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Bobby Parnell blows save as Mets fall to Braves, 2-1

Bobby Parnell of the Mets walks off the

Bobby Parnell of the Mets walks off the field after the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. (July 22, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Somehow, optimism crept into the confines of Citi Field, a place not known in recent years for its rosy vibes.

It didn't seem to matter that the Mets stand in fourth place. Or that one estimate pegged their chances of sneaking into the playoffs at just 4.9 percent.

Fans imagining a miracle run could point at the Mets' sustained run of solid play. They could look to general manager Sandy Alderson, who insists that trade talks have been quiet, even with the July 31 deadline on the horizon. They could follow the lead of Josh Satin, the first baseman who on social media hinted at the prospect of a playoff push.

It became easier to think that Mets might benefit from keeping resurgent cleanup man Marlon Byrd instead of trading him.

But reality delivered a swift blow last night, when the Mets absorbed an excruciating 2-1 defeat to the Braves.

"It's tough to lose the way that we did again," David Wright said, recounting the endless calamities that burned the Mets after starter Dillon Gee took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

Tasked with protecting a 1-0 lead in the ninth, closer Bobby Parnell blew the save, then watched Justin Turner's potential game-winning bloop turn into an out when Braves centerfielder Jason Heyward made a remarkable diving catch to end the game.

It came after Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla worked a 10-pitch walk against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who was pelted with raindrops as he snuffed out any hopes of a comeback.

"You feel that momentum building up," said Turner, who was activated before the game after a month on the disabled list. "I went up there and tried to take a good at-bat, and unfortunately ended up on the wrong end of a highlight reel."

The Mets squandered Gee's seven shutout innings and wasted a chance to climb within nine games of the first-place Braves for the first time since May 31.

Gee's no-hit bid served only as a prelude to heartbreak. After he worked out of trouble in the seventh, LaTroy Hawkins worked a scoreless eighth, setting up Parnell to close out what would have been the Mets' eighth win in 11 games.

Summoned to protect a 1-0 lead, Parnell faced trouble from the start. Brian McCann hit a ground single where the shortstop would have been if the Mets had not employed the shift. Next up, Evan Gattis dumped a soft single in front of the rightfielder Byrd, who was playing deep because the Mets went to a no-doubles defense.

After Dan Uggla bounced into a force at third, Parnell sailed a high fastball that glanced off the mitt of catcher John Buck. The passed ball gave the Braves runners on second and third with just one out.

Said Buck: "Just got crossed up."

Said Parnell: "I thought I saw fastball and he says curveball."

From the dugout, manager Terry Collins decided against pulling his infield in, a tactic that would have given the Mets a chance to cut down the tying run at home in case of a grounder.

"It's not the ground ball that gets through you're worried about," said Collins, who was more concerned about keeping the go-ahead run from scoring on a hit. "It's the jam shot bloop that barely gets to the outfield grass that burns you as much as the ground ball that gets through the infield."

But it was a grounder -- specifically a Chris Johnson groundout to short -- that scored Gattis with the tying run. Reed Johnson followed with the Braves' third hit of the inning to plate Uggla with the game-winner.

"We didn't get the next guy, either," Collins said as he re-examined his critical decision in the ninth. "So it really doesn't matter."

By then, the optimism of the day had long dissipated.

New York Sports