Parnell threw six shutout innings to beat the Giants the last time the Mets opened a homestand, but the converted reliever had struggled in the three starts since. Parnell hadn't lasted beyond the fifth inning in any of the three, allowing nine, five and eight earned runs, respectively.
On Friday night, though, Parnell was terrific in shutting down the same team that battered him in his last outing. Parnell pitched a career-high seven innings, shutting out the Cubs on five hits while striking out seven.
His 109 pitches matched the career high he set in his last start at Wrigley Field. His last pitch that day, though, was a Jake Fox grand slam with two outs in the fifth. Facing similar stress in the seventh on Friday, Parnell responded with a flourish.
A leadoff double by Jeff Baker, a walk to Geovany Soto and a single by Sam Fuld loaded the bases for pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot. After striking out Fontenot on a nasty slider, Parnell came back with a 97-mph fastball on the inside corner to punch out Kosuke Fukudome.
"It was something I didn't have last game," Parnell said of the fastball on the black.
He handled a sharp comebacker off the bat of Ryan Theriot to end the inning and preserve a 1-0 lead.
"I thought he had a pretty good chance [to get out of the inning] because he was still throwing the ball real well," manager Jerry Manuel said. "To get out of that inning like he did is part of the maturation process."
Manuel cited Parnell's early command of his fastball as the key to his success. When Parnell is able to get ahead in the count with his fastball, his secondary pitches -- including the kind of slider he threw to Fontenot -- become all the more dangerous.
On the night, Parnell threw 26 sliders -- 21 of them for strikes.
"When I get guys that are throwing that hard, you have to hit off the fastball," said Cory Sullivan. "You have to be ready to hit that 97 [mph], and then recognize the offspeed pitches, which is difficult when a guy's throwing that hard."
Parnell's effort looked as if it might be all for naught because of a defensive mishap in the eighth. Milton Bradley's leadoff popup off Brian Stokes fell in between Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, who had both pulled up. Bradley ended up with a double and came around to score on a Baker single.
The Mets, however, responded in the bottom of the inning. After mustering just three hits in the first seven innings, the Mets exploded for six hits and a walk before the Cubs could record an out in the eighth. Luis Castillo started the frame with an infield single to short and headed to third on a David Wright single. Fernando Tatis, batting for Daniel Murphy against lefty John Grabow, singled to right on a 3-2 pitch to put the Mets ahead for good.
Sullivan, Omir Santos and Anderson Hernandez followed with RBI singles of their own to stretch the lead to 6-1.
"The big key hit was David getting the ball to left-center to get Luis to third base. And after that, Fernando picking him up with a great at-bat," said Sullivan, who had provided the game's only run in the first seven frames with a second-inning solo home run off Carlos Zambrano. "That just kind of steamrolled."
Stokes once again made things interesting in the ninth, again with the assistance of his defense. Fuld worked a leadoff walk, which was followed by a pinch-hit single from Bobby Scales. After Fukudome popped out to short, Castillo kicked a Theriot ground ball for an infield single, and Tatis bobbled a Bradley grounder for a run-scoring error. That brought the tying run to the plate and Francisco Rodriguez to the mound with the bases loaded.
Rodriguez induced a popup from Aramis Ramirez before striking out Fox to end the game.