MIAMI -- The road to heartbreak included a misread fly ball in the ninth inning Monday night that opened the door to a marathon. It involved a baffling intentional walk in the 12th and, finally, the deciding run in the 15th.
It took 5 hours, 31 minutes to unfold, and at the end of it, after taking the lead in the top of the 15th, the Mets found themselves 4-3 losers to the Marlins.
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It began with Matt Harvey, who threw a career-high 121 pitches while allowing one run and striking out seven in 51/3 laborious innings. It ended with Shaun Marcum, usually a starter, allowing a tying single by Rob Brantly and the winning sacrifice fly by Nick Green in the 15th.
"Again, Matt got us to where we needed to get; we just can't drive any runs in,'' Terry Collins said. "We played all the percentages we could play all night long and nothing worked.''
The Mets finished 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position after failing to get a hit in their first 16 chances. In the 15th, Ruben Tejada's two-out infield single off Jon Rauch drove in Lucas Duda, who had doubled.
But Marcum, who volunteered for his first relief work since 2007, took the loss. Perhaps the only consolation is that with Thursday's off day, Marcum should have enough time to make his next scheduled start Friday against the Braves.
"Yeah, it's frustrating,'' said Marcum, the Mets' ninth pitcher. "I'd rather make mistakes and get hit all over the place. I made some pretty good pitches, especially when I went back and looked at the video. I guess you just tip your hat and move on.''
Collins said of Marcum's volunteering to pitch: "I applaud him, because Anthony Recker was next.'' Anthony Recker happens to be the Mets' backup catcher.
By the sixth inning, sweat soaked through Harvey's jersey. He already had crossed into uncharted territory, his pitch count well past his career-high 112. In the dugout, Collins stood near the rail with his arms crossed. He wasn't going anywhere.
"I didn't feel tired at all,'' Harvey said. "I actually felt better in the last two innings than I did in the whole game.''
He retired one batter, then left two aboard before walking off. He left the game with a 2-1 lead even though his typical fastball command had eluded him.
Robert Carson and Scott Atchison closed out the inning before LaTroy Hawkins and Brandon Lyon each tossed a scoreless inning. At that point, John Buck's mammoth two-run shot off Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez appeared to be enough.
Buck's two-run shot in the fourth inning struck the home run structure in left-centerfield after traveling an estimated 439 feet. It was Buck's ninth homer in April, tying him with Carlos Delgado (2006) and Dave Kingman (1976) for the club record. His total of 25 RBIs puts him one short of Jeff Kent's team record for the month set in 1996.
But the Mets paid for failing to add on against Stony Brook product Tom Koehler, who followed Fernandez with three innings of scoreless relief. Given a 2-1 lead to protect, Bobby Parnell allowed Justin Ruggiano's double to right-center and Brantly's single that fell in front of centerfielder Collin Cowgill, who came in as a defensive replacement, only to misread the soft fly. With runners at the corners and nobody out, Green lifted a sacrifice fly to tie the score.
"Off the bat, I thought it was back,'' Cowgill said. "Took a step back, and finally, when I made the correction, it was too late.''
The Mets survived a bases- loaded, two-out jam in the 12th, created partly by Collins' odd intentional walk of Donovan Solano after Solano fell behind in the count 1-and-2. Jeurys Familia escaped by getting Placido Polanco to ground out.