LOS ANGELES -- Frank Francisco saved the Subway Series opener last Friday, then became sidelined with a strained left oblique. The Mets subsequently lost four straight games, followed by a 16-run victory against the Cubs.
So Bobby Parnell had to wait until Thursday's series opener at Dodger Stadium to finally get his first save chance as interim closer.
New York Mets
Parnell responded by flashing a 100-plus mph fastball and converting his first save since his September flop in a closer's audition. He retired the Dodgers in order to secure the Mets' 3-2 win against Los Angeles.
"I still focused on location," Parnell said. "I think I had a little bit extra adrenaline going. I just have to go out there and throw strikes. I don't know what the velocity was. I felt like it was coming out good. I was hitting my spots and throwing it where I wanted to. So that's all I worried about."
Said catcher Mike Nickeas: "He was throwing hard. I checked out the radar gun a couple of times -- 98s. And I know [Bobby] Abreu he painted a ball first pitch on the black at 101. If you continue to do that, nobody is going to hit that. It's awesome to see that out of Bobby."
Parnell actually has made strides this season because he has taken velocity off his fastball in order to better control it.
Still, Terry Collins did not mind Parnell challenging the Dodgers with the fastballs with extra oomph. For one thing, they struggled to catch up to the heat, particularly Adam Kennedy, whose groundball resulted in the inning's second out.
"You've seen the [previous] few times out he's starting guys out with breaking balls to kind of get ahead in the count," Collins said. "Not today. He just said, 'Here it is.' That was a pretty good way to start for him."
Said Parnell: "Growing up, you look at closers -- great closers -- and that's what they do, is strike people out. I don't look at myself as that kind of pitcher. Like I've said, I was trying to 'come out of myself' in past years. And this year I'm just trying to be myself."
Parnell acknowledged the ninth inning is an extra challenge. He did not stick to a script and suggest all innings are created equal.
"It's a key role in the game, to shut down the game," Parnell said. "In theory it's really just another inning. I think, for myself, that's how I have to look at it and try not to hype it up in my own head. I just looked at it as three outs that I have to go get quickly."
Still, Parnell added: "No, it doesn't come easily. That's why the great closers are hard to find. I'm just trying to fill in Frankie's role until he gets back."
His secret for keeping his emotions in check as closer?
"I just try to breathe," Parnell said with a laugh. "I've had a little bit more experience. I've failed in the role a few times. Kind of looking back, I think that was from me trying to do too much. So I didn't try to go out there and try to strike anybody out. I just went out there and tried to get early contact and it paid off."
Collins believes Parnell has an extra comfort level, too, in knowing Francisco will retake the closer's role when he returns from the DL.
"But I'll bet you, if you talk to Bobby Parnell, he's going to tell you, 'Look, I'm out here to win this job,'" Collins added. "And that's the best attitude to have.
"I thought it was a great outing for him. Obviously his stuff was electric, which we know he can be. It's a huge step forward. It was a good game for him. Even though tonight he really had his good fastball, I just think location is what's going to make him a great pitcher."