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Seventh heaven? Try seventh hell

Mets third baseman Willie Harris called it "The Leprechaun Inning."

But for most Mets fans, it probably felt more like the apocalypse.

Whether you want to chalk it up to luck, skill, or something in between matters little, because the Mets entered the bottom of the seventh inning on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium with a 3-1 lead, just nine outs away from getting back to .500 and taking two out of three from the rival Yankees in the Bronx.

But 13 batters, a season-high eight runs, six hits, four pitchers, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and an error later, the Amazin's found themselves down 9-3.

Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Literally.

"I don't make excuses," manager Terry Collins said after his team (22-24 overall, 0-9 in rubber games in the Bronx) lost by that same score. "We got 7-8-9 coming up. We gotta close that inning out."

Instead, those 7, 8 and 9 batters all reached base.

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who had pitched like an ace for the first six innings -- a first-inning solo home run to center fielder Curtis Granderson notwithstanding -- gave up a single to left fielder Brett Gardner and a walk to right fielder Chris Dickerson. Catcher Francisco Cervelli squared around to bunt and advance the runners, but Pelfrey's 89-mph four-seamer -- which was supposed to be up and away -- ran up and in and plunked Cervelli in the left shoulder.

Just like that, the Yankees had the bases loaded and nobody out.

Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey

#34 SP
New York Mets

2011 STATS

  • GM10
  • W3

  • L4

  • BB20

  • K28

  • ERA5.37

Derek Jeter proceeded to knock Pelfrey out of the game, grounding a two-run single up the middle, which tied the game at 3.

"I put the team in that situation, I put the first four guys on base, and I had to watch them clean up my mess," said Pelfrey, who took the loss after surrendering five earned runs over six-plus innings.

Left-hander Tim Byrdak came in and allowed a sacrifice bunt to Granderson, which pushed Cervelli to third and Jeter to second. Collins elected to intentionally walk strong>Mark Teixeira to load the bases for none other than Alex Rodriguez, he of the 22 career grand slams and the owner of a .714 lifetime batting average following a Teixeira intentional base-on-balls -- including the postseason.

"I'm aware of who A-Rod is," Collins said. "But the situation dictates you try to get out of an inning with a ground ball and we actually got it."

Actually, it was Pedro Beato who came in, made his pitch, and got the ground ball they needed. The only problem was, it turned out to be a 65-foot squibber up the third-base line that Harris couldn't get to.

Rodriguez beat it out for an infield single, and just like that the Yankees had a 4-3 lead.

"You're never shocked, but nobody was expecting it," Harris said. "The guy has 600 home runs-plus and he gets a swinging bunt. We didn't have a play on it. It was what it was -- an infield single and an RBI.

Willie Harris

Willie Harris

#22 LF
New York Mets

2011 STATS

  • GM39
  • HR1

  • RBI8

  • R12

  • OBP.326

  • AVG.229

"When you see someone else get a hit like that you think 'damn,' but if it was me up at the plate I'd take it every day."

The Yankees, who had been 0-for-13 with runners on base prior to Jeter's single, had all the momentum. And to think, the worst was yet to come.

Robinson Cano drilled a single into right field, making it 5-3. Jorge Posada struck out looking, but Gardner and Dickerson delivered back-to-back two-RBI hits off left-hander Pat Misch, and just like that the Mets' deficit was six.

Too much to make up for a lineup that was 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base.

And all a dejected Pelfrey could do was sit and watch from the dugout as the team unraveled in front of him.

The eight runs the Mets allowed in the seventh was their most in a single inning since they gave up nine to the Phillies in the fourth inning on May 2, 2010.

"It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, because I thought I threw the ball well," said Pelfrey (3-4, 5.37), who had allowed just five earned runs in his previous three outings, which spanned 21 1/3 innings. "It ruins the whole day for me and the team, and it's unfortunate. I thought I threw the ball well today, but those four batters in the seventh inning, I couldn't get them out, and it ruined the whole day. It's gonna be a tough one to swallow.

"We let it slip away, and it's on me more than anybody, but we'll be fine."