Takahashi shoulders Mets' loss to Phils
Left-hander unaccustomed to role as situational reliever
NEW YORK -- Ken Takahashi calmly addressed a small contingent of Japanese reporters after giving up what proved to be a game-winning three-run homer to Raul Ibanez in the 10th inning of Thursday's rubber match with the Phillies, a 6-3 loss at Citi Field.
The Mets had lost another game to their rivals in which they had led, and Takahashi was forced to shoulder the bulk of the letdown.
Entering a 3-3 game after Shane Victorino had singled with one out in the top of the 10th, Takahashi promptly walked Chase Utley. He then fanned Ryan Howard before serving up the decisive blast to Ibanez.
The southpaw had been summoned to match up with the heart of the Phillies' order, all left-handed hitters. Yet lefties were hitting him at a .440 clip going into the game, which made the end result seem almost inevitable.
When Takahashi addressed the American media through an interpreter, he talked about how he was not accustomed to being used as a situational reliever in Japan.
"It certainly is a different situation," Takahashi said. "This was something that was not common for me in Japan, to come and face a lot of lefties."
He didn't hedge, though, adding, "This is a challenge I decided to take."
In reality, it was a challenge that manager Jerry Manuel opted to bestow on him. Manuel defended his decision to call on Takahashi, saying that he was reluctant to keep the ball in the hands of Bobby Parnell, who had already thrown 1 1/3 innings and had given up a homer to Utley in the 11th inning of Wednesday's game.
"I didn't have any other choices at that point," Manuel said. "I felt at that time to give [the Phillies] something different to look at."
Manuel hesitated when asked if the Mets needed another left-hander, and ended up deferring, saying, "Our issue is more offensively, than pitching."
With catalyst Jose Reyes and slugger Carlos Delgado sidelined with injuries, it's not difficult for Manuel to take some of the pressure of his pitching staff by pointing to the lack of offense.
That's not to say that the Mets haven't tried to rally around their relievers. During Utley's at-bat, David Wright came to the mound to calm Takahashi's nerves, but there was only so much he could do given the language barrier.
"There's a bit of a language barrier, but I just told him to try and take a deep breath and relax," said Wright. "You know he walked a guy, and then you have the heart of the lineup coming up, so you just try and tell him to relax and, you know, just make his pitches."
How much of that message got through?
"I had to act it out," Wright said. "It was like playing charades."
With the Mets having dropped two of three at Citi Field to the Phillies, dropping four games back in the standings, it's clear they'll have to improvise their way through this tough stretch and wait for their stars to mend.
Matt Chaprales is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.