In hopeless spot, Manuel opts for Ollie

SAN DIEGO -- The last time the New York Mets allowed this many runs, infielder Todd Zeile finished the game on the mound.

And truth be told, manager Jerry Manuel might actually prefer that Zeile be in his bullpen rather than Oliver Perez.

Perez performed mop-up duty Monday in the Mets' most lopsided defeat in six years. The San Diego Padres beat the not-so-Amazin's 18-6 to set a Petco Park record for runs.

The two redeeming qualities of the walloping, as the Mets fell to 7-17 on the road this season?

1. At least it was past most bedtimes on the East Coast.
2. We now know under what circumstance Manuel will use Perez in a game: hopelessness.

With the Mets trailing by nine runs in the sixth inning, and with Hisanori Takahashi, Raul Valdes and Ryota Igarashi already having surrendered a combined 15 runs, Manuel inserted Perez into the lopsided affair.

Perez completed the rest of the sixth, as well as the seventh and eighth innings -- allowing a homer to Chase Headley and a ninth-inning run along the way -- as the Mets suffered a humbling defeat that made last week's 35-inning scoreless streak by the pitching staff a distant memory.

"I just have to prepare for everything," said Perez, who has declined to go to the minors, despite the organization's request. "This is my job now. I have to be ready for any situation -- winning or losing -- and try to get more innings."

Said Manuel: "The fact that we didn't throw strikes -- that always bothers me. It always raises a great deal of concern for me, because you can't defend that. If you get hit and those types of things, some teams are going to be hot and bang you around a little bit. But when you don't throw strikes, that's the thing that's discouraging for me. You just can't defend that."

Manuel had Perez warming up early in the game, when Takahashi was on the ropes in the third inning and the Mets trailed 6-1.

But when Takahashi wriggled out of that predicament thanks to center fielder Angel Pagan throwing out Nick Hundley at the plate, and then the Mets scored three runs in the fifth, Manuel deemed the game too close for Perez.

The skipper instead opted for Valdes, who allowed all five Padres batters he faced to reach base -- the final two on bases-loaded walks that forced in runs.

Takahashi entered the game having tossed consecutive six-inning scoreless outings against the Yankees and Phillies in his two starts since entering the rotation. And Valdes had exhibited the most control, but had gone unused for six days as Manuel attempted to allow the Cuban defector to recover from heavy early-season use.

"He's been a guy that pitches a lot. We thought we were doing him a favor by giving him a good breather here, but that wasn't the case," Manuel said about Valdes. "He just couldn't find the strike zone. And that's definitely not him. He's a guy that for us is the one guy we can be sure is going to come in and throw strikes, and he wasn't able to do that."

The Mets surrendered their most runs since July 26, 2004, at Montreal -- a 19-10 defeat to the Expos that was closed out by Zeile on the mound. Zeile gave up five runs, while Perez was only charged with two.

"This is something, especially for Takahashi and Raul, it was a fluke," said catcher Rod Barajas, whose two-run homer in the sixth pulled the Mets to within 10-6. "It happens. You put it behind you."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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