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Braves win again after bullpen meltdown by Mets

Bobby Parnell wipes his face after surrendering the

Bobby Parnell wipes his face after surrendering the lead to the Braves in the eighth inning. Atlanta held on to win 8-7 and Parnell was charged with the loss. (July 14, 2012) Credit: AP

ATLANTA -- The creeping dread of an impending bullpen meltdown urged on by the nonstop droning of the Tomahawk Chop. It's a sad, familiar feeling for the Mets, right down to watching the Braves celebrate at the end.

So what year is this anyway?

In a sense, it was a throwback afternoon at Turner Field, the site of so many frustrating, upsetting and just plain excruciating late-inning defeats for the Mets during the last two decades. Now add Saturday's 8-7 loss to that long list.

Once R.A. Dickey was removed after five innings and the Mets scored three in the top of the sixth for a 6-5 lead, they needed 12 outs from their bullpen to secure the win. They got eight.

With Bob Geren publicly pulling the strings for Terry Collins, who was ejected in a wild fifth, the Mets used three relievers for the eighth -- and couldn't hold their 7-5 lead.

Bobby Parnell was called on for the team's first five-out save since 2010 and got to within a strike of escaping the eighth with the lead intact. But Parnell allowed three singles with two outs, the tying hit coming with two strikes to Martin Prado before Jason Heyward slapped a down-and-away fastball to leftfield for the winning single. "I got ground balls," Parnell said, "but not where we needed them."

Parnell entered with runners at first and second in the eighth, thanks to Brian McCann's leadoff walk issued by Tim Byrdak and Dan Uggla's single off Pedro Beato.

With one out, in came Parnell, who was 2-for-2 in save chances since taking over for injured Frank Francisco, and he whiffed Juan Francisco for the second out. It quickly unraveled from there, however.

Parnell couldn't handle a hot comebacker by Michael Bourn -- it was a difficult play to make -- and Prado poked a single past Ike Davis, who was holding Bourn on at first.

Collins was forced to see it unravel on a clubhouse flat-screen. He had been tossed for arguing a reversed call in the fifth -- it turned out to be the right call -- and that didn't help his mood.

The Braves had been 2-32 when trailing after six innings, but Craig Kimbrel reminded the Mets just what they're missing by striking out the side in the ninth. It was the 18th loss for the Mets' bullpen, which puts them among the bottom three teams in the majors.

"It's hard to watch from anywhere," Collins said. "But that's what it is and we've got to get ready to play [Sunday]."

Dickey allowed five earned runs for the third time in four starts and his ERA climbed to 2.66, its highest point since he stood at 2.69 on June 2.

The Braves tagged him for three runs in the second inning, a rally that included a two-run double by Eric Hinske. Freddie Freeman added a two-out, two-run double to put Atlanta in front 5-3 during the controversial fifth.

"Every season has a storm or two in it," Dickey said. "I've just got to stay afloat. It will turn. I don't feel like things are completely out of whack, but I've got to be better.

"We kind of limped into the break and now we're kind of limping out of it. We've got to pitch better, myself included. Our offense is performing valiantly. We're scoring runs. We've got to maintain leads."

The Mets were angry after the reversed call on Jordany Valdespin's trap of Heyward's sinking liner helped give the Braves the lead. But rather than stew about it, they fought back to go ahead in the sixth. The Mets used five consecutive singles to drive in three runs, with Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada and Valdespin collecting the RBIs.

"Every game is important," said Davis, who went 2-for-4 with a double and his 13th home run. "But the thing is, we've got a lot of games to play. Losing two in row is not the biggest deal in the world if we win 10 straight after this. If we clean it up a little bit, we can win these games."

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