If the Mets can satisfy the Mariners, maybe Lee will one day step into Takahashi's spot in the rotation. Or perhaps even Oliver Perez, because Jerry Manuel could soon be looking for replacements if Takahashi has more performances like the one in last night's 7-6 loss to Florida.
The Marlins raked Takahashi for six runs, including a grand slam by Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla's two-run homer in the third inning. As far as Takahashi's future as a starter, it mattered little that the Mets rallied from a 6-3 deficit to tie the score with two runs in the ninth.
Josh Thole's pinch-hit single with one out pulled the Mets even - and prevented Takahashi from getting the loss - but only set them up for their eighth walk-off defeat this season. Jorge Cantu ripped a two-out double off Pedro Feliciano and Uggla followed with the winning single up the middle. Feliciano later said that he was trying to pitch Uggla more carefully with the base open, but missed.
"I tried to go with a fastball in and move him off the plate," Feliciano said. "But the ball came back over the middle."
The Mets dropped their second straight to the Marlins and have lost four in a row on the road for the first time since they were swept in Florida on May 13-16.
On the eve of Perez's first rehab start, Takahashi picked a bad time for his third-inning meltdown, a rally that began with a two-out single by Marlins pitcher Nate Robertson.
"That was the turning point," Takahashi said through an interpreter.
It still seemed harmless enough, but Takahashi never regained his composure. He had Chris Coghlan 2-and-2 before walking him on six pitches. Gaby Sanchez then loaded the bases with a single and Takahashi made a very bad pitch to Ramirez, who hammered a high fastball for the grand slam.
Cantu drilled a long double that caromed off the wall, and Takahashi's next pitch, an 89-mph fastball to Uggla, wound up over it to give the Marlins a 6-3 lead. It was Uggla's third homer in seven at-bats against Takahashi, whose margin for error is shrinking.
"I think the more he sees teams, it's going to get thinner," Rod Barajas said. "The more those guys see him, they're going to recognize his pitches a little bit more. If you don't have a 90-plus fastball with unbelievable movement, guys are going to make you throw it over the plate, and they'll make you pay for it."
With a short bullpen, Manuel squeezed 52/3 innings out of Takahashi, who was kept in to bunt in the fifth rather than pulled for a pinch hitter. In his last two outings, Takahashi is 0-1 with an 11.17 ERA, and has given up 17 hits in 92/3 innings.
"He's not Jamie Moyer, but like Jamie Moyer, he has to pitch inside," Manuel said.
Manuel did not indicate if Takahashi's spot in the rotation is in immediate danger. But his sudden meltdown ruined a storybook start for the Mets and Angel Pagan, the Puerto Rico native who returned to the lineup. Pagan had missed the previous four games because of a muscle strain in his right side.
Pagan had an infield single, scored a run and had a sacrifice fly in the third inning as the Mets built a 3-0 lead. But that evaporated quickly in the hands of Takahashi, who has a few things to straighten out before he takes the mound again.
"I don't want to think about 'if' things," Takahashi said. "I just want to review the game and see what I can do."
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