacks' ninth pitcher, Brad Ziegler, who allowed two walks but notched his first save by getting Nieuwenhuis to ground out to first with runners at second and third at 6:57 p.m., a mere five hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch.

Minutes later, patriotic music blasted out from the clubhouse stereo as the Diamondbacks showered and dressed for that long-delayed bus trip.

"The last three outs are always the toughest to get, and the Mets proved that today," Ziegler said. "It's just two really competitive teams going out and putting on a show on a holiday."

The 15-inning marathon was the second extra-inning game of the four-game series and an appropriate finale for the longest four-game set in Major League Baseball in 24 years. The Mets and Diamondbacks played 16 hours and 40 minutes worth of baseball this week, just 11 minutes shy of the time it took the Los Angeles Dodgers and Astros to play a four-game series in Houston from June 1-4, 1989.

And while the Dodgers and Astros had the luxury of playing in the climate-controlled Astrodome, the Mets and Diamondbacks played four straight games in the sweltering summer heat and had the middle two games interrupted by rain delays that totaled three hours and 32 minutes.

On Thursday, every position player was used, and the Mets' Shaun Marcum became the second pitcher to pinch-hit for New York in the series. Every reliever pitched for each team except Mets rookie Gonzalez Germen.

"We're going to take our time here, guys are going to hit the cold tub," Gibson said.

The win was doubly gratifying for the Diamondbacks, who took a 13th-inning lead Monday night before the Mets scored twice in the bottom of the inning to win 5-4.

With its second straight win, Arizona (44-41) finished a rough 10-game road trip at 3-7 and ensured it would maintain its 2 1/2-game lead in the NL West.

"It's going to feel a whole lot better once we wake up tomorrow," Ziegler said. "Right now everybody's so exhausted. We'll probably sleep the whole flight. We'll sleep when we get home, and then we'll wake up tomorrow and be like, 'Sweet. That was a great win yesterday.'"

Arizona is now 3-0 this year in games of at least 14 innings and 10-2 in extra innings overall. Eight of the Diamondbacks' extra-inning games have been on a getaway day in which they've had to fly to their next destination immediately afterward. Arizona is 7-1 in those games.

"We've been losing, so I know people have been picking us apart a little bit, rightfully so," Gibson said. "But this is one of the good signs of this club. We're really good in close games. We're very good in extra-inning games. Good character check today. Guys all stepped up."

Pennington's hit ensured he wouldn't have to take the mound. Gibson said Pennington, who has never pitched professionally, would have been his next pitcher if the game went to the 16th.

"I was next, so I was definitely thinking about it," Pennington said. "I don't know where I was on a scale of excited, nervous, exhausted. But I was definitely thinking about it."

The score was tied at 2 from the sixth through the 12th. In the top of the 13th, Cody Ross drew a bases-loaded walk to give Arizona the lead, but Recker homered off closer Heath Bell with two outs in the bottom of the inning.

The Diamondbacks took the lead again in the top of the 14th on Martin Prado's two-out RBI single, but Nieuwenhuis hit a one-out homer off Chaz Roe just over the orange home run line in left-center field.

In the 15th, Gerardo Parra and Wil Nieves each had two-out singles off Scott Rice (3-5), the Mets' eighth pitcher, before Pennington, who scored the go-ahead run in the 14th, singled home Parra.

Roe (1-0) earned his first big league win.

The Mets (35-47) lost consecutive games for the first time since June 13-15. They are 0-3 this year in games that go at least 15 innings. New York lost to Miami in 15 innings on April 30 and to the Marlins in 20 innings on June 8.

"We had chances, lots of chances, so did they -- one of those days," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It was just a really tough game. And a good game."

Mets starter Dillon Gee allowed two runs, six hits and two walks while striking out seven in seven innings. Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy allowed two runs, six hits and two walks and tied a season high with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

NOTES: The Diamondbacks improved to 10-6 on Independence Day, while the Mets fell to 28-34 on July 4. ... Gibson said before the game that LHP Tyler Skaggs would be recalled from Triple-A Reno to start Friday night's game against the Colorado Rockies. Skaggs, who is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts for Arizona this year, is taking the rotation spot of RHP Trevor Cahill, who went on the disabled list Monday with a hip injury. ... Parra returned to the lineup after missing two games with cuts on his face and arms suffered when he landed headfirst on the Citi Field warning track in pursuit of a triple Monday night. ... Mets LHP Jonathon Niese, who has been on the disabled list since June 21 with a partially torn left rotator cuff, had his MRI pushed back from Thursday to next Monday because his doctor is on vacation. ... The Mets' starting lineup was read, and last names spelled out, by National Spelling Bee champion, and Queens resident, Arvind Mahankali. The 13-year-old, who won the Spelling Bee by spelling "knaidel," had no trouble with "Quintanilla."
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